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SELF-ESTEEM: DEFINED AND A CONTEXT
Self-esteem is a term used in psychology to reflect a person's overall evaluation or appraisal of his or her own worth. Self-esteem encompasses beliefs; for example, "I am competent," and emotions such as: triumph, despair, pride and shame. Self-esteem can apply specifically to a particular dimension; for example, "I believe I am a good writer, and feel proud of that in particular," or it can have a global extent; for example, "I believe I am a good person, and feel proud of myself in general". Psychologists usually regard self-esteem as an enduring personality characteristic or a "trait." Self-esteem is distinct from self-confidence and self-efficacy both of which involve beliefs about ability and future performance. There is much in cyberspace on this topic since it is one of the more popular topics in psychology. Go to this link for a useful general article at that now largest encyclopedia in the world, Wikipedia:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-esteem
Synonyms or near-synonyms of self-esteem include:
* self-love (which can express overtones of self-promotion), and
1. Defined as "self-esteem; self-respect" in The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition, 2000.
2. Defined as "consideration of oneself or one's interests; self-respect" in The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition, 2000.
3. Defined as "due respect for oneself, one's character, and one's conduct" in The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition, 2000.
4.The Macquarie Dictionary. Compare The Dictionary of Psychology by Raymond Joseph Corsini. Psychology Press, 1999.
5. Defined as "the instinct or desire to promote one's own well-being; regard for or love of one's self" in The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition, 2000.
For three pieces of writing, one by me, one by a professor of mathematics in Canada, and one a published article on the individual and community in relation to self-concept and meaning go to the following links:
(readers should click on my name and then on the words "find all posts" to read more than 3 dozen posts)
Here is a video on "what is your biggest mistake? Published on 21 Mar 2014, this u-tube item discusses what can be learned from mistakes. Soul Pancake, a popular website, hit the streets, several years ago. This video talks to complete strangers about what it means to make mistakes. For this & many other videos, go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qOUUO5bgxKs and
SPIRITUALITY: A CONTEXT
Some of the content of the above article on spirituality is as follows:
1. No matter how strong the measure of Divine grace, unless supplemented by personal, sustained and intelligent effort it cannot become fully effective and be of any real and abiding advantage.-Shoghi Effendi in Baha'i Life, NSA of the Baha'is of Canada, p.6
2. The tension between the material and the spiritual in man is a creative tension purposely given by God, a tension whose function it is constantly to remind the individual of the necessity of making an effort in the path of spiritual growth.-William Hatcher, "The Concept of Spirituality," Baha'i Studies, Vol.11, p.4.
3. No man is capable of judging the spiritual or moral worth of any other individual since no other individual knows the endowments and circumstances of any individual. The degree of moral responsibility of any individual can not be judged by others. This has nothing to do with society's right to protect itself.-ibid.p.3
4. The process of spiritual growth involves: (a) learning how to make appropriate responses to various circumstances; (b) learning how to initiate certain kinds of actions, and (c) various kinds of educational processes. Spirituality is about learning what fosters spiritual development and knowing what inhibits it. Spirituality, then, is a cognitive discipline. Spirituality is about self-knowledge, about knowing one's limitations and capacities, and about learning how to conform one's behaviour to the standards set forth in the Baha'i writings. It is a gradual process.-ibid., p.3 to 11.
UNIQUENESS AND SELF-ESTEEM
The depressed 1950s suburbanite opening Norman Vincent Peale’s self-help book, The Power of Positive Thinking, would have encountered the following reassurance: “It is appalling to realize the number of pathetic people who are hampered and made miserable by the malady popularly called the inferiority complex. But you need not suffer from this trouble. When proper steps are taken, it can be overcome”. The comfort of this passage does not lie merely in Peale’s promise that we can rid ourselves of insecurity, though it’s a nice fantasy; the comfort lies in the suggestion that we are all looking for a cure for insecurity, that we are not alone in our misery. Better even than offering a solution, The Power of Positive Thinking validates dysfunction; it tells the reader: you are just like everyone else. But if it caters to the urge to feel normal, it simultaneously caters to the urge to feel unique; the two desires appear inseparable, mutually constitutive of each other.
Peale’s lament about the near universality of low self-esteem leads directly into the claim that you, the individual, can be different: “But you need not suffer from this trouble. When proper steps are taken, it can be overcome.” “You” refers, of course, to “anyone.” Peale’s assertion is that anyone can rise above the problems that seem to plague everyone; it doesn’t require exceptional qualities to be unique. But if it’s not hard to be unique, if anyone can be unique, then that means the reader can be unique without relinquishing his averageness. Peale’s promise satisfies both needs, to be unique and to be average, in a single paradoxical gesture.
