Sunday, December 30, 2012

When Id Screams

I talk a lot here about honestly . . . living on the ground floor of reality. But even I know, despite my idealism, that society would almost cease to function within the framework of total honesty.  But I do think it is healthy that we are at least aware of the masquerade.  In my prior evangelical days, when we subscribed to the notion of achieving "godliness" we became more and more disconnected to our own reality.

Freudian psychiatry is of course no longer in vogue, however, Sigmund did do a great job in describing the organization of the psyche.  His notion of the Id, ego and superego can work as a decent model.

So, within this model, the really honest self would probably be the Id. Layer upon layer above that are the controls (inhibitions) that allow us to suppress the four year old within us, so that we can create social interactions as adults.

I find it interesting when the Id breaks through, often in the most unsuspecting time or place.  While I've seen this happen many times in others and myself, I will use one example that I can clearly remember as a great example.

Years ago I was a deacon in a large church in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  The senior pastor of that church had illusions of grandeur where he envisioned our church becoming a mega church, with his bigger-than-life personality at the helm.  So, he paid some consultants to come in and figure out how to wring out a few more drops of money from each member.  They concluded that our meager church of about 500 members could cough up about a million dollars . . . with the right program (of psychological manipulation).  I've grown to loathe such "faith promise" programs which use a lot of emotional and guilt manipulation.

Anyway, we leaders were assigned to go out in pairs to meet with each family. We would pretend to call it a prayer time, when it was really and tricky manipulation time ("Oh God please help this family to really trust you like they never have before by stepping out and pledging what only You know that You will provide.")

So, we arrived at one of the key families house for our "prayer meeting."  The mom, I will call her Sandra, was a wonderful woman, Sunday school teacher and involved in several women's groups. She was referred to as "a most godly woman."

I was still young (28) and quite naive  I remember being shocked to the point of being speechless when we started praying with the woman and her quiet husband and her Id came tearing out to the surface.  She began to scream at us, and, as we use to say down south, "Cursing us out" (pronounced "cussing us out").

I remember her standing up and shaking her finger at us, "You sons of bitches, I dare you come in my F-  - -ing house and trying to steal the shoes off my babies so you can build your motherf---ing church. That will happen over my motherf---ing dead body you assholes and you can tell that motherf---ing pastor that he can eat my shit before I give him and another damn penny."

She was very, very mad.  I think she was very embarrassed when her anger subsided. She never made eye contact with me again over the subsequent few years. I'm glad that I was the junior member of that prayer duo as I watched the senior deacon try to squirm our way out of their house.

I have been totally stressed out over the past few weeks.  I mentioned in my last post that I've had a "near death experience" with my medical practice as we almost went bankrupt.  Unfortunately I have a big heart and began seeing too many poor people so our bills surpassed our income. Words can't express the stress I have felt.

Now the good news, I had a big boost of money come in today, which will allow us to make payroll once more.  But in my prolonged level of stress, sleep deprivation, the most childish part of me came rushing to the surface. I deeply regret it now. I didn't like my Christmas present my wife gave me. I know, four year old material.

My wife has traditionally given me a pack of underwear almost every Christmas since we were married 31 years ago.  For a stretch of about five years I asked each year for an ice axe. She would always tell me that was a totally impractical and silly request because we were living in Minnesota and there were no mountains. But I had dreams of climbing one.  One year, I think out of frustration, she got me a red one.  It, until this day, is the greatest Christmas gift I've ever had.  This past summer I used it to summit a challenging. glacier-clan Mount Baker.

I grew to loathe the underwear gift but had never said anything about it.  While I know this is not true, it communicated to me each Christmas that my value to her was nothing more.  I turned worked very hard and got her big gifts each year.  That was my family tradition when I was growing up.

I grew up in a family where Christmas was totally impractical. We bought beyond our means and bought each other impractical gifts, that we knew the person would love.  Maybe a trip to the beach, or a guitar, or a motorcycle, or a car.  My wife grew up in a family where gifts had to fit well within a small budget and of the most practical type, pajamas, gloves, toaster (if the old one was broken). So, I will need about five pairs of underwear each year, so, it goes to reason, why not make that my Christmas present?

I feel horrible about venting about it . . . and quite childish.  Now she feels totally devalued by me that I would say such a hurtful thing as "please don't get me underwear each year for Christmas."

But this got me thinking about the child within me.  I know he resides there, the same child that I knew, and which made up the whole of me, during my preschool years.  I want the biggest piece of the cake, the one in the corner with the icing on two sides.  I want to be appreciated more than I am . . . always.

Maybe the superego is the Holy Spirit.  Maybe. Or just maybe it is learned self-policing personality that keeps us all from becoming assholes . . . thus friendless.  But I often see people giving full expression of their Ids but they do it in such a camouflaged way that it can make themselves look like saints.  Say the pastor in Ann Arbor. If you looked at the child within  him, that child was screaming, "I want to be king of the hill, and of the biggest hill in town."  But he was crafty enough to rephrase it as "God wants us to move out and trust Him for mighty things.  Who is on God's side . . . and who is not?"


Jaimie said...

It's not hurtful to ask someone to stop getting you the same Christmas present every year, if you are indeed annoyed by it. And it's YOUR gift -- you can react however you want. Gifts are about the receiver. But I'm guessing, from the context, the tone itself was at issue. I can see how that would be a sore spot though, and I don't think it's realistic to say that aspect of it is childish. Or, if it is childish, gift-giving is an area where we are allowed to appeal to our inner child.

jmj said...

I felt quite childish about it. There is something strange about this, but I envision eternity as where we were all children, innocent children. That was a glorious time. But children can be cruel to each other in their pure honesty. I guess the cruelty would have to be removed. I'm still sorting out if I did the right thing or I just vented at a time when totally un-related things were getting me down.

Jaimie said...

Well if you get something not-underwear for Christmas next year, then you definitely did the right thing! (Kidding.)

Hope T. said...

Children are honest (before the adults get to them) and their matter-of-fact statements sometimes appear cruel to adults but I don't think that cruelty is the intention of the young child. We older ones are the ones who find it appalling to voice our true feelings.

I can't see anything wrong with stating that you do not want to find a wrapped package of underwear under the tree on Christmas and that you will buy your own underwear when you need it. Stating our desires and feelings is a kindness to those we love because there can be no true intimacy without the exchange of feelings.

Have you heard of Marshall Rosenberg's Non-Violent Communication? I think you would really like it because he helps people to talk about their feelings as well as eliciting the feelings of others in a non-manipulative manner (i.e. non-violent). Communication can potentially be win/win instead of a win/lose proposition.

I like your posts about honesty. You are one of a very few people talking about that and it is one of the most important topics that can be discussed.