rollo may Quotes

Rollo May Quotes

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    • It may sound surprising when I say, on the basis of my own clinical practice as well as that of my psychological and psychiatric colleagues, that the chief problem of people in the middle decade of the twentieth century is emptiness.
    • The human being cannot live in a condition of emptiness for very long: if he is not growing toward something, he does not merely stagnate; the pent-up potentialities turn into morbidity and despair, and eventually into destructive activities.
    • The upshot is that the values and goals which provided a unifying center for previous centuries in the modern period no longer are cogent. We have not yet found the new center which will enable us to choose our goals constructively, and thus to overcome the painful bewilderment and anxiety of not knowing which way to move. Another root of our malady is our loss of the sense of the worth and dignity of the human being. Nietzsche predicted this when he pointed out that the individual was being swallowed up in the herd, and that we were living by a 'slave-morality.' Marx also predicted it when he proclaimed that modern man was being 'de-humanized,' and Kafka showed in his amazing stories how people literally can lose their identify as persons.
    • Along with the loss of the sense of self has gone a loss of our language for communicating deeply personal meanings to each other. This is one important side of the loneliness now experienced by people in the Western world.
    • Freedom is man's capacity to take a hand in his own development. It is our capacity to mold ourselves.
    • Man is the 'ethical animal' -ethical in potentiality even if, unfortunately, not in actuality. His capacity for ethical judgment-like freedom, reason and the other unique characteristics of the human being-is based upon his consciousness of himself.
    • In any discussion of religion and personality integration the question is not whether religion itself makes for health or neurosis, but what kind of religion and how is it used? Freud was in error when he held that religion is per se a compulsion neurosis. Some religion is and some is not.
    • We define religion as the assumption that life has meaning. Religion, or lack of it, is shown not in some intellectual or verbal formulations but in one's total orientation to life. Religion is whatever the individual takes to be his ultimate concern. One's religious attitude is to be found at that point where he has a conviction that there are values in human existence worth living and dying for.
    • In any age courage is the simple virtue needed for a human being to traverse the rocky road from infancy to maturity of personality. But in an age of anxiety, an age of her morality and personal isolation, courage is a sine qua non. In periods when the mores of the society were more consistent guides, the individual was more firmly cushioned in his crises of development; but in times of transition like ours, the individual is thrown on his own at an earlier age and for a longer period.
    • Courage is the capacity to meet the anxiety which arises as one achieves freedom. It is the willingness to differentiate, to move from the protecting realms of parental dependence to new levels of freedom and integration.
    • The ancient Greeks, as Plato reports, believed that we discover truth through 'reminiscence,' that is by 'remembering,' by intuitively searching into our own experience.
    • Memory is not just the imprint of the past time upon us; it is the keeper of what is meaningful for our deepest hopes and fears.
    • The first thing necessary for a constructive dealing with time is to learn to live in the reality of the present moment. For psychologically speaking, this present moment is all we have. The past and future have meaning because they are part of the present: a past event has existence now because you are thinking of it at this present moment, or because it influences you so that you, as a living being in the present, are that much different. The future has reality because one can bring it into his mind in the present. Past was the present at one time, and the future will be the present at some coming moment. To try to live in the 'when' of the future or the 'then' of the past always involves an artificiality, a separating one's self from reality; for in actuality one exists is the present. The past has meaning as it lights up the present, and the future as it makes the present richer and more profound.
    • The practical implication is that one's goal is to live each moment with freedom, honesty and responsibility.
    • ...I have described the human dilemma as the capacity of man to view himself as object and as subject. My point is that both are necessary -- necessary for psychological science, for effective therapy, and for meaningful living. I am also proposing that in the dialectical process between these two poles lies the development, and the deepening and widening, of human consciousness. The error on both sides -- for which I have used Skinner and the pre-paradox Rogers as examples -- is the assumption that one can avoid the dilemma by taking one of its poles. It is not simply that man must learn to live with the paradox -- the human being has always lived in this paradox or dilemma, from the time that he first became aware of the fact that he was the one who would die and coined a word for his own death. Illness, limitations of all sorts, and every aspect of our biological state we have indicated are aspects of the deterministic side of the dilemma -- man is like the grass of the field, it withereth. The awareness of this, and the acting on this awareness, is the genius of man the subject. But we must also take the implications of this dilemma into our psychological theory. Between the two horns of this dilemma, man has developed symbols, art, language, and the kind of science which is always expanding in its own presuppositions. The courageous living within this dilemma, I believe, is the source of human creativity.
