The Quest for Identity – Allen Wheelis

Chapter I
Evolution of Social Character
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Identity is a coherent sense of self. It depends upon die awareness that one’s endeavors and one’s life make sense, that they are meaningful in the context in which life is lived. It depends also upon stable values, and upon the conviction that one’s actions and values are harmoniously related. It is a sense of wholeness, of integration, of knowing what is right and what is wrong and of being able to choose.

During the past fifty years there has been a change in the experienced quality of life, with the result that identity is now harder to achieve and harder to maintain. The formerly dedicated Marxist who now is unsure of everything; the Christian who loses his faith; the workman who comes to feel that his work is piecemeal and meaningless; the scientist who decides that science is futile, that the fate of the world will be determined by power politics-such persons are of our time, and they suffer the loss or impairment of identity.

Identity can survive major conflict provided the supporting framework of life is stable, but not when that framework is lost. One cannot exert leverage except from a fixed point. Putting one’s shoulder to the wheel presupposes a patch of solid ground to stand on. Many persons these days find no firm footing; and if everything is open to question, no question can be answered. The past half century has encompassed enormous gains in understanding and in mastery; but many of the old fixed points of reference have been lost, and have not been replaced.
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Chapter III
Character Change and Cultural Change

Culture and Social Character

It is generally believed that our changing social character is symptomatic of crisis, that there was a period in the past-the Victorian period, for example-in which character was stable, and that there will be a corresponding period in the future in which society will have emerged from its present chaos, when stable traditions will again foster a stable character. The troubles which seem most crucial to an observer of any period are the troubles of his present; those receding into the past he views with detachment. The biggest wave is the one now striking the ship; toward the horizon, ahead or astern, the sea is level. And so our present, with its troubles and uncertainties, is seen as a temporary and perilous transition.

This belief will not bear scrutiny. Clearly character cannot remain fixed while the conditions of life change. And clearly the conditions of life have always been changing. Any culture tends to produce in individuals that social character which is fitted for survival in that culture; and as a culture evolves, an evolution in the prevailing character of the individuals who adapt to it is to be expected. That there should have been a characterological change of some kind in western society during the past two generations occasions no surprise, nor should it. For the conditions of life have, during that time, undergone such radical alteration that it would be a greater mystery if no corresponding change in character had occurred. We know this in the same way we know that the Norman conquerors, the imperial Romans, the fabled Babylonians, and the stone age men must have been characterologically different, each from the others and each from ourselves. Since evolution has been intrinsic to culture for as long as we have any knowledge of culture, character, also, must always have been in a process of change.

Radical changes in the circumstances of life may befall man, as the several ice ages doubtless brought about different ways of life for peoples of the northern hemisphere. Such changes have, in the period of recorded history, become progressively less important: the changes brought about by man himself have provided the major problems of adaptation. It is the nature and continuity of these changes that are in question here.

The Institutional Process and the Instrumental Process

It is not possible to view the life of man apart from culture; for there is no man whose life has not been shaped from birth to death by its cultural matrix. An approximation of the life of man without culture is afforded by those animals most closely related to man. Their lives consist of being born, eating, sleeping, playing, fighting, mating, procuring food, caring for young, and dying. All of these activities continue in the life of man, and are the life process for him as they are for other species. But in man-even the most primitive man-these activities are shaped by two superimposed modes of action which are distinctively human. These are the use of tools and the creation of myths. Culture is the product of these modes, and the distinction between them establishes the concepts with which culture may be analyzed and understood. These concepts were first indicated by Veblen, and have been elaborated and clarified by Dewey and Ayres. They are the instrumental process and the institutional process. Each of them encompasses a vast range of phenomena, yet they bear a precise meaning.

