The quest to feel real

I was recently consulting in the US, when, as has become my custom after a day of consulting or presenting, I attempt to unwind by viewing television. In my years of consulting in America, I have never once actually found a program that I chose to watch. Hope nevertheless beats eternal in the human breast and I keep channel flipping through the 52 channels that range from the inane, to the puerile, crass commercial or outright obscene. The last adjective brings me to the subject at hand. During my ritual of two minute channel flipping, I saw two people performing an obscene act in a Taxi. It was that tail end of reality a program called Taxi Confessions. At the end of their act, the taxi driver pointed out that they had been filmed by a hidden camera, and if they wanted the clip to appear on HBO Channel Taxi confessions, they needed to sign a release document. The woman’s reaction was “Oh my G-d, we watch that every night” as she proceeded to sign. When I related to story to my client the next day, she informed me that HBO is the family channel!

The next interview was with a transsexual talking about the virtues of being transgendered. This experience got me wondering about the same issues that I wonder about whenever I see people in any reality show exposing themselves and their loved ones as if they were in a private therapy session.  I have always put it down to a voyeuristic society and the exhibitionism who feed them. This transgenderd person however seemed different. I realized that the issue goes deeper than I first thought. This I believe is in part a struggle for personal significance.  Celebrities get applause for acting in ways that are degenerate and debauched. It stands to reason that for the average person being obscene could turn you into an instant celebrity. Not that I think people want to all be celebrities. What they do want is to feel significant, visible and have some sense of special or unique identity. What I was witnessing I believe was a society where some people feel so invisible and insignificant that they don’t find being on nation TV exposing-or find the exposure comforting.

A great analyst spoke about how the deep recognition of another by someone who is important to them makes the child or the adult “feel real”. We all need to be noticed, to feel recognized for who we are and what we think, feel and believe and on the basis of that valued. We all need to feel appreciated and enjoyed. It is the fulfillment of these fundamental that keeps a society healthy and sane.

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