On the inbetween
Updated: Nov 9, 2020
I had a dream last night that a huge dappled net shot out across the world emanating from a mental projection within my head. I was like a digitised self, a diagram of a human, like something of an early computer rendering. There was something schematic about it, something strangely unifying about it too. I had a jumble of spoken phrases from Freud going round 'the body is first and foremost and bodily ego..' and something about the 'ego being a psychic mapping of the experiential sensations on the skin...' At another point in the dream I was at a press conference with George Lucas and a Neo Marxist from youtube. They looked similar. Someone asked a question about Sith Lords and Darth Vader was crying from hollowed out eye sockets, they looked like deep corrupted wells.
I've been thinking about my interest in theory, the intellect and it's
defensive manoeuvre's. This is something I've been concerned with since forever. I used to oscillate wildly between intense reading habits and what I would describe as more visceral living. There is always a frustration of living experience and searching for coherence within literature, philosophy and theory. Theorising, and by that I mean abstracted systemic theory, is a way of trying to order and bear a state of unknowingness which is as way of managing mental pain. The pain of not knowing. My dream/world/net is an omnipotent desire to know and capture a state of coherence. But it's digitised state demonstrates the falsity. It is synthetic. Perhaps an attempt to recapture the unity with mother at the breast. This semblance of full unity of wholeness is a very primitive phantasy.
It's a mistake to think you can think your way out on your own. Thinking is not something that takes place in solitude. We first learn to think with mother. She lends us her mind for experience that we are not yet able to think. The sensation or emotion needs to be thought and as infants we are not capable to think these feelings. Bion describes this as having 'a thought without a thinker.' We unconsciously send out these sensations to mother who works them over in her mind for us before handing them back in a digestible state. Digestion being an important word here. Our early experiences of taking in milk forming our the basis of our first thinking system. In this way our early mind is like an alimentary tract.
Psychoanalysis is not a thing; it is a complex reality which is both intrapsychic and interpersonal, both individual and social - Neville Symington 1937-2019
From the start thinking does not takes place alone. The other is always there. This is also true of all thinking, there is always a dialogue with an other imaginary or otherwise. Even something abstracted like mathematics, the frame of the discipline is an other with which one is dialoguing. Reading a book you are encountering an other. These objects are abstracted encounters but is there something we make human out of them. They are static and a simulacrum of learning from experience. Now I'm not saying that you cannot have an experience when reading a book but it is not an experience comparable to the visceral experience of living and being. You can read of losing a loved one but until you actually lose someone you love you don't know what that feels like. This may sound incredibly basic! But then look at how the world is formulated. It is a series of positivistic claims of communicated experience of an intellectual variety such that the illusion of knowing something intellectually is akin to knowing something emotionally. The concreteness of science dominates all ideas of truth.
The practice of psychoanalytic psychotherapy seems foreign to many people. I have met people who are suspicious and worried about it. Some worry it is instructive or directive. But it's not, or (shouldn't be!). It is propositional and generative. An interpretation that connects with patient is not something intellectually processed rather it touches an emotional experience. The truth of something is found in the space between the two people; between the analyst and analysand. The encounter with the therapist other is a intersubjective mental collaboration one that seeks to help the mind move towards emotional understanding. This is a different epistemology to the acquisition of read or taught knowledge.
I had a conversation with a clinical psychologist recently who looked shocked at how much analysis I am in and why it is necessary for analytic therapists. He then claimed that he didn't need to be in lots of analysis to understand it because he's read books on it. This is the missed understanding. Psychoanalysis is a practice and truly only can be understood as such. It is set in the encounter between two people. It cannot be learnt from books. You might think you are are rich in self knowledge and insight (perhaps you are) but there are parts of yourself that you do not know and can never see without the other. Was it Zizek who said a fish doesn't know it's wet because it's surrounded by water? This is your unconscious. This is my unconscious. People believe thinking is done alone. It's not. It is done with, and in the presence of the other.