The instrumental process designates those activities dominated by an attitude which, if put in words, would be somewhat as follows: “Let us first examine the facts, and draw only such conclusions as the facts warrant. If no conclusion is warranted but some conclusion is necessary-since life does not wait on certainty-then let us hold the conclusion tentative and revise it as new evidence is gathered.” Scientific method, therefore, approximates the essence of the matter; but the instrumental process is a larger concept. The origin of scientific method falls within recorded history, but the instrumental process is as old as man. It was a momentous event in this process when one of our remote forebears discovered by accident that fire can be maintained indefinitely by adding dry wood; but few persons would care to label this as science. The continuum of tools extends unbroken from the first flint knife to the latest atom-smasher, and this continuum is at the very heart of the concept; but, again, the instrumental process designates something more. Technology is usually taken to mean material artifacts, but the discovery and use of conceptual tools is an essential part of the instrumental process. It includes the differential calculus as well as the flying machine, the diatonic scale as well as the microscope. It includes, also, art, both fine and applied. For art, as all artists know, is a problem solving activity in which answers are achieved by taking pains, not by revelation from on high or seizure by a muse. This is not to deny the existence or importance of chance insight or inspiration, either scientific or artistic; but chance, as Claude Bernard has remarked, favors the prepared mind. The authority of the instrumental process is rational, deriving from its demonstrable usefulness to the life process. The final appeal is to the evidence.

The institutional process designates all those activities which are dominated by the quest for certainty. Everything mundane is subject to change, and hence certainty is not to be found in the affairs of men. The searcher arrives at his goal, therefore, in a realm of being super ordinate to man. Solomon put it succinctly: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.” Religion conveys the essence, but the institutional process is of greater scope. Religion was a relatively late development in the institutional process, as scientific method was a relatively late development in the instrumental process. Far older are animism and the alleged omnipotence of thought, which is magic. With these go rites, taboos, mores, and ceremonial compulsions. All of these belong to the institutional process and are part of a continuum which includes kingship, status, and the coercive power systems of such modern institutions as private property and the sovereign state. The authority of the institutional process is arbitrary; the final appeal is to force.

The instrumental process is bound to reality. Facts are facts, it seems to say. Ignoring them is of no avail. One doesn’t have to like them, but he who would gratify his needs and secure himself from peril had better take them into account. Reality can be altered, particularly if it is closely observed. Indeed, the better one understands it and the more tools one has to deal with it, the more radically it can be changed. But it’s there, for better or for worse, and the only way to make it better is to attend to it. The instrumental process is generally disparaged as mere problem-solving; for the security it creates, though real, is limited.

The institutional process is bound to human desire and fear. Wishing will make it so, it seems to say. It is unbearable that no one should care; so there must exist a heavenly Father who loves us. Activities of the institutional process do not, objectively, gratify any need or guard against any danger; incantation does not cause rain to fall or game to be plentiful. But such activities may engender a subjective sense of security, and this has always been a fact to be reckoned with-and, indeed, to be exploited. Honor and prestige accrue to the institutional process; for the security it creates, though illusory, is unlimited.
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Social Character and the Instrumental Process

Change in social character is to be related to change in the conditions of life; and change in the conditions of life is to be traced to the instrumental process. If these propositions are true, the emergent social character and the problem of identity must in some way correspond to the emergent consequences of the instrumental process. The nature of this correspondence, however, is not immediately clear. For social character is not fashioned out of the primary impact of technological change. Character is not molded by gadgets. New industrial procedures and scientific concepts do not directly alter personality.

The immediate causes of the characterological change are to be found in the secondary effects of technological change: the loss of the eternal verities and the fixed order, the weakening of traditions and institutions, the shifting values, the altered patterns of personal relationships. These changes directly mold character, and these changes occur with a continuity that is traceable to the continuity of the instrumental process.

Yet the belief that social character was formerly fixed and stable contains at least two elements of truth. The first of these is that character is now changing faster than it did in the past, a difference in rate that is easily mistaken for a difference in state. The second is that, during most of human history, change in the character of a people has proceeded so slowly as to be imperceptible during its occurrence. What is new is not the fact that social character is changing; this has always been in process. What is new is its occurrence at a more rapid rate than ever before and, thereby, our awareness of the change as it is taking place.

