192The Ambivalent type seldom dares to question the fundamental values of his social environment, but he is often indifferent to these values, paying them only perfunctory respect. In the areas of life to which these values pertain, he does not assert counter-values of his own, he merely withdraws, surrendering those aspects of reality to others. He tends to restrict his activity and concern to the sphere of his work, where his self-reliance and sovereignty are greatest.His bondage to social metaphysics is revealed in his quietly persistent sense of alienation from reality, in his lack of confidence and freedom with regard to passing value-judgments, in his implicit belief that the world is controlled by others, that others possess a knowledge forever unknowable to him, and in his humiliating desire for “approval” and “acceptance.” His superiority to other social metaphysicians is evidenced, not only by his greater independence, but also by his desire to earn, through objective achievements, the esteem he longs for, by his relative inability to find real pleasure in an admiration not based on standards he can respect—and by his tortured disgust at his own fear of the disapproval of others. Often, he tries to fight his fear, refusing to act on or surrender to it, exercising immense will power and discipline—but never winning his battle fully, never setting himself free, because he does not go to the roots of his problem, does not identify the psycho-epistemological base of his betrayal, does not accept full and ultimate intellectual responsibility for his own life and goals.Among this type, one will find men of distinguished achievements and outstanding creative originality—whose reason and tragedy lie in the contrast between their private lives and their lives as creators. These are the men who have the courage to challenge the cognitive judgments of world figures, but lack the courage to challenge the value-judgments of the folks next door.It must be understood that none of the social metaphysical types I have described are intended to represent mutually exclusive categories; any particular social metaphysician may possess characteristics of several types. The purpose of such a typological description is to isolate, by a process of abstraction, certain dominant trends among social metaphysicians, and to make those trends intelligible motivationally.
193The forms that social metaphysics can take are virtually unlimited. But if one grasps the basic principles involved, one will be better able to understand the appalling consequences to which social metaphysics leads, socially and existentially. It has been barely possible here to hint at those consequences. The full story cannot be told in so brief a discussion. But it is written in blood across the pages of history.
194Chapter Eleven—Self-Esteem and Romantic LoveThe Principle of Psychological VisibilityThe two sources of greatest potential happiness for man are productive work and romantic (sexual) love.Through the productive use of his mind, man gains control over his existence and experiences the pleasure and pride of efficacy. Through romantic love, man gains the ultimate emotional reward of his efficacy and worth—of his efficacy and worth not merely as a producer, but wider: as a person—the reward and celebration of himself and of what he has made of himself, i.e., of the kind of character and soul he has created.The experience of romantic love answers a profound psychological need in man. But the nature of that need cannot be understood apart from an understanding of a wider need: man’s need of human companionship—of human beings he can respect, admire, and value, and with whom he can interact intellectually and emotionally. What is the root of the desire for human companionship? Why is man motivated to find human beings he can value and love?Virtually everyone regards the desire for companionship, friendship, love, as a self-evident primary—in effect, as an irreducible fact of human nature, requiring no explanation. Sometimes, a pseudo-explanation is offered, in terms of an alleged “gregarious instinct” which man is said to possess. But this illuminates nothing; explanation via instincts is merely a device to con-
195ceal ignorance. Psychologists, to date, have contributed nothing to our understanding of this subject.Man’s desire for human companionship may be explained in part by the fact that living and dealing with other men in a social context, trading goods and services, etc., afford man a manner of survival immeasurably superior to that which he could obtain alone on a desert island or on a self-sustaining farm. Man obviously finds it to his interest to deal with men whose values and character are like his own, rather than with men of inimical values and character. And, normally, man develops feelings of benevolence or affection toward men who share his values and who act in ways that are beneficial to his existence.It should be apparent, however—from observation and by introspection—that practical, existential considerations such as these are not sufficient to account for the phenomenon in question; and that the desire