Saturday, October 01, 2005

The Battle for Selfhood

I’ve been reading about Nietzsche’s notion of drives that will their own power in John Richardson’s Nietzsche’s System. Different drives within and without have different goals and try to have their way of being prevail. Two competing drives within me have been fighting for ascendancy over the last 25 years and have fooled me regarding which I was acting out.

One drive was latent until I took the GREs in 1984 and got high enough scores to believe I could be a brilliant somebody. I now wanted to achieve intellectual somebodyness.

A second drive arose before that. While in college in 1980, I realized I didn’t want to just get any old job that made enough money and live a shell of a life. I wanted to find what I really loved doing and get paid for that. To do this I needed to discover my real interests and so who I was. Over the years I used various practices like meditation and psychotherapy to discover my unique interests and become myself.

But the line between becoming a somebody and becoming myself has been blurred because for most of the time I was unconscious of the difference and simply acted them out without awareness, as most of us live out our lives. For example, in going to graduate school for a Ph.D. in sociology, was I trying to attain somebodyness through intellectual brilliance or was I trying to follow my true interests? Or, when I started a Buddhist practice and felt drawn by the promise of enlightenment, was I trying to become myself by liberating myself from the self or become a somebody through impressive spiritual accomplishment? It’s still not clear, but at least in the last few months I’ve identified the differing drives whereas before I simply acted them out unconsciously.

This coming to consciousness about these drives appears to be an accomplishment of greater self-awareness, but what drive and what new valuing system is going to evaluate which drive is acting itself out in specific instances and be given the power to pass judgment on them? What drive is that and what’s its interests?

Or, will one simply prevail and then interpret the other in its terms? If becoming my unique self prevails then becoming a somebody will by seen to be a pathological need to gain love through intellectual recognition to compensate for past neglect. If becoming a somebody prevails, then becoming my unique self will seem like the self-help booby prize that those who are satisfied to remain anonymous nobodys convince themselves is all that’s important in life.

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