Chapter IV
Emergent Social Character
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Emergent social tasks are everywhere at hand, and the great social tasks of the past are still unfinished. Rousseau’s stinging challenge, “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains,” retains some pertinence for us after two hundred years. The old verities are still available, but may be found in libraries more readily than in the hearts of living men. They provide no answer for the man of today, and so make no valid claim on his allegiance. The religion of his parents has lost all meaning for him; the Marxism of his youth has become fatuous as well as dangerous. His grandfather was determined to blaze a trail, to become rich, to build a railroad, or to create a farm out of the wilderness. The grandson is not very interested in these things, or in their modern equivalents. He has become weary and skeptical. He is not seeking some new value; it is not novelty he needs, but durability. He is a seeker after something that will provide what values and goals have always provided; but he wants it to be different in kind. For values, he feels, cannot be made to stay. Their change is forced by a changing world, and he wants something that will last. But what can substitute for values except other values? What can function as goals except other goals? And on what basis could any possible value or goal be exempt from the engulfing flux?

There is, indeed, no escape from values and goals, or from their vulnerability. There is nothing different in kind but same in function. The effort to diminish the stress occasioned by accelerating change cannot eliminate goals and values. It can, however, force them to become subjective. One abandons the tasks of the world and bends one’s efforts upon one’s self. One gives up hope of changing the world and resigns one’s self to the alteration only of one’s reactions. This is the current guise of defeat. One seeks adjustment, a flexible personality, warm interpersonal relationships; and most particularly one cultivates an increasingly sensitive awareness of one’s inner life and conflicts. But the energies of man drive for discharge; the direction of flow is outward. The cultivation only of one’s self can command but a small fraction of one’s potential motivation. The larger part remains dammed up, a reservoir of restless discontent.

Homogeneity, Heterogeneity, and Conformity
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Today the village society has been replaced by the mass society. However small the town in which one lives, one’s world is nevertheless expanded. Being exposed to heterogeneous manners, customs, and morals, their relativity can no longer be ignored. Eternal verities become mores. The way of life comes to be but one way among many. A fixed order of final truth has become a relative order of expedient truth. One conforms to some segment of this relative order, but conformity yields diminished security. The approval of others becomes essential. The perceived relativity of mores has diminished their experienced value.

Conformity may not have changed in degree, but our awareness of it has increased, and this entails a change in quality. Formerly it was not experienced as conformity at all, but rather as adherence to principle. One did not “conform” to the right way of life; one rather “elected” -proudly and with “free” will-to be honorable and upright. These categories did not appear to be defined by mores, but by divine revelation or self-evident truth. Today conformity is experienced more largely as such-namely, as adherence to custom. The change detracts from self-esteem as well as from security. Conformity to Southern Methodism was apt to yield a sense of righteousness; conformity to the avant garde is apt to yield a lurking sense of opportunism.

The change from coherent to conflicting mores accounts in large measure for the extended awareness of one’s self and of others that is characteristic of the emergent social character. In a homogeneous society those motivations which run counter to mores are more apt to be excluded from individual awareness-as deviant sexual impulses were more apt to be repressed in Victorian society. In a heterogeneous society such repression is less likely. Not one way of life is offered, but many-and many of them incompatible. One conforms to those patterns which seem most appropriate, but continues to be exposed to diverse other influences. The mores that seem alien appeal to repressed motivations and facilitate the emergence of these motivations into consciousness.

This same change accounts, also, for the fact that it is be coming rare to value any belief more than life. To be willing to die for a belief means to be unable to conceive of an acceptable life outside the framework of that belief. The pluralistic and heterogeneous quality of present-day experience undermines such exclusive beliefs; for such a variety of values, standards, and ways of life are presented that no one of them seems indispensable. One can conceive of a tolerable life outside the framework of any ideology, and so is unwilling to die for any of them. In a mass movement, however, homogeneity may again be achieved, at least temporarily. The ideology may define the only acceptable life, and martyrdom again becomes possible.
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Retreat from Reason
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Clearly it is not reason that has failed. What has failed as it has always failed, in all of its thousand forms-is the attempt to achieve certainty, to reach an absolute, to bind the course of human events to a final end. Reason cannot serve such a purpose and yet remain reason. By its nature it must be free to perceive emergent problems and meet them with new solutions. It is not reason that has promised to eliminate risk in human undertakings; it is the emotional needs of men, fastening onto the products of reason, which have made such promises. The vision of a state of universal peace and happiness, to be achieved by reason, is quite transparently the same old heavenly city which was to have been reached by faith and repentance. The reason of the Enlightenment was, as Carl Becker has shown, a new religion. Natural law became a synonym for divine providence; the regularity of the universe was equivalent to the goodness of God; and the pursuit of truth was the new guise for the search for salvation. When a religion is built with the products of science it functions as does any other religion: it erects absolute truth as a dyke against the encompassing tides of change, risk, and uncertainty. Eventually such dykes crumble. In our time of quickened and rising tides they crumble faster than ever.