for and experience of friendship and love reflect a distinct psychological need. Everyone is aware, introspectively, of the desire for companionship, for someone to talk to, to be with, to feel understood by, to share important experiences with—the desire for emotional closeness with another human being. What is the nature of the psychological need that generates this desire?I shall begin by giving an account of two events that were crucial in leading me to the answer—because I believe this will help the reader to understand the issues which the problem involves.One afternoon, while sitting alone in my living room, I found myself contemplating with pleasure a large philodendron plant standing against a wall. It was a pleasure I had experienced before, but suddenly it occurred to me to ask myself: What is the nature of this pleasure? What is its cause?The pleasure was not primarily esthetic: were I to learn that the plant was artificial, its esthetic characteristics would remain the same, but my response would change radically; the special pleasure I experienced would vanish. Essential to my enjoyment was the knowledge that the plant was healthily and glowingly alive. There was the feeling of a bond, almost of a kind of kinship, between the plant and me; in the midst of inanimate objects, we were united in the fact of possessing life. I thought of the motive of people who,
196in the most impoverished conditions, plant flowers in boxes on their window sills—for the pleasure of watching something grow. What is the value to man of observing successful life?Suppose, I thought, one were left on a dead planet where one had every material provision to ensure survival, but where nothing was alive; one would feel like a metaphysical alien. Then suppose one came upon a living plant; surely one would greet the sight with eagerness and pleasure. Why?Because—I realized—all life, life by its very nature, entails a struggle, and struggle entails the possibility of defeat; and man desires, and finds pleasure in seeing, concrete instances of successful life, as confirmation of his knowledge that successful life is possible. It is, in effect, a metaphysical experience. He desires the sight, not as a means of allaying doubts or of reassuring himself, but as a means of experiencing and confirming on the perceptual level, the level of immediate reality, that which he knows conceptually.If such is the value that a plant can offer to man, I wondered, then cannot the sight of another human being offer man a much more intense form of that experience? This is surely relevant to the psychological value that human beings find in one another.The next crucial step in my thinking occurred on an afternoon when I sat on the floor playing with my dog—a wire-haired fox terrier named Muttnik.We were jabbing at and boxing with each other in mock ferociousness; what I found delightful and fascinating was the extent to which Muttnik appeared to grasp the playfulness of my intention: she was snarling and snapping and striking back while being unfailingly gentle in a manner that projected total, fearless trust. The event was not unusual; it is one with which most dog-owners are familiar. But a question suddenly occurred to me, of a kind I had never asked myself before: Why am I having such an enjoyable time? What is the nature and source of my pleasure?Part of my response, I recognized, was simply the pleasure of watching the healthy self-assertiveness of a living entity. But that was not the essential factor causing my response. The essential factor pertained to the interaction between the dog and myself—the sense of interacting and communicating with a living consciousness.
197Suppose I were to view Muttnik as an automaton without consciousness or awareness, and to view her actions and responses as entirely mechanical; then my enjoyment would vanish. The factor of consciousness was of primary importance.Then I thought: Suppose I were left on an uninhabited island; would not the presence of Muttnik be of enormous value to me? Obviously it would. Because she could make a practical contribution to my physical survival? Obviously not. Then what value did she have to offer? Companionship. A conscious entity with whom to interact and communicate—as I was doing now. But why is that a value?The answer to this question—I realized—would explain much more than the attachment to a pet; involved in this issue is the psychological principle that underlies man’s desire for human companionship: the principle that would explain why a conscious entity seeks out and values other conscious entities, why consciousness is a value to consciousness.When I identified the answer, I called it “the Muttnik principle”—because of the circumstances under which it was discovered. Now let us consider the nature of this principle.My feeling of pleasure in playing with Muttnik contained a particular kind of self-awareness, and this was the key to understanding my reaction. The self-awareness came from the nature of the “feedback” Muttnik was providing. From the moment that I began to “box,” she responded in a playful manner; she conveyed no sign of feeling