Rollo May Quotes

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About Rollo May

Rollo May (21 April 1909 – 22 October 1994) was an American humanistic and existential psychologist, authoring the influential books Psychology and the Human Dilemma and Love and Will along with several other volumes explaining and expanding on his theories.

Born: April 21st, 1909

Died: October 22nd, 1994

Categories: Humanists‎, Psychologists, 1990s deaths, People from Ohio

Quotes: 114 sourced quotes total (includes 1 misattributed)

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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..."
Depression is the inability to construct a future.
Hate is not the opposite of love; apathy is.
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.
Freedom is man's capacity to take a hand in his own development. It is our capacity to mold ourselves.
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.
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.
Life comes from physical survival; but the good life comes from what we care about.
Technology is the knack of so arranging the world that we do not experience it.
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.
One does not become fully human painlessly.
Rollo May
• Foreword to Existential-Phenomenological Alternatives for Psychology (1978) by Ronald S. Valle and Mark King
• Source: Wikiquote: "Rollo May" (Quotes)
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.
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.
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.
There is no meaningful "yes" unless the individual could also have said "no."
Rollo May
• Ch. 11 : The Humanity of the Rebel
• Source: Wikiquote: "Rollo May" (Quotes, Power and Innocence (1972): Power and Innocence : A Search for the Sources of Violence (1972))
Reason works better when emotions are present; the person sees sharper and more accurately when his emotions are engaged.
Human freedom involves our capacity to pause, to choose the one response toward which we wish to throw our weight.
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.
Care is a state in which something does matter; care is the opposite of apathy. Care is the necessary source of eros, the source of human tenderness.
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.
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.
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.
Many people feel they are powerless to do anything effective with their lives. It takes courage to break out of the settled mold, but most find conformity more comfortable. This is why the opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice, it's conformity.
Rollo May
• As quoted in Think and Grow Rich : A Black Choice (1991) by Dennis Kimbro and Napoleon Hill, p. 104
• Source: Wikiquote: "Rollo May" (Quotes)
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.
Violence is the daimonic gone awry. It is "demon possession" in its starkest form. 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.
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.
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.
When one read’s Kierkegaard’s profound analyses of anxiety and despair or Nietzsche’s amazingly acute insights into the dynamics of resentment and the guilt and hostility which accompany repressed emotional powers, one might pinch oneself to realize that one is reading works written in the last century and not some new contemporary psychological analysis.
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...
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.
The value of dreams, like … divinations, 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.
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.
Finding the center of strength within ourselves is in the long run the best contribution we can make to our fellow men. … One person with indigenous inner strength exercises a great calming effect on panic among people around him. This is what our society needs — not new ideas and inventions; important as these are, and not geniuses and supermen, but persons who can be, that is, persons who have a center of strength within themselves.
'''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.
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.
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. Strange as it sounds, steady, patient growth in freedom is probably the most difficult task of all, requiring the greatest courage. Thus if the term "hero" is used in this discussion at all, it must refer not to the special acts of outstanding persons, but to the heroic element potentially in every man.
A person can meet anxiety to the extent that his values are stronger than the threat.
The practical implication is that one's goal is to live each moment with freedom, honesty and responsibility.
Now it is no longer a matter of deciding what to do, but of deciding how to decide.
When people feel their insignificance as individual persons, they also suffer an undermining of their sense of human responsibility.
You can live without a father who accepts you, but you cannot live without a world that makes some sense to you.
The ancient Greeks, as Plato reports, believed that we discover truth through "reminiscence," that is by "remembering," by intuitively searching into our own experience.
Physical courage in whatever scene … seems to hinge on whether the individual can feel he is fighting for others as well as himself.
Rollo May
• Ch. 8 : Ecstasy and Violence, p. 176
• Source: Wikiquote: "Rollo May" (Quotes, Power and Innocence (1972): Power and Innocence : A Search for the Sources of Violence (1972))
However it may be confounded or covered up or counterfeited, this elemental capacity to fight against injustice remains the distinguishing characteristic of human beings.
Rollo May
• Ch. 11 : The Humanity of the Rebel
• Source: Wikiquote: "Rollo May" (Quotes, Power and Innocence (1972): Power and Innocence : A Search for the Sources of Violence (1972))
Vanity and narcissism — the compulsive need to be admired and praised — undermine one's courage, for one then fights on someone else's conviction rather than one's own.
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.
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.
Anxiety is an even better teacher than reality, for one can temporarily evade reality by avoiding the distasteful situation; but anxiety is a source of education always present because one carries it within.
