Embracing Ourselves (3)

This is the third and last in a series of posts under the same general title.

*     *     *

In general, the question I want to ask is: How do we embrace ourselves in our entirety? Specifically, I want to ask this question: How can we embrace not just those parts of ourselves we are proud of, and would like to be known by, but also—and especially—those parts of ourselves we are not proud of, and would not like to be known by?

*     *     *

How the Question Specifies Us

What projections are to us all individually, scapegoats are to us all collectively: the parts of ourselves we are continuing to disown. In that regard, the challenge to embrace ourselves entirely is the same for us all, both individually and collectively. It is the challenge of re-claiming or re-owning, which is to say, re-owning-up-to, those parts of ourselves we strive so consistently to disown. Only through such “reclamation” can we even genuinely lay claim to all of ourselves, and thereby become at last whole.

Only so, for instance (to use one of my own communities as an example again), can the United States of America become in reality, for the very first time ever, what it has for so long laid claim to being in its “Pledge of Allegiance”: one nation, indivisible. Indeed, for the United States or any other community, it is only insofar as we allow ourselves fully to be called into question by and in our own genuinely asking how we can embrace ourselves in our entirety, that there is any hope for someday actually doing just that: embracing ourselves in our entirety.

My specific focus in this series of posts, to repeat again, is on how we can cease disowning those among us who, although acting in our name and under our authority, commit deeds that bring dishonor upon us, shaming us. It is the question of how we can at last stop making scapegoats out of just such members of our community. How we can finally stop loading all of our collective sins on them as individuals, and then driving them out of our midst and into the wilderness, carrying all our sins with them—or so, at least, would we like to believe?

We can do so only by really asking that question of ourselves, and thereby experiencing ourselves as called into question. That happens when we experience ourselves called to confess contrition for the sins of those who, in our name and under our authority, commit shameful deeds. Only thus do we own up to our sins as truly ours, owning up to them as our own sins and, accordingly, accepting responsibility for repenting of what we have done through those we have called into our service, then sent out in our name and under our authority, and who have then committed crimes and atrocities. Only by such acceptance of our own responsibility, which most especially entails accepting the need to atone for what we have done through such instruments pressed into our service, can we ever reclaim the disowned parts of ourselves collectively—and become, at last, who we really are.

Such communal acts of confession, repentance, and atonement can and should include, to mention only one crucial thing, a dimension of ritual communal observance. In the United States, for instance, just as we have officially set aside such days of remembrance as Veterans Day or Memorial Day for honoring the memory of those who have served and even died “under arms” for this country, so might we set aside other days of remembrance for expressing contrition for the atrocities that have far too often been committed by those we have so placed “under arms.”

We could set aside December 29 for such a purpose, for example, to mark the day in 1890 that United States troops massacred American Indian men, women, and children at Wounded Knee, South Dakota. Or we might set aside March 16, the date on which the My Lai massacre in Vietnam took place in 1968. Or we could choose any of the regrettably large number of other dates that mark atrocities committed by United States troops enacting national policies. We could set aside at least one day, if not a number of days, as days of national confession, contrition, and atonement.

On such a day we could practice embracing ourselves in our entirety, disowning none of us.

Published in: on December 12, 2016 at 10:01 pm  Comments (1)  
Tags: ,

The URI to TrackBack this entry is: https://traumaandphilosophy.wordpress.com/2016/12/12/embracing-ourselves-3/trackback/

RSS feed for comments on this post.

One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Dear Frank, You are so right: we cannot honor ourselves unless we accept ourselves which would include embracing even the most disgusting aspects of ourselves. In thirty years of clinical experience I did indeed, as you indicate in your posting, find that all prejudice involves projecting onto others the most hated aspects of ourselves. The resistance to understanding this is tremendous, not to mention the reluctance to actually “atone” for these aspects of ourselves. But your idea is certainly something to aspire to.

    I used to tell patients that the goal of psychoanalysis was to recognize and confront just exactly who and what they were/are. Of course, I was way too much of an existentialist to stop there. At some point in almost every analysis I conducted I’d ask the patient whey he/she was trashing our work? Why weren’t they acting upon what we’d learned together? I got some pretty startled reactions. “You’re supposed to be an analyst, not someone who gets me to do something.” “I’m being an analyst,” I’d retort. “We need to analyze now why you aren’t using what we’ve learned.” I’d go on to tell them that I wasn’t interested in just taking their money and sitting around while they talked about themselves and did nothing to change themselves. Unfortunately, many of my colleagues were content to do just that, but that’s another story.

    Although I don’t always comment on your postings, Frank, I treasure them. Thanks so much for writing them. Charlie

    On Mon, Dec 12, 2016 at 5:02 PM, Trauma and Philosophy wrote:

    > frankseeburger posted: “This is the third and last in a series of posts > under the same general title. * * * In general, the question I want > to ask is: How do we embrace ourselves in our entirety? Specifically, I > want to ask this question: How can we embrace not just thos” >


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s