Final Paper” On The Birth of Carlos”Juan Aboites
In the reading “If Rape Were Legal”, the subject, Carlos, is deathly afraid of his own mortality and he is in denial about this mortality and about what kind of an effect it will have on the people he loves. For example, he is unaware of the impact his behavior will have on his kids and then subsequently on their kids, and their kid’s friends, etc. Carlos’s problem is that he is most concerned with the physical aspect of death, this is what he is most afraid of, and what he believes is the most important thing about death, the death of the physical being, something that is not quite true.
The story of Carlos begins when a young psychologist was concerned about his behavior and attitude towards other members in his therapy group. He was being insensitive to the problems of other’s, especially of one woman’s trauma after being raped. Already at the beginning we see signs of a fear of physical death. His own justification at saying these things is that what he is going through (chemotherapy, the knowledge that there is no question he will die within a few years) is much worse than what these women have gone through. His reasoning is that rape is something that happens to you and then it’s over, that you can still go on living your life. According to Elisabeth Kubler-Ross there is no need to fear physical death, but there is reason to fear what kind of mark your personality, your self, will leave once your physical body is gone. “You may view the eternal essence of your existence in terms of the impact your every mood and action has on those you touch, and then in turn, on those they touch, and on and on-even long after your life span is completed. (357)” This is exactly what Carlos is missing, the realization that the things that he does will leave an impression on all of those people he has had dealings with, a very negative impression. For example, after the woman in Carlo’s therapy group hears the insensitive comments directed towards her and towards her rape experience, on top of the experience itself, she may have trouble having relationships with other men, and be in a state of constant distrust at revealing her emotions and may have very much difficulty carrying on loving relationships with other men. These are the types of effects that, even after a person is dead, can have on those that are still living. This is something Carlo’s simply cannot realize, he is too wrapped up in feeling sorry for himself and in his problems, that he does not realize what kinds of bad things he is causing and what kind of negative effects he is having on the world.
Besides being afraid, Carlos is in denial about the short time he has left to live. This denial comes naturally from being afraid. Kubler-Ross talks about denial and its effect on people’s behavior. “It is the denial of death that is partially responsible for people living, empty purposeless lives” (357). Here, Kubler-Ross is once again saying that the reason most people live empty lives is because they are id denial about their death. “Since we stopped chemotherapy two months ago, I go days at a time without thinking of the cancer. That’s goddamn good, isn’t it-to forget, to be free of it, to be able to live a normal life for a while” (77)? Here Carlos is sure that being in denial, or forgetting about it, is a good thing. But in reality his denial only serves to desensitize himself and his compassion for other people. This can be seen in his unsupportive stance to the women and all the others in his therapy group. It possible to see how his defense system, protecting him against the fears of death, operates and how his attitude changes with the varying degrees of severity of his illness. ” Over the months I had been seeing Carlos, I had discovered that I could chart, with astonishing accuracy, the course of his cancer by noting the things he talked about. Whenever his cancer worsened and he was actively facing death, he rearranged his life’s priorities and became more thoughtful, compassionate, wiser. When, on the other hand, when he was in remission, he was guided as he put it, by his pecker and grew noticeably more coarse and shallow. (77)” Here the psychologist is noting that when the physical components of Carlos’s cancer are not readily apparent, he goes into denial about his death, he tries to forget about it. Conversely, when the cancer shows itself in a physical way, he accepts his mortality, and does what Kubler -Ross says people who realize their own mortality should do, take the time to grow and to touch people and leave your mark on people. This brings us to his fascination with women, and his desire to marry and have sex with all the women he possibly can. This is part of his defense system, part of his denial. By being so superficial with other people’s emotions, it detaches him from the idea that he is going to die, and that it is inevitable that he will not live for more than a couple of years. This defense system works in a very curious way. In all cases Carlos knows that he is going to die soon, however being detached from this idea, being in denial, are ways in which he can justify his being so insensitive and so shallow. Since his cancer is not actively showing itself he knows he has a little time before he is actually going to die, so he takes advantage by trying to satisfy all of his impulses, including those related to sex. When the cancer shows itself again, he knows that this time may very well be the end, and that he will never see another “healthy period”, so he becomes more caring and more thoughtful. He goes back and forth between the two extremes, depending on how the physical aspects of his cancer are developing.
Kubler-Ross states that once we are aware of our death and of the lasting impressions we make on a vast majority of people, we are able to take the time each day, to try to grow as people and try to self-actualize ourselves to become better people. Carlos comes to accept his pending death and does exactly what Kubler-Ross describes. The way in which this change comes about, has to do with a variety of different inconsistencies in his arguments that come together as a whole and make Carols realize that the things he is doing are hurtful and that they simply aren’t “right”, as he says it. Aside from his insensitiveness and his lack of compassion, Carlos is very fond, and cares very much for his two children, one girl and one boy. During his group therapy session Carlos declared that if rape were legal he would do it from time to time. The psychologist then asks him weather or not he would want his daughter living in a society such as this. Carlos begins to see the errors of his reasoning, which soon leads to his recovery and the breakdown of his elaborate defense system. ” ‘I’ve never asked you before-what do you really want for (daughter) her?’ ‘I want her to have a loving relationship with a man, and have a loving family.’ But how can this happen if her father is advocating a world of rape? If you want her to live in a loving world, then it’s up to you to construct that world-and you have to start with you’re own behavior. You can’t be outside your own law-that’s the base of any ethical system.'(79)” This is where Carlos starts to realize the things that Kubler -Ross was talking about when she said that after you die, you have a lasting impression on those around you and you change them, for better or for worse. Carlos is starting to realize that the things he does affect his children, and as a result, will affect the people his children come into contact with.
Another inconsistency comes from his firm belief in reincarnation, he believes that people come back as other vehicles of life. This is one of the final aspects of his defense system. This is to reroute any fears of his physical death. The idea that he will return as soon as he dies provides a certain degree of comfort to him. His dream dealing with the green Honda’s highlights something that he overlooked when he originally used this idea to comfort himself. This is the idea that, depending on how good you are and how much of a good person you are determine how good your life will be the next time around. These inconsistencies may seem obvious from a removed perspective, however to someone who employs them as part of a psychological defense system against their death; these types of things don’t come so clearly. These realizations made Carlos aware of many things he was doing wrong, as well as the idea that his essence, the impressions that he leaves on people, will always live on. That this is what’s important to put out so that you can leave positive impressions, instead of negative ones. “I urged Carlos to differentiate between his core self, and other peripheral attributes or activities. Then he had to ‘disidentify’ with the non-core parts: they might represent what he liked, or did, or valued-but they were not him, not his central being. Carlos had been intrigued by this construct. Not only did it explain his defensiveness at work, but he could extend ‘disidentification’ model to pertain to his own body. In other words, even, though his body imperiled, he himself, his vital essence was intact. (85)” This is exactly what Kubler-Ross was talking about when she described the part of you that made an impression, that lived on, it was his essence.
From this point on, Carlos became a different person. He realized that the things he was doing only served as a way to preoccupy his mind and settle his fears about death. He began to act as if every day were his last day alive and worked to better himself and to better the people around him, so that his essence would live, for generations to come, in a positive light. The reason he started off detaching himself was because of fear. This lead to denial, which led to the creation of his many defense systems against these kinds of emotions of fear and uncertainty. All of which he was able to come to terms with and face, so that he could start being compassionate and caring, and leaving his mark positive mark on the rest of the world.