Sociologist David Riesman famously asserted that people’s values, once inner-directed, had become other-directed, and William H. Whyte observed that an emphasis on “belongingness” and getting along with others had replaced a previous emphasis on creativity, innovation, and cultivation of character. The term “conformity” appears with startling regularity in works by Spectorsky, Packard, Mills, Trilling, and others, and I find the ubiquity of the term more interesting than the supposed ubiquity of the phenomenon. For more of this excellent overview of a complex of factors and issues in relation to the individual in society go to Timothy Aubry's essay "John Cheever and the Management of Middlebrow Misery" at the Website of the Iowa Journal of Cultural Studies, 2003. Timothy Aubry was a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of English at Princeton University in 2003, where he was writing a dissertation devoted to the relationship between postwar U.S. fiction and middle-class self-help culture.
Dr. Tim Aubry is now a Full Professor in the School of Psychology and Senior Researcher at the Centre for Research on Educational and Community Services at the University of Ottawa. He is currently holder of the Faculty of Social Sciences Research Chair in Community Mental Health and Homelessness. Over the course of his career, Dr. Aubry has collaborated on research projects with community organizations and government at all levels, contributing to the development of effective social programs and policies. He is currently a Member of the National Research Team and the Co-Lead of the Moncton site in the multi-site Mental Health and Homelessness Demonstration Project of the Mental Health Commission of Canada. As well, he is the Co-Principal Investigator of the Housing and Health in Transition study, a longitudinal multi-city study investigating the relationship of health status with housing transitions. Dr. Aubry teaches graduate courses at the University of Ottawa in community psychology and program evaluation. For more of his essay go to:http://www.uiowa.edu/~ijcs/suburbia/aubry.htm
The term ‘resilience’ has many applications across the many disciplines of the humanities and social sciences as readers can see at this link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Resilience From politicians to community service providers to the seemingly endless supply of self-help gurus, the concept has been undergoing a renaissance of sorts in contemporary Western society; but why resilience now? One possible explanation is that individuals and their communities are experiencing increased and intensified levels of adversity and hardship, necessitating the accumulation and deployment of ‘more resilience’. Whilst a strong argument could made that this is in fact the case, it would seem that the capacity to survive and thrive has been a feature of human survival and growth long before we had a name for it. For a series of papers on the subject go to: http://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/issue/view/resilient
Rather than an inherent characteristic, trait or set of behaviours of particularly ‘resilient’ individuals or groups, resilience has come to be viewed more as a common and everyday capacity, expressed and expressible by all people. Having researched the concept for some time now, editors at the online journal M/C Journal of Media and Culture believe that we are only marginally closer to understanding this captivating but ultimately elusive concept. What we are fairly certain of is that resilience is more than basic survival but less than an invulnerability to adversity, resting somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. Given the increasing prevalence of populations affected by war and other disasters, we are certain however that efforts to better understand the accumulative dynamics of resilience, are now, more than ever, a vital area of public and academic concern. In our contemporary world, the concept of resilience is coming to represent a vital conceptual tool for responding to the complex challenges emerging from broad scale movements in climate change, rural and urban migration patterns, pollution, economic integration and other consequences of globalisation.
SELF-HELP BOOKS: SOME REFLECTIONS
A self-help book is one that is written with the intention to instruct its readers on solving personal problems. The books take their name from Self-Help, an 1859 best-seller by Samuel Smiles, but are also known and classified under "self-improvement", a term that is a modernized version of self-help. Self-help books moved from a niche position to being a postmodern cultural phenomenon in the late twentieth century. Informal guides to everyday behaviour might be said to have existed almost as long as writing itself. Certainly ancient Egyptian "Codes" of conduct 'have a curiously modern note: "you trail from street to street, smelling of beer...like a broken rudder, good for nothing....you have been found performing acrobatics on a wall!"'. Indeed, 'some social observers have suggested that the Bible is really the first and most significant and most helpful of self-help books. For more go to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-help_book
The rise of expertise in the lives of women is a complex & prolonged process that began when the old networks through which women had learned from each other were being discredited or destroyed. Enclosed spaces of expert power formed separately from political control, market logistics and the pressures exerted by their subjects. This, however, was not a question of imposing expertise on women & forcing them to adhere to expert proclamations: “the experts could not have triumphed had not so many women welcomed them, sought them out, and organised to promote their influence”. Women’s continuing enthusiasm for self-help books – and it is mainly women who buy them – attests to the fact that they are still welcoming expertise into their lives. This paper argues that a major factor in the popularity of self-help is the reversal of the conventional ‘priestly’ relationship and ethic of confession, in a process ofconversion that relies on the enthusiasm and active participation of the reader.
