Clinging to a privileged position becomes a formidable style of psychic life as well as a resistance to the development of spontaneity. Life owes me reparation for this, and I will see that I get it. I have a right to be an exception, to disregard the scruples by which others let themselves be held back. I may do wrong myself, since wrong has been done to me. It is often scarcely any higher than evil. The situation must be reversed at all costs. Such a submissive, idealizing and coercive request of a sure result seems to closely approximate a demand for drug treatment.
The point is that in extreme psychic or interpersonal conditions, we may be inclined to ignore any resources of creativity, libido, cognition, imagination that we may have. Symington's view is that such theories do instigate the development of paranoia and the asphyxiation of creativity. Entitlement may be associated with the projection of guilt and blame onto others, or with the reaction formation of excessive humility and modesty.
Blum remarks that an individual may not be aware of regarding himself as an exception and consequently as an unacknowledged privileged character. Those who are above rules often make their rules and try to impose them on others. One of the most striking characteristics that Freud noted is the apparent absence of guilt and the absolute conviction of privilege, tinged with infantile omnipotence.
They have been wronged and are right to belittle, criticize 58 The problem of entitlement and condemn others for their real or hypothetic faults. In fact, any such approach may ultimately prevent maturational work in the sense that it will come across as an adversarial, unempathic response. The privileged position defends against further narcissistic injuries and traumata. Incited with narcissistic rage when the satisfaction. As Freud clearly emphasized, there is something of the exception in all of us, a bid for privileged position and special entitlement.
The trick is the treat in the logic of entitlement. Totally obvious, the conviction seems impossible to eradicate; vulnerable to obscurity, the conviction is not only unassailable, but it entitles the creature to the use of any strategy. There is indeed no limit to what one should attempt for the sake of a righteous and obvious concern. Through this attitude, personal attempts to relate to others seem doomed to fail. In a psychic atmosphere of entitlement, relationships tend to become critical, for the other is insistently drawn into one's narcissistic outlook. A relationship implies two or more parties.
If any two elements become homogenized into the same, there can no longer be a relationship between them. Intolerant of the relational, one of the ways in which vindictive entitlement operates is the attempt to destroy separateness. There is a constant attempt to get someone to believe something whether he wants to share the belief or not. The successful argument coerces others into a belief.
The ideal discourse would be the one that leaves no possible answers to the interlocutor, reducing him to impotent silence. How is that for a powerful argument? And yet if we are not able to be the source of our own motivation, we may ultimately forswear our quest for spontaneity. The source of action in the healthy person is from within.
The source of action in the agent of entitlement is at the surface, where one incorporates those contracted to provide motivation. Of course, it is true that people who have suffered trauma are prone to adhesive and intrusive relations, but we could see this condition from a different perspective: these relations are not only the result of trauma but they become ongoing sources of psychic pain. The persons who are attracted into these relations are projected into, and so they experience the devastation of the suffering person. When restitution is wanted at all costs, projecting and dominating appear as a necessary strategy.
Inhabiting and controlling in order to obtain the love that one has not received probably results in failure, as it repeats the attitude of one's originary inadequate caretakers. It is a vicious circle that must be avoided through a constant concern for both thinking and patience. In fact, these invisibly suffering people cannot afford to work to develop their own spontaneity.
In the person who is most passive, there is at the same time the most virulent projective attitude. This deserves closer investigation;. According to Symington, if what someone is saying is systematically not coming from initiatory action but almost entirely from a passive state geared towards getting others to act, then it is of no value responding to it. A patient may spend time mournfully recounting the neglect and abuse he has suffered for the purpose of controlling others.
There is a further aspect to the question of entitlement, namely the expression of hatred. In extreme synthesis, the story goes like this: the individual hates others because he has once been the object of hatred. In this outlook, hatred presupposes hatred; there seems to be no real hatred that is not a reaction to having been hated.
But then, where does the chain begin? We could say that the question is not relevant for the clinician; but perhaps it is. In fact, the momentous step towards seeking help always brings with it a measure of knowledge, which is why it is so frequently avoided. When the analyst is confronted with these situations, it is important to be aware of how delicate and insidious they can be.
