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Humanity’s Icarus Complex.

Firstly a brief tale of Icarus:

Icarus needed to escape from Crete, constructing wings to fly to safety, the wings were made of feathers and wax. He was warned not to fly to low lest his wings get wet and not too high lest the sun melts the wax. The young Icarus was thrilled by the flight, but did not heed the warnings; he flew too close to the sun, at which point the wax melted and he fell into the sea.

Psychology has termed a concept the ‘Icarus complex’ which centers on a person’s insatiable ambition and the need to achieve excess in all things. To the Greeks the Icarus complex was known as hubris, the excessive pride and ambition usually leading to the downfall of the hero in a classical tragedy. The Icarus complex psychologically becomes a pattern that humanity exhibits through burning ambition and exhibitionism, often understood through the subjective lens that depicts a precipitous fall whilst craving immortality. The psychological characterisation of Icarus before his fall becomes an inevitable connection between the ascensionist and the narcissist cynosure.  Finally when Icarus has attained an excessive height he falls as his waxen wings have been melted by the sun. Stanley Kubrick taking the Apollonian stance towards Icarus’ flight: “I’ve never been certain whether the moral of the Icarus story should only be, as is generally accepted, ‘don’t try to fly too high,’ or whether it might also be thought of as ‘forget the wax and feathers, and do a better job on the wings”. Contrasting to Kubrick is Oscar Wilde and his stance that one should:

“Never regret thy fall,
O Icarus of the fearless flight
For the greatest tragedy of them all 
Is never to feel the burning light.”

The fall of Icarus becomes a cautionary tale to understand the value of moderation. Henry Murray first coined the term ‘Icarus complex’, later the complex has been associated to mania, whereby a person exhibits grandiosity or narcissistic inclinations and a fascination for heights. The tale of Icarus is to take the middle way, cautioning against the heedless pursuit of instant gratification. The concept of the Icarus complex reveals that when the gap between the idealised goal and reality is great, there is a greater chance that the endeavour will end in failure. Icarus represents the sin of hubris, which can be interpreted through biblical texts which state that pride goes before a fall.

Imagery of Icarus shows him smiling as he descends as his father watches in horror, the painting illustrates that life goes on, the plight of Icarus is irrelevant, the farmer will continue to plough and the ship captain will continue on his voyage without a care as Icarus drowns in the water. The image of Icarus conveys the joy in flight, the value in his triumph, no matter how short-lived. The complex associated with Icarus conveys the pendulous emotional polarities, mania is exhibited by flying too high, whereby he got “burned”, followed closely by his inevitable emotional crash that followed his flight of mania into depression – drowning in the ‘sea’ of depression.

It can be argued that mania can therefore be interpreted as a form of ambition, an excessive ambition that ends in disaster. Another interpretation of Icarus regards his pursuit of enlightenment by transcending the Earth, this suggests grandiosity. The story of Icarus also embodies every humans potential to have differing levels of manic-depressive states, our moods fluctuating. The psychoanalysis of Icarus suggests that he was in a manic state, dominated by hyperactivity and euphoria. Icarus’ state of mind remaining unchecked, progressively losing his sense of reality and oblivious to the potentially fatal risk associated with his flight. His grandiose belief and overestimation of his personal capabilities allow a never ending energy and illusion to drive him onwards.

“It is not a matter of indifference whether one calls something a ‘mania’ or a ‘god’. To serve a mania is detestable and undignified, but to serve a god is full of meaning.” C. G. Jung.

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Does The Term ‘Manic Pixie Dream Girl’ Allow Sexism To Be Better Perceived?

Let me first define a ‘manic pixie dream girl’: A stock character in films noted for being shallow, quirky, feminine and providing inspiration for brooding protagonist male characters. It has been claimed that the term is merely a mendacious trope. The trope suggests that the girl has no interests or agency of her own. The MPDG concept suggests that the qualities of so many women are best employed in assisting a man. Does the use of MPDG allow women in movies to reproduce and exemplify the misogynist? Movies using a MPDG character allow women to be put into subgroups, ultimately impacting on how men will perceive women’s contributions. The concept becomes a trope because it creates women to be one-dimensional and having no interests or desires of their own, useful only for the male counterparts as inspiration.

