Wednesday, May 02, 2007

In a Sour, Sour Research Pickle

(Wow. Let's all take a second to recongize the passing of the Charlie Jade official website. I'm going to hope that means bigger and better things await it. . .like getting broadcast on US TV.)

Is that what's important?
To know what to do. . .
or the fact that you're even trying?

- Blues Paddock (Rolanda Marais),
Charlie Jade, "Episode 1.18: A Bedtime Story"

On to the main topic of this entry:

I've gotten myself into a minor pickle when it comes to research for the bachelor's project. Many months ago, I made a great breakthrough by reading up on "living traditions" and Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning. I had such a breakthrough that I finished up a paper I had been working on for two years or so, having gotten stuck in the conceptualization and development stages.

Since I started working at a small insurance agency in January, I browsed the Web a lot more randomly. While doing so, I stumbled on the concepts of stereotypical behavior and enrichment. Essentially, animals in featureless spaces engage in the unhealthy stereotypical behavior, such as pacing, rocking, swimming in circles, excessive sleeping, self-mutilation (including feather picking and excessive grooming), and mouthing cage bars. Enrichment involves the practice of creating a more stimulating and "natural" environment for animal to prevent stereotypical behavior.

When it comes to enrichment, people commonly use the word to refer to education. We all feel boredom, pace, fidget, chew our fingernails, worry, ruminate obsessively and get involved in our own stereotypical behavior while in an unstimulating environment and situation. At some point after discovering these concepts, I thought they could be applied to humans and utopianism easily. After all, Brave New World comes off as something of a bland environment, which requires drugs to distract people from the blandness. Fahrenheit 451 criticizes unstimulating environments, on some level, too. Frankly, my novel does.

Sadly, making the connections hasn't proved so easy. I should take some blame for it, though, as I took a somewhat long way about before finding a bit of direction. Going back to Viktor Frankl, I saw connection to existential therapy. Unfortunately, after researching both the therapy and some more about existentialism and the various philosophers of that "school," I didn't really get anywhere. Their theories felt way too subjective, metaphysical and didn't really shed any light on the interplay between individuals and society.

Going back to Frankl again, I learned that his main influence was Alfred Adler, who was an associate with Sigmund Freud for some time. Adler has influenced psychology and pop psychology quite a bit. He introduced the inferiority complex and the idea that child order, from oldest to youngest to only child, influences the personality of the children. As something of a paraphrase of the relationship between Adler and Freud: Freud took a negative, romantic view toward society -- people developed neuroses because society warped them -- Adler took a postive view -- people developed neuroses because they didn't adapt to society.

I've gotten into doing some preliminary reading of Adler on the Web because I don't want to purchase another book only to find that his theory doesn't work for me. The material on the Web that focuses on Adler is vast and doesn't necessarily focus on the aspect that interests me so much: the interplay and interdependence between individuals and society. Supposedly, he says that individuals should have social interest in taking part in society but they should also have their own individual subjective goals that, I'm guessing, they can only accomplish while in society. Furthermore, once an individual has accomplished some of their goals, they will develop new ones and so on and so forth. Of course, individuals can have maladaptive relationships with society because of their environment, situations and how other people treat them. A person who adapts to society will generally thrive. . .and I'm starting to have a feeling that Brave New World and stories of that ilk criticize hedonistic and distracting societies by intentionally or unintentionally (can't say which. . .) based on the fact that even though individuals are "happy," they don't have individual goals, don't really have meaning, thus they're not really psychologically healthy. Still a lot of details to work out on this one.

The fiancee and other people who know me well probably groan while reading this entry. They will wonder if this tangential research will lead me on an unproductive detour over the next year or so. I don't plan to let it do so. After all, I don't have to write any papers on Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451 or that kind of dystopia. I'm just writing that kind. I think I have enough theory to finish the project without Adler. Nonetheless, I think with his help, I can write a better novel and provide better insight into utopianism.

Nonetheless, still in a pickle. I really do need to get better at this research thing if I hope to become a freelance writer or, at the least, write novels and stories faster than I do already. Ah well. . .guess that will have to be my next goal that society will help me accomplish.

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