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Rollo May (1909 – 1994)


American existential psychologist, authoring the influential books Psychology and the Human Dilemma and Love and Will along with several other volumes explaining and expanding on his theories.
Rollo May
Sex can be defined fairly adequately in physiological terms as consisting of the building up of bodily tensions and their release. Eros, in contrast, is the experiencing of the personal intentions and meaning of the act. Whereas sex is a rhythm of stimulus and response, eros is a state of being. The pleasure of sex is described by Freud and others as the reduction of tension; in eros, on the contrary, we wish not to be released from the excitement but rather to hang on to it, to bask in it, and even to increase it. The end toward which sex points is gratification and relaxation, whereas eros is a desiring, longing, a forever reaching out, seeking to expand.
May quotes
Human freedom involves our capacity to pause, to choose the one response toward which we wish to throw our weight.
May
If you do not express your own original ideas, if you do not listen to your own being, you will have betrayed yourself. Also, you will have betrayed your community in failing to make your contribution.




May Rollo quotes
Man is the "ethical animal" — ethical in potentiality even if, unfortunately, not in actuality. His capacity for ethical judgment — like freedom, reason and the other unique characteristics of the human being — is based upon his consciousness of himself.
May Rollo
The daimonic power does not merely take the individual over as its victim, but works through him psychologically, it clouds his judgment, makes it harder for him to see reality, but still leaves him with the responsibility for the act. This is the age old dilemma of my own personal responsibility even though I am ruled by fate. It is the ultimate statement that truth and reality are psychologized only to a limited extent. Aeschylus is not impersonal but transpersonal, a believer in fate and moral responsibility at the same time.
Rollo May quotes
The existential way of understanding human beings has some illustrious progenitors in Western history, such as Socrates in his dialogues, Augustine in his depth-psychological analyses of the self, Pascal in his struggle to find a place for the “heart’s reasons which the reason knows not of.” But it arose specifically just over a hundred years ago in Kierkegaard’s violent protest against the reigning rationalism of his day Hegel’s “totalitarianism of reason,” to use Maritain’s phrase. Kierkegaard proclaimed that Hegel’s identification of abstract truth with reality was an illusion and amounted to trickery. “Truth exists,” wrote Kierkegaard, “only as the individual himself produces it in action.”
Rollo May
There is no meaningful "yes" unless the individual could also have said "no."
May Rollo quotes
We could not even see Hitler or the destructively daimonic reality he represented. Human beings just couldn't be that cruel in the our civilized twentieth century — the accounts in the papers must be wrong. Our error was that we let our convictions limit our perceptions. We had no place for the daimonic; we believed that the world must somehow fit our convictions, and the whole daimonic dimension was ruled out of our perception. Not to recognize the daimonic itself turns out to be daimonic, it makes us accomplices on the side of the destructive possession.
The denial of the daimonic is, in effect, a self-castration in love and a self-nullification in will. And the denial leads to the perverted forms of aggression we have seen in our day in which the repressed comes back to haunt us.
May
You can live without a father who accepts you, but you cannot live without a world that makes some sense to you.
May Rollo
The schizoid man is the natural product of the technological man. It is one way to live and is increasingly utilized — and it may explode into violence.
Rollo May
Civilization begins with a rebellion. Prometheus, one of the Titans, steals fire from the gods on Mount Olympus and brings it as a gift to man, marking the birth of human culture. For this rebellion Zeus sentences him to be chained to Mount Caucasus where vultures consume his liver during the day and at night it grows back only to be again eaten away the next day. This is a tale of the agony of the creative individual, whose nightly rest only resuscitates him so that he can endure his agonies the next day.




Rollo May quotes
The crucial question which confronts us in psychology and other aspects of the science of man is precisely this chasm between what is abstractly true and what is existentially real for the given living person.
Rollo May
Dogmatists of all kinds — scientific, economic, moral, as well as political — are threatened by the creative freedom of the artist. This is necessarily and inevitably so. We cannot escape our anxiety over the fact that the artists together with creative persons of all sorts, are the possible destroyers of our nicely ordered systems. For the creative impulse is the speaking of the voice and the expressing of the forms of the preconscious and unconscious; and this is, by its very nature, a threat to rationality and external control.
May quotes
Creativity is the result of a struggle between vitality and form. As anyone who has tried to write a sonnet or scan poetry, is aware, the form ideally do not take away from the creativity but may add to it.
May Rollo
Technology is the knack of so arranging the world that we do not experience it.
May Rollo quotes
The function of the rebel is to shake the fixated mores of the rigid order of civilization; and this shaking, though painful, is necessary if the society is to be saved from boredom and apathy. Obviously I do not refer to everyone who calls himself a rebel, but only to the authentic rebel. Civilization gets its first flower from the rebel.
Rollo May
I must make the important distinction between the rebel and the revolutionary. One is in ineradicable opposition to the other. The revolutionary seeks an external political change, "the overthrow or renunciation of one government or ruler and the substitution of another." The origin of the term is the word revolve, literally meaning a turnover, as the revolution of a wheel. When the conditions under a given government are insufferable some groups may seek to break down that government in the conviction that any new form cannot but be better. Many revolutions, however, simply substitute one kind of government for another, the second no better than the first — which leaves the individual citizen, who has had to endure the inevitable anarchy between the two, worse off than before. Revolution may do more harm than good.
The rebel, on the other hand, is "one who opposes authority or restraint: one who breaks with established custom or tradition." ... He seeks above all an internal change, a change in the attitudes, emotions, and outlook of the people to whom he is devoted. He often seems to be temperamentally unable to accept success and the ease it brings; he kicks against the pricks, and when one frontier is conquered, he soon becomes ill-at-ease and pushes on to the new frontier. He is drawn to the unquiet minds and spirits, for he shares their everlasting inability to accept stultifying control. He may, as Socrates did, refer to himself as the gadfly for the state — the one who keeps the state from settling down into a complacency, which is the first step toward decadance. No matter how much the rebel gives the appearance of being egocentric or of being on an "ego trip," this is a delusion; inwardly the authentic rebel is anything but brash.
Rollo May quotes
We define religion as the assumption that life has meaning. Religion, or lack of it, is shown not in some intellectual or verbal formulations but in one's total orientation to life. Religion is whatever the individual takes to be his ultimate concern. One's religious attitude is to be found at that point where he has a conviction that there are values in human existence worth living and dying for.
Rollo May
Many people feel they are powerless to do anything effective with their lives. It takes courage to break out of the settled mold, but most find conformity more comfortable. This is why the opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice, it's conformity.
May Rollo
Along with the loss of the sense of self has gone a loss of our language for communicating deeply personal meanings to each other. This is one important side of the loneliness now experienced by people in the Western world.


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