Sunday, November 30, 2008

On the Road to Happiness

On the Road
to Happiness
with the Novelist
and the
Analyst of the Mind

A Lecture Delivered by Anthony St. John
15 March 1978
Under the Auspices of the Instituto Cultural Venezolano-Britanico and
The British Council
Caracas, Venezuela

* * *

Good evening ladies and gentlemen, distinguished members of the audience, and all my friends who have chosen to be with us this evening…

I am pleased to present to you this evening my lecture, On the Road to Happiness with the Novelist and the Analyst of the Mind. I hope you enjoy its significance.

Happiness brings to mind a term which is difficult to define but easy to intuit. The word very often attracts attention in Literature and Moral Philosophy, and it has been deliberated upon by Aristotle, John Stuart Mill, Jeremy Bentham and by the here and now authorities of psychology—to name a few.

Most of us will admit that happiness is, as a goal, equivalent in value to the highest good attainable by man, and to seek happiness is the mandate implored by family, friends, lovers, the clergy and politicians.

When one thinks about it, the term happiness conjures for us a myriad of meanings. Whatever, it is possible to be happy in different degrees. I may be happier than one of you; a year ago, I may have been less happier than one of you. It is possible that happiness might become less happiness or even unhappiness. It is possible for someone to be happy when he or she is not happy with certain conditions in his or her life. It is possible for someone to possess numerous sensory pleasures and still not be happy.

Philosophers agree that two elements are a constituent in making us happy: In order to be happy it is necessary that one likes those parts of one’s total life pattern and the circumstances surrounding it which one thinks are consequential; and, happiness must possess certain feelings or emotions. The first component implies a “measuring up” of the many facets of a person’s life, and the second precludes, obviously, continuous states of depression, guilt, anxiety, restlessness, confusion, anger, and other antipathetical emotional resistances.

Happiness is not an all-or-nothing condition, for sure. We may love our work but hate our manager. We may adore our children but not love their mother or father. We may take pride in our country but wish to live in another. Here, a problem presents itself to the philosopher. To be happy do we have to be happy with all the attributes of life we consider of great consequence? Then too, how happy do we have to be with each feature? Nonetheless, philosophers do agree that a life which adheres to moral principles, is not given to excess, and which is imbued with an understanding of the world and one’s position in it, makes for a happy life. And it helps if we are interested in other people, in good causes, in positive gratifications, and in life itself.

Whether this happiness is valid or invalid poses still another philosophical subject of dispute. For instance, our children might find a delusive happiness in the adventures of some cartoon character when they try to satisfy an urge for unmediated violence and an attempt to allay paranoia by identifying with an invalid character rather than his or her victim or even the heroic protagonist. Happiness, when valid, subscribes to those conditions which represent, in a fair way, the tendencies in man to seek validity in what is understood to be the good—to seek it in such a way that it objectifies our place in the world.

Who makes us happy? Ourselves, naturally. Your happiness depends on yourself (Marcel Proust). But let us not assume we are prevented from looking for happiness in others. We poke around for life’s touchstones all the time. Man is a social animal, an imitative being. The universal consent of millions of people throughout thousands of years, has handed down to us multitudinous truths, happinesses, about life. We probe for happiness every day. Traditionally, individuals have gravitated to the leaders of institutionalised systems of religious attitudes, beliefs and practices. But, modern society has frequently rejected these persuasions. With no sect to fall back on, association with one’s fellows has become a disinheriting retrogression—often nihilistic, often steeped in despair, certainly confused, certainly anxious. And always unhappy.

Because the ecclesiastics have failed us, we have been tempted to give up. In this transitional phase, we delve for incorporeal resuscitation not from within ourselves, but from that which is outside of us. We are at a loss to relinquish life no matter how meaningless the world’s condition might appear to us, yet most of us are convinced that we cannot be happy because of ourselves. With the most pressing economic and social knotty points the world has been faced with through the ages, most of us strive for happiness as often as not it is an invalid type of happiness. Very few individuals grope for happiness from within their own being.

Tonight I wish to discuss the role of two characters whose purpose it is to interpret human experience for us and whose rationale, very often, attempts to lead us to happiness. The novelist and the analyst of the mind deal exclusively with human behaviour. And each has a function of his or her own when he or she sets about to understand the human condition. The task of dissecting human behavior is a difficult one. The novelist and the analyst of the mind occupy themselves with human experiences which in themselves are often irrational, mysterious. In fact, human behavior can be explained only in the most malleable and unscientific manner, and it yields few secrets under objective analysis. The assignment, then, is a formidable one.

