+ANOTHER USEFUL CONCEPT IN THE RESILIENCY DEBATES? “NEGATIVE CAPABILITY”

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Saturday, July 23, 2016.  I have yet to find anything I would call solid ground upon which I can stand to consider any aspect of the study of “resiliency.”  Being an extreme abuse survivor from birth-18 leaves me questioning everything about this term.  What is it?  Who has it?  What does it do?  How can people (supposedly) become more able to “have resiliency” so that they can – WHAT – exactly?

When I consider what others are saying about resiliency, my personal thinking scales easily tip in the direction of “Why be concerned with whether or not your children sleep in flame-retardant pajamas if you are not concerned with providing them a house to sleep in that is not at risk of blowing up and burning down with your children in it in the middle of the night?”

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The quote I am including in this post today, again from the book The Philosophy of Childing: Unlocking Creativity, Curiosity, and Reason through the Wisdom of Our Youngest (2016) by Dr. Christopher Phillips directly follows the one I posted yesterday.

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“Neuroscience didn’t exist as a field in John Keats’s day, but the early nineteenth-century romantic poet (1795-1821) offered a prescient [having or showing knowledge of events before they take place] paean [a song of praise or triumph; a thing that expresses enthusiastic praise] to plasticity with his coinage “negative capability,” which denotes our capacity to transcend preconceived limitations, and hence rewrite the story of our lives.  To Keats, the most standout thinkers and doers demonstrate negative capability to an unsurpassed degree.  They are at home with a world of “uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.”  Exemplars of negative capability (he considered Shakespeare the foremost among them) embrace paradox, dissonance, ambiguity, the unpredictable, and the unknown, and unhesitatingly venture into existential terrain where others fear to tread.  It’s not that fact and reason don’t have a place in their seeking.  Rather, it’s not the be-all and end-all.  Sense and imagination also are equal partners.

“Keats’s coinage has been appropriated in modern times by the progressive Brazilian philosopher, social theorist, and progressive politician Roberto Mangabeira Unger, who equates negative capability with that element in our nature that enables us to overcome the most daunting cultural, socioeconomic, and institutionally imposed barriers to healthy human flowering.  In The Self Awakened, Unger (one of Barack Obama’s professors while a student at Harvard) insists that

we are not exhausted by the social and cultural worlds we inhabit and build.  They are finite.  We, in comparison to them, are not.  We can see, think, feel, build, and connect in more ways than they can allow.

“Adolescents in particular should take this as a clarion call.  Unger’s take is that it is up to adolescent [sic], to take the bull by the horns, rather than passively waiting for the unlikely time when adults will treat them as equals.  Many adolescents today are doing just that, putting their negative capability on grand display.  Through social entrepreneurial initiatives like Do Something, Be the Change, and Youth Venture [DoSomething.org; BeTheChangeInc.org; https://www.youthventure.org/www.genv.net], adolescents are showing just what innovative, active agents for change they can be.  They are making real the vision they have of themselves and of their rightful role in fashioning a world of their liking and making.” pp. 123-124

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NOTE – if you haven’t see this yet —

Teen’s Poem “White Boy Privilege” Goes Viral

New poem – “All Lives Matter, But…,” a New Poem from Royce Mann

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For readers interested in the “defining resiliency” process, especially in light of healing efforts connected to the CDC ACE study, perhaps do an online search for “negative capability” and begin reading.

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Here is a link to an interesting personality test – helpful, I think, even on the basic-free level.  I think it is very important for researchers to consider inborn personality differences when trying to discover trauma-resiliency processes in people – (and even in families and communities) –

Free Personality Test | 16Personalities

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Phillips points to connections through Unger’s writings to chaos (and creativity) – and to what early child developmental experts say about infants and young children who endure/survive/live-through impossible malevolent conditions of deprivation and harm — which is termed surviving-the-unsurvivable, surviving “an unsolvable” paradox , meaning:  “going on being when going on being is impossible.”

What does THIS say about resiliency?

WHAT is the cost of this kind of surviving?

From the above quote:  “negative capability” being connected to an ability to “embrace paradox, dissonance, ambiguity, the unpredictable, and the unknown” — infants and small children cannot possibly develop optimally in environments where these conditions remain present.

These conditions, which those with negative capability can presumably endure well, are toxic and traumatic to little people, and are, indeed, the antithesis of safe and secure attachment conditions especially IF these conditions directly involve shortcomings within early caregivers’ interactions with little ones.

These conditions WERE my childhood – and a whole lot worse.  So, I ask, what on earth does “resiliency” have to do with any of this?

I do not know.

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I typed “paradox” into this blog’s search box – no idea how many of the posts that appeared are actually about paradox, but the search will bring up some interesting past posts.

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Click here to read or to

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Here is our first book out in ebook format.  Click here to view or purchase–

Story Without Words:  How Did Child Abuse Break My Mother?

It lists for $2.99 and can be read by Amazon Prime customers without charge.  A daring book – for daring readers – about a really tough subject.

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Tags: adult attachment disordersadult reactive attachment disorderanxiety disorders,borderline motherborderline personality disorderbrain developmentchild abuse,depression,derealizationdisorganized disoriented insecure attachment disorder,dissociation,dissociative identity disorderempathyinfant abusePosttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD),protective factorsPTSDresiliencyresiliency factorsrisk factorsshame

 

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2 thoughts on “+ANOTHER USEFUL CONCEPT IN THE RESILIENCY DEBATES? “NEGATIVE CAPABILITY”

  1. I like the notion of being comfortable with the unknown. In my training in the modality I teach, it was something we were told often. The body has it’s own memory, it’s own way, and it’s the therapist. Being constantly dynamic, having all the answers at every moment would be a task impossible to do. Therefore, live with the unknown. Some of the best advice, but a hard lesson to learn. In the end I realized that I could still create a feeling of safety within that “unknowing.”

    • I appreciate your comment. Our body is very wise and knowing! If you have any online links to information about resiliency please feel free to post them in comments – copy/paste the entire address link and it should appear active right in the comment. Thank you!!!

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