A Scientific Journal of Applied Phenomenology & Psychoanalysis
Volume 2 Number 1 Table of Contents
I. Dedication Father David A. Boileau George J. Boileau EPIS Scholarâ€™s Library II. Letter from the Editor Executive Director, EPIS; Kevin Boileau, Ph.D. III. Articles 1. Responsible for the Responsibility of the Other Roger Burggraeve, Ph.D.
2. Spiraling into Control or the Rape of the Lock in Hitchcockâ€™s Movies Michel Valentin, Ph.D.
3. Arrested by the Preface: Lacanian Discourse Analysis and the Speaking Subject Emaline Friedman, M.A.
4. Towards Lacan’s Approach of Subjectivity: On the Staging of Fundamental Fantasy, Jouissance and Gaze in Stanley Kubrick’s Cinematography Wim Matthys, M.A.
5. “…The Hands Forgotten in Each Other”: Being-for-Others in Sartre’s Being and Nothingness and Relational Needs Katharine Wolfe, M.A.
6. Withdrawing From the Unconscious Alberto Varona, Ph.D.
7. A Contemporary Psychoanalytical Citizen; Working with the Unconscious in Cultural Life Joseph Scalia III
8. From the Wounded Self to the Sacredness of Being: The Role of Psychoanalysis in the Philosophy of Paul Ricoeur and Julia Kristeva Daniel Bradley, Ph.D.
9. Phenomenology in Psychotherapeutic Praxis: An Introduction to Personal Existential Analysis Janelle Kwee, Ph.D. & Alfried Langle, Ph.D.
10. A Radical Phenomenology of Wilderness Spirituality Justin Pritchett, M.A.
11. Empathy: An Activity, not an Attribute Melayna Schiff
12. The Homeric DSM/ A Corrective Historical Experience Steven Goldman, Ph.D.
13. Passion Alphonso Lingis, Ph.D. IV. Contributors V. Back Page VI. Current & Coming Events
Executive Editor: Kevin Boileau, Ph.D., J.D., LL.M.
Managing Editor: Dr. Richard Curtis, Ph.D.
Associate Editors: Dr. Steven Goldman, Ph.D. Dr. Loray Daws, Ph.D. Dr. Robert S. Corrington, Ph.D. Ms. Emaline Friedman, M.A.
Production Director: Ms. Nazarita Goldhammer
Philosophical & Poetic Interlude I. Dedication
We dedicate this issue of the Presencing EPIS Journal to Father David A. Boileau, Ph.D., whose life and work continues to positively influence the course and direction of this Institute and its publications.
For David A. Boileau
â€œPoetic & Philosophical Interludeâ€? From The Blue Pearl by Kevin Boileau, Ph.D., J.D.
When it stopped making sense I let go of my desire and opted Instead For virtue and truth Pushing away the noise That pulls. Fragmented slivers of perception One after the other Continue pushing each other away So that vision of the Whole, impossible. Thus, I am at once both lost and liberated; looking for signposts Along the way Which Always seem heralded by the blue Iridescence. The dark penumbra of the walking park remains forever etched in my Consciousness. Unsure that I will ever return to the shadows there, I strain to recall her face Calling.
Mother Death. Sweet and bitter, Soft and genuine. Always with me speaking the Words; there is more; there is more. Do not be enchanted into egology. Abjection rules. And all the while the tall, large frame of admonition walks alongside. “Couragio!” The royalist inside falters as the Governorship wanes. Lost. Eroded. “Couragio!”
The George J. Boileau EPIS Scholar’s Library 31 Fort Missoula Road, Suite 4 Missoula, Montana 59804
The George J. Boileau EPIS Scholar’s Library is located in the heart of the historic Fort Missoula, in Missoula, Montana. The Existential Psychoanalytic Institute & Society (EPIS) started the library in 2005 as an essential foundation of its regional, national and international interests in the advancement of science and culture. EPIS is dedicated to providing a scholar’s library and workspace for scholars whose interests lie in the following fields: Psychoanalysis Phenomenology Critical Theory Cooperative Conflict Resolution Education & Literature Mathematics/Human Sciences
The library is named after George J. Boileau, a lifelong Missoula resident whose vision of life exemplifies the spirit of solidarity and genuine regard for the welfare of others to which the EPIS Institute aspires. The EPIS Library Trust also includes the following 2 annual scholarships: The John D. Goldhammer Memorial Scholarship
The Father David A. Boileau Memorial Scholarship Episworldwide.com
Letter from the Editor The Existential Psychoanalytic (& Phenomenological) Institute started eight years ago in coffee shops and free spaces in downtown Seattle. At that time it was barely more than a reading group and a vision. Since then, a small number of dedicated individuals have labored night and day to build a community of individuals who desire to make a positive impact on the world through the methods of phenomenology, psychoanalysis, Critical Theory, and all related reflective discourses. We now have offices in San Francisco, Boulder, Minneapolis, and Missoula, and an intention to build new ones in other U.S. and foreign cities. Our membership is now regional, national, and international, and we have integrated ourselves with a number of sister-institutes and organizations in cooperative collaboration. Our activities have increased greatly: We now have a weekly radio show, several post-graduate diploma programs in advanced psychoanalysis and phenomenology, rigorous quarterly seminars, an academic pressâ€”and this journal. In 2012, we published our very first issue. This issue here is our second, and it tracks most of the presentations from the August 1-3, 2013, conference. We have scheduled the 2014 conference, which will focus on ecophenomenology and culture, as well as the 2015 conference, which will focus on literature. I am delighted to have the privilege of writing this short letter to our readers, and hope that it conveys, motivation, and commitment of our institute members and conference participants. At this yearâ€™s congress, we were pleased to listen to such valuable new ideas regarding the current state of matters in phenomenology, psychoanalysis, and Critical Theory. The difficulty in the creation of useful and understandable dialectic in diverse discourses regarding subjectivity is evident but we must press on in our pluralist community. Alienation between clinicians and theoreticians can be bridged, we believe, but only through artful structuralization of empathic discourse in a rigorous format. Even between members of the academy who operate in disparate fields, we perceive difficulty in the creation of a meta-textual account of the creation, operation, and development of subjectivizationâ€”that critical source of meaning that creates a world of dialogue, polemic, and praxis. In some cases it is as if we are speaking foreign
languages to one another, both literally and metaphorically. There is, therefore, the related problem of jargon. Some of us believe that we ought to be able to express complex, technical ideas through the metaphors of natural, ordinary language; others believe that this is not possible, that we must construct refined, sophisticated languages that capture recondite concepts through them. It remains to see how this discussion develops. There is also the value question. At the Existential Psychoanalytic Institute & Society we are always on guard against theory and practice that has little value for the betterment of the human condition. We strive toward application and praxis that goes beyond the gamesmanship and scuttling about that is often endemic in academic conversation--parole--concerning the progression and development of theory. Together in solidarity, most of us believe that phenomenology and psychoanalysis, their methods and expressions, can legitimately seek a home in application. For example, psychoanalysis can be utilized outside of the clinic for cultural criticism, education, and mediation; Analogously, phenomenology can be useful for interior and environmental design, applied art, and natural science. This is not say that we do not value clinical experience, as many of us are experienced and dedicated clinicians who defend anticorporate/pharmaceutical methods with the help of our theoretical and trans-theoretical work. In short, we are always vigilant about striving toward the Good in actions we undertake at the institute, which permeates all activities, including the journal. Our mission is to develop and elevate the academic and intellectual standards of this journal. With each succeeding issue we hope to encourage, push, entice, and cajole our author-thinkers to transcend their limits. In the future, we will contemplate issues that cluster around various themes or one of the various discourses that we practice. For example, in the future we may highlight applied phenomenology or classical psychoanalysis, Critical Theory or deconstruction/semiology. We may revisit the ancient Greeks or Medieval Europe. We may focus on clinical practice. We will also expect more students, both undergraduate and graduate to participate; after all, they are the future; should I say l'avenir rather than le futur? We owe great debt to our editorial team for their assiduousness and indefatigable commitment to aiding in the perfection of the work we publish. They are not responsible for any
mistakes, lacunae, or nonsense: As Executive Editor, it is my privilege to take full responsibility for all errors and omissions. Kevin Boileau Writing in Missoula, Montana USA Late summer, 2013
RESPONSIBLE FOR THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE OTHER Emmanuel Levinas gives to thought on psychotherapeutic counselling as ethical relationship Roger Burggraeve (ethicist & Levinas scholar KU Leuven) From the thought of Emmanuel Levinas (1905-1995) 1 we would like to shed some ethical light on psychotherapeutic counselling but without entering into its specific aspects and methods. The central focus of Levinas’ thought, namely the I-other-relationship, serves as our starting point. In its modality as counselling, psychotherapy likewise unfolds as a relationship between the therapist as ‘I’ and the client as ‘other’ (without being reduced to those roles). Hence we start with Levinas’ description of ‘my’ relationship to the ‘other’ in order to show how this relationship displays an unmistakable ethical structure that exposes at the same time the fundamental structure of all psychotherapy. This fundamental ethical structure is formed concretely according to a double responsibility, as we shall later see, namely as a responsibility for the other that is at the same time a responsibility for the responsibility of the other, and which in turn also contains two dimensions. And since psychotherapy does not function in a vacuum but often takes place in an institutional context, namely in a psychiatric clinic, therapy centre or residential setting, we shall also reflect on that aspect at the end of our essay – like an open conclusion – paying special attention to the opportunities and risks of organised psychotherapy and to the ‘small goodness’ that accords a specific hue to the responsibility of the therapist for the client. 1 For the references to the works of Levinas, the following abbreviations will be used throughout the essay: AS: Autrement que savoir (Interventions in the discussions and Débat général), Paris, Osiris, 1988; AT: Alterity and Transcendence, New York, NY, Columbia University Press, 1999; BV: Beyond the Verse: Talmudic Readings and Lectures, Bloomington and Indianapolis, IN, Indiana University Press, 1994; CPP: A. LINGIS (ed.), Collected Philosophical Papers, Dordrecht – Boston – Lancaster, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1987; DF: Difficult Freedom: Essays on Judaism, Baltimore, MA, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990; EI: Ethics and Infinity: Conversations with Philippe Nemo, Pittsburgh, PA, Duquesne University Press, 1985; EN: Entre Nous: Thinking-of-the-Other, London – New York, NY, Continuum, 2006; ES: Une éthique de la souffrance, in J.-M. KAENEL – B. AJCHENBAUM-BOFFETY (eds.), Souffrances: Corps et âme, épreuves partagées, Paris, Éditions Autrement, 1994, 127-137; EPA: Entretien préparatoire avec Emmanuel Levinas sur l’argent, lépargne et le prêt, in R. BURGGRAEVE, Emmanuel Levinas et la socialité de l’argent, Leuven, Peeters, 1997, 31-67; ET: The Ego and the Totality, in CPP 25-45; FC: Freedom and Command, in CPP 15-23; GCM: Of God Who Comes to Mind, Stanford, CA, Stanford University Press, 1998; HO: Humanism of the Other, Urbana & Chicago, IL, University of Illinois Press, 2003; IFP: Interview with François Poirié, in IRB 23-83; IRB: J. ROBBINS (ed.), Is It Righteous to Be? Interviews with Emmanuel Levinas, Stanford, CA, Stanford University Press, 2001; LAV: “L’au-delà du verset.’ Un entretien avec Emmanuel Levinas (à propos de Mère Thérésa), in L. BALBONT, Mère Thérés en notre âme et conscience, Paris, Seuil, 1982, 111-112; NT: New Talmudic Readings, Pittsburgh, PA, Duquesne University Press, 1999; TR: Nine Talmudic Readings, Bloomington and Indianapolis, IN, Indiana University Press, 1994; OB: Otherwise than Being or Beyond Essence, The Hague – Boston – London, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1981; OS: Outside the Subject, London, The Athlone Press, 1993; PIF: Philosophy and the Idea of Infinity, in CPP 47-59; PM: The Paradox of Morality (interview with T. Wright, P. Hugues, A. Analy), in R. BERNASCONI – D. WOOD (eds.), The Provocation of Levinas: Rethinking the Other, London, Routledge, 1988, 168-180; PN: Proper Names, Stanford, CA, Stanford University Press, 1996; PPS: Pour une philosophie de la sainteté, in M. DE SAINT-CHERON, Entretiens avec Emmanuel Levinas 19921994, Paris, Livre de Poche, 2006, 21-52; RTJD: La révélation dans la tradition juive (suivi de ‘Discussion d’ensemble’), in D. COPPIETERS DE GIBSON (ed.), La révélation, Bruxelles, Facultés Universitaires Saint-Louis, 1977, 55-57; 207-236 (‘Discussion d’ensemble’); TH: Transcendence and Height, in A.T. PEPERZAK – S. CRITCHLEY – R. BERNASCONI (eds.), Emmanuel Levinas: Basic Philosophical Writings, Bloomington & Indianapolis, IN, Indiana University Press, 1996, 11-31; TI: Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority, The Hague – Boston – London, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1979; TN: In the Time of the Nations, Bloomington and Indianapolis, IN, Indiana University Press, 1994.