It is necessary to appreciate the internal dialectics of the subject and to express it in such a way that it can become visible and perspicuous. It is inappropriate to try to make the subject experience hope or gratitude instead, as it could be of no help. There is a constant need to try to focus on this question so as also to improve the insight into one's way of being an analyst; it is a matter of explicating the implicit principles that could be at work in pseudoagency and even in the therapeutic process.
This attitude, moreover, may even determine our paradigms of behaviour, or in fact our principles. Just as unformulated or implicit experience generates the construction of principles, so too do the principles, once formulated, shape one's way of perceiving what we do. In both directions, moreover, the link is not simply an issue of cause and effect. One may come to believe in strict causality in order to be entitled to exert control, incorporation and extortion; one may become entitled to this behaviour on account of all the frustrations endured and must consequently theorize such causality in order to envisage an unassailable policy of entitlement, which in turn determines a style of pseudoactions, however cunning and futile.
This problem seems to intensely resonate with our contemporary culture in the sense that it is frequently expressed in the myths of our most popular literature, as for instance the acclaimed Harry Potter saga. But then, this looks like an unfair share in parental love. A homogenization of these features can possibly make for an astute killer who craves immortality and who ultimately destroys himself. If the function of personal response comes to be theoretically excluded, the person becomes restricted into a very tight mechanism of cause and effect, which renders one prone to the highest degree of perverse entitlement.
The individual feels that he should leave no depth of cunning unplumbed in this quest for compensating for whatever he has been deprived of. The best way to make sure that one is given love is to coerce the other to give as much love as is needed; to this effect, one should control the other by inhabiting the person and attuning the other's mind to one's own. In some way they become virtuosi in the insatiable extortion of what they seek. In this ultimately pseudoagentive context, ordinary admiration turns into the pathology of envy.
This sort of pseudoagentive attitude seems to apply in particular to the very active, energetic, successful individuals who unconsciously strive to control and possess, no matter how adamantly they deny it. And yet, no matter how much we would like to be, we are not in charge of the whole situation. Once we accept that we are not in charge, we can let go of many preoccupations, and just try to live. In fact, our inadequate agency and our passivity may narcissistically ensnare us into believing that we are indeed in charge of the whole complex of events and thus determine a pseudoactive sense of futile activity.
If I perform to myself, then it is this that the style expresses and then the style cannot be my own. This interlocked problem of denial and control is probably sustained by narcissistic currents in the personality. But sometimes the desire of conquest seems the prevalent one. The insistence on controlling every aspect of the analytic relation is, in fact, rooted in fear: the dread that he may lose control of everything. Patients might even be secretly content with their impotence and omnipotence.
Coming for help could even be a sad lie. And yet, perhaps, he may be confused because the patient's inner saboteur intends to confuse him; the patient may come for help with the decision of defeating any help. What gradually transpires is a desire to seduce, control and drain. They may withhold information if for no other reason than to keep control of the show. While the understanding of the patient is deepening, so is the analyst's awe of his basic incomprehensibility. They may fear that they cannot win the unconditional love of the analyst but also believe that with the wonderful gestures they do for him, he will eventually change his mind.
But then, a patient cannot both possess his analyst and at the same time be an analysand. Perhaps they do not want to relinquish any power for any reason. They want healing but are not willing to give up anything in the process; they want to be nurtured while also being the tyrants of the nurturers. In the meanwhile, in their perception of themselves they are a great source of love and gentleness. Most of what the analyst and the others experience of him, however, can be the sense of chaos and confusion that they tend to leave in their wake, while constantly pretending that they The problem of entitlement 65 just love others and want to be well.
The processes of their mind are always being interfered with and being cut off from the source of action, and so they are always victim. In Kierkegaard's view, in fact, despair is The Sickness unto Death,35 an inner state for which success is no remedy at all. But one does not have to be the handsome and gifted Borgia, as possibly anyone could secretly consider this aspiration. But this also means something else: precisely because he did not get to be Caesar, he now cannot bear to be himself. Consequently, he does not despair because he did not get to be Caesar but despairs over himself [for being unable] to get to be Caesar.
In a deeper sense, it is not his failure to become Caesar that is intolerable, but it is this self that did not become Caesar that is intolerable; or, to put it even more accurately, what is intolerable to him is that he cannot get rid of himself. If he had become Caesar, he would despairingly get rid of himself, but he did not become Caesar and cannot despairingly get rid of himself.