    • Lacking positive myths to guide him, many a sensitive contemporary man finds only the model of the machine beckoning him from every side to make himself over into its image.
    • ...when people feel their insignificance as individual persons, they also suffer an undermining of their sense of human responsibility.
    • Increasingly in our time--this is an inevitable result of collectivization--it is the organization man who succeeds. And he is characterized by the fact that he has significance only if he gives up his significance.
    • Anxiety occurs because of a threat to the values a person identifies with his existence as a self...most anxiety comes from a threat to social, emotional and moral values the person identifies with himself. And here we find that a main source of anxiety, particularly in the younger generation, is that they do not have viable values available in the culture on the basis of which they can relate to their world. The anxiety which is inescapable in an age in which values are so radically in transition is a central cause of apathy..., such prolonged anxiety tends to develop into lack of feeling and the experience of depersonalization.
    • ..the overemphasis on the Baconian doctrine of knowledge as power, and the accompanying concern with gaining power over nature as well as over ourselves in the sense of treating ourself as objects to be manipulated rather than human beings whose aim is to expand in meaningful living, have resulted in the invalidation of the self. This tends to shrink the individual's consciousness, to block off his awareness, and thus play into...unconstructive anxiety...I propose that the aim of education is exactly the opposite, namely, the widening and deepening of consciousness. To the extent that education can help the student develop sensitivity, depth of perception, and above all the capacity to perceive significant forms in what he is studying, it will be developing at the same time the student's capacity to deal with anxiety constructively.
    • a person can meet anxiety to the extent that his values are stronger than the threat.
    • Now it is no longer a matter of deciding what to do, but of deciding how to decide.
    • The schizoid man is the natural product of the technological man. It is one way to live and is increasingly utilized--and it may explode into violence.
    • Our patients are the ones who express and live out the subconscious and unconscious tendencies in the culture. The neurotic, or person suffering from what we now call character disorder, is characterized by the fact that the usual defenses of the culture do not work for him--a generally painful situation of which he is more or less aware...
    • Both artists and neurotics speak and live from the subconscious and unconscious depths of their society. The artist does this positively, communicating what he experiences to his fellow men. The neurotic does this negatively.
    • Hate is not the opposite of love; apathy is.
    • When inward life dries up, when feeling decreases and apathy increases, when one cannot affect or even genuinely touch another person, violence flares up as a daimonic necessity for contact, a mad drive forcing touch in the most direct way possible.
    • In a world where numbers inexorably take over as our means of identification, like flowing lava threatening to suffocate and fosilize all breathing life in its path; in a world where 'normality' is defined as keeping your cool; where sex is so available that the only way to preserve any inner center is to have intercourse without committing yourself--in such a schizoid world, which young people experience more directly since they have not had time to build up the defenses which dull the senses of their elders, it is not surprising that will and love have become increasingly problematic and even, as some people believe, impossible of achievement.
    • The constructive schizoid person stands against the spiritual emptiness of encroaching technology and does not let himself be emptied by it. He lives and works with the machine without becoming a machine. He finds it necessary to remain detached enough to get meaning from the experience, but in doing so, to protect his own inner life from impoverishment.
    • When we 'fall' in love, as the expressive verb puts it, the world shakes and changes around us, not only in the way it looks but in our whole experience of what we are doing in the world. Generally, the shaking is consciously felt in its positive aspects ... Love is the answer, we sing. ... our Western culture seems to be engaged in a romantic - albeit desperate - conspiracy to enforce the illusion that that is all there is to eros.
    • To love means to open ourselves to the negative as well as the positive - to grief, sorrow, and disappointment as well as to joy, fulfillment, and an intensity of consciousness we did not know was possible before.
    • Our age is one of transition, in which the normal channels for utilizing the daimonic are denied; and such ages tend to be times when the daimonic is expressed in its most destructive form.
    • Depression is the inability to construct a future
    • Creativity is the result of a struggle between vitality and form. As anyone who has tried to write a sonnet or scan poetry, is aware, the form ideally do not take away from the creativity but may add to it.
    • Sex can be defined fairly adequately in physiological terms as consisting of the building up of bodily tensions and their release. Eros, in contrast, is the experiencing of the personal intentions and meaning of the act. Whereas sex is a rhythm of stimulus and response, eros is a state of being. The pleasure of sex is described by Freud and others as the reduction of tension; in eros, on the contrary, we wish not to be released from the excitement but rather to hang on to it, to bask in it, and even to increase it. The end toward which sex points is gratification and relaxation, whereas eros is a desiring, longing, a forever reaching out, seeking to expand.