The archetype of the MPDG needs to be retired, but do women start to relate and recognise counterparts and relatable aspects of MPDG within themselves? Have women started becoming serial monogamists, which have relationship after relationship, becoming a role and moving on? Some women wanting to be idolised as their partner’s muse and inspiration, the role becomes appealing. I’m starting to believe in some respects that ‘some’ women become the MPDG as a reaction created from stereotypes that have been given to them in the past and are still present in some aspects of society, women becoming a product of misogyny which has been directed at them.

I’m actually extremely interested if there is an analogy for a man that presents the same characteristics of the MPDG, allowing sexism (for once) to be recognised and present within male roles. Men are often conveyed as more one-dimensional (women are from mars etc), I’ve had many male friends and boyfriends that conveyed that they had nothing on their mind,  becoming a gender that doesn’t have an original thought or higher thought levels. I recognise that this is highly untrue, yet they are quickly stereotyped and put in the same mental and confining ‘box’ or parameters that are given to MPDG.

Maybe i should call the male representatives: ‘manic pixie dream guy’, he exists solely to help the female protagonist reach her goals. I honestly wonder why these terms are mostly coined to women, usually in a negative lighting. Is it used to try and impose negative connotations for behaviour that doesn’t conform to society? Either way I’m not a big fan of this terminology, I will admit that at times I have even acted like a MPDG, yet it was short-lived, I usually quickly reaffirm my individual identity, these out-dated terms need to be realised and discarded, surely society has moved past this point.

I would like to thank hazelnutpie for introducing me to the concept.

https://hazelnutpie.wordpress.com/

Is Mania A Defense Against Depression?

“Much madness is divinest sense-
To a discerning eye-
Much sense – the starkest madness”

– Emily Dickinson

Is mania a counter- defensive action against depression? Depression is simply symptoms that underlie a disorder, mania in many instances appearing as a series of transitory flights that create euphoria. Mental disorders are usually artfully denied, the denial acting as gauze; willful denial acting as an opiate. The people around me actively participate in the denial delusion, crediting external influences for my current mental state. Depression and paradoxically the psychotropic drugs (medication that can induce anxiety, nervousness, impaired judgment, mania, hypomania, hallucinations, feelings of depersonalization, psychosis and suicidal thoughts, while being used to treat the same symptoms) all cause the self (in my experience) to become a sub-form of itself.

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Others perceive mania and hypomania to reveal horrifying parts of themselves. People often find it difficult to reconcile with the behaviors that are being presented during these episodes, perceiving these behaviors to be part of their denied inner psyche. Their ‘sick’ self has no accountability and the later ‘improved self’ has apologizing and explaining to do. Ultimately both mania and depression represent defensive actions of the self to counterbalance and stabilize (to an extent) the unstable mind. Often the transformation of the self that is experienced by the person with the mental disorder is the most disturbing part about being ill. Patients often find that doctors don’t engage with the topic of ‘self’ in their target to stabilize their patient, but for me I have to believe that my idea of ‘self’ has to be there in its completeness to truly feel well.

Losing your ‘self’ is a grief issue and needs strategies in place to either remedy the situation or for the patient to come to terms with their ‘new self’. Strangely I don’t feel like the same person I was 6 months ago, but I also believe that’s about progressing through life, but when your ‘self’ is altered through depression/mania and medication it is perceived differently from growing into a new person. It becomes a forced transition through the experiences and environmental factors around the person. A man with bipolar disorder said “Because everyone there was grieving over the loss of another person. I was grieving for myself. For who I used to be before I got sick and who I am now.”

It is my honest perception that mania and depression are defenses against each other. Manic-depressive patterns surround the struggle against personal annihilation. Mania embodies a transitory liberation from a subjugated, annihilating tie to emotionally important others, whereas depression represents the reinstatement of that tie. The liberation versus reinstatement is a constant mental struggle and retaliation, more importantly does this illustrate the chemical imbalance trying to over-rectify its irregularities? These are just my over analytical subjective bipolar musings.