It would appear that the novelist and the analyst of the mind have usurped the long-held, front-running position of the religious leader. Without a doubt, to many they are the new trail blazers of a “new” religion—if it can be said that a “new” religion does in reality exist. Mathew Arnold predicted that literature would become religion, and today it is to the writers and novelists and psychologists and psychoanalysts—not the priests and ministers—that the television producer turns to for observations regarding what is valid. Reading is frequently referred to as “therapy.” Psychologists, psychoanalysts, psychotherapists, psychiatrists, group therapists and clinical psychologists have their offices brimming with those in search of a personal spiritualism they feel has been denied them because of anxiety, depression, guilt, and other forms of antipathetical emotional resistances.

I believe the novelist and the analyst of the mind have been burdened with an enormous challenge, and although they have not been able to reckon with this bidding efficaciously, they have, notwithstanding, mellowed into something important for us. To present this idea to you, my dear listeners, I wish first to discuss the roles of both in modern society, go on to talk about their functions, and finally, query you—in a parley of idea exchanging—about the places these characters play in our lives. Both of them are guides on the Road to Happiness; both of them struggling, obviously, to find their own happiness.

I cannot think of a better description to apply to the novelist than the dictum of the Cambridge Platonist Henry More who believes that “the soul sings out the whole song upon the first hint as knowing it very well before.” The novelist is the soul and the song he sings out upon the first hint is the creative work of literature which he renders to us as a vital force. In the inherited pattern of thought, the novelist is the acting cause of an individual life gifted to a group of other individuals. The siring of the novelist is at once unique, but his original work of art is something which has fermented in his soul in a state of incipient development before reaching the boiling point of realization where it becomes necessary for the novelist to express himself in order to influence others—whether for valid or invalid happiness. Thus acting, the novelist invents prose narration which is usually long and complex, delighting and enlightening, and has as its subject the human experience—whether or not given voice to through a connected sequence of events. Characters are portrayed, actions are developed, scenes are represented. Novelists generally write about men and women and they very often deal with society. If the novelist’s examination of human character does not concern public or social ruminations, it might very well treat the rational and irrational depths of man’s personality as far as the writer’s imagination might take him or her. All things considered, the novelist has the capacity to weave the backgrounds of a host of characters and their differing life situations.

When he or she is ready to create the written imaginative expression, the novelist embarks on a long journey which, when completed, can be an art form that offers a valuable addition to Literature. To achieve this tour de force, characters, who will engage our imagination, are selected. Disparate types of interesting personalities are needed to maintain the reader’s interest and dab the work with conversant colors appealing to the thought processes of the reader. When the novelist has perfected the technique, an engrossing relationship between him or her and their readers takes root. The reader is free to take part in the creative method of the writer, and if he or she is willing, to embrace what is perceived as worthwhile from the extended prose narrative. The acceptance of what the novelist articulates—usually because the reader finds his or her ideas and character analyses plausible in light of the reader’s common sense experiences with life—makes for a “holy alliance” of writer and reader, one, because the writer receives appreciation for his or her creation from the reader; and, two, because the reader has been delighted and enlightened by the writer. Once this entente has been clenched, the novelist goes on expecting a sufficient return of book royalties which will permit him to write still another novel—if the author does not live in a Marxist state.

The novelist is extremely sensitive to the mysteries of life and he or she is usually not attached to any one interpretation of them. His or her ability, unique as it is, has been cultivated by many years of reading, by inordinate attention to the nuances of life, and by his or her own personal experiences which have shaped their attitudes and interpretations of episodes as they appear, without design, in the scheme of reality. It is not surprising then that in our own time the best of writers do not produce their best works until they are beyond a point of judiciousness. In the complicated world in which we live, it takes considerably longer to achieve the maturity needed to deal capably with the difficult task of interpreting and recounting the complexities of human behavior. Point of fact, the best writers are philosophers—usually non-professional ones. Some critics have called their products “wisdom literature” because in order to satisfy the requirements of an ever-increasing sophisticated audience, the novelist has had to bring himself or herself to a higher level of refinement where he or she must have the sufficient mental facilities to take the reins of the intricacies of the arduous time in which we live. As mankind advances to new heights of intelligibility, the novelist must keep pace with the upward thrust so that he or she might be able to interpret it properly and with an enormous degree of sophistication. The greatest of writers, from any age, have given us the “wisdom literature” we need to understand and decipher our position in this world. They have pointed out to us the ways and the means that enable us to relive our own doubts and fears through the representation of others, to separate fact from fiction in our lives, and to broaden our horizons in a spirit of freedom and intellectual equitableness.

