One more movie photo. Left-click image to enlarge.
And a low-quality video clip taken with my point and shoot camera. Lots of gunfire and explosions. At 25 seconds, upper right, customers are watching from the 16th floor Trump Tower terrace restaurant.
When I use the word transgression in the context of this discussion, I am not necessarily referring to transgressions in the real world. Real world transgressions can and do activate talion anxiety, but transgressions existing only in the mind also activate talion anxiety.1
To get some idea of what the talion principle might look like as it is actually encountered in a therapeutic relationship, see Shrinkwrapped's post describing his work with a hostile patient tormented by self-inflicted punishment for aborting a pregnancy a decade before she entered therapy. The patient, 'Susan,' had been unaware that guilt over the abortion was behind an array of fears and self-inflicted miseries that had dominated her existence for years. Apart from any legal or moral question about abortion, the psychic reality for Susan was that she had murdered her baby, depriving it of the right to life. As the talion principle would predict, she became preoccupied by expectations and fears that she would be deprived of rights, in her case by men who were out deprive women of their rights.
This defensive fantasy works to an extent because there certainly are plenty of men who would deprive women of the right to abortion, but by focusing on the moral culpability of men, Susan deflects awareness of her own sense of guilt. At an even deeper level, the talion principle would also predict that Susan would expect that she herself would be murdered as punishment for her transgression, though this wasn't explicit in the material Shrinkwrapped presented.2
When we consider that the expectation of her own death may have been Susan's deepest underlying fear, we can understand why she might deny her own sense of moral culpability and why her attacks on men in general were so scathing. Men were the moral accusers who substituted for the unbearable unconscious judgments Susan passed on herself.
But externalization and unconscious self-punishment are not permanent solutions to unresolved guilt. As long as Susan was able to fend-off any conscious sense of guilt, unconscious guilt and fear continued to drive self-inflicted punishment aimed at settling her moral account. When a transgression and the associated fear of punishment aren't deeply and consciously processed, unconscious self-punishment serves as temporary fix. The self-punishment must be inflicted, again and again, until a genuine, conscious resolution of guilt is achieved.
Again, in Susan's case, I am not making any moral claims about abortion or the state of gender equality in the real world. I'm referring strictly to psychic reality—the internal world of unconscious perceptions and guilty fantasies behind Susan's self-inflicted misery.
Finally, while Susan's case offers us a vivid example of the talion principle in action, the principle can apply to anything that is a transgression in the mind. I suspect that much human misery can be attributed, at least in part, to the unconsciously determined means human beings routinely employ to allay talion fears.
1In fact, the mind is always the mediator and interpreter of reality. Do we know any reality besides psychic reality?
2see my post on Ray Mancini for two possible examples of self-inflicted death penalty (i.e., suicide). Though I don't refer to these deaths as expressions of the talion principle, the talion principle is what I had in mind when I wrote about these suicides.
Children of Divorce: Unconscious Guilt and Self-inflicted Punishment
Returning to the discussion of those who reject marriage because of traumatic parental divorce, we now have another way to think about the unconscious motivation behind the choice.
In the lead up to divorce, family life is often filled with hostility and conflict. In this setting, children often feel a great deal of anger at their parents. When divorce follows, children may feel deeply responsible. They tend to see their anger as the cause of the divorce. Some children work through any sense of guilt with the help of their parents or therapists.But for some, unconscious guilt may linger, creating difficulties further down the road.
The talion principle would predict that, as an adult, such a person would deprive themselves of marriage by avoiding marriage altogether or sabotaging their own chances for a successful marriage as a form of self-inflicted punishment in-kind. The individual who avoids marriage altogether might describe the rejection of marriage as a very practical decision to avoid a repeat of the suffering that they and their parents experienced, when they are, in fact, inflicting the same final fate upon themselves. So at the very same time that they deny their very troubling sense of culpability, they hold themselves accountable, inflicting penalties aimed at settling their moral account.
In cases of deliberately chosen single parenthood, the rationale may be that the child will be better off because unhappy marriages and divorce inflict so much suffering on children. In some specific circumstances, single parenthood may well be the best option. But a predetermined, across-the-board, rejection of marriage because it could harm the children sounds much more like a thin rationalization given that there are many circumstances in which marriage would be far better for the children than single parenthood. In these cases, it may well be that single parenthood is a form of self-punishment in-kind, inflicted to alleviate unconscious guilt over causing mother or father's single parenthood years before.