Poets often have a conscious awareness that they are struggling with the daimonic, and that the issue is their working something through from the depths which push the self to a new plane.
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.
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.
The crucial question which confronts us in psychology and other aspects of the science of man is precisely this chasm between what is abstractly true and what is existentially real for the given living person.
Rollo May
• p. 13; also published in The Discovery of Being : Writings in Existential Psychology (1983), Part II : The Cultural Background, Ch. 5 : Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Freud, p. 52
• Source: Wikiquote: "Rollo May" (Quotes, Existence (1958): Existence : A New Dimension in Psychiatry and Psychology (1958) )
'''Neither Kierkegaard nor Nietzsche had the slightest interest in starting a movement – or a new system, a thought which would indeed have offended them. Both proclaimed, in Nietzsche’s phrase, “Follow not me, but you!”
Note the startling regularity through history with which society martyrs the rebel in one generation and worships him in the next. Socrates, Jesus, William Blake, Buddha, Krishna — the list is as endless as it is rich.
Rollo May
• Ch. 11 : The Humanity of the Rebel
• Source: Wikiquote: "Rollo May" (Quotes, Power and Innocence (1972): Power and Innocence : A Search for the Sources of Violence (1972))
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.
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.
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.
While the daimonic cannot be said to be evil in itself, it confronts us with the troublesome dilemma of whether it is to be used with awareness, a sense of responsibility and the significance of life, or blindly and rashly.
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.
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.
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.
The daimonic is any natural function which has the power to take over the whole person. Sex and eros, anger and rage, and the craving for power are examples. The daimonic can be either creative or destructive and is normally both.
We are more apt to feel depressed by the perpetually smiling individual than the one who is honestly sad. If we admit our depression openly and freely, those around us get from it an experience of freedom rather than the depression itself.
It is an old and ironic habit of human beings to run faster when we have lost our way; and we grasp more fiercely at research, statistics, and technical aids in sex when we have lost the values and meaning of love.
The rebel is committed to giving a form and pattern to the world. It is a pattern born of the indomitable thrust of the human mind, the mind which makes out of the mass of meaningless data in the world an order and a form.
Rollo May
• Ch. 11 : The Humanity of the Rebel
• Source: Wikiquote: "Rollo May" (Quotes, Power and Innocence (1972): Power and Innocence : A Search for the Sources of Violence (1972))
Art is a substitute for violence. The same impulses that drive persons to violence — the hunger for meaning, the need for ecstasy, the impulse to risk all — drive the artist to create. He is by nature our archrebel. … the essence of the rebellion is in the new way of seeing nature and life.
Rollo May
• Ch. 11 : The Humanity of the Rebel
• Source: Wikiquote: "Rollo May" (Quotes, Power and Innocence (1972): Power and Innocence : A Search for the Sources of Violence (1972))
Communication leads to community — that is, to understanding, intimacy, and the mutual valuing that was previously lacking. Community can be defined simply as a group in which free conversation can take place. Community is where I can share my innermost thoughts, bring out the depths of my own feelings, and know they will be understood.
Rollo May
• Ch. 12 : Toward New Community
• Source: Wikiquote: "Rollo May" (Quotes, Power and Innocence (1972): Power and Innocence : A Search for the Sources of Violence (1972))
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, who is able to affirm his being, if need be, against all other beings and the whole inorganic world.
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.
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.
The function of the rebel is to shake the fixated mores of the rigid order of civilization; and this shaking, though painful, is necessary if the society is to be saved from boredom and apathy. Obviously I do not refer to everyone who calls himself a rebel, but only to the authentic rebel. Civilization gets its first flower from the rebel.
Rollo May
• Ch. 11 : The Humanity of the Rebel
• Source: Wikiquote: "Rollo May" (Quotes, Power and Innocence (1972): Power and Innocence : A Search for the Sources of Violence (1972))
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, O life! We go for the millionth time to forge in the smithy of our souls the uncreated conscience of the race.
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.
Power is required for communication. To stand before an indifferent or hostile group and have one's say, or to speak honestly to a friend truths that go deep and hurt — these require self-affirmation, self-assertion, and even at times aggression. … My experience in psychotherapy convinces me that the act which requires the most courage is the simple communication, unpropelled by rage or anger, of one's deepest thoughts to another.