I wish now to turn to the analyst of the mind. Let us assume he or she possesses two functions: First, the analyst of the mind deals with individuals in whose lives conflict or weakness has become seriously enough an integral part of their temperament so as to produce inhibiting mental discomfort. In this role, the analyst of the mind acts as healer. Regardless of the school of psychic analysis, the process utilised to rectify this condition that stalls is generally a prolonged engagement, and for our purposes it is a one-on-one, patient-analyst relationship. This qualification does not intend to exclude any particular school of psychoanalysis, and it considers the commonly-accepted stereotype of the analyst as a point of reference only. In this primary impersonation the patient is taken by the analyst of the mind into therapy and the patient begins the journey along the Road to Happiness sufficiently certain that psychologically inhibiting factors—which in the mind of the clinician have been diagnosed as serious impediments and warrant some sort of corrective action—will be melted away. Simply put, the patient is acutely depressed, guilty, anxious, confused, angered or endures other negative emotional reactions—or combinations of them—which cause the patient to feel desperately unhappy. The m├ętier of the analyst of the mind is to lead the patient to an awareness of his or her problem in a way that he or she can deal with it successfully.

The second task of the analyst is the one which concerns itself with the on-going study and research into the intricacies of the human mind. Whether this is effectuated in the differing schools of analysis, in the experimental laboratories of the psychologist, or in the methodologies of the psychological philosophers, the study of the mind is—as a relatively new field—one which is forever expanding in discovery and accumulating new applications of untried techniques.

I now wish to review synoptically two traditional schools of analysis in order to point up, one, a feel for the technique of the analyst of the mind and, two, to explore—in an ever so gingerly way—the facets of human behavior which have been revealed to us by the analysts of the mind.

The Freudian and Jungian schools are well regarded as pioneer schools in the field of psychoanalysis as much as their methods, nowadays, might be under scrutiny, even attack, by those seeking new directions and propinquities to psychoanalysis. Regardless, both schools are important foundations of psychoanalytical theory and study no matter what use is made of them by the analyst of the mind. The genius of Freud is obvious to all of us, and his impact on contemporary society is far-reaching…perhaps more extensive than Freud himself would have cared his theories to extend.

The institutor of psychoanalysis devised a system of dream analysis designed to enable the patient to become aware of motives which, before analysis, were unconscious, unknown, to the patient. These hidden, painful emotions were considered by Freud the source of the patient’s neurosis, and to relieve them Freud experimented with various methods—including hypnosis—before he settled on the use of free association and dream interpretation. In Freudian analysis, the patient discusses his thoughts in a general way, and from time to time, the analyst offers an explanation of what the patient is experiencing. The Freudian analyst’s purpose is to get the patient to recover lost memories with which the patient might return to the point where conflicts or weaknesses had become so forcefully emplaced in the patient’s character. Only by facing his or her problems will the patient improve. The process takes time because at first the patient is reluctant to go back to those disturbing unconscious motives. The analyst must help the patient to overcome his or her initial resistances. We must realize that this process is not a purely intellectual event. The patient is actually brought back to the painful experiences of his or her life, and suffers during this regressive passage often becoming worse before becoming better. When the patient ultimately transfers to the analyst the attitudes and emotions which were originally directed at his parents in childhood, a successful Freudian analysis might be said to be achieved and the patient can be thought of as having come finally to confront the difficulties which were embedded so powerfully in his unconscious.

Carl Gustov Jung interrupted his collaboration with Freud in 1914 and founded his own school which today is referred to as the analytical method of psychoanalysis. Jung modified Freudian psychoanalysis to suit his own purposes. One difference he had with Freud was that he believed the neurotic symptom should not be explained only in terms of the patient’s past. In Jungian analysis the present of the patient is crucial—even prone to elicit compensating experiences—because it is in the present that the neurotic symptom can be confronted by the patient attempting to solve his problem in medias res. In Jungian analysis the patient is encouraged not only to recognize unconscious motives, he is brought to acknowledge unseen-before parts of his personality during the process of his analysis. In identifying these segments of his personality, the patient joins in a procedure set in motion to bring out his or her individuality and to participate in an harmonious synthesis between himself or herself and the functions external to them. In Jungian analysis, much of the patient’s unconscious is explicable in terms of his or her own life history, but that unconscious has features which are common to all individuals and they do not derive solely from the patient’s personal history. The patient’s personal unconscious comes to agree with the collective unconscious to which we all belong. The departure point for Jungian psychoanalysis is when the patient’s ego has failed to achieve this acquiescent coupling by identifying too strongly or too weakly (extrovert or introvert) with his or her self—their persona.