Miller and Rose outline four ways in which human behaviour can be transformed: regulation (enmeshing people in a code of standards); captivation (seducing people with charm or charisma); education (training, convincing or persuading people); and conversion (transforming personhood, and ways of experiencing the world so that people understand themselves in fundamentally new ways). Of these four ways of acting upon others, it is conversion that is the most potent, because it changes people at the level of their own subjectivity – “personhood itself is remade” (Miller and Rose 35). For more go to: http://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/viewArticle/124
Many of us now use the term “genius” as a simple expression of wonder, referring to a person or an achievement that we find inexplicably brilliant. I have discussed this subject at several places on my website, but I place these comments here under "self-esteeem" because of the tangential connection between genius and self-esteem. A new book, Divine Fury: A History of Genius by Darrin M. McMahon(Basic Books, 300 pages, 2014) has a rich narrative which shows, across the long history of the term, the word genius has accrued connotations that go far beyond its historic useage. We have been led, McMahon says, in our use of the term genius into the realms of bad science, superstition, & subservience to questionable forms of authority. This book ends on an unexpected note of regret that “genius”, in the most extravagant sense of the term, has given way to more trivial uses, to a culture in which everyone has a genius for something and where even infants might be “baby Einsteins.” The cult of the “great exception,” the unfathomably & inimitably great human being, he tells us, has justifiably waned. Nevertheless, McMahon’s closing words are elegiac, hinting that its loss might somehow diminish us.
Tamsin Shaw, an Associate Professor of European and Mediterranean Studies & Philosophy at New York University's Department of Philosophy, has written a delightful review of this book. For some of Shaw's published books go to: http://tamsinshaw.com/ Much of the above paragraph comes from that review in the 9/10/'14 issue of The New York Review of Books: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2014/oct/09/wonder-boys-genius/?insrc=toc
A NECESSARY INSTABILITY
The community should not be like a chain which is only as strong as its weakest link. It should, rather, be like a garment whose fibers, the warp and weft, may be ever so slender and numerous but intimately connected.-Ron Price with appreciation to Charles S. Pierce(1839-1914),
American philosopher, logician, mathematician, and scientist, in his Collected Papers 5.264.
Some see the meaning of life
As making a contribution to the community,
for here the creative personality
is born and matured;
it is the gift of evolution,
the ordering of inequality,
the integration of the individual,
where restraint and self-control
are part of self-esteem.
One day community feeling
will triumph over everything
that opposes it, as natural
to man as breathing,
the scientific inevitability
of social harmony
slowly overcoming the force
of antisocial dispositions
now so preponderant in the world,
at least in certain places.
Perhaps a Ciceronian stoicism
to start with and a widening
secular spirituality, as the blank page
whirls about in the winds of the spirit
and we come to understand cognition,
the social restraints
which limit our options,
define our choices
and generate what seems to us
as a restriction of potential.
26 June 1995
We define shame as a class name for a large family of emotions which includes not only embarrassment and humiliation, but also "discretionary" shame, such as modesty, shyness, and conscience. The common thread in these variants is seeing self negatively in the eyes of the other(s), and therefore perceiving a threat to the bond. Shame is, variously, an affect, emotion, cognition, state, or condition. The roots of the word shame are thought to derive from an older word meaning "to cover"; as such, covering oneself, literally or figuratively, is a natural expression of shame. Nineteenth century scientist Charles Darwin, in his book The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, described shame affect as consisting of blushing, confusion of mind, downward cast eyes, slack posture, and lowered head, and he noted observations of shame affect in human populations worldwide. He also noted the sense of warmth or heat associated with the vasodilation of the face and skin occurring in intense shame.
There were four other sociologists, in addition to Goffman and Cooley, who stated or implied that shame was a motive in behavior: Simmel (1904), Norbert Elias (1994), Helen Lynd (1968), and Richard Sennett (1972; 1980).1 But much more than any of these other authors, more even than Lynd (1968), Goffman implied that what we are calling shame was the dominant emotion of social interaction. For more on this subject go to:http://www.mundanebehavior.org/index2.htm and:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shame
MY DIARY AND SELF-ESTEEM
I have not followed the advice of the American author Evelyn Waugh who advised diarists not to write their opinions about life and art and especially about themselves. He suggested that they just “give the relevant facts”(1) and let readers make their own judgements. Nor have I followed the implications of the comment of T.S. Eliot on the writing of Henry James; namely, that 'He had a mind so fine no idea could violate it.'(2) If Eliot’s words here are the unlikely but ultimate compliment for an author, my writing would not receive it. All my writing is soaked with ideas as is my diary thusfar. “Readers will find disclosed in what I do write in my diary an active emotional investment in sympathetic and silent introspection, in pent-up feelings and unrealized wishes.