1. Therapy as the heteronomous experience of the other’s face The starting point for every counselling is a simple act, or rather a ‘radical fact’ or an ‘absolute or pure experience’, that at the same time is also an ‘heteronomous experience coming from elsewhere’ (TI 67) – “a traumatism of astonishment” (TI 73) – namely the fact that the therapist is confronted with the client as ‘other’. Put in a Levinasian manner: in the direct encounter with the client, the therapist is faced with the ‘epiphany of the other’. In the encounter, which forms the basis for therapeutic dialogue, the other reveals itself not only as separate but also as distinct from the therapist. That is precisely what Levinas calls the radical alterity of the other. In his first major work Totality and Infinity (1961) he speaks of the ‘exteriority’ of the other, by which he does not mean a spatial distance that can be bridged or not, but rather a qualitative difference of irreducibility: “the alterity of the other person is the only model of exteriority, where space does not come in between” (RTJD 225). 1.1.The client as other is invisible In the concept of ‘alterity’ lies both a negative and a positive dimension. The negative dimension means a denial of the knowability of the other. The alterity of the other lies precisely in the fact that the other constantly transcends our observation and our knowledge. What is constitutive of alterity is that the other never coincides with the image and the presentation that we make of her or him. As the other, a counsellee always eludes, up to infinity, the image formed by the therapist. The distance of this surplus remains insurmountable, notwithstanding all attempts at bridging the gap. The other presents oneself to me as a ‘withdrawing’ movement, or rather as a ‘withdrawal in the withdrawal’, a withdrawal that never weakens. The client is always infinitely more than the images, presentations and interpretations that the counsellor can design of the other. Even though the other has her or his physiognomy and personality, and thus her or his recognisable calculability, the other’s epiphany still consists in shattering one’s own image and appearance time and again. The other escapes essentially from every typology, characterology and classification, in short from all (professional) attempts by the therapist to understand and fathom the client. In this sense the face of the other is essentially, and not provisionally, a movement of retreat (anachoresis): 'The other is invisible' (TI 34). It is a veritable paradox: the other appears by means of disappearing, stronger still by means of withdrawing oneself from one’s appearance as an inaccessible secret or mystery. The other is a presence that immediately renounces itself: an apostate or ‘heretic’ to itself. The counsellee is literally ‘extra-ordinary’ and ‘e-norm-ous’, beyond all order and norm, the purest ‘anachronism’, an essential conundrum: the unsurpassed enigma that brings the counsellor to confusion. The epiphany of the other confronts us with the other as a stranger, or better as ‘the stranger’ par excellence. The epiphany of the counsellee makes any kind of curiosity ridiculous (OB 9091). 1.2. The client’s face as expression: looking and speaking at me This rather negative description of the alterity of the other has a clearly positive meaning, however. The basis for the unknowability and irreducibility of the other (the counsellee) to her or his image and appearance is indeed her or his “manifestation kath’auto” (TI 65), and
3 that is precisely what Levinas labels as the face. The face is at the same time a form and a shattering of this form. It is ‘expression’, or stronger still ‘self-expression’: “it is a presence before me of a self-identical being” (FC 41). The other manifests oneself out of oneself, and not on the basis of one’s (psychological, relational, economic, social, cultural) context: “The sensible presence of this chaste bit of skin with brow, nose, eyes, and mouth is not a sign making it possible to ascend toward the signified, nor is it a mask which dissimulates the signified. Here the sensible presence desensibilises to let the one who only refers to oneself, the identical, break through directly” (FC 41-42). According to Levinas, the expression of the face occurs in an eminent manner in the look. The possible nakedness of the other can be covered or disguised by using cosmetics or makeup. However, there is one zone of the face that cannot be made up or embellished, namely the eyes (even when the area around the eye – the eyelid and the eyebrow – can be made up): “The eyes break through the mask – the language of the eyes, impossible to dissemble. The eye does not shine; it speaks” (TI 66). The concrete shape of this direct presence is the look: “This way for a being to break through its form, which is its apparition, is, concretely, its look, its aim. There is not first a breakthrough, and then a look; to break through one’s form is precisely to look; the eyes are absolutely naked” (FC 20). They are the most unprotected part of the face. Thus the look is the most direct and personal presence of someone else who looks at me. Hence for a therapeutic dialogue it is of utmost importance that the client gets the chance to look at the counsellor, which implies that the counsellor will also look at the client: to divert one’s eyes would then mean a refusal of contact and encounter. When both look at each other, they encounter each other directly. The look of the client is the other itself, that gazes at the therapist in absolute directness and frankness, and thereby speaks to the therapist. In other words, both do not originally stand beside each other (Miteinander), as Heidegger posits, but facing each other: ‘eye to eye’. And it is precisely this directness of facing each other that makes possible both the sincerity of the (therapeutic) encounter as well as the invitation to it. The expression of the look refers, as was already made apparent inadvertently in the description above, to language or rather to dialogue. “The epiphany of a face is wholly language” (PIF 55). This language, however, should not primarily be understood as an objective linguistic system but rather as the fact that the other speaks to me and vice-versa. This is not about a discourse but an ‘invocation’ and ‘response’ between two people who direct themselves to each other and speak to each other. “The claim to reach the other is realised in the relationship with the other that is cast in the relation of language, where the essential is the interpellation, the vocative. The other is maintained and confirmed in her or his heterogeneity as soon as one calls upon her or him, be it only to say to her or him that one cannot speak to her or him, to classify the other as sick, to announce to the other her or his death sentence; at the same time as grasped, wounded, outraged, the other is ‘respected’. The invoked is not what I comprehend: he is not under a category. He is the one to whom I speak” (TI 69). By means of the fact that either the therapist or the client addresses the other, the counsellor and the counsellee are detached from themselves and appealed for a response. The word of the one elicits the counter-word of the other. And the fact of this dialogue that precedes every content is the first and most fundamental ‘miracle’ of the encounter between persons, a client and a therapist (ET 28).
