Vol. 45 No. 3 1978 - page 346

available, many people suffer chronic low grade depressions and
feelings of inadequacy.
is in this context that another cultural strain has emerged, one
that emphasizes not the ascendancy of the self, but its obliteration, for
example, the cult of eastern religions and the self-designated"Jesus
freaks." Self-obliteration becomes attractive when the demands on the
self are so extensive that the discrepancy between expectation and
performance can only lead to personal failure and humiliation. Thus
self-obliteration attempts to deal with the burden of excessive demands
and is predominantly used to
self-esteem. The individual's
alienation from traditional support systems and affiliations leaves him
rudderless and fearful; he is looking for an "overself" to substitute for
his diminished selfhood. The cultural preoccupation with drugs looks
in both directions, both at self-actualization and self-obliteration.
These two trends, one toward the actuali zation of the self and the other
toward its eclipse, are alternative adaptations to the same contempo–
rary dilemma.
While previous alienation was alienation with at least the illusion
of a remedy which performed the function of a real remedy insofar as it
was firmly believed in and consistently acted upon, contemporary
alienated man faces his quandary alone, without even the promise of a
remedy outside himself. What is left for him is the consciousness of his
individuality. Thus, contemporary alienation leads of necessity to
contemporary narcissism. By his own isolated efforts he endeavors to
achieve the salvation foreclosed to him by the decay of the traditional
theological and philosophical structures. The individual, deprived of
objective rational norms which kept individuals together in an ongo–
ing society, becomes the measure of all things and surrenders to his raw
aspirations, and rejoices in his "liberation" from an objective rational
order which had previously served as the ultimate standard for judg–
ment and action. Paradoxically, part of the intellectual rationalization
for this shift has come from a subtle perversion of psychoanalytic
thinking with intellectual antecedents in Reich's misunderstanding of
Freud. Many therapists, particularly practitioners of some of the newer
therapies, have abandoned the aim of uncovering unconscious conflict
in favor of facilitating assertion, self-fulfill ment and almost every
modality of sexual gratification. Adherence to duty, if duty conflicts
with self-fulfillment, may be interpreted as masochism. Gui lt, which
restrains behavior in the individual, and thereby maintains social
order, is nonetheless held by some therapists to be a worthless emotion.
Thus in the end, contemporary man is left alone with himself. His
own individuality, experienced as his own body as distinct from other
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