Readers will find, I trust, a balance between emotional excess and reserve, between effusions of hope and positive self-esteem on the one hand, and between self-critical comments and feelings of despair on the other. The phrase self-control rose in popularity through the 19th century but began to free fall around 1920 and cratered in the 1960s, the era of doing your own thing, letting it all hang out and taking a walk on the wild side. One's problem was no longer that one was profligate or dissolute, but that one was uptight, repressed, neurotic, obsessive-compulsive or fixated at the anal stage of psychosexual development. Hypomania, part of my BPD, is now considered by many in popular culture as a pleasantly grandiose, somewhat overactive feeling and behaviour orientation, but is often not considered as evidence of a disorder in psychiatric terms.
My experience of hypomania is experienced as a lack of self-control. The wider culture in the West is increasingly characterized by the loosening of the boundaries of restraint and millions who, in generations gone before controlled their instinctual and impulsive, their spontaneous and natural, urges are now giving way to them. My more impulsive BPD nature could now be considered normative in some ways and certainly not a sign of a disorder: such are the changes in societal values and attitudes, behaviour and norms and their affect on the way a person like myself might come to view the manifestations of their BPD both now and earlier in my life. For a useful take on the concept of self-control and impulsiveness go to:http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/04/books/review/willpower-by-roy-f-baumeister-and-john-tierney-book-review.html?ref=books
I aim to write in the little diary that I have thusfar kept: frankness and familiarity, emotional honesty but little sentimentality, a moderate vitality of feeling not repression nor abandonment. That’s how I’d like to see my various entries; I leave it to readers to make their own particular assessments on what I have achieved and written there.-Ron Price with thanks to:(1) Evelyn Waugh, “A Review of Stephen Spender’s Autobiography,” Tablet, London, May 5th, 1951; and (2) "Interview with Joseph Epstein," Yale Review of Books, 2003.
The following article provides an overview of the literature about the evolution of self-image drawing on basic principles of evolutionary psychology. There is a methodology used in research to measure self-concept. Evolutionary theory about cognitive capabilities is fundamental to self-image. Self-concept is also used as a concept in animals. There is an association between self-image and the free-energy principle. There is a possibility to predict future social events, and to act on these predictions. This forms the main evolutionary advantage of self-image. Today evolutionary thought is alive among scientists studying psychology, mainly in the field of comparative neuroscience. The study of social cognition is being greatly influenced by evolutionary scientific research, as is the study of self-image, which is an important field of inquiry in social cognition. For more on this topic go to an article by Kevin Kemkes & Rianne Penningago: "The evolution of self-image: a review on theory and methodology" in Social Cosmos, Vol.2 2011 at:http://socialcosmos.library.uu.nl/index.php/sc/article/viewFile/24/20
HERO AND NON-HERO: Part 1
In the years of our life-span, from neonate to old-age, we are both hero and non-hero to ourselves; we are both ordinarily ordinary self and heroic soul. The career of the hero in the great tragedies of Shakespeare, to begin with the insights of the great master of literature, the great Bard, reveals to the audience the limits of individual self-assertion. It is this self-assertion that tries to make itself master of this earthly realm. It is an earthly realm that includes the institutions of state and family, as well as the private realm of friendships and solitude. The audience, the readers, also become aware, at least this reader does and did as he read and taught the plays of Shakespeare, of the utter dependence of the individual on the institutions of society and their cultural framework. We are all part and parcel of the wider society no matter how much we live lives of solitariness, lives apparently on our own---separate, or so we often like to think---from the society in which we live. For half a century, 1949 to 1999, I lived with wall-to-wall people in my life; I was often more part of the whole than I was my own self. I lived and breathed the social from the time I got out of bed until bed-time.
Now, in these years of my retirement, 2000 to 2013, I spend most of my time in solitude, but I am still as much a product of my society and dependent on it, ironically, as I ever was. The hero in the tragedies of Shakespeare begins in those plays by attempting to make himself master of his realm, his own world, through one of the great subjective passions: love, honour, ambition, revenge or the like; various subplots of these plays trace the same theme in various ways. The failure of the hero's attempt, as well as the attempts of the lesser characters, show the dependence of the individual on what one writer calls, "a primary Good." This failure also shows something of the nature on the wider society.