4 1.3.The asymmetric reciprocity of therapy: the client as other is my master This reciprocity of speaking to each other, however, is neither neutral nor formal, but a qualified reciprocity in the sense that the dialogue is marked by the primacy of the other. The other comes before me: her or his speaking is the basis for the therapeutic encounter. Both the fact that the client as other speaks to the therapist and what the other consequently says establish the counselling as dialogue itself. The other is my master: by means of speaking to me the other does not only express her- or himself but he also ‘teaches’ me. Even though it is possible that by means of her or his address the counsellor elicits the word of the other, still the word of the client comes first. By means of speaking, the other indeed determines and orientates the dialogue. In this regard, the speaking of the other can in no way whatsoever be reduced to one or the other form of Socratic maieutics (TI 171). The word and the first content of this word, namely the alterity of the other, comes to me from elsewhere and contributes more to me than what I find and contain in myself (TI 51). The word of the counsellee does not arouse any idea that was already slumbering in the counsellor; it teaches the therapist something completely new: “the absolutely new is the other” (TI 219). If the other were not to speak to me I would neither experience nor know the other in her or his alterity. In that sense is the other my teacher, who educates me masterfully about her- or himself, without my having possessed this education already in the depths of myself – as a source of affinity and recognisability – or my being able to let it simmer up from within me (TI 69). Hence Levinas states, making use of religious language, that the other who speaks to me ‘reveals’ oneself and thus is a radical, heteronomous – not religious but experiential – form of ‘revelation’. Hence the first teaching of the other is the fact of one’s insurmountable alterity: “the first teaching of the teacher is his very presence as teacher” (TI 100). The therapist cannot foresee or predict the word of her or his client entirely. He or she is not the designer who takes initiative; on the contrary, the therapist is the one who receives, listens, obeys – literally the one who gives ear (TI 69). This means that listening is the first way of answering, of being literally ‘repons-ible’ (cf. infra). In a qualitative psychotherapy before everything else the client is given and granted the word. This is made possible by the attentive listening by the therapist to the client. For that, a certain reserve from the side of the counsellor is necessary, in the sense that he or she guards oneself from speaking all too much and thus determine, or even through the overflow of eloquent words ‘terrorise’ (cf. infra), the other. The asceticism of listening more than speaking also implies the ‘silence’ of the therapist, to be sure on condition that it is not an indifferent, all too politely distant, rhetorical, or even an icy and aggressive silence, but rather a silence that contributes to the creation of a ‘terror-free zone’ (cf. infra) wherein the client is given the chance to be present and to speak as other. Listening implies being able to keep silent, but the silence must also be a sincere listening, otherwise the moments of silence, whether long or short, become unbearable. This careful listening also implies that the spoken word of the face-to-face takes priority over the written word: “Oral discourse is the plenitude of discourse” (TI 96). The one who speaks assists oneself in order to illuminate one’s word (TI 98) and to correct or even to contradict the interpretations of that word spoken by the counsellor (TI 91). This possibility of ‘contradicting’ – speaking again, or literally anew – is essential for therapy as dialogue. All this means that a therapist is no longer the ‘lord and master’ of the therapeutic dialogue. Ideally speaking, counsellors learned from their professional formation and position to discern and to adjust their position as a superior. To be counsellor requires a constant conversion in the literal sense of the word, namely a reversal of the order: by means of one’s
5 epiphany and speaking, the client becomes the master and teacher to whom the therapist must listen humbly. It is not I, the therapist, who stands at the centre of attention but the other, the client. The other appears as the superior who exercises authority – not to be reduced to power – over me: “To approach the other in conversation… is to receive from the other beyond the capacity of the I” (TI 51). Perhaps the therapist indeed has something to offer, but first the client must acquire the space to express oneself and to speak. Every therapeutic relationship must thus begin – and begin time and time again – with a form of humility and modesty. The client must tell the therapist about that which concerns oneself the most. This is a wholly different learning than Greek learning, based on ‘know thyself’ (gnothi seauton). In the relationship to the client, the counsellor learns not by descending into himself and drawing out from one’s deepest interiority the wisdom about all things, but by stepping out of oneself and standing open attentively for the other who reveals oneself by speaking to the counsellor. The relationship to the client as other is pre-eminently not an autonomous but a heteronomous event that is based on the counsellor’s awareness of one’s not-knowing. In this regard, the alterity of the client as the starting point for the learning of the counsellor is not only external but also prior and superior. As radical other, the client brings the counsellor round to lay down all pretence and to approach the client with diffidence and respect, so that the other can reveal one’s alterity in all freedom, at the authority of one’s alterity itself.
2. The ethical dynamics of the therapeutic relationship With this, however, we have already arrived inadvertently at the level of ethical reflection. Therefore we now direct our attention explicitly to the ethical dynamics of psychotherapy as an I-other-relationship (or even better as an other-I-relationship). 2.1. The therapeutic face-to-face as ethical crisis Before we enter into the positive dynamics of respect, acknowledgement and responsibility in their different forms, we must first reflect on the negative ethical dynamics, namely the lower limit, that Levinas summarises as: ‘you shall not kill’. It is his foundational insight that a qualitatively ethical relationship between people – just as an ethically qualitative therapeutic relationship – is impossible without examining the real possibility of an unethical (therapeutic) relationship, in the awareness that an ethically inappropriate relationship is also a relationship, and thus indeed has an impact on the victim of such an anti-relationship. 2.1.1. The client as other is also vulnerable Concretely speaking, we follow Levinas in his analysis of the ethical vulnerability of the other, whereby we focus on the vulnerability of the counsellee at the same time. Above, we spoke of mastership and thus about the authority and the strength of the other as ‘master and teacher’. But the strength of the face is also characterised by weakness, a very specific ethical vulnerability. Stronger still, the mastership of the face is based, upon closer inspection, on that vulnerability. The ‘hard and unrelenting’ alterity of the face consists in that the other is irreducible and unassailable in one’s being-other. But actually that is already an ethical statement, since the face can in fact be assailed, meaning to say it can be stripped of its alterity and thus be violated. The paradox is that the face appears in its epiphany as invulnerable, while at the same time it can be negated and humiliated in its alterity. Hence,
6 according to Levinas the face also reveals itself as a “strangeness-destitution” (étrangetémisère) (TI 75). Since the other comes ‘from elsewhere’, he falls outside the horizon of the familiar world of the ‘I’ (GCM 9). The other is literally a ‘foreigner’: utterly dependent on oneself and abandoned to one’s fate, completely defenceless, in need of help and without refuge, “not autochthonous, uprooted, without a country, not an inhabitant” (OB 91). The nakedness of one’s face runs through up to the nakedness of one’s body, which suffers cold and is subject to disease and ailments. And he is embarrassed by one’s nakedness, which also drives the other to camouflage one’s nakedness by means of all sorts of ‘false pretences’. In short, through the face – and the entire body is face – the other is exposed to all kinds of weather, to disease or old age and decline, and thus to loneliness, suffering and death: “Existence kath’auto is, in the world, a destitution” (TI 75). In a very particular manner, this vulnerability applies to those who are marked by psychological suffering, including the relational, social and spiritual dimensions of that suffering. Not only does their suffering – depressions, fears, obsessions, corrosive feelings of alienation and absurdity, etc. – ultimately make them fragile and dependent, but the very fact that they have to seek professional help as well, in the awareness that on their own or merely with the assistance of those around them they may not get out of it all. Levinas compares psychological suffering even with physical ‘pain-illnesses’ (douleurs-maladies) whereby the cruelty of the pain becomes the central phenomenon of the diseased state and isolates itself in consciousness, or even absorbs the rest of consciousness. This same ‘pain-illness’ or ‘pure pain’ can sweep the persons who are affected by a form of deep psychic suffering: “the ‘painillnesses’ of beings who are psychologically deprived, retarded, mentally deficient, impoverished in their social life and impaired in their relation to the other person” (EN 80). This leads Levinas to label suffering as the ‘excessive’ par excellence, not in the quantitative but in qualitative sense of the word (even though the essential excessiveness of suffering is expressed most acutely in forms of severe suffering). Strictly speaking, all suffering is ‘unassumable’; it is refractory to the ‘I am’ or the mastership of one’s own life. Its fatality and therefore its passivity of ‘pure undergoing’ expresses itself in the incapacity – or the refusal – of consciousness to assemblage the data of life into a meaningful whole: “at once what disturbs order and this disturbance itself. It is not the consciousness of rejection or a symptom of rejection, but this rejection itself: a backward consciousness, ‘operating’ not a ‘grasp’ but a revulsion” (EN 78). Therefore suffering is experienced as ‘evil’, not to be understood as an absence of ‘good’ (privatio boni), but undergone as the ‘evilness of evil’, malignity par excellence (ES 131-132). 2.1.2. Temptation to violence in psychotherapy By means of his essential and factual vulnerability and poverty the face of the other elicits in others the ‘temptation to indifference’, or even the ‘temptation to violence’ as Levinas formulates it in strong terms (EI 86). Although with this bold statement Levinas goes directly against the positive self-image that therapists cherish narcissistically about themselves, an honest appraisal of reality – especially the reality of themselves – still requires that they acknowledge their potential – direct or more often subtle – violence towards the other. It is only by means of this humility and wisdom that therapists shall be able to prevent and heal their ’predisposition’ to violence: “To be free is to have time to forestall one’s own abdication under the threat of violence” (TI 237).
7 The question now is, what allows for the fact that the ‘I’, in this case the counsellor, can be tempted to violence. For the answer to this question we must pay attention to the way in which Levinas describes the dynamics of existence of the ‘I’ (and thus of the therapist as an ‘ordinary’ person). Just like all other earthly beings the ‘I’ – as a being – is marked by the attempt-to-be. With a term from Spinoza, Levinas speaks of the conatus essendi (OB 4-5): “the natural tension of being on itself that I have alluded to as egoism. Egoism is not an ugly vice of the subject’s, but is ontology, as we find in the sixth proposition of Part III of Spinoza’s Ethics: ‘Every being makes every effort insofar as it is in it to preserve in its being’; and in Heidegger’s expression about existence existing in such a way that its Being has the very Being as an issue” (PN 70-71). The existence of the ‘I’, and thus of the therapist, is no blank page, no trouble-free existence, but a threatened, fearful and worried existence that displays the inclination – especially when threatened – to fold back into itself whereby it precisely becomes a subjective existence, an I-existence: ‘as-far-as-I-am-concerned’ (quant-àmoi). The attempt-at-being is from the very beginning an ‘effort-at-being’, literally an effort in order to be, a ‘struggle for life’ to use an expression of Darwin (AS 80-83). The exercising of this struggle for life is not so much about being strong but rather about being flexible. Thus the struggle for life as the capacity and the drive to adapt to changing, and especially threatening, circumstances. In this ‘clever’ struggle to exist the ‘I’ does not remain turning within itself and affirming itself (I am I), but steps outward in order to transform the other, namely the world, into its means, its house and environment (TI 116). Even knowledge is introduced in this project of self-unfolding that ensues from the finitude of the ‘I’, in the sense that the ‘I’ literally gets a grasp onto the world by means of developing and applying its knowledge as ‘understanding’. It is knowledge, therefore, in the service of the functional (‘economic’) transformation of nature into a life world for humans as egos. In this manner, the ‘I’ realises itself as an animal rationale: the animality of the struggle for life is raised to the human level of rationality, but this rational humanity remains at the service of animality (PM 169-172). This dynamism of the attempt-at-being, however, does not only relate to the ‘other’ in nature but also to other people in the world. In its egocentric interest the ‘I’ is inclined to introduce even other people into one’s project of self-unfolding – or, if necessary, if they form too great a threat, to eliminate them. This leads us seamlessly to the ‘temptation to violence’, which Levinas repeatedly refers to when he explores the relationship between the ‘I’ and the other. The ethical benevolence toward the other is not self-explanatory; it is no spontaneous natural given for it must elevate itself time and again above the egocentric selfishness of the ‘I’ that as a ‘for itself’, in its fear for limitation, suffering and death, fights with suppressed energy and with all its means for its own existence. The basic self-interest of the I strives ‘to reduce the other to the same’ (TI 43). This reduction is the core of all violence, whatever the form may be in which it incarnates itself: visible and direct or indirect, hidden and subtle; bodily or psychologically and socially; mild or extreme; individual or collective; profane or spiritual and religious. The concrete forms wherein Levinas discovers this violence are especially the following: the use or instrumental functionalisation of the other as a ‘means’ of one’s own self development; the abuse of the other, tyranny and enslavement; racism and anti-Semitism, hate and murder. In the context of our Levinasian interpretation of therapeutic relationships, we reflect on a few so-called ‘milder’, non-lethal forms of violence. Although they seem a far cry from murder and destruction, this does not mean that they would be ‘not serious’, meaning to say they would
