Buddhist babies vs. Freudian freaks

March 31, 2015

Other than the parents you see on TLC and Nancy Grace, I think most folks want to raise children who are compassionate and caring and not monsters who follow the flowchart into mass murder. It’s not easy because all babies start out as future Charles Mansons.

According to the good Doctor Freud, we are born with primitive Id drives, the pleasure principle. The Id is the “Me” in us all that wants it right now, whatever it is. Babies are selfish creatures. If it feels good, do it! (As I type this Cozy is farting. At least I hope it’s just farting.) This aids in baby’s survival. I want to eat! I want to sleep! I want to crap my pants! Deal with it, Dad!

Around age 2, the kids starts recognizing that society don’t play that shit forever and you gotta start learning the rules. Potty training is the big one. All of sudden those biological urges that were just followed now have some social restraints. You can’t just pee whenever you need to. This is the development of the Superego, according to Freud. It’s the “They” that is meant to balance the “Me.” Our Ego sits between them and decides who we should listen to, the devil on our left shoulder (Id) or the angel on our right (Superego).

The problem is this “psychodynamic” isn’t always balanced perfectly. Sigmund blames the parents here. (I knew it!) An overbearing parent that pushes potty training and other rules too early or too harshly creates an overpowering superego and a grade A neurotic. Imagine a 3-year-old Woody Allen. “Why should penis envy be limited to girls?”

As a fellow neurotic, I would say the opposite is even more frightening. When the superego doesn’t show up, you are left with the unrestrained Id and a full-blown sociopathic personality. Eric Hickey’s wonderfully researched and insanely creepy book, Serial Murderers and Their Victims, makes the case that at least 80% of serial killers are sociopaths. Look at the three child antecedents of any self-respecting serial killer; bed wetting, animal cruelty, and fire starting. If it feels good do it. Fuck society.

So as a neurotic, I live in fear that I will raise a serial killer. Fortunately, since Cozy is female the statistics are in her favor. (Only about 15% of serial killers are ladies.) She won’t have the same rush of teenage testosterone telling her to listen to the devil. But we are in by no means safe from her wrath.

Cozy Blazak, 7 months, is a raging Id. She knows what she wants and she will tell you. She doesn’t have words. It’s more like a low guttural growl. Have you ever seen Linda Blair in The Exorcist? When I first heard it, I thought she was pooping. No. She’s wanting. When she sees me preparing a bottle, Arrrgh! When we’re having morning coffee, Arrrgh! (She likes to rub her teeth on the mug.) When Dad’s gotta a spoonful of peanut butter in his mouth, Arrrgh! When Mom is topless, Arrrgh! Oh wait, that’s me.

She is consumed with desire. It’s certainly a normal state in our consumerist society. Like shoppers at the opening bell on Black Friday ready to kill to save $20 on a Keurig coffee machine, we are trained to want. But that way leads to misery and credit card debt. As Jedi Master Yoda once said, “Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will.”

I think we can agree that Buddhists are pretty happy campers. Science backs up that their core principles are the things that make people the happiest.

10 things science (and Buddhism) says will make you happy

You don’t have to be a chanting monk in the Himalayas to adopt some basic principles of Buddhism. The most challenging for Americans is the issue of desire. Capitalism is based in desire. “I desire an Apple Watch, no matter the debt it may incur, the labor conditions that created it or the toxic waste it may generate. I NEED IT!!!!!” Shut the fuck up. You don’t “need” it. You need food, water, shelter and the occasional booty call.

Buddhists believe that all life is suffering and that suffering is caused by desire. If you eliminate desire, you eliminate suffering. Now I’m not about to eliminate my desire for the new Alabama Shakes album, but I’ve certainly cut back on wanting crap that I don’t really need and it feels good.

Can I pass this liberation from want to my daughter. What will a 5 or 15-year-old Cozy tell me that she “needs”? Of course, I will want to spoil her. But will freeing her from wanting the new i-gadget be more valuable than the gadget itself? Can I build an angel on her shoulder that sounds like Yoda?

I had a beautiful moment with a wonderful mentor named Albert Cohen. Cohen wrote Delinquent Boys in 1955 and it played a huge role in my thinking about racist skinheads. He was born in 1918 but is still alive and a vital voice in the field of criminology. We were having coffee in 1994 in Miami at the annual conference of the American Society of Criminology.

He was telling me that he was cleaning out his office at the University of Connecticut and getting rid of many of his old books. (I’m doing the same thing with my PSU office right now, sadly.) He was in the process of downsizing his life and moving, with his wife, into a smaller house. His mother was still alive and living in a retirement home. He said something powerful at that moment:

“We spend our lives accumulating things. Now I’m trying to get rid of most of the things I’ve collected over the years. All the things my mother cares about in the world now fit into a drawer next to her bed.”

We live in an id-driven culture of want. It causes so much suffering. Cozy is in the Id stage right now and that’s important, but comes a time to be free from want.

This book was mentioned in this blog and available at Powell’s by clicking the cover.

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