Bollas's clinical remarks are illuminating in this sense. He also wonders whether conventional persons are not ultimately living their lives, although performing the convention to their best. This sort of common behaviour is probably the expression of an inner psychic condition.
We seem to adhere to an unspoken assumption that life must be busy, and that being busy is an indicator of social importance and success: a surplus of activity is equated with success. And it seems that celebrity is in the nature of a general mania in our time. Celebrity, in fact, is positioned at the opposite end of passivity and shame, and it is celebrity that is often admired to the point of envy.
We might think that the power of celebrity could make one spontaneous in the sense that one can do as one wishes without bearing the burden of human negotiation. But then, this sort of perverse spontaneity would be ultimately dependent on the unconscious submissiveness of others, and it could only be gained at someone else's psychic expense. We thus envisage a gradient between the two opposite poles of freedom-from and freedom-to. Play, for instance, becomes possible only when creatures no longer respond automatically to another organism's behaviour but are able to communicate about the nature of their behaviour and about its context.
This is what probably makes play the precursor of maturation and a milestone in the development of civilization. But, of course, we would like to understand what mental activity splits the mind apart; the problem, again, is that it is perhaps not so much an activity but a reactive attitude. As is known, the inchoate person not only responds to otherness but also responds to its instinctual propelling forces. The essence of the strategy is in fact indirect action.
These are the critical instances in which the therapeutic attitude upholds the essential difference between the simplicity of reaction and the complexity of psychic action. If through excessive weakness we can neither elicit compassion nor do harm to others, we ultimately attack what the universe itself represents for us. Then every good or beautiful thing is like an insult. And every time, as we try to sprint, we are easily stricken by fear. It is perhaps a question instead of a capacity for shifting and leaping. It is a question of overcoming rigidity and advancing towards the sort of spontaneity that allows for psychic leaps.
It sounds paradoxical to say that immediate reactions function in the domain of rigidity, while creative actions involve the capacity to leap into staying still, into waiting for the good inspiration. Generally in life when anything is just beginning to go wrong, it is usually fairly easy to make corrections, as small adjustment is all that is needed. In the logic of Oliver, subjectivity is experienced as the sense of agency and response-ability which develops through the unending encounter with otherness.
The reactive acts that have been done come into awareness through the instrumentality of their consequences. As soon as they come into awareness, they are felt and have to be borne, together with guilt and fear. It is for this reason that the emergence of authentic personhood is never smooth. An essential aspect of being a subject is the creative tolerance of one's own libidinal and aggressive features. An individual who systematically hates and obliterates the bad in himself is condemned to being, largely, a non-person.
Our problems present us with an unnerving double vision as we try to use two different approaches in terms of either reactions or actions. This is the context in which the notion of desire starts to work. But these functions are interwoven aspects of one process: the goals of action have to be cognitively represented and its methods must have an affective aim.
We can thus adopt the general hypothesis that affects are cognitive and cognition is affectual.
Spontaneity: A Psychoanalytic Inquiry - CRC Press Book
In this sense they can be said to perform tasks, even though they actually don't mind whether they achieve them or not. We could even say that, paradoxically, angry, reactive subjects do not seem to care whether they succeed or not. Before that, we primarily react. And anger, of course, could be seen as one of the most conspicuous examples of reactive behaviour. A person only becomes aware of reactive activity when he has achieved some subjective agency by means of integrative development. The maturational process makes it possible for us to become aware of the rigidity of reactions. For, in fact, these distinctions ultimately allow us to consider the effect of our behaviour upon the self.
Symington reiterates that the resentful act generates madness, while the act of acceptance creates sanity. The hateful act could be considered primarily instinctive, while the accepting attitude we would regard as personal and creative. Thus, the ability to decide, choose and create are the prime manifestations of sanity. The individual who is acting sanely is the one who can think rather than just react. The person is constituted of an array of disparate attitudes, all of which are taken up in the creative act of acceptance.
Self-acceptance thus appears as a precursor of acceptance, as a uniquely personal creation. It is this very pristine creative attitude that shapes the ego. In a more Darwinian 72 Actions and reactions perspective, however, one could also say that we are all naturally angry: anger is natural, and perhaps even healthy. We need anger to right wrongs, to revolt against oppression. And yet we retrospectively see anger as a quasi-automatic, unexplainable response that can dominate both ourselves and others.