8 not imply any real violation of the other. Precisely in order to promote the ethical quality of therapeutic dialogue, they must be taken seriously. 2.1.3. Temptation to diagnostic violence in psychotherapy Firstly, with Levinas we can point to ‘diagnostic reduction’, meaning to say to the inclination of the ‘I’ (therapist) to reduce the other (client) to her or his appearance (cf. supra). Thanks to my spontaneous or methodical and professionally developed observation – ‘vision’ in the literal sense of the word – I endeavour to focus on or get an image of the other, and to know and to understand her or him. By means of one’s face, which expresses itself physically in and through its plastic form, we get a view of the other thanks to one’s appearance, meaning to say thanks to one’s physiognomy, glance, facial expression – and, in extension, thanks to one’s psychological and social body, namely thanks to one’s character, relational network, social and cultural milieu. On the basis of our attempt-at-being and its egocentric interestedness we are inclined to approach the other in her or his observable and objectifiable appearance. Thus the other becomes accessible and understandable to us. Thus I come to know how to deal with the other and how to exercise power over her or him, so that he ‘contributes’ to my own happiness and self-unfolding. If therapists can make clear to their clients how well they understand her or him, they can then obfuscate how much their therapeutic action stands in service of the reinforcement of their own positive self-image as a person and as a professional. In the words of Levinas himself: “You turn yourself toward the other as toward an object when you see a nose, eyes, a forehead, a chin, and you can describe them. […] When one observes the colour of the eyes one is not in ethical relationship with the other. The relation with the face can surely be dominated by perception, but what is specifically the face is what cannot be reduced to that” (EI 85-86). It is of vital importance for every counsellor to realise how in the endeavour to gain good knowledge of the other, on the basis of one’s own perception, one can inadvertently end up in the risk of diagnostic reduction, and thus in the risk of a real, although not always acknowledged and thus subtle form of violence. In this regard, coming to awareness that one as therapist is liable to be tempted to diagnostic reduction is already an ethical awareness, namely that such a reduction is not allowed, in other words that one should not do violence to the other (which will be discussed further). 2.1.2. Temptation to rhetoric in psychotherapy Another temptation in psychotherapy is that of rhetoric, “the art that is supposed to enable us to master language” (OS 135), and this art can corrupt dialogue in its true nature of ‘face-toface’. Here Levinas follows in particular the view of Plato, who among others in the Phaedrus (273d) states that in our conversations we often rely on rhetoric in order to approach the other as “an object or an infant, or a man of the multitude” (TI 70). For that, rhetoric makes use of figures of language itself, so that the saying can appear in beauty – as a form of ‘appearance’: eloquence (OS 139). This applies not only to our daily conversations but also to philosophy, ethics, education and religion, jurisprudence and politics (GCM 7-8), and specifically to our psychological conversations and therapeutic interactions with clients. The risk is that a therapist tries to convince the interlocutor by using professionally developed psychological concepts and interpretations of all kinds of ‘syndromes’ as forms of linguistic magic. And as in all rhetoric, one ends up in the temptation to approach the other with a ruse – but that ruse
9 is at the same time embellished in beautiful and elevated language (DF 277), whereby it is not always simple to unmask it as a form of abuse of power, or even of terror. In professional forms of interpretative psychotherapeutic discourse language becomes easily rhetoric and runs therefore the risk to degenerate into a form of violence, in the sense that it attempts to penetrate into the perception and the reason of the client via wordplays rich in imagery and hyperbolic figures of speech conveyed with the necessary pathos (0B 19). The conversation partner begins to think and to understand oneself differently, no longer in conformity with one’s own experience but according to the power of the speaker – and this, according to Plato, turns the speaker into a ‘despot’: probably a friendly and ‘convincing’ despot but still a despot. The risk of rhetorical violence can still be increased by the fact that different therapeutic schools exist like, among others, the psycho-dynamic and psychoanalytic, the cognitive-behavioural or behaviourist and systemic, the humanist or existential, and other possible combination of forms. Each school employs not only its own methodology and style but also its own conceptual framework and discourse, and does so according to its own rhetoric that reinforces itself in the discussion with other schools. Moreover, each school employs its own rhetoric strategies to attract clients… Levinas can then also state that rhetoric, in more or less aggressive but subtle forms, making use of diplomacy, flattery, demagogy or compassion and altruism, does not approach the other ‘face-to-face’ but rather indirectly and obliquely. This does not mean that rhetoric reduces the other to an object. Rhetoric remains a conversation where despite – or by means of – the ruse and tricks of all kinds of figures of speech, one still remains addressing the other. But precisely by addressing the other as other, rhetoric competes for one’s ‘yes’ which constitutes exactly rhetoric’s ambiguity: a face-to-face wherein violence is done to the other at the same time. Rhetoric is therefore a specific form of violence and injustice, in the sense that one acknowledges the other by means of speaking to the other, but at the same time one tries to seduce the other to give oneself over to the speaker, in our case the therapist. Rhetoric is thus not about a form of violence whereby one launches frontally onto the other as an object or inert reality. The eloquent ‘I’, in this case the counsellor, launches onto the other, in this case the client, as a free being. Via the use of evocative, metaphorical language and reasoning as such, one attempts to penetrate the freedom of the other so that the other will agree freely with what is presented so meaningfully – and thus ‘beautifully’ (!) – in scientific and therefor professional psychotherapeutic language. At any rate, rhetoric will go at lengths to give the impression of free consent to the other. Against this background it is understandable that Levinas argues for the use of simple and direct everyday language (OS 138), although he is aware that even that language cannot do without rhetoric (TI 70). And if we were to keep silent in order to avoid rhetoric, that silence also becomes a form of rhetoric (BV 28). In extension to this, we thus argue for the use of sufficiently sober and brief, ‘naked’ everyday language in therapeutic conversation, certainly when it is about psycho-affective phenomena related to psychological health (or sickness). In that way, the misleading ideological use of all too grandiloquent professional-technical psychological metaphors can, or better should be avoided. And, by means of the use of simple, everyday language, the encounter itself between me and the other, between counsellor and counsellee, can especially remain primary – without being flooded by all sorts of eloquent forms and manners of speaking. One is then no longer concerned about the art of professional speaking but about the encounter with the other as other, whereby the presence and the word of the other take first place: “In everyday language we approach the other instead of forgetting the other in the ‘enthusiasm’ of eloquence” (OS 142).
2.1.4. Temptation to dominance and power abuse in psychotherapy Another so-called ‘milder’ but yet strong, non-lethal form of inter-human violence, which can also creep into the therapeutic relationship, can be labelled as domination and power abuse. At first sight this seems to be a developed and extreme form of instrumental functionalizing of the client. Upon further consideration forms of power and domination come forth out of self-protection and fear for the power of the other who can equally be a selfish ‘I’, driven by its own strong struggle for life (especially because of its actual situation of alienation). In the psychotherapy, the exercise of power by the therapist remains a permanent temptation especially when the therapist feels threatened. Moreover, the possible misuse of power goes hand in hand with the power position of the therapist as a professional. This is no such temptation that a therapist can put behind oneself once and for all by means of a one-time decision at a certain moment. It can crop up time and again, since a therapist is not immune and perfect but rather a fragile being that can be pushed into the defensive on account of the context and the circumstances. Hence, vigilance and conversion, through ‘inter-vision’, remain necessary in order to accord the client with the deserved priority: ‘the other first!’ With Levinas we must also be aware that the striving for domination through ‘influencing’ and power can be tempted towards the ‘terror of tyranny’. Following Plato, for Levinas (FC 15-17), tyranny consists in an ‘I’ trying to subjugate others – but without killing them – in such a way that in one way or the other they give up their freedom to the ‘lord’, in exchange for the satisfaction of their needs (TI 229). This tyrannical penetration into, and seizure of freedom makes of its victims not only ‘slaves,’ but in its extreme form also ‘enslaved spirits.’ One no longer has an individual will; one loses her or his freedom to think and act. In its consistent form, this means that even the ‘capacity’ to obey an order – which implies freedom – is eradicated. An enslaved spirit acts out of ‘blind’ obedience. Here, ‘blind’ means literally that the ‘servile soul’ not only loses the experience of his or her autonomy but also of his or her obedience. There is no longer any ‘conscious’ obedience, but only an inner, irresistible ‘inclination’ and ‘drive’ to accommodate oneself to the powerful (TI 237). The inclination to submit becomes second nature, whereby the tyranny exercised no longer appears as terror (DF 149). For an ethically authentic therapeutic face-to-face it is therefore extremely important that the counsellor is aware of one’s possible striving for domination, and of the possible inclination towards the subjugation and subordination of the client. In their existential (and sometimes also material) situation of need and necessity, clients can feel so weak and impotent that they would be prepared to become attached to the therapist who is assisting them. And a therapist can be tempted, in one way or the other, to bind and subjugate clients to her- or himself, that is to say to intimidate and manipulate clients so that clients surrender themselves emotionally and existentially to the therapist. Even though it appears at first sight rather far fetched and exaggerated, tyranny is in no way whatsoever impossible in a therapeutic relationship, precisely because the terror exercised can hide behind the pretence of the docile obligingness and unconditional trust of the client. And thus stories arise time and again – to name but one actual example – of forms of sexual dominance and dependence in therapeutic relationships, with all its pernicious consequences for the client. The latter is often very much aware of the serfdom (vassalage) but the gratification of amalgamating and ‘consoling’ dependence – and of the alleged power of the therapist – is so huge that this awareness of dependence is suppressed (cf. above on the servile soul), till… till one awakens