**My thoughts are a bit haphazard today and hazy, sorry if some stuff doesn’t make sense, eh Epilim is really making it difficult to not become a marshmallow.

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Epilim Killed The Sex-Drive.

My emotions have hit a mental wall. Am I meant to feel this way; the mental exhaustion is wearing thin. In the past few weeks I’ve become aware that the mood stabilizer I’m taking has killed my sex drive (libido). I don’t think I’m depressed, I just don’t seem to care either, not dispassionate, just lacking both my highs and lows, I’m not unmotivated but I’m not my usual perky self. The medication hasn’t affected my ability, but I’m not seeking anything either. I’ve looked at other reports of Epilim killing sex drives; guess it’s not only me.

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Feels like I’ve been stabilized emotionally, but I’ve been stabilized in a mild depressive state. Epilim allows me to be less anxious and I also believe it made me cycle out of hypomania. This feeling of mild depression makes me less functional, for the first time in weeks I actually had an afternoon nap. The first weeks of taking 500mg to start off with had a lot of nausea, currently at the end of week two of taking Epilim and at a 1000mg dose the nausea seems to have abated. I’m hoping that my functionality towards tasks will increase again; I don’t want to let myself get bogged down. I’m not sexually promiscuous, but I can be a bit demanding, having that part of me missing is extremely bizarre and foreign. Epilim is a good mood stabilizer but I would like the small depressive symptoms to abate.

THE SICK TWISTEDNESS OF REALITY.

Today is the end of an era in my life, an end to something I thought was finished. Today is her funeral, my grandmothers, its overcast and way too early, the drive was exhausting. By breakfast the sun is too bright and the birds too loud, my hastily covered black chipped nail polish is a stark contrast and reminder against the quickly applied shade of white, the quick efforts of respectability failing at closer inspection. My hair hangs loosely around my shoulders as I try to make my numerous piercings less noticeable. After the over-religious service we are brought to the burial site, my sister and I don’t approach, choosing to stand yards behind the rest of the party even after being beckoned by the other members of our immediate family.

I will not approach that grave, not in these circumstances; it will be on my own terms when I choose it to happen. Against my father’s wishes he was buried at his mother’s behest at the hometown cemetery in a double deep grave. Today that grave was opened so that my grandmother’s body could be placed with his. The nauseous feeling within starts to well-up, the sick dread that they’ll spend eternity in a shared place. I have never been here before; I doubt I will be here again. Within my grandmothers casket I’ve been told that a porcelain doll has been placed over her chest. My grandmother can now take her treasures and her son with her to whatever destination she has chosen to foresee. I can feel everyone’s eyes on my sister and I as they notice that we stand apart, a deliberate isolation. Some of them not realising that there stands the open grave of a father I never knew, others watching carefully to see our reactions. Everyone here knows that it was his choice to leave this life.

The unreality of the situation feels like a mockery, my sisters and I being duped. It starts to feel as if we’re still too close; this twisted charade of a funeral is only enhanced by the shadows of the trees and the eerie chirping of the birds. Today is grandma’s day, I can feel it somehow, she got everything she wanted from today, and even in death she was the victor. I have to acknowledge that she loved us girls, her son was reflected in our eyes and looks, yet history can’t rewrite itself, this chapter in life can’t be told any other way. The family I never see and knew are all approaching, trying to make the awkwardness dissipate, trying to include us; my mind is yelling that we don’t belong here. I’ve paid my respects to Grandma, talking about my father makes me cringe, people who don’t know me start talking about my father, Grandma’s funeral doesn’t need this added tastelessness.

They couldn’t just let us be, some find comfort from talking about the dead. The dead are dead and they aren’t coming back. The imposter that is respectability lasts the day, the hoax serving to reinforce my mother’s reputation, my mother is a lovely woman, today was about representing her to the best of our abilities. Today we were the ‘perfect’ daughters of a widow; I will not let the sadness and anger about the cards I’ve been dealt to show through the cracks of respectability. The last connection to him is now over, my sisters and I can finally be done.