So we need not waste energy getting angry with the non-spontaneous subjects when they are hurtful to us, and we could just make every effort to minimize or avoid harm. But now that you know the other person is helplessly the tool of his own anger. Anger is only destroyed by not getting angry! Effective anger at anger can only become the energy of tolerance. The other may have no independence of will, no capacity to act sua sponte, and may be the helpless victim of his own passivity, operating mechanically and without intentionality.
The pathology of the other lacks personal agency that intends us harm, and so we have no real target for the sort of rage that could consciously select the source of our suffering and so regain well-being by destroying it. You are a corpse of a hero killing corpses, both of you defeated by the real enemy, anger. Never anything real, everything about it is imaginary. The energy used so destructively by anger can thus become free, at least in part, for creative purposes.
Freud clearly contends that indeed libidinal energy could even exist in a desexualized form, as a unifying force holding the self together. Our insight, however, makes for a much better preparedness. Ideally, the plentiful causes of suffering could provide plentiful reasons for reliable inner health. But then, crucial problems remain.
Once we are acting spontaneously, we cannot be proud of what we do, even though we might accomplish marvels. But perhaps more than actual change, what is developed is a greater attitude of spontaneity in the sense of both initiative and acceptance. The possibility of actual work would be a restorative experience.
Gemma Corradi Fiumara, Spontaneity. A Psychoanalytic Inquiry. London and New York, Routledge, 2009
The person who refuses the role of the omniscient guru actually refuses to comply with the rigidity of the patient's reactive attitude. Conversely, the analyst might even enter into a collusion. How is that for a psychic paradox? If creativity is opted for, it usually becomes a principle of action within the self: it comes into being within inner life in the attitude of choosing and desiring it. A lack of creativeness indicates that pressured activity derives from a situation where the contingencies of the self are detached from the deeper sources of psychic life. And, in fact, the prevalence of reactions, as contrasted with the action of developing paradoxes, somehow induces an atrophy of inner life.
According to Oliver, even in adverse circumstances the extraordinary surplus within the routine, the virtuoso performance, gradually decolonizes psychic space and liberates it from the restrictions of tradition. Oliver also remarks that geniuses are necessary inspirations for our psychic life: inner life depends on a sense of legitimization of the possibility of creativity and greatness for all of us. But perhaps the idealizations and denials conducive to the putative state of total creativeness are sustained by means of projections of one's narcissistic fantasies and grandiose images.
The idealization may so devalue the process of attainment that it becomes purely instrumental, something to be marginalized and regarded as valueless with respect to the acclaimed end result; in being valueless, it is exploited at the utmost while also looked upon as a dehumanized, mechanical part of one's life. In this sense, idealizations conspire to undermine any creative process whatsoever, as if one were compelled to always act in light of some procrastinated sort of success. Of course, creativity requires sublimation, and this is commonly available to all of us.
They chart detailed ways in which creative experiencing involves paradox, mystery or faith expressed through dialectical thinking. In effect, each tries to develop something of a phenomenology of creative experiencing. That our job is to repair our own minds, I am sure. That true creative action provides the occasion for new harmonies in society, I am sure. Once we do this, our symptoms and pathology will subside. Forgiveness, in other words, is the only reaction which does not merely re-act but acts anew and unexpectedly.
They seem to converge in saying that to be human is to be capable of forgiving. But probably a more relevant expression of creative genius is our human capacity to generate relationships, such as the critical and essential relation of forgiveness; this requires a genius for creating unforeseeable developments. It belongs to being alive.
The creativity that we are studying belongs to the approach of the individual to external reality. These two alternatives of living creatively or uncreatively can be very sharply contrasted.
Spontaneity: A Psychoanalytic Inquiry: A Psychoanalytic Inquiry Gemma Corradi Fiumara
An appreciation of the genius of forgiveness is all the more urgent because it shows us the extraordinary of our humanity beyond automation and standardization. Metaphorically speaking, it points in the direction of depth rather than magnitude. This is in fact the unplumbable quality that is present in our genius of forgiveness.
These moments of illumination may be slight or epiphanic. Seeming to come from nowhere, they come from nowhere but within ourselves and. Of course, there are expressions of genius that are documented in our cultural heritage; but then, there can be innumerable acts of genius that are not in the least bit recorded or appreciated. This is the everyday genius of ordinary people, which often only speaks to the singularity of another individual.