Adaptation to Change

Truth is hard to get in a net of words: some part of it slips through, or else one gets so much else besides that one cannot see truth whole and uncluttered. The view of life as change and flow appears at variance with the tragic view which finds the essentials of man’s condition to be unchanging. “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.” The awareness of mortality and of yearnings that would reach beyond death-this has always been man’s fate. Grief and greed desire and hate-these remain the same. To be born, to work, to suffer, to have fleeting joys, to die-these do not change.

The light of eternity does not illumine the temporal; by definition it reflects only the eternal. In this essay life is viewed in the light of every day, a level of abstraction at which the data assume a temporal and changing aspect. These two views do not conflict, do not contend for the same truth. One need not, and cannot, choose between them. They formulate distinct levels of experience.

The continuity of acceleration in the rate of cultural change is the clue to the emergent social character. The character corresponds to the rate that has now been reached. Now, for perhaps the first time in his life on earth, man is obliged to adjust, not simply to changed conditions, but to change itself. In the past he had to give up the old and adapt to the new; now he must adapt, also, to the certain knowledge that the new, with unprecedented rapidity, is being replaced by that which is to follow. Before he becomes fully acquainted with the emerging circumstances of life he is distracted by the moving shadows of their unknown successors. As a modern aircraft may be obsolete by the time it comes off the production line, so the conditions of man’s life begin to pass away before he has fairly come to grips with them.
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Chapter VI
Value

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The Social Basis of Value

The meaning of the instrumental process is clear: it provides for man’s wants and secures him against danger. But the meaning of the institutional process is obscure. Dewey considers it to be a response to the same circumstances which call forth the instrumental process. It is, he suggests, simply one of the two methods of “dealing with the serious perils of life.” Ayres doubts that the institutional process was ever meant to protect man from the hazards of nature, but regards it as having been designed and used, from the very beginning, for exploitation -to invoke fear and seize power, to create status, to exert coercion, and to exact tribute.

While these views are divergent as to the primary meaning of the institutional process, both designate actual uses to which it is put. For much of magic and superstition explicitly claims to ward off danger; and, likewise, these same myths have been used to exploit. It is possible, however, that, while the institutional process is used in both of these ways, neither of these uses accounts for its existence nor states its essential relevance to the condition of man.

The institutional process is the response of man to alienation and to mortality. As man becomes aware of himself as apart from his environment and as separate from his fellow men, the original oneness of life with its matrix is lost. To be aware of the separateness of self is to be aware of one’s insignificance and helplessness, and this entails the knowledge that one will die. A modern rifle fells any beast, penicillin destroys microscopic assailants, but death remains. Eventually nothing avails against it, for it is not a misfortune but inevitability.

The manhood of man depends upon his alienation and his awareness of mortality. Without them he would be less than human; for they are the perils, not of nature, but of the human condition. Against them the instrumental process is powerless. Indeed, the progress of the arts and sciences has been accompanied by increasing alienation and an ever-clearer awareness of mortality. To these aspects of the human condition, unamenable to instrumental solution, the institutional process is addressed.

Animism replaces the indifferent and inanimate universe with one peopled with human spirits and activated by human intentions. Magic replaces the helplessness of man with the omnipotence of God. All institutions assert a collectivity super ordinate to the individual, a larger unity of which the individual is a part, to which he owes allegiance, and from which he gains a sense of security. This is most particularly true of religions. “The idea of society,” wrote Durkheim, “is the soul of religion.” In religion, alienation is denied by a theory which makes us all children of God. It is denied in practice by ritual and ceremony, collectively performed, which assert in action the inclusion of the individual in a larger unity. In these ways the separateness of self is replaced by the brotherhood of man. The plain fact of death is declared to be an illusion: what appears as death is but the transition to larger living. In such ways the institutional process, in all of its various forms, ministers to the alienation of man and to his fear of dying. In so doing, incidentally, it creates the conditions for exploitation and bondage; for men have generally been willing, and even eager, to enslave themselves to any institution which promises solace on these scores.

