Is there perhaps one basic insight, one key awareness, that we humans have to learn, and learn quickly, to help us avoid catastrophe from climate change, nuclear weapons, spreading psychosis, and multispecies extinction?
I recently purchased a book titled A Gap in Nature: Discovering the World’s Extinct Animals, which has on its book jacket an artful rendering of a Dodo bird. When I was a young teenager, I spoke about this bird, this phoenix of Mauritius, at a school speaking contest. I mentioned that human interventions had wiped them out, and apparently my voice’s sorrowful mystification at that point convinced judges (did I guilt-trip them?) to award me first place.
I’m not mystified now as to why we might soon follow the dodo into the void. I understand why the human race is fated to self-destruct. The knowledge is found in depth psychology, which exposes our compulsion to recycle and replay unresolved negative emotions and to suffer the accompanying self-defeat. Are climate change and nuclear weapons just props or means we’ve created to act out this fate?
Our extinction can and must be avoided. We may be fated collectively to self-destruct, yet we’re not destined to do so. We’re destined, I’m sure, to create a world in which we become increasingly peaceful, united, and wise. When we learn, one person at a time, to see ourselves more objectively, with insight into our compulsion to act self-destructively, we acquire the knowledge and wisdom to fulfill our destiny.
The notion that our species is compulsively self-defeating and self-destructive has been explored extensively by psychoanalysts for more than 100 years. (Readers can find summaries of these discussions at Wikipedia, under repetition compulsion and death drive.) Many people desperately don’t want to believe we’re so foolish and obtuse. They can’t deal emotionally with inner truth, which is experienced as highly offensive to our ego and self-image. Even modern psychology denies the fact that hidden dynamics in our psyche make us our own worst enemy, claiming that such a contention blames the “poor” victims of emotional suffering for fostering their own misery. [Read more…]