threatened; she projected an attitude of trust and pleasurable excitement. Were I to push or jab at an inanimate object, it would react in a purely mechanical way; it would not be responding to me; there could be no possibility of it grasping the meaning of my actions, of apprehending my intentions, and of guiding its behavior accordingly. It could not react to my psychology, i.e., to my mental state. Such communication and response is possible only among conscious entities. The effect of Muttnik’s behavior was to make me feel seen, to make me feel psychologically visible (at least, to some extent). Muttnik was responding to me, not as to a mechanical object, but as to a person.What is significant and must be stressed is that Muttnik was responding to me as a person in a way that I regarded as objectively
198appropriate, i.e., consonant with my view of myself and of what I was conveying to her. Had she responded with fear and an attitude of cowering, I would have experienced myself as being, in effect, misperceived by her, and would not have felt pleasure.Now, why does man value and find pleasure in the experience of self-awareness and psychological visibility that the appropriate response (or “feedback”) from another consciousness can evoke?Consider the fact that normally man experiences himself as a process—in that consciousness itself is a process, an activity, and the contents of man’s mind are a shifting flow of perceptions, thoughts, and emotions. His own mind is not an unmoving entity which man can contemplate objectively—i.e., contemplate as a direct object of awareness—as he contemplates objects in the external world.He has, of course, a sense of himself, of his own identity, but it is experienced more as a feeling than a thought—a feeling which is very diffuse, which is interwoven with all his other feelings, and which is very hard, if not impossible, to isolate and consider by itself. His “self-concept” is not a single concept, but a cluster of images and abstract perspectives on his various (real or imagined) traits and characteristics, the sum total of which can never be held in focal awareness at any one time; that sum is experienced, but it is not perceived as such.In the course of a man’s life, his values, goals, and ambitions are first conceived in his mind, i.e., they exist as data of consciousness, and then—to the extent that his life is successful—are translated into action and objective reality; they become part of the “out there,” of the world that he perceives. They achieve expression and reality in material form. This is the proper and necessary pattern of man’s existence. Yet a man’s most important creation and highest value—his character, his soul, his psychological self—can never follow this pattern in the literal sense, can never exist apart from his own consciousness; it can never be perceived by him as part of the “out there.” But man desires a form of objective self-awareness and, in fact, needs this experience.Since man is the motor of his own actions, since his concept of himself, of the person he has created, plays a cardinal role in his motivation—he desires and needs the fullest possible experience of the reality and objectivity of that person, of his self.
199When man stands before a mirror, he is able to perceive his own face as an object in reality, and he finds pleasure in doing so, in contemplating the physical entity who is himself. There is a value in being able to look and think: “That’s me.” The value lies in the experience of objectivity.Is there a mirror in which man can perceive his psychological self? In which he can perceive his own soul? Yes. The mirror is another consciousness.Man is able, alone, to know himself conceptually. What another consciousness can offer is the opportunity for man to experience himself perceptually.To a very small extent, that was the opportunity afforded me by Muttnik. In her response, I was able to see reflected an aspect of my own personality. But a human being can experience this self-awareness to a full and proper extent only in a relationship with a consciousness like his own, a consciousness possessing an equal range of awareness, i.e., another human being.A man’s intelligence, his psycho-epistemology, his basic premises and values, his sense of life, are all made manifest in his personality. “Personality” is the externally perceivable sum of all those psychological traits or characteristics which distinguish one man from another. A man’s psychology is expressed through his behavior, through the things he says and does, and through the way he says and does them. It is in this sense that a man’s self is an object of perception to others. When others react to a man, to their view of him and of his behavior, their reaction (which begins in their consciousness) is expressed through their behavior, through the things they say and do relative to him, and through the way they say and do them. If their view of him is consonant with his own, and is, accordingly, transmitted by their behavior, he feels perceived, he feels psychologically visible—and he experiences a sense of the objectivity of his self and of his psychological state; he perceives the reflection of himself in their behavior. It is in this sense that others can be a psychological mirror.Just as there are many different aspects of a man’s personality and inner life, so a man may feel visible in different respects in different human relationships. He may experience a greater or lesser degree of visibility, over a wider or narrower range of his