Then, in the latter part of the play we see the hero or other characters dealing with the great institutions of society & winning or being destroyed due to their incapacity. Finally the death of the central characters indicates that only the transition from the instances, the situations in the play, "of the Good to the Good" is adequate to describe human individuality. For more on this line of thought go to:http://www2.swgc.mun.ca/animus/Articles/Volume%203/epstein3.pdf
HERO AND NON-HERO: Part 2:
In this website, highly autobiographical and memoiristic as it is, I place myself in the context of my time. My external human personality as it is portrayed will be inviting to some, and uninviting to others. This is because my personality is placed in a literary context much more than one of images and little snippets of dialogue as most individuals are in cyberpsace at sites like Twitter and Facebook. Novels and poems, plays and short stories all provide a context behind and within which the writers selves are found. There is often poignancy and understanding in the writings, or the posts, of thousands of authors as they express their concerns for and their views of others. Writers themselves are revealed in ways that both illuminate and hide the real person. This is not surprising. It happens to the great writers like Shakespeare and the ordinary punter who places a one-liner at Facebook. The nature and the personality of Shakespeare has been an enigma for 400 years. And so, too, were all the personalities of all my Facebook 'friends.' After I unfriended all 150 of those friends, just before I turned 70, those enigmatic people were no longer enigmas.
I have observed in the decades which have been my life, and more and more as the stages of my lifespan have succeeded each other with an inevitability over which I have no control, that ordinary selves struggle insecurely to achieve security and we polish our exterior to hide internal disintegration. We in the West, and especially in the middle class, which I have belonged to since the 1940s, either lower middle or middle-middle, try as much as possible to enjoy as much indulgence and pleasure, fun and escape, as we can. This indulgence, it seems, helps us to deal with the troubles & woes to which flesh has to deal. Our bourgeois complacencies are frequently attacked by modern political & social commentators, as well as by writers like Kierkegaard, Ruskin and Tolstoi. Our complacencies, these writers often argue, are an offense against life itself; they encourage asphyxia of the soul. They deny the reality of other dimensions in favour of a worldly hedonism. To deny the pain at the heart of life is, for many writers, the great crime of bourgeois values. The same point is made by T.S. Eliot, but his poetry is complex. I found as a teacher of Eliot's work that his great poetry usually falls on deaf ears. It is now read by a coterie so small that it can not compete with the abundant and pervasive enthusiasms of popular culture in all its labyrinthine forms.
The challenge to us all, is the challenge to our ordinary self, to transcend, indeed, to shatter the self's protective chrysalis of everyday "reality." The fragmentation of life and the collapse of tradtional ideas of herosim has created what some call the anti-hero. We are weighed down by our ordinariness &, I hesitate to say, our cowardice. There is for all of us a struggle between the ordinary self & the heroic self, heroic soul. Readers who come to my prose and poetry, get a snapshot of my outer personality and inner self, inner soul. I will not remain anonymous as 99.9 per cent of humanity remains and has remained throughout history, leaving no trace of their existence. Anonymity is often broken in our society, & it has been as far back as the origins of the Greek and Hebraic traditons in the West, by individuals who leave an image, an icon, some testimony of themselves in some artistic form: clay & sculpture, painting & art, writing & the literary. I do not write with the primary aim to leave something of myself behind; if something is left behind that future readers find useful in some way, that will be a bonus.
I do take the view, though, that my struggle in life, a struggle for what you might call 'the higher life' partakes of the same ingedients as the most heroic. That is a crucial part of my journey; it is not all of my journey, but it is an important part. It is also a struggle we all go through in 1000s of different ways. In the last two-and-a-half centuries, say, 1750 to 2000, society in the West has passed through unbelief, secularization; faith's currency is all but withdrawn from circulation---not for everyone of course--but the dominant note has not been the sacred. I post the above three Parts as a sort-of backdrop on the topic of self-esteem.
I am conscious of the complexity of the above, not only for readers here, but for myself. I hope to return to the themes I have surveyed here in the months and years ahead.