We are only interested here in these inconspicuous, silent, germinative forms of genius. And we can be aware of these unassuming, daily expressions of genius even though we cannot properly theorize them. One of the features of maturation and therapy is that we become able to express our aggressive desires through cultural codes, rather than acting them out; giving voice to these violent desires, however, presupposes a cultural dimension of forgiveness.
This dimension may be quite tacit and unspoken. Instead of all experience being based on a unitary form of public knowledge, we could envisage a spectrum of experience ranging from the articulate to the unspoken. The agency of forgiveness is the operation of this third that should not be attributed to either one party or the other. Rather, the agency of forgiveness is the effect of meaning.
The genius of forgiveness is expressed in a double action of unbinding: the pardoned individual disengages himself from the enduring results of offence, and by pardoning the other he disengages the offender from his own actions. At the extreme, rather than kill we confess our desire to kill; and this confession requires, that is, presupposes, forgiveness. Symington suggests that idealizing love can be experienced as a rejection of one's spontaneity inasmuch as that part of the self that possessively desires the parent is inevitably rejected.
The incapacity to forgive perpetuates an inner rigidity that prevents empathy and makes hostility compulsory. Thus, the absence of forgiveness translates into continued hatred of inner and outer objects. But then, what we actually observe in psychoanalytic vicissitudes is that hatred ultimately weighs on the person who is captured and exhausted by it; in this sense he cannot afford the inner force to bind himself into a creative promise. The goodenough patient is the one who refuses to simply inherit this attitude, and ultimately does forgive.
By doing so his actions are no longer reactions to internalized abjecting others, but actions proper, spontaneous actions. Ideally, analysis is the way to break this repetitive script. The genius of forgiveness functions on the basis of a laboriously developed capacity for mentally separating the agent and the action: one can untie oneself from primal relational vicissitudes to the extent that one can also untie primal others from their decried behaviour.
Paradoxically, this form of splitting is an act of genius, a total novelty, a credit conferred to our own potential for regeneration. No, it is a never-ending psychopoietic, maturational, challenging story. According to Eigen, bitterness is closer to the surface in some people, while in others it works more silently. In either case, chronic outrage over injury can erode inner life and our creative potential. Eigen contends that latent, explosive hatred obliterates the self. If hatred tends to make us blind with respect to our objects, then in the long run it will paralyse our capacities for insight and also reduce our inner depths.
This clarity on the consequences of hatred will certainly contribute to a condition of better preparedness. Fear of retaliation 82 The question of forgiveness in itself and by itself could turn out to be maturationally futile. The developing person may be induced to retreat from the triadic paradigm back into the more primitive dyadic relation.
Under these circumstances, the individual cannot learn from an experience of forgiveness and cannot count on the cultural openings deriving from the Oedipal passage. The thesis here is that it is not the fear of castration that is the ultimate propeller of the Oedipal passage but, rather, the possible experience of forgiveness.
And so when an attitude of forgiveness is not internalized, there will always be reactions rather than actions and the maturational journey may remain incomplete. It may take a surplus of genius, in fact, to attempt forgiveness in a relational milieu in which it has not been experienced: when forgiveness is attempted, it is truly an act of revolutionary genius.
In a synoptic view of the labour of forgiveness, Oliver reiterates that asserting individuality is a trespass against the social, a trespass that requires cultural acquittal to forge our sense of belonging. And this is not to say, according to Oliver, that there is any sovereign agent of forgiveness; on the contrary, the agency of social forgiveness is meaning itself, which in turn produces the effect of sovereignty. Social implications Theorists of forgiveness such as Weil, Arendt, Kristeva, Derrida and Oliver have in various ways made forgiveness a threshold of humanity: to be human is to forgive.
As is known, according to Freud the The question of forgiveness 83 ability to sublimate drives and their manifestations is the source of human civilization and creativity. Colonization is, in fact, not development; it is primarily occupation for the sake of diverse forms of exploitation.
