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There Is No Freedom In Aggression

Aggression can only exist in relation to our own projections. If we can understand this then we can understand a lot! With regard to our own projections we are always aggressive, either ‘positively’ or ‘negatively’. There is no other possibility open to us (when we don’t see our projections for what they are) apart than either the ‘pushing’ or ‘pulling’ type of aggression, and both pushing and pulling are the same thing. Both ‘pushing something away’ and ‘pulling something towards us’ are the same thing because there is no freedom in either. When we don’t recognise our projections for what they are (i.e. when we are ‘unconscious’) then there is zero possibility of freedom for us.

Aggression (by which we mean, ‘the assertion of the self with regard to what it wants or doesn’t want’) can only work in relation to a ‘known object’ – we can’t like or dislike something that we can’t understand, something that we can’t conceptualise. We talk about ‘fearing the unknown’ it’s true but this isn’t the same as ‘disliking’ or ‘hating’ the unknown. We fear the unknown only indirectly – we can never pinpoint exactly what it is that we are afraid of. If I suffer from a phobia then I will again be able to point out exactly what it is that I am afraid of (for example birds, spiders or fish) but I can’t say why exactly I am frightened so very much by the thing that I’m phobic towards. A specific fear or phobia is a ‘dodge’ or a blind’ therefore, it’s a symbol for something, but I can’t say what it is a symbol for because the origin of my fear is not in the concrete object itself. It so just happens that ‘concrete objects’ are all I can relate to when I am in the unconscious mode, so they will have to be the carriers for my fear.

Anything ‘known’ is a projection. The world as it is in itself is both unknown and unknowable (since it isn’t a concrete object) and so of course anything ‘known’ is going to be a projection! Anything ‘known’ is by definition an extension of our categories, an extension of the ‘frame of reference’ that we carry around with us wherever we go without realising that we are. Anything known is a concept and the thinking mind creates all concepts. We are now in a position to say two things therefore: [1] is that when we live in ‘the world of known things’ then our only modality of relating is that of aggression, and [2] is that when we live in ‘the world of known things’ then there is precisely zero freedom available to us.

These two things are of course different ways of saying the same thing since, as we have already intimated, aggression means that there is ‘no freedom’. If I strike out at something, or try to push it away or subdue it then this is ‘positive aggression’ and it is unfree, and if I am on the other hand attracted towards something and try to ‘win’ it, or ‘secure it’, or ‘pull it towards me’, then this is ‘negative aggression’ and there is no freedom in this either. One is the mirror image of the other. All we are saying here is that thought there isn’t any freedom in fear or desire, aversion or attraction, and this is of course very clearly the case when we look into it. If we don’t look into it however then it isn’t clear and this is of course what ‘the unconscious life’ is all about – the unconscious life is when we think that fear and desire, aversion and attraction are the very same thing as our free volition. A bigger source of confusion and suffering than this they could never be! What more disastrous misidentification could there possibly be than believing that a bunch of senseless mechanical forces are our own true volition?

We can summarise everything that we have so far said as follows: [1] aggression can only exist in relation to our own projections, and [2] aggression (or the aggressive mode of interaction with the world) is pretty much all we know. ‘Aggression’ is, after all, the only type of activity that can come out of the ‘concrete sense of self’; it is what we call ‘purposeful’ or ‘goal-orientated’ behaviour. The question is – how much of what we do doesn’t stem from the concrete sense of self? How much of our behaviour isn’t purposeful or goal-orientated? We aren’t in this purposeful modality of existence all the time it is true, but it is – by a huge margin – the dominant mode of existence for almost all most of us.

This being the case, what does this say about our situation? What does it mean when we say that ‘aggression can only occur in relation to our projections’, and that ‘pretty much all we know is aggression’? One obvious thing that we can say is that we are obviously ‘fighting against ourselves’. I am fighting against my own projections and my ‘reactions’ are an extension of myself that I do not acknowledge as such. ‘Aggression’ doesn’t just mean ‘pushing away’ or ‘striking out’ of course, it equally well means ‘grasping’ or ‘clinging’. Whether it’s the one way or the other however it comes down to the very same thing – it comes down to pure undiluted futility either way. What could be more futile than thinking that one’s projections are either an enemy to be fought against, or a treasure to be won? What could be more time-consuming either, when we consider that no matter how long we work at it we won’t be able to run away from our shadows? We won’t be able to run away from our shadows any more than we will be able to catch them with a net and put them in a safety deposit box.