Rollo May
• Ch. 12 : Toward New Community
• Source: Wikiquote: "Rollo May" (Quotes, Power and Innocence (1972): Power and Innocence : A Search for the Sources of Violence (1972))
True religion, namely a fundamental affirmation of the meaning of life, is something without which no human being can be healthy in personality. . . . What happens to mental health when this meaning which religion gives is absent? In other words, what is the effect of atheism on personality? . . . I have been startled by the fact that practically every genuine atheist with whom I have dealt has exhibited unmistakable neurotic tendencies.
The daimonic refers to the power of nature rather than the superego, and is beyond good and evil. Nor is it man's 'recall to himself' as Heidegger and later Fromm have argued, for its source lies in those realms where the self is rooted in natural forces which go beyond the self and are felt as the grasp of fate upon us. The daimonic arises from the ground of being rather than the self as such.
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.”
Therapy isn't curing somebody of something; it is a means of helping a person explore himself, his life, his consciousness. My purpose as a therapist is to find out what it means to be human. Every human being must have a point at which he stands against the culture, where he says, "This is me and the world be damned!" Leaders have always been the ones to stand against the society — Socrates, Christ, Freud, all the way down the line.
Rollo May
• As quoted in Marriage Today : Problems, Issues, and Alternatives (1977) by James E. De Burger, p. 444
  • As quoted in The Wordsworth Dictionary of Quotations (1998) by Connie Robertson, p. 270
• Source: Wikiquote: "Rollo May" (Quotes)
Artists are generally soft-spoken persons who are concerned with their inner visions and images. But that is precisely what makes them feared by any coercive society. For they are the bearers of the human being's age old capacity to be insurgent. They 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.
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.
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.
Existential psychotherapy is the movement which, although standing on one side on the scientific analysis owed chiefly to the genius of Freud, also brings back into the picture the understanding of man on the deeper and broader level — man as the being who is human. It is based on the assumption that it is possible to have a science of man which does not fragmentize man and destroy his humanity at the same moment as it studies him. It unites science and ontology.
Rollo May
• p. 36; also published in The Discovery of Being : Writings in Existential Psychology (1983), Part II : The Cultural Background, Ch. 5 : Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Freud, p. 87
• Source: Wikiquote: "Rollo May" (Quotes, Existence (1958): Existence : A New Dimension in Psychiatry and Psychology (1958) )
The authentic rebel knows that the silencing of all his adversaries is the last thing on earth he wishes: their extermination would deprive him and whoever else remains alive from the uniqueness, the originality, and the capacity for insight that these enemies — being human — also have and could share with him. If we wish the death of our enemies, we cannot talk about the community of man. In the losing of the chance for dialogue with our enemies, we are the poorer.
Rollo May
• Ch. 11 : The Humanity of the Rebel
• Source: Wikiquote: "Rollo May" (Quotes, Power and Innocence (1972): Power and Innocence : A Search for the Sources of Violence (1972))
Creative people, as I see them, 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.
We must rediscover the daimonic in a new form which will be adequate to our own predicament and fructifying for our own day. And this will not be a rediscovery alone but a recreation of the reality of the daimonic. The daimonic needs to be directed and channeled. Here is where human consciousness becomes so important. We initially experience the daimonic as a blind push. It is impersonal in the sense that it makes us nature's tool. … consciousness can integrate the daimonic, make it personal.
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 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. This is the age old dilemma of my own personal responsibility even though I am ruled by fate. It is the ultimate statement that truth and reality are psychologized only to a limited extent. Aeschylus is not impersonal but transpersonal, a believer in fate and moral responsibility at the same time.
True to the meaning of the rebel as one who renounces authority, he seeks primarily not the substitution of one political system for another. He may favor such a political change, but it is not his chief goal. He rebels for the sake of a vision of life and society which he is convinced is critically important for himself and his fellows. … the rebel fights not only for the relief of his fellow men but also for his personal integrity. For him these are but two sides of the same coin.
Rollo May
• Ch. 11 : The Humanity of the Rebel
• Source: Wikiquote: "Rollo May" (Quotes, Power and Innocence (1972): Power and Innocence : A Search for the Sources of Violence (1972))
Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and those who followed them accurately foresaw this growing split between truth and reality in Western culture, and they endeavored to call Western man back from the delusion that reality can be comprehended in an abstracted, detached way. But though they protested vehemently against arid intellectualism, they were by no means simple activists. Nor were they antirational. Anti-intellectualism and other movements in our day which make thinking subordinate to acting must not at all be confused with existentialism. Either alternative-making man subject or object-results in loosing the living, existing person.