If true revolution is one stemming from the depths of inspiration, this requires not only the creation of positive values extracted from personal depths, but also the revaluation of values, such that the very structure of valuation is opened up for transformation. It would be a transformation that may legitimately include the value of forgiveness. There are, indeed, multiple demands for those abjected by whatever forms of colonization or dominant ontologies prevail. On the social side, it requires throwing off not only the cultural or patriarchal imaginary chains but also the chains that bind the inner imagination and impede a growth in psychic depth, where the ultimate inner resources originate.
And so the quality of inner space that is conducive to spontaneity cannot be described with the metaphor of magnitude but, rather, with the metaphor of depth. If the colonized cannot forgive the colonizers, then they reproduce the abjective, unforgiving attitude of the colonizers, who drastically condemn in order to then use and abuse. The abjected ones must cope not only with their attempt to reach subjectivity, but also with their preliminary condition that forecloses subjectivity. If we regard scriptures as indicators of the psychology of a culture, we could read an instructive story dramatized in Genesis: the story of a creature who seeks to become a deity by means of a short cut or of a simple trick such as eating a piece of fruit.
The fragile creature does not, in fact, try to become god-like through the innumerable ways of human ingenuity and creative action. In his view there are at least three culprits: the lady with him, the God who put the lady next to him, and the serpent who enticed the lady. A desire for spontaneity seems to surface at whatever level we may be struggling to maintain 86 The quest for responsibility life open to development and growth.
This seems to depend on a psychological competence to accept one's incompetence, and to assume responsibility for it as a genuine starting point. And yet, nothing seems to compete with the attractiveness of whatever anaesthetizes us against responsibility. Anaesthetizers give us dispensation from taking care of our own self. In our incapacity for responsibility, we seem to indirectly claim that our mental apparatus is not inhabited, not circumscribed, and cannot be interrogated.
Sanity is associated with the state of affairs where there is a responsible centre. But perhaps even mental illness is compatible with responsibility in the sense that a creative centre is there to at least endure, or cope with, a pathology that cannot be resolved. This is the analysand's own response: elements are not expelled but are repossessed and put together. This question is rarely asked. And yet it is quite central to traditional forms of culture that there is an intentional kernel that originates from within the living being; in most cultures, there is in fact a reward for acting in one way rather than another.
This is, of course, a paradox that we must accept as a problematic companion in our inquiry. By contrast, the ignorance of responsibility could be described as a condition of being strangers to ourselves, detached from a unifying centre. Cultural explanations seem good ones, but certainly not good enough, because the individual seems to reside somewhere in peripheral, semi-external psychic areas.
The gains, however, are comparatively scarce in the domain of freedom to exercise creativity and to assume responsibility. Freedom-from could be considered as generically achieved, while freedom-to remains the ongoing problem of developing our ordinary genius. From a social perspective, we could say that freedom from adverse external factors is largely attainable, or at least we know how to go about seeking it.
We, in fact, actively endeavour to be free from oppression, hunger and illness. But this sort of freedom-from does not guarantee our freedom to become creative, responsible and agentive. If we invoke Fromm's classical contribution, we are reminded that our celebrated desire for freedom from all forms of oppression may ultimately be problematic, inasmuch as it may induce a sense of loneliness or of unbearable individual responsibility.
In fact, instead of seeking freedom-to, we often seek ways to escape it. Both helplessness and oppression paralyse life, and in order to survive we strive to escape from constraining conditions and gain some cognitive control. As usual, when confronted with this immemorial problem we come to think that a higher degree of self-awareness may point to the way out of it.
It is, in fact, commonly suggested that in psychotherapy a person may achieve a better representation of himself, and thus greater freedom. The contention here is that the myth of Orestes could also be fruitfully invoked to illuminate this evolutionary turn. The temporal and spatial categories that apply to our tangible world are inadequate, and so we resort to myths and metaphors to help us understand it. Myths and metaphors are our ways of The quest for responsibility 89 talking about a reality that we cannot directly access.
Developmental theories in which we posit particular events happening in infancy could even be regarded as explanatory myths. Through this route we can probably gain a richer view of our inner conditions. When an art form like dramatic literature draws upon the myths of a culture for its content, it automatically adopts the basic features and functions of the myth itself.
And yet it also becomes a more sophisticated culture fantasy in which the innermost needs and repressed wishes of society can be retraced and held up in view. This is particularly true of Greek tragedy, for indeed Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides all give their individual treatment of some mythological themes without altering the basic structure, outcome or intrinsic content of the myths themselves.
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