So when we are relating exclusively to our own projections this means that there is going to be no time to do anything else on the one hand, and on the other hand this means that everything we do is going to be tainted by ‘the curse of futility’. Our activities are all going to be tainted by the curse of futility because everything we set out to do we aren’t going to be able to do! We will object to this analysis of course but if all of our activities are orientated around concrete objects and if all concrete objects are constructs of the conceptual mind (and are therefore ‘our own projections’) then how are we ever going to achieve whatever it is that we think we want to achieve?  What type of nonsense are we involved in?

Everything we do (try to do) is tainted by the curse of futility because all the cars the only type of activity we are interested in is the aggressive type! We simply don’t have the patience for anything else – we want everything to happen on our own terms, and we want everything to happen right now. That’s the way we are – we’re fixated on short-term goals. The only thing however is that when we want everything to happen on our own terms, and when we want everything to happen right now, then nothing that happens as a result is going to be genuinely satisfying. It might be transiently satisfying (if and when we are able to believe that we really genuinely have ‘achieved something’) but our satisfaction (if we have any) is always going to be hollow. It’s as hollow as hell because we can never get away from the taint of futility and the only power we have is the power to is to deny it, or distract ourselves from seeing it. We can’t wash this smell out of our clothes, no matter what conditioner it we put in our wash!

This is why obtaining validation is so important to us; we have to tell ourselves – in a variety of different ways – that our activities are not futile and that – consequently – we are not futile either. We have to tell ourselves that we are not the authors of futile or meaningless acts. We define ourselves by our willed actions and so if our actions (or ‘our accomplishments’) are futile then so are we, and for this reason we have to put a lot of effort into saying that our actions are valid and meaningful, that our conceits are not conceits, that our follies are not follies, that our so-called ‘truths’ really are true, and yet all of this talk is itself nothing more than aggression and so it too will rebound on us, and haunt us all the more. There’s nothing like arrogance and denial for coming back to haunt one! We are forever making things worse for ourselves, therefore, and it was already quite bad enough in the first place…

And yet it doesn’t have to be this way – they are other modes of interacting with the world (or relating to the world) apart from the aggressive one. As soon as we see aggression for what it is it becomes obvious that there must be some other way of interacting with the world apart from the aggressive way which we know so well, but it takes a very long time to learn how to practice it. Non-aggression means not imposing our own ideas on the situation, and to ‘not impose our own ideas on every situation we’re in isn’t something that comes naturally to us! Automatically projecting our own assumptions upon the world happens automatically, it happens without us having the faintest idea that we are doing so. We would protest our innocence in this regard in the strongest terms! Naturally we don’t have the faintest clue that we are doing this – ‘projecting our unconscious assumptions on the world’ is the very essence of what we have called ‘unconscious living’.

To say this is actually to under-emphasise the matter – to not impose our ideas on the world is the most supremely difficult thing there is. To ‘do’ this is to use a muscle that we usually don’t even know that we have. This is why the word ‘do’ is itself inappropriate – the whole point is that we don’t do something, the whole point is that we – just for a change – don’t do something and then see what happens. Before this can happen however we need to have a genuine interest in ‘seeing what happens when wearen’t purposefully making something happen’ and we can’t really take this type of interest for granted! To assume that we be will be okay about ‘seeing what happens when we aren’t making something happen’ (when we aren’t relating to our own version of the world) is to assume that we aren’t living under the shadow of fear, and this is taking a lot for granted.

When we talk about aggression this is of course only just another way of talking about fear – it is fear that causes us to be aggressive, nothing else. Aggression is ‘fear that is being acted upon’, it is ‘fear that is being unquestioningly obeyed’, and yet we have turned everything around so that we believe this aggression to be the true expression of what we genuinely want. We have aligned ourselves so thoroughly with the fear that drives us that we honestly believe that what it tells us to do is what we in our hearts really want to do and this is why we have said that ‘there is no freedom in aggression’…

Author: Nick Williams

Nick Williams works and writes in the field of mental health and is particularly interested in non-equilibrium states of consciousness, which are states of mind that cannot be validated by standardized experiments or by reference to any formal theoretical perspective.
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