The irony on his tombstone: “He lived for those he loved”.

I realise that a lot of people won’t agree with what I’ve written here. These were the events of yesterday and part of my history. Sorry that there is so much anger, lack and of compassion and empathy, but we make our beds to the best of our abilities.

Happiness Isn’t Our ‘Natural’ State Of Mind.

The reason we want things isn’t because they will make us intrinsically happy, instead we expect them to bring us happiness. The paradox of happiness, whereby we can live in conditions that have improved significantly over the generations, yet our level of actual ‘happiness’ hasn’t been enriched. I’d call it ‘smoke with no fire’, people creating reasons to gain happiness yet no noticeable effect. What are the causes of happiness? Do the contents of our moment to moment experiences reflect a truer form of happiness?

People in some instances are incapable of finding their own happiness, always in pursuit. The idea of happiness becomes a fugitive emotion that remains intangible despite achieving successes. You have to examine what it intrinsically means to pursue happiness both morally and ideologically. It has been judged that the psychic damage is caused by the educational and economic systems, pretending to find logical solutions to human unhappiness. The perception of happiness is becoming entangled by social and intellectual idealisations. The pursuit of happiness has become naturally embedded within culturally acceptable norms. The psychological and emotional consequences of pursuing happiness in contemporary society analyses what constitutes as true happiness often contrasting with the over dramatized unhappiness.

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People insist that the notion of happiness can’t be left in the dominion of vague feelings or inexplicable internal conviction, requiring empirical reasoning and calculation, and not merely left as an ambiguous sentiment.  Using empirical reasoning to judge happiness would neglect the subjective nature of happiness, interpretations of happiness often misinterpreting utilitarianism and hedonism as happiness. Andrew H. Mills poses the question:  “Suppose that all your objects in life were realized; that all the changes in institutions and opinions which you are looking forward to, could be completely effected at this very instant: would this be a great joy and happiness to you?’ And an irrepressible self-consciousness distinctly answered, ‘No!”.

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We then can argue how reliably aware are we of our own happiness, often referring to past days as “happy old days”, but is that a reliable judge of emotion? Seeking happiness means to accept and commit oneself to examining the incompatible desires and values that are internally manifested. Is ‘true’ happiness actually attainable, or is it merely a pedestal sentiment that is unreachable, promoting people to keep trying harder to pursue ‘true’ happiness. Mills has further stated that mental cultivation and selfishness generates unhappiness. My belief is that to achieve a semblance of happiness people need to share the view that human life is imperfectly arranged, but that its wrapped in potential.

Charles Dickens: “Where is happiness to be found then? Surely not everywhere? Can that be so, after all? Is this my experience?”

Mania Of The Past Through The Lens Of The Present.

You can’t in any whole capacity understand the mania of the past through the lens of the present. What was originally termed ‘mania’ in the past currently exhibits little resemblance to the ‘mania’ experienced by people with bipolar disorder. Mania has always existed as a form of madness, in contemporary psychiatry ‘mania’ signifies as an episode or as a pole on the affective spectrum. There is a strong need to transform the image of madness, re-framing mental illness as a positive, at least the hypomanic edge that it correlates with. When you’re truly manic the repercussions of your actions never gain much thought, there is a certain amount of ‘glamour’ attached to mania, a sheen that creates easy oblivious actions which have little association to your ‘normal’ train of thought.

The bliss of oblivion. Many people would prefer to be the manic sprite instead of the depressive shade that haunts their homes when darkness encroaches. There are no romantic notions towards depression for those who experience it recurrently; depression is a beast that slowly eats away all the feelings inside, leaving you numb and vulnerable. The clinical terms used to categorise bipolar disorder act like an oversized ad-campaign sign on a main road that reads ‘manic-depressive’. It feels like an endless resistance to the labels, the labels becoming the straightjacket of mental illness, restrictive and confining.

kj