    • If you do not express your own original ideas, if you do not listen to your own being, you will have betrayed yourself. Also, you will have betrayed your community in failing to make your contribution.
    • Courage is not a virtue of value among other personal values like love or fidelity. It is the foundation that underlies and gives reality to all other virtues and personal values. Without courage our love pales into mere dependency. Without courage our fidelity becomes conformism.
    • The acorn becomes an oak by means of automatic growth; no commitment is necessary. The kitten similarly becomes a cat on the basis of instinct. Nature and being are identical in creatures like them. But a man or woman becomes fully human only by his or her choices and his or her commitment to them. People attain worth and dignity by the multitude of decisions they make from day by day. These decisions require courage.
    • Whereas moral courage is the righting of wrongs, creative courage, in contrast, is the discovering of new forms, new symbols, new patterns on which a new society can be built.
    • The relationship between commitment and doubt is by no means an antagonistic one. Commitment is healthiest when it is not without doubt but in spite of doubt.
    • But those who present directly and immediately the new forms and symbols are the artists-the dramatists, the musicians, the painters, the dancers, the poets, and those poets of the religious sphere we call saints. They portray the new symbols in the form of images-poetic, 'aural, plastic, or dramatic, as the case may be. They live out their imaginations.
    • [Artists] love to immerse themselves in chaos in order to put it into form, just as God created form out of chaos in Genesis. Forever unsatisfied with the mundane, the apathetic, the conventional, they always push on to newer worlds.
    • Whatever sphere we may be in, there is a profound joy in the realization that we are helping to form the structure of the new world. This is creative courage, however minor or fortuitous our creations may be. We can then say, with Joyce, Welcome, 0 life! We go for the millionth time to forge in the smithy of our souls the uncreated conscience of the race.
    • The creative process must be explored not as the product of sickness, but as representing the highest degree of emotional health, as the expression of the normal people in the act of actualizing themselves.
    • Artists encounter the landscape they propose to paint-they look at it, observe it from this angle and that. They are, as we say, absorbed in it. Or, in the case of abstract painters, the encounter may be with an idea, an inner vision, that in turn may be led off by the brilliant colors on the palette or the inviting rough whiteness of the canvas.
    • World is the pattern of meaningful relations in which a person exists and in the design of which he or she participates. It has objective reality, to be sure, but it is not simply that. World is interrelated with the person at every moment. A continual dialectical process goes on between world and self and self and world; one implies the other, and neither can be understood if we omit the other. This is why one can never localize creativity as a subjective phenomenon; one can never study it simply in terms of what goes on within the person. The pole of world is an inseparable part of the creativity of an individual. What occurs is always a process, a doing - specifically a process interrelating the person and his or her world.
    • In this sense genuine artists are so bound up with their age that they cannot communicate separated from it. In this sense, too, the historical situation conditions the creativity. For the consciousness which obtains in creativity is not the superficial level of objectified intellectualization, but is an encounter with the world on a level that undercuts the subject-object split. 'Creativity' to rephrase our definition, 'is the encounter of the intensively conscious human being with his or her world.'
    • A dynamic struggle goes on within a person between what he or she consciously thinks on the one hand and, on the other, some insight, some perspective that is struggling to be born. The insight is then born with anxiety, guilt, and the joy and gratification that is inseparable from the actualizing of a new idea or vision.
    • Dogmatists of all kinds-scientific, economic, moral, as well as political-are threatened by the creative freedom of the artist. This is necessarily and inevitably so. We cannot escape our anxiety over the fact that the artists together with creative persons of all sorts, are the possible destroyers of our nicely ordered systems. For the creative impulse is the speaking of the voice and the expressing of the forms of the preconscious and unconscious; and this is, by its very nature, a threat to rationality and external control.
    • The vision of the artist or the poet is the intermediate determinant between the subject (the person) and the objective pole (the world-waiting-to-be). It will be nonbeing until the poet's struggle brings forth an answer - meaning. The greatness of a poem or a painting is not that it portrays the thing observed or experienced, but that it portrays the artist's or the poet's vision cued off by his encounter with the reality. Hence the poem or the painting is unique, original, never to be duplicated. No matter how many times Monet returned to paint the cathedral at Rouen, each canvas was a new painting expressing a new vision.
