I am just back from my Cold Therapy Seminar in Touno, Civivin, in Romania, a great seminar with the best audience, the liveliest and the loveliest I have ever had. And I am proceeding from here to Budapest in October. More precisely, I have availability between the 20th and the 23rd of October, should any one of you wish to have a counseling, face-to-face, in-person session. And I am also available in Vienna on the 10th of October for identical purposes.
One of the things that bother me a lot in psychology is that we tend to discard old concepts, concepts whose time have come. We throw out the old and we bring in the new. We have zero institutional memory.
For example, very few people remember the work of Anthony Giddens, G-I-D-D-E-N-S. In the description area, you will find references to his work and to other people who have continued his work. It's an amazing body of studies, essays, contemplation and field research. And it dealt with the issue of ontological insecurity in the reflexive self. These are the topics of today's lecture.
We start with ontological insecurity. It is an existential issue. It is about a person's sense of being in the world.
Ontology. An ontologically insecure person does not accept the reality or the existence of things, of themselves, of others.
And if this reminds you a lot of narcissism, it's for good reasons because narcissists are ontologically insecure. They can't perceive other people as external objects. They interact only with internal objects, interjects within their mind.
And even there, there is a gap, a lacuna, a void, an emptiness the narcissist cannot even perceive himself as some sort of entity.
There is a problem even on this level.
So as far as a narcissist is concerned, existence itself is in doubt. The ontologically secure person has a stable, unquestioned sense of self, has a stable, unquestioned sense of his or her place in the world in relation to other people and objects.
Now the concept of ontological insecurity is very important if we want to understand, if we wish to understand the related concept of identity. It is an existential approach to identity because ontological security is the essential foundation for someone to achieve a stable sense of self identity.
Again, existentially speaking, if a person doesn't believe that he or she exists, if a person doesn't believe that other people are real, if a person even doubts the existence of objects, that person becomes solipsistic.
It does not have the necessary foundation to develop a stable self identity.
Ontological insecurity is at the heart and core of identity disturbance in both borderline and narcissistic personality disorders.
You see, most people accomplish a sense of ontological security. They are sure they're pretty certain that they exist as separate entities. They're pretty certain that other people exist, separate from themselves.
They have accomplished, most people have accomplished separation from mother and then individuation, not so, the narcissist.
And this basic acceptance of the existence of oneself and the existence of others allows people to function in day to day life, allows them to maintain reality testing.
Narcissists are dysfunctional and they have no reality testing or proper reality testing.
But how do you go about accomplishing ontological security? How do we acquire this belief in the continuity, reliability and consistency of oneself, of other people, of things out there in the world? How do you avoid becoming a psychotic on the one end of the spectrum and the narcissist on the other?
Both the psychotic and the narcissist confuse external objects with internal objects and consequently they are not sure that anything exists internally or externally. The lines are blurred and everything becomes fuzzy and fog-ridden.
To develop ontological security, a person must first trust.
Ericsson called it basic trust. The person must learn to trust, develop a generalized sense of trust in the nature and stability of social structures, environments, the world out there and the world in here.
And this type of generalized trust is established in childhood and maintained through experience and routine. It is well documented that good parenting or good enough parenting engenders in children a sense of trust in others and in things out there in the world.
Through consistency in parenting practices, unconditional love coupled with firm boundaries setting and discipline, these kind of practices teach children that other people, especially adults, can be trusted and that through practice they could become almost perfect.
Children through routine obtain a sense of the reliability and stability of social and physical world structures.
And so people who are healthy, people who are relatively normal, have gone through a phase in childhood of separating from the parent and yet the parent had acted as a secure base, fostering secure attachment later in life and people carry this generalized sense of well-being and trust with them into adulthood and it protects them against existential angst, against anxiety.
Establishment of flexible, not rigid, not obsessive, but flexible routines is also important as adults for maintaining a general sense of trust and for reducing anxiety and this is at the core of what we call self-identity, both the establishment of self-identity and the ongoing lifelong task of maintaining your self-identity.
Now generalized trust is acquired in early childhood but it has to be reaffirmed. It has to be confirmed by repeated experiences with other people, time and again lifelong throughout the lifespan. It is not ensured, it is not immutable or unchanging, it could be lost at any minute as many victims of abuse would demonstrate.
Research has shown that accidents, unexpected life events, traumas can undermine this basic trust and threaten the person's ontological security and what I'm trying to say is that you can easily switch from being ontologically secure to being ontologically insecure.
Anthony Giddens' theory of self-identity is based on this premise of ontological security.
We will discuss his reflexive self-concept a bit later in this lecture.
Giddens argues that the processes of late modernity and post-modernity have eroded many of the traditions that have underpinned trust in the nature and stability of the social and material world.
