Why Give a Damn: Rediscovering Care in the Age of Autonomy
In self-help literature and pop-psychology, care and attachment have recently acquired a dubious reputation: when applied to grown-up individuals, they are often considered inappropriate, likened to restraint of liberty and rendered as 'co-dependance'. However, this drastic view undermines the human need for togetherness and warmth. How can we make care into a foundation of love without instantly falling into abuse of some (primarily, women) and infantilization of others (primarily, men)? Distinguishing between caring for and caring about may help us find a way.
Caring for implies systematic attendance by one person to another person's needs, such as care for frail, elderly and children. Not only in traditional societies but even in developed modern states caring for is often built upon hierarchical social structures, in particular, upon vast gender inequalities pertaining to domestic and emotional labor. This is why caring for needs to be recognized as labor and should not be treated as self-evident element of social structure. Being essentially an unequal relationship, perpetual caring for can't serve a sustainable basis for any form of long-term relationship between adults. Making chicken soup for a sick friend or lending them money when they are in trouble goes without saying. However, a friendship that only survives because one person cooks for the other or supports them financially, cannot last - and neither will a romantic relationship based on self-sacrifice of one person for the sake of the other.
And yet, this does not mean that we should not care. The question is rather, how should we care? Unlike caring for, caring about implies emotional commitment and involvement for everyone, it requires focused attention and empathy to every individual we encounter. Rather than trying to solve other people's problems for them, we may learn to be more empathetic with what it feels like to have these problems, in the first place.
Caring about each other should not be misconceived as the bliss of monogamy or the sanctity of marriage. The re-discovery and re-invention of attachment and care should pertain to all sorts of relationships. Whether one is a polygamous black bi-sexual, or a monogamous Asian lesbian, or a single white man, practicing attachment and care means being empathetic, being ready to experience pain and acknowledging the fact that feelings are not always explicable or articulate-able.
Caring about would require us to be upfront about our desire for togetherness - and to be humorous and self-accepting about ridiculous ways we try to fulfill this desire. Caring about would also require us to appreciate love that is unrequited and unproductive: with awe and respect we will bow our heads to it, being reminded of our volatile human nature. We will care about love's pain and suffering because they are a part of life and not just side effects of poor choices made by inexpedient individuals who ‚love too much'. And finally, through requiring us to live in compassionate connection to each other, the caring about will help us lay the foundations of a better society.
In a world ridden by loneliness, caring about something or someone is a form of revolution which requires great courage: courage to be exposed and dependent on the others. By sharing our feelings, by reaching out to bond, by allowing ‚unproductive' pain we challenge social norms that alienate and separate - and we establish new norms, more human and more livable.
Proletarians, intellectuals, refugees, women, men of the world - do care!
Join us on Wednesday, 14th of March 2018 at 19:00 for our monthly Psychoanalysis on the Street Meetup to participate in an open discussion and share your thoughts, learnings, and stories about care and autonomy.
About the facilitator:
Polina Aronsonis a sociologist and the debate editor of open Democracy Russia. She holds a Ph.D. in Sociology and is working on a book about perceptions of love in Russia and in the West.
About the format:
Psychoanalysis on the Streetis an open-discussion meetup for people interested in psychology, culture, and the arts. Our aim is to bring psychoanalysis out of the consulting room and to give individuals from all walks of life an opportunity to engage with the exploratory energy of depth psychology. No background in psychology is required.
A 5€ cover charge will be asked for this event. The maximum number of participants is limited to 30 and we advise you to buy your tickets in advance. The entrance to The Lab of Stillpoint Spaces Berlin is directly from the street Hobrechtstraße 66. We kindly ask you to arrive at least 15 minutes before the official beginning of the lecture or discussion. Please, do not ring on any of the doorbells, as our colleagues might be having counselling sessions.