I am taken with the ambiguity listeners must navigate in everyday ordinary speech acts (read every conversation). The point of listening is often to ‘settle’ something — I find that’s when I become pretty ‘serious’ as a listener. Were that it were easy; that my interpretations were sound and quickly so! Not so! And for good reason if I may explore the deeper selves from which we occupy this territory — conflicted and confused. Sound familiar? I find it impossible to overstate the difficulties with listening — begin with the self; but that is not the ‘end of the story’ thank goodness! I’m reading Adam Phillips from his paper “Against Self-Criticism” (2015).
“Lacan said that there was surely something ironic about Christ’s injunction to love thy neighbor as thyself — because actually, of course, people hate themselves. Or you could say that, given the way people treat one another, perhaps they had always loved their neighbors in the way they loved themselves: that is, with a good deal of cruelty and disregard. “After all,’ Lacan writes, ‘the people who followed Christ were not so brilliant.’ Lacan is here implicitly comparing Christ with Freud, many of whose followers in Lacan’s view had betrayed Freud’s vision by reading him in the wrong way. Lacan could be understood to be saying that, from a Freudian point of view, Christ’s story about love was a cover story, a repression of and self-cure for ambivalence. In Freud’s vision we are, above all. ambivalent animals: wherever we hate we love, wherever we love we hate. If someone can satisfy us, they can frustrate us; and if someone can frustrate us we always believe they can satisfy us. And who frustrates us more than ourselves? [. . .] Love and hate — a too simple vocabulary, and so never quite the right names — are the common source, the elemental feelings with which we apprehend the world; they are interdependent in the sense that you can’t have one without the other, and that they mutually inform each other. The way we hate people depends on the way we love them and vice versa. According to psychoanalysis these contradictory feelings enter into everything we do. We are ambivalent, in Freud’s view, about anything and everything that matters to us; indeed, ambivalence, about love and hate and sex and pleasure and each other and ourselves, and so on; where there is an object of desire there must be ambivalence. But Freud’s insistence about our ambivalence . . . is also a way of saying we’re never quite as obedient as we seem to be: that where there is devotion there is always protest, where there is trust there is suspicion, where there is self-hatred or guilt there is also self-love. We may not be able to imagine a life in which we don’t spend a large amount of time criticizing ourselves and others; but we should keep in mind the self-love that is always in play. Self-criticism can be our most unpleasant — our most sadomasochistic — way of loving ourselves. We are never as good as we should be; and neither, it seems, are other people. A life without a so-called critical faculty would seem an idiocy: what are we, after all, but our powers of discrimination, our taste, the violence of our preferences? Self-criticism, and the self as critical, are essential to our sense, our picture, of our so-called selves. Nothing makes us more critical — more suspicious or appalled or even mildly amused — than the suggestion that we should drop all this relentless criticism, that we should be less impressed by it and start really loving ourselves. But the self-critical part of ourselves, the part Freud calls the super-ego, has some striking deficiencies: it is remarkably narrow-minded; it has an unusually impoverished vocabulary; and it is, like all propagandists, relentlessly repetitive. It is cruelly intimidating — Lacan writes of ‘the obscene super-ego’ — and it never brings us any news about ourselves.”