Anthropology: A New Scope

Self-alienation

Self-alienation involves the lack of the self, the absence of some of the elements of the ego which may be caused by several factors. Considering the evolutions of the self and its definite or indefinite state, we can list eight meanings for self-alienation. They can be categorized into two main groups:

1. Negative Self-alienation

Negative self-alienation includes the lack of the self or the absence of some of its elements that make man fail in his life. This form of self-alienation can be of six kinds:

1-Ignorance about the self: This kind of self-alienation has engulfed most of humanity today. Although prophets of God and great men of wisdom have preached man to discover themselves ever since the history of mankind began, their preaching has seldom been entirely fruitful. Self-knowledge is so important that an ideology is useless if it cannot make man discover himself and what is proper and appropriate to his life.

The point here is that with all the unknown and unsolved mysteries in man, how can the self-alienation caused by lack of knowledge of the domains of human life be eradicated? Considering the quality of "self-familiarity," the answer should be quite obvious, for it is one of the characteristics of human life that when it gains some extent of knowledge of its self, it can save itself from self-alienation only to that extent. Of course, if man has the capability to discover himself but does not do so, he will suffer from one of the most degraded forms of self-alienation.

2-Losing the self: In this kind of self-alienation, one sees one's self in another person. It is caused by two basic factors:

a)Extreme extroversion, where man thinks too highly of "other than himself," and is drowned in its attraction. Such an inadvertent tendency toward others can alienate man from himself. The only way to escape this kind of self-alienation is by paying attention to the fact that no advantage possessed by the "other than oneself" should make one lose one's "own self." 

b)Sometimes it is the weakness and incapability of the "self" that cannot safeguard its independence. The feeling of humiliation may lead to such weakness and incompetence.

These two factors can make man feel that he exists actually outside himself – feel that his life exists in others.

3-Self-defiance: If one knows that cruelty to others actually means cruelty toward oneself, and that escaping duties is in fact escaping one's own self, and that lying can distort reality, but still does cruel deeds and tells lies, has in fact defied his own self. When man feels his internal tendency toward the philosophy and aim of life, but destroys it with his own desires and wishes, is he not defying himself? Denying the beginning and the end of creation is a sign of self-alienation. 

4-Bargain-like self-alienation: This kind of self-alienation is based upon greed for benefit and advantage. Those who suffer from it consider themselves as merchandise that can be traded with others. They are ready to lose even themselves in return for a profit. 

5-Living with an unreal self: This kind of self-alienation involves ignoring one's own elements of life. Man neglects his own potentials and lives with his unreal self. There are two kinds of unreal self:

a)The self that is full of desires, hopes and aims that pertain to selfishness. This is the unreal self that normal people deal with. Their self, in other words, is a mere set of baseless tendencies and wishes.

b)The self that copies and imitates the life of others. Many human beings live with the self of others, not their own. They imitate the behavior and thoughts of other people; their life is no more than a photograph of others' life.

6-Ignoring the power and advantages of the self: Man has a great many potentials, which are what make him superior to other living beings. Outstanding figures of history have been those who have succeeded in activating these potentials. This is the kind of self-alienation man will suffer from if he cannot manage his potentials and advantages. In fact, several factors make him escape his potentials, and become self-alienated. As Jalal-addin Mohammad Molawi  says:

جملــه عالم ز اختيار و هست خــودمی گريزند در سر   سرمست خــود

تا دمـــی از هوشيــاری وارهـنــدننگ  خمر  و بنگ   بر  خود  می نهند

مي گريزنـد از خودی در  بيخــودیيا به مستی يا به  شغل ای مهتــدی

(People are running away from their own existence, their own free will… but where to? To stupefying infatuations that will take them far away from consciousness and awareness – if, even, momentarily. They turn to drugs and alcohol and submit to being dehumanized. With the occupation or infatuation they acquire, they are fleeing from self-consciousness toward unconsciousness, but they do not know that they will be pulled back into their natural, physical self by the chains of their desires and whims, for their escape was not upon God's command.) 

If man loses supreme self-awareness, then conflicting and contradicting forms of awareness and destructive forms of freedom can bring about his intoxication and self-alienation.

 

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