200total personality—depending on the nature of the person with whom he is dealing and on the nature of their interaction.Sometimes, the aspect in which a man feels visible pertains to a basic character trait; sometimes, to the nature of his intention in performing some action; sometimes, to the reasons behind a particular emotional response; sometimes, to an issue involving his sense of life; sometimes, to a matter concerning his activity as a producer; sometimes, to his sexual psychology; sometimes, to his esthetic values.All the forms of interaction and communication among people—intellectual, emotional, physical—can serve to give a man the perceptual evidence of his visibility in one respect or another; or, relative to particular people, can give him the impression of invisibility. Most men are largely unaware of the process by which this occurs; they are aware only of the results. They are aware that, in the presence of a particular person, they do or do not feel “at home,” do or do not feel a sense of affinity or understanding or emotional attunement.The mere fact of holding a conversation with another human being entails a marginal experience of visibility—if only the experience of being perceived as a conscious entity. However, in a close human relationship, with a person one deeply admires and cares for, one expects a far more profound visibility, involving highly individual and intimate aspects of one’s inner life.A significant mutuality of intellect, of basic premises and values, of fundamental attitude toward life, is the precondition of that projection of mutual visibility which is the essence of authentic friendship. A friend, said Aristotle, is another self. It was an apt formulation. A friend reacts to a man as, in effect, the man would react to himself in the person of another. Thus, the man perceives himself through his friend’s reaction. He perceives his own person through its consequences in the consciousness (and, as a result, in the behavior) of the perceiver.This, then, is the root of man’s desire for companionship and love: the desire to perceive himself as an entity in reality—to experience the perspective of objectivity—through and by means of the reactions and responses of other human beings.The principle involved (“the Muttnik principle”)—let us call it “the Visibility principle”—may be summarized as follows: Man
201desires and needs the experience of self-awareness that results from perceiving his self as an objective existent—and he is able to achieve this experience through interaction with the consciousness of other living entities.In any given relationship, the extent to which a man achieves this experience depends, crucially, on two factors:1. The extent of the mutuality of mind and values that exists between himself and the other person.2. The extent to which his self-image corresponds to the actual facts of his psychology; i.e., the extent to which he knows himself and judges himself correctly; i.e., the extent to which his inner view of himself is consonant with the personality projected by his behavior.As an example of the first of these factors, suppose that a self-confident man encounters a highly anxious and hostile neurotic; he sees that the neurotic reacts to him with unprovoked suspiciousness and antagonism; the image of himself reflected by the neurotic’s attitude is, in effect, that of a brute advancing menacingly with a club; in such a case, the self-confident man would not feel visible; he would feel bewildered and mystified or indignant at being so grossly misperceived.This is one of the most tragic and painful ways in which a psychologically healthy person, especially vulnerable when he is young, can be victimized by less healthy persons and given a bewilderingly irrational impression of the human realm. Not only are his virtues unrecognized and unappreciated, but worse: he is penalized for them. This is often one of the most vicious by-products of neurosis. The healthy person is made the innocent target for envy, resentment, antagonism—for responses from other people that bear no intelligible relationship to the qualities he exhibits—and he usually has no way to suspect that the animosity he encounters is a reaction, not to anything bad in him, but to the good.As an example of the second factor, suppose a man is inclined to rationalize his own behavior and to support his pseudo-self-esteem by means of totally unrealistic pretensions. His self-deceiving image of the kind of person he is conflicts radically with the actual self conveyed by his actions. The consequence is that he feels chronically frustrated and chronically invisible in his human relationships—because the ''feedback" he receives is not compatible with his pretensions.