    • Mark Tobey fills his canvases with elliptical, calligraphic lines, beautiful whirls that seem at first glance to be completely abstract and to come from nowhere at all except his own subjective musing. But I shall never forget how struck I was, on visiting Tobey's studio one day, to see strewn around books on astronomy and photographs of the Milky Way. I knew then that Tobey experiences the movement of the stars and solar constellations as the external pole of his encounter.
    • : bring out new meaning, new forms, and disclose a reality that was literally not present before, a reality that is not merely subjective but has a second pole which is outside ourselves. This is the progressive side of symbol and myth. This aspect points ahead. It is integrative. It is a progressive revealing of structure in our relation to nature and our own existence, as the French philosopher Paul Ricoeur so well states. It is a road to universals beyond discrete personal experience.
    • :are distinguished by the fact that they can live with anxiety, even though a high price may be paid in terms of insecurity, sensitivity, and defenselessness for the gift of the 'divine madness' to borrow the term used by the classical Greeks. They do not run away from non-being, but by encountering and wrestling with it, force it to produce being. They knock on silence for an answering music; they pursue meaninglessness until they can force it to mean.
    • This chapter is thus an essay on the creating of one's self. The self is made up, on its growing edge, of the models, forms, metaphors, myths, and all other kinds of psychic content which give it direction in its self-creation. This is a process that goes on continuously. As Kierkegaard well said, the self is only that which it is in the process of becoming. Despite the obvious determinism in human life-especially in the physical aspect of ones self in such simple things as color of eyes, height relative length of life, and so on-there is also, clearly, this element of self-directing, self-forming. Thinking and self-creating are inseparable. When we become aware of all the fantasies in which we see ourselves in the future, pilot ourselves this way or that, this becomes obvious.
    • Human freedom involves our capacity to pause, to choose the one response toward which we wish to throw our weight.
    • is not that they give a specific answer, but that they open up new areas of psychic reality, shake us out of our customary ruts, and throw light on a new segment of our lives. Thus the sayings of the shrine, like dreams, were not to be received passively; the recipients had to 'live' themselves into the message.
    • Creativity arises out of the tension between spontaneity and limitations, the latter (like the river banks) forcing the spontaneity into the various forms which are essential to the work of art or poem.
    • When you write a poem, you discover that the very necessity of fitting your meaning into such and such a form requires you to search in your imagination for new meanings. You reject certain ways of saying it; you select others, always trying to form the poem again. In your forming, you arrive at new and more profound meanings than you had even dreamed of. Form is not a mere lopping off of meaning that you don't have room to put into your poem; it is an aid to finding new meaning, a stimulus to condensing your meaning, to simplifying and purifying it, and to discovering on a more universal dimension the essence you wish to express.
    • Imagination is the outreaching of mind . . . . the bombardment of the conscious mind with ideas, impulses, images and every sort of psychic phenomena welling up from the preconscious. It is the capacity to 'dream dreams and see visions . . . .
    • You can live without a father who accepts you, but you cannot live without a world that makes some sense to you.
    • The human imagination leaps to form the whole, to complete the scene in order to make sense of it. The instantaneous way this is done shows how we are driven to construct the remainder of the scene. To fill the gaps is essential if the scene is to have meaning. That we may do this in misleading ways-at times in neurotic or paranoid ways-does not gainsay the central point. Our passion for form expresses our yearning to make the world adequate to our needs and desires, and, more important, to experience ourselves as having significance.
    • This passion for form is a way of trying to find and constitute meaning in life. And this is what genuine creativity is. Imagination, broadly defined, seems to me to be a principle in human life underlying even reason, for the rational functions, according to our definitions, can lead to understanding - can participate in the constituting of reality - only as they are creative. Creativity is thus involved in our every experience as we try to make meaning in our self-world relationship.
    • The opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice, it is conformity.
    • I must make the important distinction between the rebel and the revolutionary. One is in ineradicable opposition to the other. The revolutionary seeks an external political change.... The origin of the term is the word revolve, literally meaning a turnover, as the revolution of a wheel. When the conditions under a given government are insufferable some groups may seek to break down that government in the conviction that any new form cannot but be better. Many revolutions, however, simply substitute one kind of government for another, the second no better than the first-which leaves the individual citizen, who has had to endure the inevitable anarchy between the two, worse off than before. Revolution may do more harm than good. The rebel ... seeks above all an internal change, a change in the attitudes, emotions, and outlook of the people to whom he is devoted. He often seems to be temperamentally unable to accept success and the ease it brings; he kicks against the pricks, and when one frontier is conquered, he soon becomes ill-at-ease and pushes on to the new frontier. He is drawn to the unquiet minds and spirits, for he shares their everlasting inability to accept stultifying control.