The idea of society is equally intrinsic to the instrumental process. The scientist working alone in his laboratory is dependent upon the scientific findings of his predecessors, upon the craftsmen who produce the equipment and materials he uses, upon the publishers who make known his findings, and upon his colleagues who test them. Except for the society of which it is a part, his work would have no meaning; it would not, in fact, be possible. The same is true of the watchmaker working at his craft and of the writer constructing a novel. Any individual instance of instrumental activity is possible only by virtue of the instrumentally functioning society of which the individual effort is a part. Neither the instrumental process nor the institutional process could exist upon the basis of a collection of isolated individuals, however numerous. Both equally presuppose the existence of an organic society.

There is a difference, however, in the way in which they make reference to social unity. The instrumental process takes it for granted; the institutional process makes it a gospel. Continuously and tirelessly institutions assert the existence of a social reality super ordinate to the individual declare that this social entity alone has meaning, and that an individual life acquires significance only by virtue of the individual’s finding his place and identity in this larger whole. Nor are institutions content with assertions. The idea is given tangible existence in repeated collective actions–ritual, ceremony, rite, and sacrament. It comes about, therefore, that the idea of the social organism as the locus of meaning and authority seems to be the unique creation of the institutional process.

The meaning of life-for most persons, in all ages-has been expressed in social terms. One’s individual life is seen to have significance by virtue of its participation in a larger whole the significance of which is guaranteed by the institutional process. The “meaning of life” has had an infinite variety of referents, but throughout the ages these referents have all fallen within the institutional process. A meaningful life for a monarchist is to be one of the king’s men; for a Christian, to be one of God’s children; for a Marxist, to fight at the barricades.

As institutional values are undermined, therefore, the meaning of life appears to be lost. The alienated person finds little significance in his isolated life. He may, indeed, doubt that it is worth while even to continue living. Institutional patterns proclaim themselves to be the very foundation of social unity, and as these patterns are destroyed the idea of society is lost. The individual may then no longer recognize the existence of society as an organism which has meaning and authority. He is thrown back on his own resources, becomes himself the referent of meaning and value.

But what meaning and value can then be found? A single life is framed by birth and death; and how can an individual foregoing reference to anything beyond himself, integrate meaningfully the facts of his life with the fact of his inevitable death? It is the very nature of protoplasm to rebel against it. For the alienated man, death is the final defeat which casts an ironic shadow over whatever minor victories may precede it.

From a cosmic point of view-a hypothetical consciousness which takes all of space and time as its referent-the entire life of man on this planet is meaningless, being but as a season of locusts; the social point of view appears to have been invalidated by the fall of institutional absolutes; and from an individual point of view life is absurd. There is no meaning beyond mere existence, and even the abstention from suicide is difficult to justify. One may commit one’s life to passion or violence or conquest, but this too is absurd; and even the dignity and courage with which one may face death is absurd. There is no escape from the absurd for the man who foregoes illusions and sees life clearly. This is the position at which the existentialists arrive and which is stated most movingly by Camus.

