Friday, November 16, 2007
photo: NY Times
The Times recently published an enlightening article that attempts to answer the question of why we have this proliferation of giant glass condos. It's all about primitive narcissistic woundings -- and the subsequent desperation to be seen. Says psychologist Sherry Turkle, "people are no longer certain where the self resides."
Narcissism is not mentioned in the article, but Professor Turkle is a Lacanian scholar, so she surely knows a thing or two about The Gaze.
The windows in these condos--sold as "oversized" and "monolithic"--enable the people inside to be seen. At night, they also operate as gigantic two-way mirrors: the occupant sees himself and is simultaneously seen by others. This is what good-enough mothers do for their babies--they mirror the baby so the baby sees herself and is also seen. This helps the baby to develop a strong sense of self. Narcissistic mothers fail to mirror their children.
Such children will forever seek out mother's eyes. And the bigger, the better. What big eyes you have! The better to see you with, my dear. Note the popularity of oversized sunglasses. They not only mimic the large eyes of mothers, they also reflect the object's image to the self. Viewer and viewed, both in giant sunglasses, mirror each other when face to face. I see you, you see me. And yet their actual eyes are hidden, protected from the possibility of true connection, which feels frightening, perhaps because this deep need will be denied.
We all long to be seen, recognized.
The longing to be seen and mirrored is also leading us deeper into a surveillance society. Not only are we surrounded by cameras and RFID tracking devices, every glass-covered condo is, in a sense, a panopticon. But it's a prison chosen and beloved by its residents.
The real-estate machine seems to know this and condos are sold as "eye candy" with "high visibility." The newly rising Oculus condo gets right to the point. The word Oculus is Latin for "eye." It also refers to a motif in prehistoric art that Wikipedia says "may represent the watchful gaze of a god or goddess." This is like the watchful, protective gaze of the mother or father--the gaze that was missing from the early childhoods of people with narcissistic personality disorder.
Why do these young narcissists flood into New York? Naturally, anyone seeking the Gaze would be attracted to a place where there are 8 million pairs of eyes by which to be seen.