Only when firmly grounded in a strong real self can we live and share our lives with others in ways that are healthy, straight-forward expressions of our deepest needs and desires, and in so doing find fulfillment and meaning.  (Emphasis added.)

James F. Masterson, M.D.

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I have wondered why it is that zombies attract the attention that they do in today’s culture.  Why, for example, The Walking Dead is so popular or what Cormac McCarthy meant to said to us in The Road?

In James Masterson’s The Search for the Real Self: Unmasking the Personality Disorders of Our Age, he shines a light on the answer.  Simply stated, he asserts that there is no meaning to life in the false self.  And this corollary follows: only in the real or true self can one be healthy and contented.

Therein may be the answer to the fascination with zombies.

Art often shows us the core issues in, or nature of, the culture we exist in, its time and who we are in that culture and in that time.  In short, zombies fascinate us and reveal in a relatively safe way this reality: we are false in who we are, without meaning, less than we are made to be, something far less than a whole, developed human being.

These stories tell us something we might not wish to state plainly about who we are today.

In particular, Masterson tells us that the false self breeds the borderline personality – the person resting somewhere between neurotic and psychotic. This, he reminds us, is a condition arising in early childhood and puts the role of the contemporary woman as mother in the spotlight.

He makes one wonder what the effect of the post-feminist mother has on a child’s ability to seek the real or true self? What preoccupations are conveyed to the child?  What presuppositions?  And how they either advance or impede the development of a healthy real or true self?

In the aggregate, it brings this question to the fore: What habits, outlooks, behaviors does the culture further which impede the growth of the real self?  More so, what distractions are presented which incline a person to avoid the growth required and the challenges that one faces in that growth?

Insofar as borderline personality disorders are rather common place, one might default to this conclusion – the underpinnings of the disorder (fear of abandonment, selfishness, the desire to control all others and events, the narrowness of thinking, loss of intimacy, narcissism, etc.) are signs of an impaired culture – perhaps, indeed, a Zombie Culture.

Yes, “the walking dead” may be among us.

Shalom.

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