11 later, which can lead to great shame and anger, not only towards the other but also towards oneself because one did not dare (or was not able) to resist… 2.2. Prohibition against crushing the other: the basic ethical condition for psychotherapy The description of all these facets of the ‘temptation to violence’ was no neutral description, in the sense that they already proceeded inadvertently from an important ethical presupposition, namely the ‘prohibition against violence’, which has been interpreted time and again by Levinas in the unrelenting prohibition: ‘Thou shall not kill’ (EN 30). With this prohibition begins all responsibility and care for the other, and thus also of psychotherapy and counselling. This does disturb our romantic and naïve image of the therapeutic face-to-face, as if it would be based spontaneously, constantly and entirely on goodness, care and benevolence. Our analysis, in line with Levinas, of a few modalities of violence has demonstrated unambiguously how even therapeutic conversation can be subjected to violence and inauthenticity. A therapeutic dialogue is not automatically non-violent because it is therapeutic. Just like every human conversation it is potentially violent. Counsellors who are not aware of this run a great risk – greater than the risk of those who are indeed aware – of ending up in one or the other shrouded or direct form of violence. That is why an ethically qualitative therapeutic relationship begins with the awareness that violence is possible and forbidden! We would now like to elucidate further what this prohibition signifies, paying special attention to its implications on therapeutic counselling. At the moment that I, on the basis of my attempt-at-being, am tempted by the naked and vulnerable face to reduce the other to one’s appearance or into a means of my self-unfolding, I realise that that which is possible is actually not allowed. This is precisely the core of the fundamental ethical experience that is aroused within the therapist by the face of the client. In the face the counsellor discovers oneself as potentially violent vis-à-vis the other. The face appears as opposition and resistance: it poses itself before the counsellor as a radical ‘halt’ or ‘no’, as an absolute resistance against all the capacities of the counsellor (PIF 55). This is not about a physical but rather an ethical resistance: a resistance of that which actually has no resistance. The banal factuality of violence “reveals the quasi-null resistance of the obstacle” (TI 198). Even though the face is not capable of resisting the factual violence, it still stubbornly remains speaking – without words or in an almost inaudible whisper – the defenceless word: ‘Thou shall not kill’ (OS 94). And of course we already know that ‘Thou shall not kill’ “does not signify merely the interdiction against plunging a knife into the breast of the other. Of course, it signifies that, too. But so many ways of being comport a way of crushing the other” (IFP 53). Something very paradoxical is apparent here, namely that therapeutic dialogue – as a particular incarnation of inter-human ethics – begins as a shock experience, i.e. as the possibility and the prohibition to cause damage to the client, the other, by means of inflicting violence on the other in one way or the other. The therapeutic encounter begins not with a commandment that prescribes what the counsellor must do, but with a prohibition that indicates what is certainly not allowed. In the conversation that the therapist initiates with the client, the therapist is not primarily faced with the task ‘to do’ something, but rather with the warning ‘not to do’ something. An ethically qualitative therapeutic encounter begins not as straightforwardness and generosity, but as reservation and caution. The fundamental ethical feeling that is aroused by the prohibition against violence is a remarkable form of fear and ‘shuddering’ (OB 84, 87, 192, 195), not concern for oneself but the fear of wanting to kill the
12 other. In this regard, Levinas likewise speaks of a scruple. Literally, the Latin scrupulus means a stone in the shoe whereby one cannot remain standing but is irked to start moving. Scruple is thus an unrest that has a bothersome effect, which is also characterised by Levinas as discomfort and shame: I am anxious that I might in one way or the other grasp and do violence, neglect, violate or damage, use and abuse, reduce to one’s image or diagnosis, manipulate rhetorically, maltreat, dominate or subjugate, in short ‘kill’ and inflict injustice to the other in one’s irreducible and wholly being-other, whereby the other is given over to me, depending on me (GCM 169). We can also label this first ethical movement toward the vulnerable other as “the apparently negative movement of restraint” (NT 126). Confronted with the principal affectability and factual vulnerability of the client, the therapist is demanded to restrain and to withdraw oneself. An ethically qualitative therapeutic dialogue begins as the paradox of the shrinking or ‘self-contraction’ of the therapist. It is not with impetuous haste that enthusiastically drives forward and thus threatening to crush the client, but with trembling and inhibition that the counsellor approaches the counsellee. Or to put it differently still, the ethical relationship of the therapist to the client begins as hesitation, embarrassment about oneself, a movement of self-questioning: ‘Oh my, what am I doing…? Am I perhaps too obtrusive, too rough, too self-assured and unconcerned? Or am I too concerned with myself and my own image or appreciation by others?’ The appearance of the other traumatises me so that I begin to feel uncomfortable (OB 51). “[The face of the other] calls into question the naïve right of my powers, my glorious spontaneity as a living being. Morality begins when freedom, instead of being justified by itself [being sure of itself in its naïve spontaneity], feels itself to be arbitrary and violent” (TI 84). All this implies that an ethically qualitative therapeutic encounter cannot tolerate any form of violence by the therapist towards the client. This demand for non-violence is the primary ethical task of the counsellor, whatever the context of the therapeutic conversation may be. It is such a fundamental ethical task that it precedes all other ethical modes of approach to the client. Its fundamental character is at the same time wholly paradoxical since by not killing or by not using any (direct or indirect) form of violence, one has in fact not yet done anything. If a therapist refrains from violence, everything else still remains to be done, whereas through obedience to the prohibition the conditions for a salutary therapeutic interaction are created. By means of the prohibition ‘Thou shall not kill’ and the ethical scruple or reservation that has been aroused within me, the radical asymmetry between me and the other – between the counsellor and the client – still becomes more visible than was already demonstrated above. The ethical prohibition instigates the “curvature of the intersubjective space” (TI 291). By means of the prohibition, the ‘I’, the counsellor, and the other, the client, are distinguished from each other in a radical way, not only phenomenologically but also ethically, precisely because they are placed before each other in ‘non-in-difference’. This difference does not depend on their respective, distinct qualities nor on their coincidentally unequal psychological dispositions and moods during the therapeutic encounter (TI 215). It lies in the ‘I-otherconjunction’ itself: by means of its demanding – forbidding – character, the face of the other – the client – stands as an authority above the counsellor. Out of its ethical ‘highness’ the face comes towards the counsellor with an appeal. With Levinas we can also call this the ‘sacred height’ of the face of the client (PIF 56). As such, the client as other is not the counsellor’s equal, but her or his superior: not only her or his master who teaches and reveals something radically new, as we saw above, but also a ‘lord’ who as a ‘Thou’ commands the therapist unconditionally from the eminent height of the other’s face: “The interlocutor is not a Thou,
13 he is a You [pas un Toi, il est un Vous]; he reveals himself in his lordship” (TI 101). That is precisely the paradox of the epiphany of the face of the client: as the factually lesser and ‘needy’ one, the client as the irreducible other that speaks and appeals to the counsellor ethically is her or his superior, by whom the therapist must let oneself be orientated. Thus, the mastership of the other, the client, sketched above, is reinforced or rather ethically qualified. Thus the primacy of the other likewise acquires its full ethical weight. The other comes first, not because he or she is better or occupies a more interesting social position, but rather because in and through her or his face as ethical appeal the other exercises authority over the therapist, to be sure a disarmed authority because by means of its prohibition the face cannot force but only appeal to the therapist. 3. Psychotherapy as multidirected responsibility for the other It is only by means of obedience to the prohibition against violence that in psychotherapy space is created for the positive interpretation and realisation of counselling as an ethical relationship toward the client, the other. Levinas characterises the positive ethical relationship toward the other with the synthetic term responsibility. In counselling, one strives not only not to inflict violence on the other but one strives also and especially for the well-being of the other as much as possible, whatever the methodological paths may be that a certain psychotherapeutic ‘school’ develops and applies. 3.1. Recognition and affirmation of the uniqueness of the client Let us now look more closely upon this responsibility. Different dimensions can be distinguished therein. A first dimension of therapeutic responsibility has to do with establishing and promoting the client as a unique other. It is a responsibility that allows a client to raise her or his voice: the voice of the irreducible, lofty other, the true master and teacher for every therapist. This responsibility is more than not killing or not using violence. It is also the fundamental choice and attitude of acknowledgement and respect for the beingother of the client. Concretely, the therapist acknowledges the client by believing in that other. This means no subjugation of the other but a turning towards the client that confirms its alterity. By means of giving recognition to the client, the counsellor respects and confirms its face as an expression of its unique being-other: to show respect is to bow down before a being that commands me. Hence, Levinas can state that “speech is a relationship between freedoms which neither limit nor negate, but affirm, one another” (ET 43). By speaking to each other they bind themselves to each other, but at the same time they are not swallowed up in this dialogue: they remain transcendent with regard to each other. The reciprocity of this respect is no formal relationship of someone who speaks to someone else. On the contrary, it is about an ethically qualified reciprocity in the sense that the client, who is confirmed in its unique being-other and mastership by the counsellor, responds to this recognition with its word and story and thus also gives recognition to the therapist. This does not mean that a reciprocal recognition becomes the condition for the recognition by the therapist: the recognition of the counsellor remains asymmetric and unconditional. An essential and at the same time concrete form of recognition in therapeutic dialogue consists in paying the necessary and deserved attention to the other as other: “the eminently sovereign attention in me is what essentially responds to an appeal. The exteriority of its point of departure is essential to it: it is the very tension of the I” (TI 99). This attention initially