I should also stress, again, that I don't know Retriever's pregnant coworker, so I am no position to determine whether or not the talion principle is behind her rejection of marriage. I've offered this explanation as one way we might see the unconscious "logic" behind manifestly self-defeating, self-sabotaging decisions. It is not an explanatory template that we should automatically overlay on all single parents. Knowing the depths of any individual's interior life requires much more than a template.
Finally, it would be interesting to hear alternative perspectives from those who work out of other theoretical paradigms. So if you're a cognitive-behaviorist, a systems theorist, a person-centered theorist or whatever, it would be wonderful to hear your thoughts on those who reject marriage because of parental divorce. It wouldn't surprise me to see that there are important differences, but I would also expect to see a degree of complementarity among the various perspectives.
In an interesting post about marriage and parenthood, Retriever questions the logic of people who reject marriage because of their own traumatic experience with parental divorce:
The coworker who has gone public [with her pregnancy] is unmarried, close to 30, and the father is the live in boyfriend, who has no permanent job She assures me that he will be a great father. She is a child of divorce, and was largely raised by her grandmother, so is gun shy about marriage. I worry (to myself) because I know how much I rely on my husband in raising our kids, on daily help we give each other, encouragement, raising our brood. There is often conflict, but we are a team. If I had had to cope as a single parent all these years, I think I would have gone bonkers. A friend at work reminds me that the mother to be is strong and will manage. I hope so. I wonder how the kid will?
The logic of people who have been traumatized by parental divorce rejecting marriage when they have their own children escapes me.
Deliberately choosing single parenthood does seem like a costly way to avert the possibility of an unhappy marriage or painful divorce. I would go even further and suggest that, even without children in the picture, the rejection of marriage because of parental divorce can be a self-defeating behavior. There may be very sound reasons for a particular individual to avoid marriage, but I am referring specifically to those who reject marriage because they were traumatized by parental conflict and divorce.
One way to understand a choice that seems illogical or self-defeating is to consider it from a straightforward learning perspective. Aversions are conditioned and maintained by processes that are beyond rational, conscious intention. (I'm speaking here about what occurs absent a deliberate, cognitive-behavioral intervention.) Perhaps the experience of divorce can be so punishing that marriage becomes a conditioned aversive stimulus. It's hard to argue that learning isn't an important factor for those who reject marriage because of a traumatic parental divorce.
But I am not entirely satisfied with learning explanations, at least not in every case. Conditioned fears, in my experience, have more of an acute, palpably distressing quality about them than the calm, philosophical-sounding explanations I've often heard from individuals who reject marriage based upon the trauma of parental divorce. I don't rule out learning as a significant factor, but these more calmly philosophical rejections of marriage strike me as rationalizations in many cases. With rationalizations, I look for an underlying unconscious conflict—some extremely troubling, denied element of motivation that is disguised by a more tolerable rationale for the decision. So what motive for self-defeating behavior could be so troubling that the trauma explanation would be preferable?
I would begin by looking toward psychodynamic principles of unconscious motivation and symptom formation.
At the outset, I must say that I am in no position to render an opinion on Retriever's coworker. I don't know her coworker and I have no information beyond R's brief description of the coworker's situation. So what I am offering here is a more generic discussion of dynamic unconscious pressures that might drive self-defeating decisions.
Talion Law and the Talion Principle
First, though, a bit of background on what is known in psychoanalysis as the talion principle.
Talion law refers to the ancient notion that punishment should fit the crime. The precept, as it's represented in the Torah, is that justice requires an "eye-for-an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a hand for a hand, a foot for a foot."
We might think of talion law as a merciless legal construct, but it should be remembered that when talion law emerged, typical punishments were extremely brutal and disproportionate to crimes. Talion law brought proportionality and limits to retribution. Even today, when we consider the brutality of punishment in many parts of the world, talion law would be a vast improvement.
In psychology, the talion principle refers to the human tendency to expect and dread severe retribution for our transgressions—especially retribution befitting our transgressions. Freud discovered, for example, that voyeurs are often troubled by the fantasy that they will go blind. Talion anxiety is, essentially, the earliest form of guilt we experience. If all goes well, as we mature, we also develop a capacity for guilt that incorporates feelings of empathy. But the more primitive expectation and fear of punishment for transgressions never leaves us.
Another dimension of the talion principle is that punishment paradoxically brings about a measure of relief from talion fears. If we have been punished sufficiently, if we have atoned or made adequate reparation for our transgression, runaway fears of more brutal, limitless punishment diminish. (The anxiety-binding function of punishment has interesting implications for various religious notions of divine forgiveness and salvation, but I'll save that discussion for another day.)