With this position the argument of this book takes issue. For though the idea of society is the soul of the institutional process, it is the very essence, also, of the instrumental process. The fall of institutional patterns, therefore, does not preclude value and meaning at the social level. It is only because histories record primarily the vicissitudes of institutional conflict that the life of man on earth is a chaotic story of foolishness and destruction. Divested of all institutional patterns, the life of man would portray the organic unity of the instrumental process, the continuity of arts and of technology. This process is one of increasing knowledge and control. It has no terminus, but it has direction; and this direction is away from ignorance, superstition, cruelty, and helplessness. Individual life has value and meaning by virtue of its participation in this process. The fact of death, in this view, is reconcilable with the activities of life; for a social process of which the individual was a part, to which he has contributed, and with which he can identify, survives his individual extinction. Indeed, without individual mortality the instrumental process could not exist. For if no one died, then soon no one could be born; and growth and development would pass from the experience of mankind. The progress of man is thus contingent upon the succession of generations.
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The institutional solution to the value problem calls for the erection of a framework of belief that will remain stable while all else changes, that will provide a standard by which all things can be measured, a supreme value by which the value of everything else can be determined. But no value which is open to reconsideration and critical examination can be guaranteed to remain stable. Therefore, the proposed framework of belief must be secured against impulse and error by being placed beyond the realm of choice. It must be “for better or for worse, till death do us part.” The evidence of history and of our own time speaks against such a proposal-not simply because it is not desirable, but because it is not possible.

It is sometimes suggested that the answer lies in the opposite direction, in making institutions more pliable. All institutions resist change, but some are more rigid than others. It is likely, for example, that American democracy is more flexible than was the old French monarchy. The Christian church must have certain flexibility, or it could not have survived the stresses occasioned by Galileo, Luther, Darwin, and Freud. Without doubt a gain in flexibility may increase the life-span of an institution. But at times the instrumental process brings about situations which call, not for the modification, but for the abolition of an institution. This has happened to human sacrifice to gods, to slavery, and to countless other institutions. This is the rub in the proposal of greater institutional flexibility; for an institution can hardly be expected to be so flexible as to acquiesce to its own demise.

The instrumental solution calls for the elimination of all institutional coercions. Indeed, some instrumentalists seem to feel that the only good institutions are, like Indians, dead ones. But it is generally recognized now that when institutions are overthrown by force they are replaced, not by science, but by other institutions which may be more restrictive than those which were destroyed. Few persons, therefore, expect a scientific society to be established by revolution. But science, it is said, is winning the day, and may soon enable us to dispense altogether with myths and superstitions. This hope, too, is illusory. Man can give up his superstitions as soon as they are generally recognized as such, but there is no indication that he will ever lose altogether the potentiality for creating superstitions in the guise of self-evident truth.

There is no solution to the value problem that will settle the issue once and for all, no answer that will show the way to a condition of man which is free of conflict. We must settle for a path of progress, for progression as a process, for a direction rather than an end. The path of progress is clear. It is given by the instrumental process. It formulates no final goal; the mastery of one problem is followed simply by undertaking the next. But it defines a path that leads away from humbug and ignorance and exploitation and toward understanding, control, and freedom.

Another world war may yet force a retreat into the past, reinstating an older and more oppressive tyranny of institutions and mores. Unless we become too frightened we will not voluntarily take such a course, but will continue further along the path on which we have already come so far: giving up no ground that has already been won, but extending the application of scientific method to areas thus far out of reach.

Modern man cannot recapture an identity out of the past; for his old identity was not lost, but outgrown. Identity is not, therefore, to be found; it is to be created and achieved.

Chapter VII
The Vocational Hazards of Psychoanalysis

Career and Conflict

For some persons the choice of a career issues easily from the various inner and outer circumstances of their lives which have a bearing on the matter. For others, divided within and driven to find a vocation which will resolve an inner conflict, the choice is made with difficulty and is not elective. Often not one but many conflicts are involved. The more numerous the conflicts the more difficult the choice becomes, and the less likely that anyone career can resolve them all. The choice proves successful when the vocation makes possible a partial sublimated discharge of the impulses which are involved and a corresponding reduction in the warding-off activities of the ego.

It comes about at times, however, that the very conflict which has led one into a certain profession is aggravated by the practice of that profession. The vocation misleads. It proves to be different in practice from that which it was taken to be when viewed from the outside. The young man discovers only gradually that his vocation is not what he expected and, because of inner conflict, needed. A long time may elapse before he learns this, so long a time, in fact, that he may no longer be a young man, but at the mid-point of life and deeply committed. Indeed, he may never realize his mistake; for there are powerful forces opposed to such awareness if one has made certain crucial and irreversible decisions.