    • If we admit our depression openly and freely, those around us get from it an experience of freedom rather than the depression itself.
    • Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing.
    • Joy, rather than happiness, is the goal of life, for joy is the emotion which accompanies our fulfilling our natures as human beings. It is based on the experience of one's identity as a being of worth and dignity.
    • It requires greater courage to preserve inner freedom, to move on in one's inward journey into new realms, than to stand defiantly for outer freedom. It is often easier to play the martyr, as it is to be rash in battle.
    • It is an old and ironic habit of human beings to run faster when we have lost our way
    • Life comes from physical survival; but the good life comes from what we care about.
    • Care is a state in which something does matter; it is the source of human tenderness.
    • One does not become fully human painlessly.
    • I think Dostoevsky was right, that every human being must have a point at which he stands against the culture, where he says, this is me and the damned world can go to hell.
    • Finding the center of strength within ourselves is in the long run the best contribution we can make to our fellow men.
    • Reason works better when emotions are present; the person sees sharper and more accurately when his emotions are engaged...
    • Indeed, physical courage in whatever scene ... seems to hinge on whether the individual can feel he is fighting for others as well as himself...
    • It is highly significant, and indeed almost a rule, that moral courage has its source in identification through one's own sensitivity with the suffering of one's fellow human beings.
    • Technology is the knack of so arranging the world that we do not experience it.
    • Anxiety is an even better teacher than reality, for one an temporarily evade reality ... but anxiety is a source of education always present because one carries it within.
    • When I fall in love, I feel more valuable and I treat myself with more care. We have all observed the hesitant adolescent, uncertain of himself, who, when he or she falls in love, suddenly walks with a certain inner assuredness and confidence, a mien which seems to say, 'You are looking at somebody now.... This inner sense of worth that comes with being in love does not seem to depend essentially on whether the love is returned or not.
    • To love means to open ourselves to the negative as well as the positive - to grief, sorrow, and disappointment as well as to joy, fulfillment, and an intensity of consciousness we did not know was possible before.
    • Tenderness emerges from the fact that the two persons, longing, as all individuals do, to overcome the separateness and isolation to which we are all heir because we are individuals, can participate in a relationship that, for the moment, is not of two isolated selves but a union.
    • The daimonic power does not merely take the individual over as its victim, but works through him psychologically, it clouds his judgment, makes it harder for him to see reality, but still leaves HIM with the responsibility for the act.
    • The daimonic is the urge in every being to affirm itself, assert itself, perpetuate and increase itself. The daimonic becomes evil when it usurps the total self without regard to the integration of that self, or to the unique forms and desires of others and their need for integration.
    • The daimonic is any natural function which has the power to take over the whole person... it can be either creative and destructive and is usually both ...
    • [The daimonic] needs to be directed and channeled - consciousness can integrate the daimonic, make it personal... - the daimonic always has its biological base ....
    • Poets often have a conscious awareness that they are struggling with the daimonic...
    • Not to recognize the daimonic itself turns out to be daimonic, it makes us accomplices on the side of the destructive possession.
    • The Meaning of Anxiety (1950)
    • Man's Search for Himself (1953)
    • Existence (1956)
    • Existential Psychoanalysis (1962)
    • American Foreign Policy (1964)
    • The Art of Counseling (1965)
    • Psychology and the Human Dilemma (1967)
    • Love and Will (1969)
    • Existential Psychology (1969)
    • Power and Innocence: A Search for the Sources of Violence (1972)
    • Paulus: Tillich As Spiritual Teacher (1973)
    • Paulus: Reminiscences of a Friendship (1973)
    • The Courage to Create (1975)
    • Power and Innocence (1976)
    • Freedom and Destiny (1981)
    • The Discovery of Being: Writings in Existential Psychology (1983)
    • My Quest for Beauty (1985)
    • Symbolism in Religion and Literature (1985)
    • Therapeutic Experiencing: The Process of Change (1986)
    • Dreams and Symbols (1986)
    • Politics and Innocence: A Humanistic Debate (1986)
    • Paulus: The Dimensions of a Teacher (1988)
    • The Cry for Myth (1991)
    • Man's Search for Himself (1992)
    • The Psychology of Existence (1994)
    • rollo may

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