Eric Zorn: imagines the letter proposing the takeover:
I was in my hotel suite late the other night pondering the terms of my takeover offer when a knock came at the door.
"Housekeeping," said a perky, vaguely Scandinavian voice.
Before I could call to her to come back later, she'd carded her way in and stood before me in the foyer, a stunning, pneumatic blond fairly bursting out of her maid's uniform in all the right places. We were both surprised and embarrassed that I was dressed only in my undershorts, so I affected nonchalance and beckoned her in....
Transformers 3 is shooting outside my office today. Eight blocks of North Michigan Avenue, from Ontario to Randolph Street, is completely shut down, inaccessible even to pedestrian traffic. The street resembles an apocalyptic fantasy scene, with charred wreckage strewn everywhere. Occasional explosions were followed by puffs of thick black smoke rising from something I was unable to see.
Someone told me that stunt persons in dark costumes were jumping from buildings and gliding above Michigan Avenue last night. She compared it to the flying monkeys in the Wizard of Oz. Wish I'd seen that.
With security very tight and barriers everywhere, it's impossible to find a good vantage point to snap a decent photo of the activity, but I took a few shots at the edges while the 20-something security people told me that it's illegal to take photos. No it's not.
Left-click images to enlarge.
If you look closely, you can see that the rear wheels of the SUV aren't touching the ground. It's pre-assembled and sits on a trailer to be towed into position on the set. All of that debris looks like real concrete and brick, but it's lightweight, prefabbed material.
A large pile-up of vehicles sits atop the Michigan Avenue Bridge. Pedestrian traffic is rerouted to lower Michigan Avenue.
I was also told that the movie begins in 1961, in JFK's Oval Office. The president is informed that there are people on the moon. This prompts Kennedy to announce a plan to land Americans on the moon by decade's end. The scene in Chicago takes place in the present day. I presume the mess on Michigan Avenue has something to do with those people who were on the moon back in 1961--the ones who can fly like the monkeys in the Wizard of Oz.
Susan Carlson reporting. She's not in the movie. I included her to pretty things up around here.
The Oriental Theatre. That's an Argo Tea shop on the right.
There's no such thing as too many corporate logos on an architectural gem.
The Oriental Theatre was built in 1926. The architects were the Rapp brothers, George and Cornelius, designers of many early 20th century American movie palaces. By 1981 the theatre had fallen into serious disrepair and was shuttered for 17 years. The Oriental underwent a complete restoration and reopened in 1998 as the Ford Center for the Performing Arts. (An interior shot.)
The Oriental was built on the site of the deadliest single building fire in American history, the 1903 Iroquois Theatre fire. The Iroquois fire claimed the lives of over 600 people, mostly women and children who were at a December 30th holiday matinee show starring Eddie Foy in the folktale Bluebeard. Touted as a fireproof theater, the Iroquois had opened less than two months before the tragedy occurred. Firefighters
extinguished the blaze in about 20 minutes, but by that time the theatre interior had been completely gutted.
Survivors reported that a shorted stage light sparked the fire. A curtain that was supposed to be fireproof was dropped, but the curtain burst into flames. The panicked audience rushed the exits, only to discover that many were locked from the outside. The theatre also featured false decorative doors, further confusing the audience.
In the balcony, patrons found an unlocked fire exit, but the fire escape was missing. In the thick smoke, 120 patrons plunged six stories to their deaths while attempting to escape using that exit.
Nearly all of the actors, musicians and stagehands escaped the deadly inferno by exiting through freight doors behind the stage. But when the large doors were opened, a rush of cold December air ignited a massive fireball that exploded from the stage to the back of the theater instantly killing those in its path.
Among ghost hunters and urban legend enthusiasts, this location is considered the most actively haunted in Chicago
Apropos of absolutely nothing, Rush Limbaugh finds a racial angle in George Steinbrenner's death:
"That cracker made a lot of African-American millionaires... He fired a bunch of white guys as managers left and right."
Steinbrenner never did anything that even remotely hinted at either favoritism or antipathy based upon race. He fired black people, white people and Hispanic people. He would fire an employee one day and hire that person back the next. He hired Billy Martin 5 times and fired him 4 times. Had Martin not been killed in an automobile accident, who knows how many times he would have been fired and rehired?
During his 37 years as owner of the Yankees, Steinbrenner also
paid millions to black
players, white players, Hispanic players and Asian players. The only
thing Steinbrenner cared about was winning the World Series and he was
utterly ruthless in pursuit of that goal.