Many vocations are, in quality of experience, easily known: the nature of work in carpentry and chemistry, for example, may be correctly perceived by those whose acquaintance with these fields is relatively slight. There are a few vocations, however, which are truly knowable only after long experience. Those which mislead belong to this group. They have a quality which cannot be fully communicated in words. One has to find out for one’s self. The most painful states of inner turmoil, the severest tests of integrity, arise in those professions which have these combined characteristics: of being truly knowable only from within; and of offering promise, when viewed from without, of alleviation of inner conflict which promise is insidiously retracted by increasing proficiency in the field. Art is one such; the church is another; and, without implication that this completes the list, I suggest that psychoanalysis is a third.

Psychiatrists who have ministers as patients sometimes encounter personal undoing by professional experience and can retrospectively trace its development. The career decision of the minister is usually made in adolescence during the course of acute conflict of impulse with ego. This conflict is experienced as a struggle between good and evil and, other factors being propitious, eventuates in a call. The ministry offers unique advantages, the appeal of which is none the less strong by virtue of the advantages being perceived unconsciously. It offers partial vicarious gratification of impulse by bringing the minister into contact with evil in the sufferings of his parishioners. At the same time it promises to strengthen him against temptation. Religion having been, for him, the most effective curb on impulse, the active work of a minister may be expected to strengthen this curb. He will identify himself with the church, become the agent of God, assist others in combating evil in themselves, and so will gain added assurance of retaining control over the evil in himself. Such is the array of unconscious forces at the time of decision. For some persons this works out as planned; for others, for the hypothetical clergyman under consideration, the vocation belies its promise and matters gradually go awry.

His first parish experience is an eye-opener, an education more liberal by far than that offered by the seminary. Dealing with all manner of people in all kinds of circumstances, he finds that moral issues are insistently and perversely ambiguous. The line between good and evil will not stay clear. Black will not stay black, nor white white. He is puzzled and disturbed by the fog that settles over the once clear moral landscape. Being of a contemplative nature, his attempt to regain lost certainty takes the form, not only of prayer, but of further study and reflection. And, fortunately or diabolically, his profession provides ample time for just that. Over the course of years, along with exegetics and hermeneutics, he may also read Sumner and Dewey and Veblen and Russell; and rather than quelling his doubts, his reading feeds them. It comes about in time that he feels incompetent even to define such basic terms as right and wrong.

He may, of course, at any point in this development, call a halt. He may simply refuse to see anything further that is new and disturbing, and retreat with intransigent blindness into the nearest orthodoxy. Thereafter he will see black where he needs to see black, and white where he needs to see white. Intellectually and emotionally his development will have ended-the usual price of certainty. This may happen to any of US; many, indeed, who disdain such a solution will yet arrive at the same end, and quite totally without awareness. Psychoanalysts frequently describe one or another of their colleagues as rigid and dogmatic and authoritarian; yet no analyst ever so describes himself. The inescapable inference is that some of us have taken refuge in dogma without knowing that we have done so.

If the clergyman remains intellectually and emotionally open, his work may provide him with such insight as will force him eventually to relinquish belief in a personal God, in life after death, and in other of the absolutes which had guaranteed his security. In short, the very nature of his professional labors may undermine and finally destroy precisely those aspects of his profession which, by promising resolution of inner conflict, had drawn him into the profession in the first place. Sublimation may be lost and repression may fail, the old conflict erupting into consciousness. But it is no longer a conflict simply of impulse with ego. The minister is not now an adolescent, but a middle-aged man; and when he finds himself affirming from the pulpit propositions in which he no longer believes, he is faced with the loss of integrity and the onset of despair. What had seemed a stable adjustment has begun to crumble. Whether or not he can survey the damage, salvage those elements which are sound, and build a new structure of belief depends upon the courage, tenacity, and creative ability which he can mobilize to meet the crisis.
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Impasse
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Goaded by the falling value of his intellectual stock, he may make of his doubts a counter dogma and become a professional dissident, expending his creative potential in attacks on the orthodox. If unusually gifted and skillful, he may have the good fortune to be expelled from the ranks and thereby achieve martyrdom. If but a run of the mill deviant, this honor will be denied him. He will simply be ignored, left in the rancorous position of being a rebel of whom no one is afraid.