A NOTE ON FAILURE
In recent decades there has been a growing cultural fixation on failure. It was probably inevitable that politicians would begin clambering aboard the pro-failure bandwagon. “I failed. Big time” is how the disgraced former Governor Eliot Spitzer put it in an ad promoting his candidacy for New York City comptroller in this November’s election, arguing that his 2008 prostitution scandal was not entirely a bad thing. “You go through that pain,” Spitzer said in a television interview, “you change”—the implication being that the change must have been for the better. Mortification, Spitzer has suggested, can make a person more “empathetic.” Leaving aside the question of whether empathy is a quality one wants in a comptroller, it does seem that in politics, failure, done right, may have recently turned a corner. Far from being a liability, failure—and humble emergence from failure as sadder, wiser, etc.—has become something to tout. For more go to: http://hotair.com/headlines/archives/2013/09/20/is-losing-the-new-winning/
Jack/Judith Halberstam(1961-) is Professor of English & Director of The Center for Feminist Research at University of Southern California (USC). He was an Associate Professor in the Department of Literature at the University of California at San Diego before working at USC. He is a gender & queer theorist and author. Halberstam writes in his The Queer Art of Failure(Durham: Duke University Press, 2011, p.3) that "failure preserves some of the wondrous anarchy of childhood, and disturbs the supposedly clean boundaries between adults & children, winners & losers. Where failure certainly comes accompanied by a host of negative affects, such as disappointment, disillusionment, and despair, it also provides the opportunity to use these negative affects to poke holes in the toxic positivity of contemporary thinking. Halberstam’s emphasis on failure as a gateway to creativity, discovery, and wonder might prompt us to think about how we might dismantle those more traditional, acceptable modes of writing instruction to make room for “losing, forgetting, unmaking, undoing, unbecoming, not knowing.” For more on Halberstam go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judith_Halberstam
Such provocations lead me to another question: Could the fields of writing & rhetoric, guided by an ethic of failure, become a model for a productive, forward-looking discipline? Such questions no doubt help us forge connections to and re-see texts that may be more familiar: David Bartholomae’s Writing on the Margins (2005), Harriet Malinowitz’s “A Feminist Critique of Writing in the Disciplines” (Jarratt & Worsham 1998), and Sara Ahmed’s Cultural Politics of Emotion (Routledge 2004), & The Promise of Happiness (Duke 2010), among many others. Failure, for Halberstam, isn’t as simple as falling short of expectations. It's both an artform and “a way of refusing to acquiesce to dominant logics of power & discipline. It is also a form of critique.
As a practice, failure recognizes that alternatives are embedded already in the dominant and that power is never total or consistent." Forwarding such a vision, The Queer Art of Failure will be an enjoyable, challenging, and provocative read for anyone in the broad field of writing studies, whether senior faculty or graduate student. This work can also be useful even if one is not well-versed in or painfully ignorant of queer studies. For those who are interested in a fresh perspective on how to do meaningful, intellectual work, this book could be for you. All in all, The Queer Art of Failure has the potential to transform the way we think about our work in the world, encouraging us to re/create alternative futures.
MENTAL ILLNESS AND SELF-ESTEEM
It is not my intent in this essay, this account of my experience of bipolar disorder over 7 decades to document the history of mental illness treatment in the last half century or indeed the long history before, say, the 1950s. This is far too big a task and quite inappropriate to my aims in my life-narrative. Nor is my aim to discuss the various approaches that I could have taken to my illness in any detail.
My intention, as I pointed out in the introduction to what I have come to call my chaos-narrative, has several purposes among which is: (a) to help those with BPD to accept the idea that they have a medical a clinical disorder that may be recurrent and that produces symptoms that affect: mood, self-esteem, thinking, speech, activity, sleep, appetite as well as social and sexual behaviour; (b) to help those who read this to identify and label the specific symptoms that occur in their own lives; (c) to facilitate the acknowledgment that the most recent behavioural orientations and/or episodes of BPD in anyone’s life have an impact on the way the sufferer and their family members view that BPD; and (d) to identify and describe any change in the attitudes of those with BPD toward others and in the pattern of their relationship with the others during and after an episode of BPD and during the long story that is the life of a BPD sufferer.
In BPD episodes of depression occur alternately with manic or hypomanic episodes during which the mood becomes euphoric and labile, the capacity for deriving pleasure increases, behaviours aimed at deriving pleasure increase, energy and psychomotor activity, libido and self-esteem become elevated. Thus, the same domains are implicated in depression and mania, although the characteristic disturbance in emotional behavior within these syndromes appears opposite with respect to emotional valance. Thus the clinical manifestations of mood disorders would appear to implicate the cognitive, emotional and visceral functions.(Note: Readers wanting to read my 175 page, 75,000 word book on the subject of my life experience of bipolar disorder can google: RonPrice BPD)
DROP BY DROP
Coleridge tended to identify closely with the self within...He was acutely sensitive to audiences...driven by a pronounced, at times pathological...dependency on others’ approval. His fears of offending, his uncertainties over his own motivations, his low self-esteem... -Charles J. Rzepka, The Self as a Mind: Vision and Identity in Wordsworth, Coleridge and Keats, Harvard UP, London, 1986, pp.100-101.
The secret of self-mastery is self-forgetfulness.
Well, they are gone, and here I must remain,
in a prison I entered hardly knowing back then.
Such sweet-scented streams, fruits of luscious
delectation, bringing life to my world until
a final hour with fragrant memories; but
these strangers, so many, a myriad, exist in
another world, far beyond the deep beauty
of this emerald world of eternal wealth,
delighting in some withered bloom, in
some dark green file of long lank weeds
that nod and drip beneath the blue clay-stone.