He says that modern life is inherently ontologically insecure because it had dispensed with all the traditions which were the foundations, constituted the foundations of our ontological security in pre-modern societies.
This is very reminiscent of many of the claims made by Jordan Peterson. Whereas pre-modern societies are characterized by tradition, religion, routine and therefore meaning, it's easy to make sense of pre-modern societies.
Modern societies are characterized by rapid cycling, enormous change, uncertainty and indeterminacy in every field of life, economy, employment, culture, family, institutions, beliefs, values, you name it, everything is in flux, pantabé.
There are many psychological and psychosocial threats in modern life. There's an inbuilt instability.
Growth in essence is change and our whole way of life is founded on consumerism which is intended to guarantee growth.
But I repeat, growth is change. Growth is instability in work, in family life, in employment, you name it, in education.
A person needs to develop the ability to take for granted something, some everyday happenings, other people, material goods, the need to take for granted is another way of describing ontological security.
People who do not become caught in a perpetual state of anxiety about the future are people who are ontologically secure.
So the desire and the need to manage potential threats, to avoid risks, this desire and need have become the cornerstones of our modern existence.
We are battling off anxiety and risk and threats all the time and this raises fundamental issues of can we trust others, can we trust institutions, can we trust the world and if we can't, if the answer is no, we cannot, what does our identity consist of?
Our identity consists of our interactions with other people. Our identity is relational, it's social, it's interpersonal but modern individuals cannot have an identity by definition because there's no one out there to rely on and to trust and to manage this overwhelming insecurity, to manage this dysregulating indeterminacy and in a way unpredictability and capriciousness embedded in day-to-day living, we develop all kinds of dysfunctional strategies to achieve and to maintain a status or a state of ontological security and ironically it is exactly by deploying these strategies that we reduce the certainty in our lives and increase ontological insecurity.
In other words our strategies are self-defeating and self-destructive.
One of the processes identified by Anthony Giddens is reflexivity.
Individuals respond to social change and to the resulting insecurity by engaging with expert systems and by using information to assess their positions in the social and material worlds that they inhabit.
In other words individuals rely on information to position themselves and this process of positioning endows them with some kind of awe.
I know where I stand, I can feel safe.
By placing themselves in their own fields of view and by assessing their positions in social and material worlds which they inhabit, individuals can be assured of their own existence and manage the risks associated with modern life according to the Encyclopedia of Identity.
But if we take this to extreme, which most of us are forced to do because the rate of change is so ginormous that we are forced to implement these strategies habitually, automatically, recurrently, it's out of control.
So if this is taken to extreme the process of reflection itself can and does generate anxiety.
An ontologically secure person does not need to engage in a process of reflection. If you are ontologically secure, healthy and normal you don't reflect on the question whether other people exist. You don't reflect on yourself within your field of view. You don't need to position yourself. You just are. Being and becoming have become belabored processes requiring investment, commitment, reflection and mirroring.
This is abnormal. This is abnormal. We should be able to trust and accept things as they are without having to go through a layer of cognition.
This is again at the core of narcissism because the narcissism is one cognitive layer removed from himself and from the world. He has to think about things in order to conceptualize self-reflexivity and the ability to engage in the process of self-reflexivity.
These are partly structurally determined by the environment but they vary depending on class, gender, ethnicity and mental health or lack thereof.
And so the concept of ontological security is important because it suggests that people need more than just material needs.
So in order to feel happy or even functional, in order to have fulfilled lives or self-actualized lives to borrow Abraham Maslow's term, you need to be ontologically secure because if you are insecure, you are not able to develop and maintain a stable sense of self-identity.
You have trouble negotiating and feeding in society and other aspects of the world that you reside in could be material aspects, could be other people.
This ontological insecurity, this has a profound impact, your inability to trust the universe so to speak. That affects your well-being.
There's research that indicates that ontological insecurity is associated with poor physical and mental health, with offending behavior, with housing instability and insecurity, with national conflict, with mental health disorders such as narcissism, schizoid, paranoid and borderline personality disorder.
So this is the concept of ontological insecurity.
In the description you will find literature about this concept.
The next video will be dedicated to another one of Anthony Giddens' revolutionary concepts at the time and that is the reflexive self.
It is such a pity that we discard yesterday's concepts and ideas as so much youth laundry because there's such vast richness in the last hundred years of psychology that we no longer have access to.
We have excluded from curricula and syllabi all over the world and our youth, our young ones, they are no longer exposed to these riches, these treasures and I'm doing my best to reintroduce them through my videos with the limited appeal that they have.
Thank you for listening and proceed now to the next lecture about the reflexive self.