14 expresses itself (1) by the simple but not simplistic form of greeting the other – ‘good morning’ (bonjour) as a ‘first blessing’ (AT 98); (2) by addressing the other using the other’s ‘proper name’: the other not as a particular case of a genus but as unique ‘you’; and (3) by finally listening carefully to the other, as we already explained in the first part of this contribution. These are all forms of what Levinas calls ‘ethical courtesy’, incarnating the choice of giving priority to the other: “After You!” (IFP 47, 49). With Levinas, we can in psychotherapy call the special way to pay attention to the uniqueness of the other the ‘noble casuistry’ (LAV 121). The positive value of casuistry consists in that it constantly takes into account that which it faces along with the concrete situation of every ‘casus’. Or rather, it approaches persons and situations not as exemplary applications of a general principle or as a particularity of a clinical syndrome, but on the contrary, it approaches them in their irreducible and unrepeatable, ‘extra-ordinary’ uniqueness. We cannot deny that casuistry has often had (and still has) a pejorative reputation, often because of its own deficiencies. Some have employed this methodology hypocritically or even abused it in order to justify themselves or to judge (or condemn) others. Indeed, while painting a concrete situation, one can always find details to justify one’s judgement ideologically, whatever that judgement might entail. Nevertheless, casuistry is a matter of great importance for every therapy and counselling, as it is in essence the striving for an actual estimation, understanding and ‘re-understanding’ or ‘re-interpretation’ again and again of the unique person in her or his unique situation. It is especially the acknowledgement of the fact that a being finds itself before me that is utterly new or ‘hapax’: someone else – a wholly other - who is there for that one single instance, here and now, beyond every difference based on genus and species. In this regard, ethical casuistry is an eminent precautionary measure against every form of ideology and reduction, which makes of the singular case a concrete deduction of the general principle – bad casuistry (LAV 122). 3.2. Psychotherapy as responsibility for the responsibility of the other After this general consideration of the therapeutic responsibility to acknowledge the client in her or his unique being-other and right to act, we would like to specify further the task of the counsellor by appealing to the way in which Levinas in his second major work Otherwise than Being or Beyond the Essence (1974) radicalises the idea of responsibility by describing it as “responsibility for the responsibility of the other” (OB 117). We can distinguish two aspects therein, on the one hand, the care for the responsibility of the other for oneself, and on the other hand, the care for the responsibility of the other for others. 3.2.1. Emancipatory aspect of the therapist’s responsibility for the other Our responsibility for the other indeed shows a remarkable paradox. Thanks to its heteronomous and altro-centric origin and orientation, it implies a transcendence of the attempt-at-being of the ‘I’, the therapist, as we explained above. But this transcendence directs itself at the same time to the attempt-at-being of the other, the client. It is not only the recognition of the client (‘other’) by the therapist (‘I’) that is important, but also the care for the ups and downs of the counsellee in its very concrete self-unfolding, namely the unfolding of its ‘attempt-at-being’ into an independent and free existence. In the therapeutic encounter, attention for the other must be such that the other is not reduced to an ‘object’ of responsibility, but rather be promoted to a ‘subject’ of responsibility. In that sense the claim of the client does not stand at odds with the radical heteronomous responsibility of the
15 therapist, but the one has need of the other. The responsibility of the counsellor sees to it that the ‘mastership’ of the client, the other par excellence, which was made explicit above, takes on its true ethical form. By means of one’s responsibility for the client as ‘other before me’, the therapist makes real the ethical mastership of the other. The responsibility for the client implies indeed the essential care for his or her being independent or free from alienations, anxieties and obsessions and becoming mature, otherwise there is no authentic therapeutic relationship. The I-other-relationship is indeed, according to Levinas, only possible when the partners of the encounter are radically separate from each other and are not swallowed up in the relationship (and the conversation), but remain separate: “Simultaneously, in dialogue is hollowed out an absolute distance between the I and the You, absolutely separated by the inexpressible secret of their intimacy, each being unique in its kind as I and as You, each one absolutely other in relation to the other. […] On the other hand, it is also there that unfolds […] the extraordinary and immediate relation of dia-logue, which transcends this distance without surpassing it or recuperating I” (GCM 145). Or formulated still more pithily: “The same and the other at the same time maintain themselves in relationship and absolve themselves from this relationship, remain absolutely separated” (TI 102). What is remarkable here is that the relationship and separation do not stand side by side, but are mutually dependent on each other. The irreducibility between the partners of the dialogue is the condition for a non-fusional, non-violent encounter. And it is in and through such an encounter that they receive their separateness as well. Thus the alterity of the client becomes, thanks to therapeutic dialogue and thanks to the responsibility of the therapist, confirmed and promoted. With Levinas we can call this the true miracle of therapeutic conversation, and of all authentic conversations. We would also like to call it the emancipatory dimension of the heteronomous responsibility ‘by and for the other’, whereby the evil – the real risk of paternalistic and moralistic tyranny – in therapeutic dialogue can be prevented. Or rather, this needs to be avoided at all costs in order to guarantee the ethical quality of therapeutic dialogue. The awareness that one can be inclined, precisely from one’s ‘power position’ as counsellor, to emphasise only the psychological, affective or existential ‘neediness’ of the client and as such make the other dependent or keep the other imprisoned in (the yearning for) dependence, forms an essential part of an ethically qualified therapeutic responsibility. The therapist who takes on correctly her or his responsibility for the client throughout the course of the dialogical interaction creates space and possibilities for the affirmation and development of the independence and responsibility of the client for oneself. This of course is not the same as denying unrealistically the dependencies and alienations or ‘demons’ with all kinds of old and new names that afflict and ‘possess’ the client, since this is probably the reason why the client has approached the counsellor. It rather means that one does not identify the client with these depersonalising dependencies and alienations, so that precisely in and through the encounter and the dialogue, space is created in order to tap the (realistic) potentialities of growth of the client. Authentic therapeutic responsibility means that the counsellor stimulates the client to express oneself and make oneself present in one’s unique being-other, so that the dialogue can unfold into a true partnership – without thereby destroying the ethical asymmetry: an asymmetric reciprocity. This emancipatory approach to the client as subject of its own attempt-at-being (conatus essendi) likewise implies that the counsellor appreciates not merely by acknowledging and by ‘resonating’ or ‘mirroring’ the contribution of the other, but that the counsellor also dares to react with questions and comments that contribute to the counsellee’s being able to express oneself more and better. Only thus can the banal and pitying sentimentalism of a merely
16 ‘accommodating’ conversation be avoided. A real and robust, at the same time circumspect and respectful, therapeutic dialogue is based on the face-to-face of two unique persons that approach each other with an open view and that confirm each other in their unique alterity in and through this directness. The emancipatory dimension of the therapeutic relationship should therefore not be understood incorrectly, as if the therapist would not be capable of being critical towards the client. The therapist is, after all, responsible for the well-being of the client. This is not the same as giving in time and again to the desires and longings of the client. What clients find (subjectively) important, namely ‘the good in their own terms’, is not automatically identical with what is (objectively) desirable or fair, ‘the real good’. It does not mean that one must not pay attention to the longings that clients express, and this with the necessary benevolence. The above-mentioned concept of emancipatory responsibility remains simply intact. It does mean that – on the basis, among others, of professional knowledge and wisdom – one must remain alert and critical in order to investigate, to weigh and ponder, in order to judge in one’s honour and conscience – without boldness but likewise without fear – about what truly contributes to the well-being of the client. This can imply that therapists choose not to give in to the requests of the client, especially if these requests are formulated as ‘demands’ and ‘rights’ in the form of pleading, insisting, urging (and thereby appealing to their fragility…). Think for instance of the situation wherein clients request for (strong) anti-depressants or consider them normal, on the basis of their non-relenting psychological suffering… . It is one thing to listen to the client and even take into account his or her refusals and resistance, even to the point when they say ‘no’. It is another thing to say no as a therapist, at times necessary however painful, to the desires of the client, when one is convinced that condoning them would simply be damaging or not helpful in the long run to their well-being. Precisely the responsibility of the therapist for the other implies that his or her alert and critical voice should not be obliterated in the therapeutic inter-change. By introducing in all honesty their reservation and critical reflection in the therapeutic encounter, therapists likewise acknowledge the unique being-subject of the clients. In and through the face-to-face of the one-before-the-other, the client is not reduced to an object but is promoted to a subject. And this in its turn is simply therapeutic, meaning to say healing and liberating for the client. 3.2.2. Responsible for the client’s responsibility for the other We need to go a step further, in a certain sense different from what Levinas himself says in his philosophical view on responsibility, even though he remains our inspiration for this new step. It is namely important in the description of the ethical structure and modality of therapy and counselling as responsibility for the other, not only to have an eye for the subjective side of the responsibility, i.e. the therapist’s being responsible, but also for the objective side, i.e. for the one to whom the responsibility is directed. If one pays no attention to the ‘object’ of responsibility of the counsellor, namely the client, this can give rise to pernicious lopsided developments so much so that the responsibility by the other (therapist) for the other (client) can be transformed into its own opposite. In concrete, applicable terms, the question indeed not only is what this responsibility means as choice and attitude for the therapist but also where it leads or should lead. If we do not pose this second question it is very likely that the therapeutic care for the other, with all possible effort and commitment, ends up in the contrary result for the client. That is why we apply the concept of asymmetrical responsibility not only to the therapist but also to the client, whereby it concerns two forms of responsibility that
17 intersect each other. The responsibility of counsellors for their clients is only integral if it grows forth into a responsibility for the responsibility of those clients not only for themselves (cf. supra) but also and in particular for others. Levinas affirms explicitly that an ethically excellent existence consists in this: “to elevate the care-for-self of living beings to the carefor-other in man” (TN 1). In other words, if we only apply the idea of responsibility for the other to the therapist, our analysis falls short and gives rise to a one-sidedness with dangerous consequences. It is indeed not impossible that the engagement of therapists for their clients ends up in an egocentric and utilitarian result in the clients. The caring responsibility for the other, the client, can be very altro-centric and unselfish, but this can unintentionally entail as well that one leads the client – the goal of our responsibility – to a conventionally smug, selfsufficient life wherein what is only or mainly important is the care for oneself. To put this paradoxically, the altruism of the one can lead directly to a promotion of the egotism of the other. Not only the ‘I’ but also the other, the client, can be selfish, indifferent, rude, dominant, manipulative, exploitative, violent, tyrannical, racist, immoral in one way or another… Does a therapist for example have to accept a bullying client, an aggressive father, a sexist teacher, a paedophile’s abuse of children, sexist or racist utterances of intolerance, etc.? It is indeed contradictory to bend just an empathic ear to unethical proposals or evil behaviour of clients… Precisely for that reason, the emancipatory promotion of the other to free selfdetermination and creative self-expression, as sketched above, should never have the final word. In therapy one probably will not start with the other-oriented responsibility since – precisely from the standpoint of therapy – one is faced with the urgency to attend first to the psychological problems and needs of the client. Yet the ethical dimension of the responsibility for the other deserves a place in the therapeutic process. And this is non-committal: in no way should it be in principle neglectful or exclusivist. In other words, it is not about an optional possibility that could just as well be left out, but it is on the contrary about an essential dimension of the ‘integral human being’ – at which therapy is or rather must be directed (which is its global ethical normativity). People can be sick of too much ethics (for instance through a crushing awareness of responsibility and sense of guilt), but they can also be sick due to too little ethics! For that reason, the therapeutic dialogue must go beyond itself. Not only must it be the expression of self-transcendence in the therapist, but also in the client. Through the epiphany of the other, who come in their vulnerable existence, counsellors are made responsible for the responsibility of the other, not only for itself but also for others. In other words, the counsellor is faced with the challenge to take up her or his responsibility for clients in such a way that they are helped and stimulated to acknowledge and take up in turn their heteronomous responsibility for others. If this does not happen, the therapeutic guidance ends up contradicting itself, destroying even its own dynamism and meaning: in an extreme ethical attention for the client as radical other, that other is then only led to pose itself centrally at the cost of others. Concretely speaking, this implies for therapeutic dialogue that, if necessary, one also confronts the client with the boundary rule mentioned above of ‘Thou shall not kill’ as an expression of the prohibition against violence, abuse, consumption, humiliation, indifference, exclusion, denial… In the non-violent space of therapeutic conversation, everything can be said by the client, but this does not mean that everything is allowed. If in the therapeutic dialogue the counsellor adopts only a ‘compliant’ and ‘understanding’ attitude and does not remain critically alert to the non-allowable boundary transgressions by the other, the counsellor then misunderstands and corrupts one’s own responsibility and the responsibility of the client. The client as well is responsible for ‘her’ or ‘his’ others, in community and