Civilization begins with a rebellion. Prometheus, one of the Titans, steals fire from the gods on Mount Olympus and brings it as a gift to man, marking the birth of human culture. For this rebellion Zeus sentences him to be chained to Mount Caucasus where vultures consume his liver during the day and at night it grows back only to be again eaten away the next day. This is a tale of the agony of the creative individual, whose nightly rest only resuscitates him so that he can endure his agonies the next day.
Rollo May
• Ch. 11 : The Humanity of the Rebel
• Source: Wikiquote: "Rollo May" (Quotes, Power and Innocence (1972): Power and Innocence : A Search for the Sources of Violence (1972))
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.
The central psychological endeavor of Kierkegaard may be summed up under the heading of the question he pursued relentlessly: How can one become an individual? The individual was being swallowed up on the rational side by Hegel's vast logical "absolute Whole," on the economic side by the increasing objectification of the person, and on the moral and spiritual side by the soft and vapid religion of his day. Europe was ill, and was to become more so, not because knowledge or techniques were lacking but because of the want of passion, commitment. ""Away from Speculation, away from the System," he called, and "back to reality!" p. 69
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 existential way of understanding human beings has some illustrious progenitors in Western history, such as Socrates in his dialogues, Augustine in his depth-psychological analyses of the self, Pascal in his struggle to find a place for the “heart’s reasons which the reason knows not of.” But it arose specifically just over a hundred years ago in Kierkegaard’s violent protest against the reigning rationalism of his day Hegel’s “totalitarianism of reason,” to use Maritain’s phrase. Kierkegaard proclaimed that Hegel’s identification of abstract truth with reality was an illusion and amounted to trickery. “Truth exists,” wrote Kierkegaard, “only as the individual himself produces it in action.”
Symbol and myth do bring into awareness infantile, archaic dreads and similar primitive psychic content. This is their regressive aspect. But they also 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.
It is interesting that the term mystic is used in this derogatory sense to mean anything we cannot segmentize and count. The odd belief prevails in our culture that a thing or experience is not real if we cannot make it mathematical, and that somehow it must be real if we can reduce it to numbers. But this means making an abstraction out of it … Modern Western man thus finds himself in the strange situation, after reducing something to an abstraction, of having then to persuade himself it is real. … the only experience we let ourselves believe in as real, is that which precisely is not.
Rollo May
Existence (1956) p. 39; also published in The Discovery of Being : Writings in Existential Psychology (1983), Part III : Contributions to Therapy, Ch. 6 : To Be and Not to Be, p. 94
• Source: Wikiquote: "Rollo May" (Quotes, Existence (1958): Existence : A New Dimension in Psychiatry and Psychology (1958) )
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We could not even see Hitler or the destructively daimonic reality he represented. Human beings just couldn't be that cruel in the our civilized twentieth century — the accounts in the papers must be wrong. Our error was that we let our convictions limit our perceptions. We had no place for the daimonic; we believed that the world must somehow fit our convictions, and the whole daimonic dimension was ruled out of our perception. Not to recognize the daimonic itself turns out to be daimonic, it makes us accomplices on the side of the destructive possession. The denial of the daimonic is, in effect, a self-castration in love and a self-nullification in will. And the denial leads to the perverted forms of aggression we have seen in our day in which the repressed comes back to haunt us.
In the following decades “Kierkegaard remained completely unknown, Schelling’s work was contemptuously buried, and Marx and Feuerbach were interpreted as dogmatic materialists. Then a new impetus came in the 1880’s with the work of Dilthey, and particularly with Freidrich Nietzsche, the “philosophy of life” movement, and the work of Berson. The third phase came after the shock of WWI – “Kierkegaard and the early Marxists were rediscovered and the serious challenges to the spiritual and psychological basis of Western society given by Nietzsche could no longer be covered over by Victorian self-satisfied placidity. The specific form of the third phase owes much to the phenomenology of Edmond Husserl, which gave to Heidegger, Jaspers, and the others the tool they needed to undercut the subject object cleavage which had been such a stumbling block to science as well as philosophy.