202Sometimes, in the case of interaction between two neurotics, a kind of pseudo-visibility can be mutually projected—in a situation where each participant supports the pretensions and self-deceptions of the other, in exchange for receiving such support himself. The “trade” occurs, of course, on a subconscious level. This pattern often underlies neurotic love relationships.The desire for visibility is usually experienced by men as the desire for understanding, i.e., the desire to be understood by other human beings. If a man is happy and proud of some achievement, he wants to feel that those who are close to him, those he cares for, understand his achievement and its personal meaning to him, understand and attach importance to the reasons behind his emotions. Or, if a man is given a book by a friend and told that this is the kind of book he will enjoy, the man feels pleasure and gratification if his friend’s judgment proves correct—because he feels visible, he feels understood, Or, if a man suffers over some personal loss, it is of value to him to know that his plight is understood by those close to him, and that his emotional state has reality to them. It is not blind “acceptance” that a normal person desires, nor unconditional “love,” but understanding.The overwhelming majority of contemporary psychologists regard man, in effect, as a social metaphysician by nature who needs the approval of others in order to approve of himself. But it would be a gross error to confuse the motives of the social metaphysician, which are pathological, with a healthy man’s desire for visibility.A psychologically healthy man does not depend on others for his self-esteem; he expects others to perceive his value, not to create it. Unlike the social metaphysician, he does not desire approval indiscriminately or for its own sake; the admiration of others is of value and importance to him only if he respects the standards by which others judge him and only if the admiration is directed at qualities which he himself regards as admirable. If other men give authentic evidence of understanding and appreciating him, they rise in his estimation; his estimate of himself does not change. He desires the experience of living in a rational and just social environment, where the responses he elicits from other men are logically related to his own virtues and achievements. He knows the
203truth about his own character and actions, conceptually; he wants to experience it, perceptually, through and by means of its consequences in persons who share his values.As for social metaphysicians, it is not visibility they seek from others, but identity (plus the kind of pseudo-visibility indicated above).People who have an “act,” people who assume different personalities in different encounters, sentence themselves to live with a devastating contradiction. As human beings, they cannot escape the need for visibility—but, as neurotic “role-players,” they dread being understood, i.e., being perceived correctly. Often, they secretly despise those who are taken in by their act, and they long subconsciously for someone whom they will not be able to deceive. At the same time, they do everything possible to avoid the perceptive glance of the person for whom their act does not work. If a man wishes to be authentically visible to others, he must be willing to be visible to himself.This last has important relevance to a more innocent kind of person than the role-player. Consider the problem of the individual who—because of despair, or moral confusion, or self-doubt, or fear of being impractical and unrealistic—tends to repress his virtues and value-aspirations, and to submerge his own idealism (Chapter Five). Such a person does not feel visible to himself (he is not visible to himself)—and the protective shell of remoteness, resignation, and unresponsiveness to life, under which his actual soul is hiding, makes him invisible to others. Until and unless he releases that soul—which means: until and unless he identifies his values, grants them the sanction of moral objectivity, and gives them appropriate, objective expression in action—he will inevitably experience a sense of frustration and impoverishment in his human relationships. The act of giving objective expression to his values does not guarantee that he will be visible to others, since that depends, in part, on their values; but the failure to give such objective expression does guarantee that he will be invisible.The desire for visibility does not mean that a psychologically healthy man’s basic preoccupation, in any human encounter, is with the question of whether or not he is properly appreciated.
204When a man of self-esteem meets a person for the first time, his primary concern is not, “What does he think of me?”—but rather, “What do I think of him?” His primary concern, necessarily, is with his own judgment and evaluation of the facts that confront him.Entailed by man’s desire to see his values objectified in reality is the desire to see his own values embodied in the person of others, to see human beings who face life as he faces it. That sight offers man a reaffirmation of his own view of existence.In a relationship with a person he admires, a major source of pleasure to man is the process of communicating his estimate, making his admiration objective, projecting that the other person is visible to him. This is an important form of making his own self objective, of giving existential reality to his own values, of experiencing himself as an entity—through an act of self-assertiveness.As was indicated above, a man can feel visible in different respects and to varying degrees in different human relationships. A relationship with a casual stranger does not afford man the degree of visibility he experiences with an acquaintance. A relationship with an acquaintance does not afford man the degree of visibility he experiences with an intimate friend.But there is one relationship which is unique in the depth and comprehensiveness of the visibility it entails: romantic love.Romantic LoveContained in every human being’s self-concept is the awareness of being male or female. One’s sexual identity is normally an integral and intimate part of one’s experience of personal identity. No one experiences oneself merely as a human being, but always as a male human being or a female human being. (When a person lacks a clear sense of sexual identity, his condition is recognized as being pathological.)While one’s sexual identity (one’s masculinity or femininity) is rooted in the facts of one’s biological nature, it does not consist merely of being physically male or female; it consists of the way one psychologically experiences one’s maleness or femaleness. More broadly, it consists of one’s personal psychological traits qua man or woman.