They are gone and they’ve been going,
always going from the rose-garden of
this spirit where I planted my flowers
many summers ago. Content with
transient dust, they shall never see
the hyacinths of divine wisdom
springing from their heart: yet
I have the seeds, unplantable, it seems,
They wander on pining and hungering
in their own way, as we all do, with
sad and patient hearts: stoic, sometimes
happy, living in this yellow light with
the blue ocean, often silent, swimming.
Pale, they hang beneath the blaze where
hangs as well a transparent foliage and
where I watch some broad and sunny leaf
dappling beneath the sunshine, or some
deep radiance laying full on the ancient ivy.
And they travel busily to their destinations,
plant their gardens, love their families
as the rain falls upon the earth with the
branches dripping, drop by drop.
1 June 1995
Burns enjoyed sex with a huge enjoyment; it was for him, perhaps, the most exciting element in human experience. He explored its emotional aspects in some of the most tender and passionate love lyrics ever written. He also produced remarkable lyrical comments on the purely physical aspects of the relations between the sexes. -David Daiches, Robert Burns: The Poet, Saltire Society, 1994(1950), p.274.
Price enjoyed sex: the quintessential physical sensation, he thought, without a doubt. He rarely explored the subject in personal terms in his poetry. He was not sure why. Perhaps, it was partly the excessive emphasis given to sex in his culture in the last four decades of the twentieth century; his reticence might also be due, he thought, to what might be called a puritanical reaction in middle class society to overt discussion of sex in social relationships, especially one's own. His disinclination to discuss his sex life may also have been due to a view that this was a private preserve and should be dealt with indirectly if at all. Finally, his own sexual frustrations over those same decades contributed in no small part to his relative poetic silence.-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, Unpublished Manuscript.
You saw love as passion, simple, clear.(1)
By the time I came to this posey I knew
that love was not passion, fascination for
the delights, joys, of groin or breast, hair,
leg or flesh. Yes, some language of the heart.
I'm with you there, but far removed from some
orgasmic flair where detumescence cools the care
and takes you down in the cold night air. Love is
clearly something quite else; we learn it so slowly
while we climb around on the shelf of our days
trying and sorting and bending our ways.
I wonder how much I'll have when I'm
finished my journey: enough for a cup or
a gallon measure when I'm living in Burnie(2)
and growing quite old with some quieter pleasure.
12 August 1998
1 Robert Burns
2 town on the northwest coast of Tasmania
COMING OF AGE BILDUNGSROMAN AND SELF-ESTEEM
The Bildungsroman label is commonly applied to "coming of age" tales, novels of education, and it is taken in the larger context of Western Literature. The traditional questions associated with Western Literature can be summarized in this way: What is a story? An account of change. What is a good story? An account of change that all people can relate to. The assumption is that in order to be sufficiently engaging, change must center on the individual. Philosophy, literature, and the self grow together. They merge under the common characterization of the Bildungsroman. The result is a tradition of "good stories" about the formation of an identity that is rooted in interior personal growth. Rather than triumph over external obstacles through force of will, the will itself is formed through the effects of outside forces. The story remains a tale of growth and education, but the end of this process is an attempt to stabilize the subject and construct a coherent representation of the self that is consistent with the expectations of its cultural milieu or of the genre itself.
To understand this term, we can take two approaches: the historical route or the theoretical route. A historical view of the genre situates it in a particular time and place: "first, that the Bildungsroman is a peculiarly German form, and second, that it was the dominant form of the German novel in the nineteenth century". The theoretical approach is more concerned with understanding those works which are preoccupied with the idea of Bildung: "The idea of cultivation (Bildung) through a harmony of aesthetic, moral, rational and scientific education had long been a common property of Enlightenment thought". It is this second, broader sense, which has lapsed into the general usage of the term to describe stories about "growing up."
The consensus among scholars of the Bildungsroman is a view that takes both realities into account by recognizing that Bildung, as a concept, must be understood culturally. According to James N. Hardin, we must first understand that: Bildung as a developmental process and, second, as a collective name for the cultural and spiritual processes of a specific people or social stratum in a given historical epoch and by extension the achievement of learning about that same body of knowledge and acceptance of the value system it implies.(1) Jeffrey L. Sammons adds: "the concept of Bildung is intensely bourgeois; it carries with it many assumptions about the autonomy and relative integrity of the self, its potential self-creative energies, its relative range of options within material, social, even psychological determinants".(2) For more on this useful concept go to:http://www.ctheory.net/articles.aspx?id=594
(1) James N Hardin, "An Introduction," in James N. Hardin, ed., Reflection and Action: Essays on the Bildungsroman, Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1991, ix-xxvii, pp. xi-xii; and (2) Jeffrey L. Sammons, "The Bildungsroman for Nonspecialists: An Attempt at a Clarification," in James N. Hardin, ed., Reflection and Action: Essays on the Bildungsroman, Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1991, 26-45, p. 42.