If he does not take this way out, he will wish he were an internist, a physicist, or a farmer. Any honest work would be better than this. He will think about getting out. Such a change in life-direction is easily made in one’s teens, but he is now in his forties and is deeply committed. The conflict in which he is engulfed is not simply the adolescent struggle of impulse with ego. The issue of integrity is involved. He knows that he is a complex person and suspects that any vocation would have presented him with comparable troubles. He cannot keep changing. Somewhere he must make a stand. The suffering of his patients is real; of this he has no doubt. Their need for help is real. His theory and technique may be phony, but the problem is not flimsy. The issues of neurosis are shadowy, but the adversary is formidable and the challenge is worthy.

He may have lost all of the tenets of his professional faith. At the nadir he may retain only the belief that it is possible for one person to help another. But from even this depth a come-back may be possible. It depends on his intelligence and creative ability; and it depends, also, on his courage, tenacity, and integrity. If he prevails, he will discover that much that he has discarded has value and can be salvaged. And when he takes up again some discarded element of technique or theory it will become more surely his own than it was at that prior time when he had accepted it so uncritically. Insight will never again appear to him as the irresistible instrument of personality change which once it seemed, but it will always be a useful tool to have near at hand. He may never achieve such comprehensive certainty as he had as a student. But this is all to the good. For if he insists on certainty, his skepticism will have been in vain; and he will achieve in the end-as did Descartes-a closed system of psychological absolutes which, though perhaps more acceptable to the temperament of the creator, embodies the worst faults of the system against which he rebelled. There is so much in experience that is contingent and mysterious that one has no business with a theory that strains at the absolute. A living science is more concerned with probing its unknowns than in praising its knowns, and he who cannot live with some fundamental uncertainties is not an investigator but a pilgrim.

Intimacy

For some persons the problem of intimacy is the principal determinant of the vocational choice of psychoanalysis. The conflict is between the tendencies that lead to closeness, and the fear that is evoked by closeness. The actions prompted by loneliness, by longing, and by the needs of sex, love, friendship, and sharing are curtailed by an anxiety that can be allayed only by estrangement. If the needs are met, one is vulnerable; if security is maintained, one is frustrated. The needs are common to all; the anxiety is a product of individual experience.

Perhaps no one is entirely free of this conflict. Some persons -those under consideration here-are host to a particularly virulent strain. Since the needs are normal, it is some expression of defense which signalizes the presence of the conflict. Aloofness, detachment, and isolation are common indications. Great intensity of this conflict may exist, however, without visible sign. To all outward appearances a person may be intimately engaged with others; no one save himself-and one or two others who have made unusually persistent efforts to reach him -may know that he is surrounded by an invisible wall and cannot be touched.

When the conflict is severe it exerts a profound effect on all aspects of living, including the choice of vocation. Often it leads to one or another of the simply solitary occupations: in this event the vocation does not resolve the conflict, but rather consolidates the defense, providing a justification for continuing isolation. At times, however, it leads to a career which offers promise of resolution. Art is one such. As an artist, it is assumed, one will be able to retain in all aspects of daily living the isolation necessary for one’s security; at the same time one will achieve, via one’s creations, a profound intimacy in which the deepest feelings of many people will be touched by one’s own, and will respond. So it must seem-dimly or quite unconsciously-to the young man who, for these reasons, is about to choose art as his life work.

The physician who is torn by this conflict and who elects to become a psychoanalyst is attempting a comparable solution. He will, it is assumed, achieve intimacy by hearing secrets none other can hear, not even a priest; for a priest cannot take so much time. He will enter hidden recesses of another life none other can enter; for no one else is possessed of such a sensitive technique. At the same time he will maintain the isolation he requires. Indeed, it seems to him that psychoanalysis not only permits but demands isolation. An analyst is not to become involved with his patients; very well, he will remain uninvolved. He will require his patients to lie down; he will sit, unseen, behind the couch. He will direct his patients to talk continuously; he will speak infrequently, and not on demand, but only at his own discretion. The conditions optimal for psychoanalysis appear to fit the conditions optimal for his personal security with a rare precision. A more fortunate concordance could hardly be imagined.
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