These brief sketches of two different schools of psychoanalysis serve to point up to us the intent of the analyst of the mind. They refer to two systems of examination of a complexity, its elements, and their affinities. The intricacy involved is the human personality, and it is the task of the analyst of the mind to decipher the blocked passages of the human intellect on behalf of his or her patient so that he or she may continue on the Road to Happiness without encountering inhibiting obstacles which impede progress. By assisting the patient, the analyst of the mind brings about a confrontation between the patient and his or her ideas which are not marked by conscious thought, sensation, or feeling. The encounter serves to make the patient face his or her problems which hitherto had been hidden in the depths of his or her psyche—haunting and dreadful, irrational and unhappy.

The skill of the analyst of the mind depends greatly on his or her ability to adjust the knowledge he or she has of the system of analysis he or she prefers to serve the individual, peculiar needs of the patient. In doing so the analyst depends a great deal on his or her imagination, and he or she must be a versatile, discriminating individual who, in devising explanations of his or her patient’s symptoms, couples ingenuity to the soundness of the theory he or she has studied with diligence for many years. An understanding of a patient’s experiences and world view must be approached with a careful consideration of the proven terms of the psychoanalytical school the analyst has chosen as his or her forte and the specifically human aspects of the patient’s human needs and idiosyncrasies.

One of the underlying themes of this discussion has been the supposition that the novelist and the analyst of the mind are capable of ushering us along the Road to Happiness. I have hinted at similarities, some differences. Let us now attempt to contrast the two by studying their methodologies in a generalized overview.

The novelist, as an artist, is apt to proceed with a method akin to inductive reasoning whereby he or she processes thoughts from a part to a whole—from particulars to generalities, from the individual to the universal. Permit me to be more specific. The novelist places himself or herself before blank pages, comes to them with an inclination in a line with the direction he or she intends to pursue. His or her work is created as he or she proceeds. He or she builds upon the sequence of events that have passed on previous pages, and he or she struggles to lead up to a successful conclusion of these events. When the work is finished, the essence of the creation might then be finally understood. We may guess at the eventual conclusion of a novel midstream the manuscript, but we may never know the author’s purpose until he or she has written the last pages or page. When a novel draws to a close, it is left to the scrutiny of the public and the critics who determine its artistic relevance. The novelist’s creation, then, is one which commences as a tabula rasa, an empty state of the mind, directs itself along a path of development and complication, and soft lands with a conclusion, resolution, that is satisfactory to the author first and ultimately his or her readers. The novelist, through this process, has taken a piece of the drama of life and has molded it into his or her own ideal of the state of reality. Once this has been accomplished, he or she offers it to their readers for their deliberation, their advantage.

This effort is burdened with intense difficulties. The novelist is forced to adhere to the shadings of human behavior with all its subtle distinctions and variations and, at the same time, gel his or her composition into an acceptable art form. We are often reminded of the struggling artist, the suffering literary thespian, the man or woman alone in his or her room cut off from society, glued to the typewriter. There can be no greater misconception of the novelist. For like anyone who revels in the fruits of his or her enjoyed labours, like anyone who loves his or her labor for its own sake, there can be only satisfaction and enjoyment upon completion of a triumphant work of creative fiction.

The analyst of the mind guides us along the Road to Happiness employing a different series of actions or operations showing the way to a closing stage. His or her method is deductive—conclusions follow from premises, necessarily. The clinician comes to his or her patient equipped with the theories and principles established by the school of analysis, or combination of schools of analysis, which he or she has determined suit the requirements most conveniently. The analyst of the mind toils within the framework of the doctrines which have been advanced by his or her school. With these supposedly time-honoured propositions, the analyst directs his or her patient to conform to a well-recognized approach to the understanding of human behavior. The analyst of the mind—in order to reach his or her level of proficiency—has studied psychoanalytical theory and practice for numerous years under varying sets of circumstances which have afforded him or her the chance to gain the skill needed to function solitarily. In analysis, the fruits of the analyst’s labours are reaped as he or she guides their patients to a successful understanding (analysis) of their complicated lives. The psychoanalytical process is an educational process. Education and therapy work hand in hand as the analyst endeavors, ever so assiduously, to explain behavior by means of what happened before rather than by what might yet befall. The end of the analyst’s effort comes with the fruitful readjustment of the patient to the realities of life which before had been clouded by states of depression, guilt, anxiety, restlessness, confusion, anger, and other antipathetical emotional resistances.

Thank you.

* * *

Anthony St. John
Casella Postale 38

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