Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Occupy Wall Street and Puer Aeternus

The late Psychiatrist, James Hillman, writes about the Greek
myth of Puer Aeternus (the Eternal Youth). Hillman suggests that a psyche stuck
in the mode of "staying forever young," and free from the burden of having to
grow up and face failures, responsibilities, aging and death--refuses to
self-reflect and learn from the inevitable shortcomings of youth.

Perhaps this observation contains one explanation of the
Occupy Wall Street phenomenon. The puer aeternus is characterized by
excessive "openness" which is really the inability to stop whining and do some
personal soul-searching, disguising childishness as "truth telling" and
"justice" as a cry to be taken care of by mommy or daddy.

The puer aeternus is obsessed with a need for praise and
validation from the outside world. Forty-six year old Charlie Sheen is the
poster-child for this Western psychic pandemic: someone who "acts or speaks
without thinking, lacks the reflection needed to avoid repeating past mistakes,
has unrealistic expectations about his or her own capabilities, and has
difficulty in establishing or sustaining deep and lasting relationships. Instead
of turning inward and going deeper into one’s own emotional soul-life, the puer
aeternus spontaneously and continually turns outward, looking for praise and
meaning from others and the outside world."

Perhaps the OWS, in part, reveals a festering psychic symptom
of a culture refusing to grow up and take personal responsibility--looking for
wealthy corporate daddies and political mommies to kiss their owies and make it
all better.

Not the complete truth, but a point of

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