18 society. Hence, in one’s responsibility for the client the therapist must not be led to the temptation by the uniqueness of the other to close up oneself in an exclusive in-crowd of the ‘I-you’ with the client. A counsellor must be alert time and again for the others with whom the client is also connected, beginning with the ‘hidden’ others of the client’s family, relational and social network, and cultural milieu. If one neglects the real responsibilities and connections of the client with those absent third parties, then one inadvertently encourages the egocentric utilitarianism, against which we have argued above. An ethically qualitative therapeutic dialogue should never enclose itself in the cosy in-crowd of only a mutual ‘I-you’. The therapist is tasked not only ‘to hear’ the voice of the vulnerable client but also ‘to awaken’ the other to a manifold responsibility, not only for oneself but also for others, not only for those who are near but also for the absent others with whom one is invisibly but no less really connected in society.2 Thinking through this idea of the responsibility of the client for others, we arrive at the insight that the prohibition ‘Thou shall not kill’ likewise applies to the attitude of the client towards the therapist. In other words, the client also has a minimum responsibility towards the counsellor in the sense that the client should not ‘kill’ the therapist, meaning to say inflict violence, menace or violate…. If the therapeutic encounter is truly an inter-human dialogue of two separate and distinct subjects, not only the client but also the therapist must stand up for himself or herself. Taking up responsibility for the client by entering into the therapeutic interaction does not in any way mean that the therapists lose or should give up their voice. He or she remains an irreducible, unique person who may – and must – ‘say no’ to the client that despises or attacks his or her dignity as a human being. Even if the counsellor in taking up responsibility gives full attention and priority to the other (cf. supra), this can never mean that the counsellor would let oneself be ‘killed’ (in any form whatsoever) by the client. That would a mistaken sense of responsibility: a detrimental form of altruism and ‘selfeffacement’. Precisely because the therapist takes seriously the responsibility of the client for others, the therapist may and must protect his or her integrity in the therapeutic relationship. Only thus does the therapeutic relationship fully embody what Levinas calls “the order without tyranny” (FC 23), and this in two directions. The ethical acknowledgement of the one (the counsellor) for the other (the counsellee) consists in questioning and avoiding all abuse of power and tyranny towards the other. In this sense the therapeutic recognition and promotion of the unique otherness of the other expresses the exigency of a non-violent face-to-face. Such a non-tyrannical relationship, however, cannot come from one side only, namely only from the side of the counsellor. It must likewise come from the counsellee. The client as other is vulnerable, indeed, simply by means of the fact that he or she appeals to a carengiver, a therapist or a counsellor. But the client can also abuse this vulnerability and even use it as a weapon of power not only to influence the counsellor (which can still be positive) but also to force the counsellor to take certain pronouncements, agreements or actions by means of some form of manipulation, humiliation, if not subtle terror. Hence, therapeutic counselling must be 2 In this context we cannot neglect referring to the impact that therapy – and thus the therapist throughout his or her counselling – has, not only on the client but also on the client’s ‘neighbours’. The face-to-face dyad of the therapeutic relationship cannot be isolated from its impact on the client’s ‘third parties’. Depending on the outcome of the therapeutic process, a number of others in the social network of the client are affected, for good or ill. For instance, it is possible that the emancipatory growth of the client due to therapeutic intervention means a loss for the partner or the family members of the client, or for the community wherein the client lives or works…. Even this relational and social ‘impact’ of counselling affects the responsibility of the therapist in the sense that this impact is likewise the ‘subject’ of the therapeutic dialogue.
19 reciprocal on the ethical level: from both sides – not only from the counsellor but also from the counsellee – it must be non-tyrannical and non-violent. In that, both therapeutic counsellor and counsellee are radically equal and their relationship and dialogue must therefore be based on mutual respect (cf. also supra): “I recognize the other [the counsellee]; that is, I believe in her/him. But if this recognition were a submission to the other, the submission would take all its worth away from my recognition; recognition by submission would annul my dignity, through which recognition has validity. The term respect could be taken up here, provided that it be emphasized that the reciprocity of this respect is not an indifferent relation, and that it is not the outcome of, but the condition for ethics. To show respect cannot mean to subject oneself. The one respected is not the one to whom, but the one with whom one renders justice. Respect is a relationship between equals. And justice presupposes this original equality. All the slackness of the world filters in through friendly faces as soon as the relationship of mutual responsibility is suspended” (4ET 43-44, passim). Only in and through this ethical reciprocity, based on the ethical asymmetry of non-reciprocal responsibility – in the sense that the responsibility of the other for me doesn’t presuppose my responsibility for the other – the therapeutic relationship acquires its full meaning and quality, coming from the ‘I’ (therapist) towards the other and proceeding from the ‘other’ (client) towards me. Concluding without concluding: Psychiatric care beyond therapeutic counselling We certainly have not said everything that can said about psychotherapy as an ethical event. Due to the focus of this essay, we could not enter extensively into that. Yet we would like to call to mind a few aspects and view them, as in the foregoing reflections, in a Levinasian perspective. Psychotherapy is not only a form of responsibility to ‘stand by’ the clients via counselling and to strive for an achievable form of ‘well-being’. Clients do not only need conversation and counselling but also care for their existence, their ‘being’. Hence, psychotherapy likewise needs to develop itself as a broader form of care wherein attention is given to the ‘being’ of the client. Counsellees are, after all, often people in ‘material’ need, usually as a consequence of their psychological disorder(s). They are also destitute creatures, marked by bodily shortcomings and needs… that as a result require deeds of assistance. “The other’s hunger – be it of the flesh, or of bread – is sacred” (DL XIV). And thus we cannot, ethically speaking, approach the other with empty hands; that would be a vain and hypocritical gesture. The relationship with the other does not take place outside the world like a sort of ‘elevated’ and ‘spiritual’ contemplation of his or her alterity or ‘mystery’, but only in and through the world. Our responsibility for the other is consequently entirely ‘earthly’ and thus requires the tangible, material gesture of ‘assistance’ to those in need, seeking an answer that is as adequate as possible to their needs. For that reason, Levinas labels this responsibility for the other become flesh as ‘work’ (HO 26-27) and ‘diacony’ (HO 33). The word of acknowledgement must become flesh in deeds: ‘works of mercy’. The (often multi-faceted) ‘need’ of the other thus requires – demands – that we avail of all means and discoveries of a scientific and technical nature. In that way, responsibility by and for the other is transformed into goodness: “This is positively produced as the possession of a world I can bestow as a gift to the other – that is, as a presence before a face. For the presence before a face, my orientation toward the other, can lose its avidity proper to the gaze only by turning into generosity, incapable of approaching the other with empty hands” (TI 50).
20 The confrontation with the psychological suffering of the other, that mostly carries through to bodily – and psychosomatic – suffering, implies for psychotherapy the ethical demand to be more than the ‘answer’ of counselling, namely to develop itself into concrete forms of care and assistance. What is ‘peculiar’ – and at the same time the most evident – is that this tangible care for the destitute client – destitute as a consequence of or as an expression of his psychological problem – requires organised forms of assistance and aid. All sorts of goods and services are then concretely offered in the context of institutions and provisions, for instance psychiatric clinics and units or residential settings…. Here we arrive at Levinas’ view on the ethical necessity to organise the goodness of the one-for-the-uniqueother in a social manner, and thus give it shape through ‘objective mediations’ (OB 157-159). The world is not only the two of us, but the three of us, the ten, the hundred, the thousand, the very many more. Hence, goodness must become fairness and justice whereby all people are treated equally. And since most others are ‘third party’, meaning to say not directly present, we have the ethical task to transform justice – which is inspired by goodness – into an organised, institutional, structural justice. Hence, giving shape to care for psychologically and psychosomatically injured people by means of institutions like psychiatric residential and care centres is not only a fact but likewise an ethical necessity. And this organised psychiatric care – in line with Levinas’ thought on organised responsibility for others ‘in the plural’ – cannot be left to the charitable generosity of a few and of private groups; it is likewise the ethical task of society as the structural responsibility of everyone and for everyone (OS 123-124). Here we come across what Levinas calls, following Aristotle, the ‘polis’ or the ‘political’ and the ‘state’. But even with this affirmation of the ethical importance of organised psychiatric care that is worthy of the name humane, not everything has already been said. Time and again, Levinas emphasises that the final word never arrives, or rather should never be given to social systems, neither on the level of the state nor on the level of intermediary social, economic, financial, juridical organisations and structures. In support we cite a text by Levinas, which we slightly paraphrase in the context of his argument: “There are, if you like, the tears that a civil servant [and mutatis mutandis a representative of a social system] cannot see: the tears of the other. In order for things to work and in order for things to develop an equilibrium, it is absolutely necessary to affirm the infinite responsibility of each, for each, before each. In such a situation [of any social, economic and political order or system], individual consciences are necessary, for they alone are capable of seeing the violence that proceeds from the proper functioning of Reason itself. To remedy a certain disorder that proceeds from the Order of universal Reason, it is necessary to defend subjectivity. As I see it, subjective protest is not received favourably on the pretext that its egoism is sacred but because the I alone can perceive the ‘secret tears’ of the other, which are caused by the functioning – albeit reasonable – of the hierarchy [and administration] [in social organisations and institutions]. Consequently, subjectivity is indispensable for assuring this very non-violence that the state [and every social, economic, legal order] searches for in equal measure – but overlooking at once the unicity of the I and the other” (TH 23). Hence for Levinas every political and social system needs to transcend itself, and thus every system of psychiatric care as well. A social system should never become a ‘definitive regime’ that determines and regulates in a total and absolute manner the demands for goodness and justice for everyone. Such a regime would be a totalitarian regime that pretends to know what the real and final Good is. Then the good is perverted into evil, in the name of the Good, which is unbearable. And those who have to undergo the system or collaborate with