In the winter of 1841 Schelling gave his famous series of lectures at the University of Berlin before a distinguished audience including Kierkegaard, Burckhardt, Engels, Bakunin. Schelling set out to overthrow Hegel, whose vast rationalist system including the identification of abstract truth with reality and the bringing of all history into an “absolute whole,” held immense and dominant popularity in the Europe of the middle of the nineteenth century. – 1844 Kierkegaard published Philosophical Fragments, and two years later he wrote the declaration of independence for existentialism, Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments. Also in 1844 there appeared the second edition of Schopenhauer’s The world as will and idea, .. central emphasis “will” along with “idea” -- two related works by Marx 1844-45 – “attacked abstract truth’ as “ideology” “using Hegel as his whipping boy” “men and groups bring truth into being” “money economy turns people into things”
Freud describes the neurotic personality of the late nineteenth century as one suffering from fragmentation – that is, from repression of instinctual drives, blocking off of awareness, loss of autonomy, weakness and passivity of the ego, together with the various neurotic symptoms which result from this fragmentation. “Kierkegaard-who wrote the only known book before Freud specifically devoted to the problem of anxiety-analyzes not only anxiety but particularly the depression and despair which result from the individual’s self-estrangement, an estrangement he proceeds to clarify in its different forms and degrees of severity. Nietzsche proclaims ten years before Freud’s first book that the disease of contemporary man is that “his soul had gone stale” he is – he describes how blocked instinctual powers turn within the individual into resentment, self-hatred, hostility and aggression. Freud did not know Kierkegaard’s work, but he regarded Nietzsche as one of the authentically great men of all time.”
There is considerable danger that psychoanalysis, as well as other forms of psychotherapy and adjustment psychology, will become new representations of the fragmentation of man, that they will exemplify the loss of the individual's vitality and significance, rather than the reverse, that the new techniques will assist in standardizing and giving cultural sanction to man's alienation from himself rather than solving it, that they will become expressions of the new mechanization of man, now calculated and controlled with greater psychological precision and on a vaster scale of unconscious and depth dimensions — that psychoanalysis and psychotherapy in general will become part of the neurosis of our day rather than part of the cure. This would indeed be a supreme irony of history. It is not alarmism nor the showing of unseemly fervor to point out these tendencies, some of which are already upon us. It is simply to look directly at our historical situation and to draw unflinchingly the implications.
Rollo May
• p. 35; also published in The Discovery of Being : Writings in Existential Psychology (1983), Part II : The Cultural Background, Ch. 5 : Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Freud, p. 86
• Source: Wikiquote: "Rollo May" (Quotes, Existence (1958): Existence : A New Dimension in Psychiatry and Psychology (1958) )
The daimonic is is obviously not an an entity but refers to a fundamental, archetypal function of human experience — an existential reality in modern man, and, as far as we know, in all men. 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. It then appears in excessive aggression, hostility, cruelty — the things about ourselves which horrify us most, and which we repress whenever we can or, more likely, project on others. But these are the reverse side of the same assertion which empowers our creativity. All life is a flux between these two aspects of the daimonic. We can repress the daimonic, but we cannot avoid the toll of apathy and the tendency toward later explosion which such repression brings in its wake.
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 in the present. The past has meaning as it lights up the present, and the future as it makes the present richer and more profound.
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.
Certainly the neurotic, anxious child is compulsively concerned with security, for example; and certainly the neurotic adult, and we who study him, read our later formulations back in the unsuspecting mind of the child. But is not the normal child just as truly interested in moving out into the world, exploring, following his curiosity and sense of adventure- going out “to learn to shiver and to shake,: as the nursery rhyme puts it? And if you block these needs of the child, you get a traumatic reaction from him just as you do when you take away his security. I, for one, believe we vastly overemphasize the human being’s concern with security and survival satisfaction because they so neatly fit our cause-and-effect way of thinking. I believe Nietzsche and Kierkegaard were more accurate when they described man as the organism makes certain values — prestige, power, tenderness — more important than pleasure and even more important than survival itself. My thesis here is that we can understand repression, for example, only on the deeper level of meaning of the human being’s potentialities. In this respect, “being” is to be defined as the individual’s “pattern of potentialities.” … in my work in psychotherapy there appears more and more evidence that anxiety in our day arises not so much out of fear of lack of libidinal satisfactions or security, but rather out of the patient’s fear of his own powers, and the conflicts that arise from that fear. This may be the particular “neurotic personality of our time” – the neurotic pattern of contemporary “outer directed” organizational man.
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 overthrow or renunciation of one government or ruler and the substitution of another." 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, on the other hand, is "one who opposes authority or restraint: one who breaks with established custom or tradition." … He 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. He may, as Socrates did, refer to himself as the gadfly for the state — the one who keeps the state from settling down into a complacency, which is the first step toward decadance. No matter how much the rebel gives the appearance of being egocentric or of being on an "ego trip," this is a delusion; inwardly the authentic rebel is anything but brash.
Rollo May
• Ch. 11 : The Humanity of the Rebel
• Source: Wikiquote: "Rollo May" (Quotes, Power and Innocence (1972): Power and Innocence : A Search for the Sources of Violence (1972))

End Rollo May Quotes