SELF-ESTEEM: ITS HISTORY
The construct of self-esteem (or self-concept) dates back to William James, in the late 19th century, who, in his work Principles of Psychology, studied the splitting of our "global self" into "knower self" and "known self". According to James, from this splitting, which we all are more or less aware of, self-esteem is born. In the 20th century, the initial influence of Behaviorism minimized introspective study of mental processes, emotions and feelings, which was replaced by objective study through experiments on behaviors observed in relation with environment. Behaviorism placed the human being as an animal subject to reinforcements, and suggested to place psychology as an experimental science, similar to chemistry or biology. As a consequence, clinical trials on self-esteem were overlooked, since it was considered a less liable to rigorous measurement hypothesis.
In the mid 20th century, Phenomenology and humanistic psychotherapy made self-esteem gain prominence again, and it took a central role in personal self-actualization and psychic disorders' treatment. Personal satisfaction and psychotherapy started to be considered, and new elements were introduced, which helped to understand the reasons why people tend to feel less worthy, discouraged and unable to understand challenges by themselves.
Carl Rogers, the greatest exponent of humanistic psychology, exposed his theory about unconditional acceptance and self-acceptance as the best way to improve self-esteem. Robert B. Burns considers that self-esteem is a collection of the individual's attitudes toward himself. The human being perceives itself at a sensory level; thinks about itself and about its behavior, and evaluates both its behavior and itself. Consequently, humans feel emotions related to themselves. These emotions prompt behavioral tendencies aimed at oneself, at one's behavior, and at the features of one's body and character. These tendencies effect the attitudes which, globally, we call self-esteem. Thus, self-esteem, for Burns, is the evaluative perception of oneself. In his own words: "individual's behavior is the result of his environment's particular interpretation, whose focus is himself".
Self-esteem has been included as one of the four dimensions that comprise core self-evaluations, one's fundamental appraisal of oneself, along with locus of control, neuroticism, and self-efficacy. The concept of core self-evaluations was first examined by Judge, Locke, and Durham (1997), and since has proven to have the ability to predict several work outcomes, specifically, job satisfaction and job performance. Self-esteem may, in fact, be one of the most essential core self-evaluation dimensions because it is the overall value one feels about oneself as a person. For more go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-esteem#History
Jacques Derrida(1930-2004) was a French philosopher, born in French Algeria. He developed a form of semiotic analysis known as deconstruction. His work was labeled as post-structuralism and was associated with postmodern philosophy. His version of deconstruction became one of the most influential schools of thought among young academic critics. It is salutary in that it focuses on the political power of rhetorical oppositions -- of tropes and metaphors in binary oppositions like white/black, good/bad, male/female, machine/nature, ruler/ruled, reality/appearance -- showing how these operations sustain hierarchical world views by devaluing the second terms as something subsumed under the first.--Cornel West, "The New Cultural Politics of Difference", in Out There: Marginalization and Contemporary Cultures, edited by Russel Ferguson, Martha Gever, Trinh T. Minh-ha, and Cornel West, Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1990.
...black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics -- will be able to join hands and sing in the words of that old Negro spiritual: 'Free at last! Free at last! --Martin Luther King Jr., "I Have a Dream", speech delivered Washington D.C., August 28, 1963. Source: Ed Clayton and David Hodges, Martin Luther King Jr.: The Peaceful Warrior, New York: Pocket Books, 1968.
There are several words, terms, that are used in the above two quotations which need to be unpacked, as they say these days. I leave it to readers with the interest from their busy lives to look up their meaning before continuing with these words about identity. Identity may refer to many things; for a list of these things go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Identity. It is crucial, if one is interested in the idea of identity, to be cognizant of the network of forces determining or contributing to one's identity and its expression in daily life.
Since even "objective facts" can be viewed from innumerable perspectives, we can utilize so-called "objective" historical knowledge and its impact upon identity formation in ways that supports self-empowered living. This is what you might call a functional view of identity. Functionalism means fluidity in a world where dualist classification systems inhabit even oppositional strategies to prejudice. To close what could be several books of analysis, I'll say a few words about an online identity, internet identity, or internet persona is a social identity that an Internet user establishes in online communities and websites. It can also be considered as an actively constructed presentation of oneself. For more on this popular concept go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Online_identity