A Public Serivce Message from the American Income Life Insurance CompanyExecutive offices, Waco, TexasBernard Rapoport, Pres. Although he would be hotly disputed on the innate-vs.-learned circuit those who cannot agree whether the rage of life is rhyme or reason the idea that all animals, including man, possess base jungle energy is scarcely new. The same concept has been suggested by such diverse Hitler and Genghis Khan would not have been inclined to disagree. Many psychologists find the tributaries of aggressive behavior obvious in the first actions of the child. Some, like Melanie Klein, believe the first experiences of life to be filled with terror and rage. The world of nursery rhymes, which have a disturbing way of cropping up in almost identical mythology throughout the world’s literature, are hardly elysian romps. Children are eaten by grandmother wolves, witches threaten the peace, etc., etc. Observers like Anthony Storr conjecture that aggression is a positive drive towards separation and independence. He thinks that the first efforts of an infant to crawl demonstrate traces of a lifelong effort to explore and master the external world. Quoting Dr. P. G. Winnicott: “At origin, aggressiveness is almost synonymous with activity.” The American analyst Clara Thompson attempts to clear away the distinctions between “natural” aggression and the bitter nervous activity stemming from frustration: “Aggression is not necessarily destructive at all. It springs from an innate tendency to grow and master life which seems to be characteristic of all living matter. Only when this life force is obstructed in its development do ingredients of anger, rage or hate become connected with it.” The mastering of life’s skills is not a passive act it is the overcoming of stasis, of all the gravities urging you to abide and be fallow. Such activity is by definition aggressive. In that sense, aggression, more than any other trait, may characterize the human being seen whole. body willing it, and no vital life-decision is possible. Will takes over when the spirit and the body refuses; in the final assumption, will-power is both body and spirit. Kierkegaard said as much while talking about the true religious experience: “Purity of mind is to will one thing.” Willing “one thing” is a 90-year-old woman ill with cancer dragging a three-ton car off her trapped son. Two obvious psychological collisions result from such a situation: first, a country or an individual must occasionally devise a way of demonstrating this power or sooner or later his enemies will cease to believe he possesses it; and second, the longer a country or an individual goes on merely threatening others with his unused strength the more his frustration will build up over his inability to wield it. Adler called this refusal to appear weak the “masculine protest.” Like his one-time colleague and mentor Freud, he found it difficult to account for the female equivalent of masculinity. Yet once the symbols and circuits and trappings have been matched up, the feminine drive for power, status, control and superiority seems at least as obsessive as with the male. The mistake we make in believing this is not so, is to misunderstand what a female wants. Freud to the contrary, it is not quite possible to say that a female envies the male his private parts. If anything she envies him his public parts. She has a different way of getting things and a different way of enacting revenge if she does not get what she wants. More than their privates, women yearn for men’s public parts. The female senses power more directly and will have very little truck with where it’s not and those who don’t know where it is. * * In talking about the different forms of power-play, “displacement mechanisms” cannot be omitted. This is the term for the systems we utilize to insure that our aggressive urges will not get us hurt. Certain animals challenge each other, displaying all the angry habits, colorations and noises that go with deadly combat. Yet when they arrive at the point of attack, they turn and tear up grass or weeds. Some merely dig holes in the earth or shake themselves in fury. Whatever, they perform some action that suffices to demonstrate their capacity for deadliness while everyone concerned remains quite healthy. Most humans do the same thing \(primarily through evasive displacement is no more sophisticated than the waffling exhibited by adolescents during a schoolyard battle. Again, the bluff and the threat is everything. It is unusual to see open warfare break out, not only because both sides may be afraid of being hurt but because of the fear of punishment and retribution. Every culture in the world demonstrates to its citizens in infancy that they will be punished for allowing their hostility full rein. This is our greatest protective mechanism, and of course our greatest source of direct repression. We are taught to hate ourselves for hating others. \(Many psychotic states erupt in young life over the natural but totally love is the greatest virtue. And then we are introduced to success, and the worship of its symbols. It is the curious contradiction of “civilization” that most of us learn quite well to disguise or bury that thrust which urges us to climb over one another; we learn quite well to suppress that fundamental fire of overcoming while living in a world that holds out its highest rewards to those who transcend or flaunt such suppression. Love is touted but success is the name of the game. No one really cares what a man does not do out of pity, charity or compassion. They do not even care much what he attempts out of pity, charity or compassion. They care mainly for what he gets done … by any means possible. This is a window on power, sad but true. The ancient Greeks did not put to death the losers in any of their many competitions while the Romans often did. History says that civilization came to its apogee with the Greeks. But the Romans got things done.
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