21 it will – hopefully – arrive at the moral indignation about the ‘evil of the system that elevates itself into the incarnation of the good’. Hence he points out the ethical necessity of questioning time and again every social system so that a better system can arise from it, without again labelling this improved system as the ‘final Good’…. Levinas does not refrain from arguing for a ‘permanent turnover’ in every social structure and organisation (). And hence in an open social system – in this case, an ethically dynamic psychiatric care system – there must room for appealing to human rights that primarily involve the rights of the vulnerable other. And appealing to human rights is not only a ‘right’ of the client but also and especially of the psychiatric caregivers. Precisely through the face-to-face dialogue with the client, the therapist is specially placed to discover how the psychiatric system works in an alienating or depersonalising manner on unique clients. This means that the therapist is faced with the appeal to give voice to the voiceless and to stand up for their rights within and against the system. Last but not least, according to Levinas, those who bear responsibility in a social system, especially the individual caregivers and counsellors, are faced with the ethical challenge of the ‘small goodness’ (al petite bonté) (EN 199). This concerns a specific form of goodness as we have already described above, in relation to the social system, namely as the transcendence of the system, but also as the lever to lift and shake up the system so that it can become more humane. He calls this goodness ‘small’ because it proceeds from the unique ‘I’ (counsellor, caregiver) to the unique other (the vulnerable and injured client). It does what no other system, however well-organised, can do, namely address here and now the need of the singular other with a concrete form of assistance. This goodness is likewise small because it is everything but spectacular, because it wants to be everything but total. It is about a modest, partial goodness that does not pretend to solve everything at once and for all time, and thus create paradise on earth. With full enthusiasm and dedication, it does what it can, without wanting to have everything in its grasp. We can call this humility and modesty the parsimony of the small goodness. It is aware of its own vulnerability and finitude but for that reason it does not remain cynical or defeatist. It is this common, unremarkable goodness, however, that is and remains the ethical spark in a social system that time and again is inclined to stagnate. It protects the system from suffocating and thus suffocating or paralysing those persons involved – especially the clients but also the caregivers – through, among others, the temptation of comfort offered by ‘conventionality’ and ‘docility’ towards the system. Even though the small goodness is nothing more than a smouldering fire under the ashes, its flame can again bring about movement and change in an organisation, institution or structure running to a dead end. To conclude, we let Levinas have the last word: “In the decay of human relations, in the social misery, goodness persists. In the relation of one person to another person, goodness remains possible. It puts all rational organization with an ideology and plans in doubt: the impossibility of goodness as a government, as a social institution. Every attempt to organize the human fails. The only thing that remains vigorous is the goodness of everyday life: the small goodness. This little kindness of one for another is a goodness without witnesses. That goodness escapes all ideology: it can be described as goodness without thought. Why without thought? Because it is goodness outside all systems, all religions, all social organizations. Gratuitous, that goodness is eternal. It is the feeble-minded [esprits simples] who defend it and work at its perpetuation from one being to another. It is so fragile before the might of evil [and before the might of the evil of good in social systems]. It is as if all the simple-minded would try to douse the worldwide conflagration with a syringe. For despite of all horrors man
22 has brought about, that poor goodness holds on. It is a ‘mad goodness,’ the most human there is in humans. It defines humankind, despite its powerlessness. ‘It is beautiful and powerless, like the dew’ (Vasily Grossman). What a freshness in this despair” (AT 107-109, passim). Thanks to it, a social system – institution, organisation, structure – never acquires the final world on what is valuable and good. Thanks to it, the ‘ethical individualism’ (TH 24) of the responsibility of the one for the other – in this case, of the therapist for the client – gets not only the first but also the last word, without perverting into a promise of eschatological fulfilment and final realisation: “the good must be loved without promises”. Beyond the idea of the collectively organized Good a therapist incarnates, or better has to incarnate, “the goodness without regime, the miracle of goodness” (IFP 81): a pure goodness that promises nothing, but that likewise does not despair of the good. “The small goodness does not conquer, but likewise is not conquered” (EPA 47).
Spiraling into Control or the Rape of the Lock in Hitchcocki’s moviesii
Michel Valentin, Ph.D.
“How, from a fire that never sinks or sets would you escape.” Heraclitus. While watching Hitchcock’s movies, one cannot help being struck by the recurring, uncanny presence of object-images whose role is not easy to determine. Moreover, these object-images are inscribed within a certain contiguity and continuity of shape and function that seem to be linked to key camera movements, as if these fragments had a life of their own, as if their apparent heterogeneity was breaking down the apparent homogeneity of the fantasy sustained reality of the outside world (Lacan). In many of Hitchcock’s films, there exist metaphorical or metonymical image-objects which escape the representational logic induced by the neurotic dimension produced by repression but obey a logic of their own which is not the logic of the fantasy/reality field. They are also filmically inscribed by, or participate formally or informally into a certain movement which we will qualify as helicoïdal or spiral-like. They correspond to a more ominous, tragic dimension and are products of the violent drama reenacted by a consciousness haunted by something which is not here or there, which does not belong anywhere…, what Lacan calls the Real. iii This shows that Hitchcock’s filmic mastery and art is not only the result of “a single, peremptory consciousness” that imprints “itself on the cinema’s industrial artifacts” but also the specific filmic rhetoric of an unconscious, Hitchcock’s unconscious. iv These artifacts have a quasi-hallucinatory dimension (betraying their unconscious origin), which means that the apparent visual domination/mastery of Hitchcock’s films passes through a written dimension which is “hieroglyphic,” (“ideogramatic”) and which belongs more to the order of what the film critic and theoretician Marie-Claire Ropars calls the figural dimension of cinema or “cinécriture.” These image-objects are in/formed by a recurrent obsession which modulates them according to the specificity of each movie, but which keeps them on a tight leash and makes them converge towards the same cinematic goal. It means that one passes from one to the other diachronically, from film to film, via a glide, like in a musical glissando. The morphology of each one seems to obey the same morphing and metamorphizing as what occurs in the process known in painting as anamorphosis. Born during the Mannerist and Baroque periods, anamorphosis was the “representation” of a carefully calculated, geometrical deformation of the classical, orthogonal representation of Renaissance and Classical painting. What was painted and appeared on the
canvas at first sight as a blob or a blurred cartouche revealed its true object only once the spectator had discovered the right viewing position—meaning that he had to squat, squint or look awry, v from a certain angle, at the canvas. One of the best known examples of anamorphic art is Hans Holbein the Younger’s famous painting The French Ambassadors (1533) which became a favorite seminal case for continental post-structuralist and postmodernist theorists such as Michel Foucault as well Lacan himself, not to mention Slavoj Zizek. The revealed image of the obfuscated cartouche generally represented a skull, something fecal, or genital: death, disgusting or obscene matter. The luminous luminal cartouche hovers like a subliminal stain in the liminal zone of the painting (at its bottom). That is to say (to take an epistemological short-cut), that something not metaphoric but directly metonymic or iconic of the very primary and forbidden objects linked to the pre-genital, original Mother whose access/enjoyment is barred by the law of the incest taboo guaranteed by the Name-of-the-Father and the Paternal function and the Phallic signifier according to Lacanian theory, returns and erupts on the scene of presentation/representation, puncturing it; something endowed with such a serious gravity that it deforms its field. We want to show that Hitchcock’s strange image-objects mirror/echo/are similar to the results produced by the process of anamorphosis in painting, as if the filmic texture of his films were the result of a conscious and unconscious mapping out of what we are going to call his symptom, so as to deal with it—maybe make it, if not “palatable,” at least tolerable, if not enjoyable, and impose it on the audience by the same token, in the same move. Here one has to use the concept of “filmic unconscious” where the film is at once the result and agent of a mediation of an unconscious desire. Of course, let us not forget that Hitchcock himself made a conscious use of the Freudian concept of unconscious (Spellbound—1945 with Gregory Peck and Ingrid Berman, Marnie—1964—with Tippi Hedren and Sean Connery). But he could not consciously make use of or manipulate his own unconscious for filmic reasons. This means that Hitchcock was written by his films as he was writing them. Like love, Hitchcock is a special enigma, a story wrapped in a mystery--and we know the filmic importance Hitchcock attaches to wrappings, knots and ropes) which he offers as a pretend conversation with the audience, in a similar fashion as an analyst would do with his/her couched analysand, except that in his case, the conversation is a one-way street. On the one hand, he has access to the knowledge supported by the phantasm (as everybody else who is “normal,” i.e. “normative,” “neurotic,” “obsessional,” or somewhat “perverse”) he needs in order to decipher without undue perplexity the problematic and pathos of life and make fun of it via the public entertainment of the filmic medium. On the other, he knows how to represent psychosis as only a psychotic would (or an analyst maybe), as if he knew how to amplify the delirium inherent in himself, i.e. in any “I/me” construct but without ignoring the “ça” (it/id). In other words, can one delineate and analyze a “Hitchcockian symptom”? There is, of course, always a dimension of simulation/manipulation and conscious careful cultivation/entertainment in the staging of his own symptom by an artist. The author enjoys his/her symptom directly by
representing and playing with it, and indirectly by enjoying (sadistically in Hitchcock’s case) the spectatorial enjoyment of it. But nevertheless, one should not forget that authorial jouissance does not escape authorial unconsciousness. So we can safely venture to say that by representing/analyzing the symptomatology of the body of the Western society via its principal intertwined symptoms sex and murder, Hitchcock was also dealing with his own symptoms, exorcizing his own demons, as Sacha Gervasi’s movie indicates in Psycho. In fact his symptom went beyond the neurotic or perverse activity usually attributed to film-makers of genius. It seems that it belonged to another dimension as Peter Conrad writes when qualifying Hitchcock’s films as a “private domain—an infirmary of moral qualms and mental ailments, a catacomb of curios…” vi In fact, the whole progression of the Hitchcockian thematic shows the tortuous route of the life of his symptom, with withdrawals, onto-genetic progressions, remissions, lapses and accelerations until the precipitation of the famous psychotic-like “passage à l’acte” of the last movies (Psycho, The Birds, Frenzy). Was Hitchcock trying to “auto-analyze” himself? vii Is his fantasy a defense against a deeply seated and serious trauma? Hitchcock’s films do not use art as a sublimation of/for a regeneration of the metaphor of the sexual relation (this rapport that doesn’t exist but “ex-sists” according to Lacan). In his movies, there is not much love (or transference) although there is much desire. On the contrary, his films focus on the impossible sexual relation, the dystopic and destitutive, incurable disease that language and sex operates/works out in the subject. It is also about the impossible, tabooed Mother as object of love and desire, and as cause of the failure of the sexual relation. Hitchcock is not a “mother lover,” like Proust or Houdini who worked out their lack of “separation syndrome” by creatively cutting or rearranging their Oedipal knots in their own peculiar ways. Hitchcock is something of a “mother fucker”…, this mother which one way or the other constantly returns in his films to haunt/terrorize/castrate/capture him his actors/actresses--his avatars. How does the Mother return?
Again, to take a short cut, via the object (the bone of contention), i.e. the skull and its partial objects: spiral-like locks of hair (found everywhere in his movies on many of his actresses), gouged-out eyes (The Birds), the gaping jaw with full teeth, empty orbs and shock of grey hair, as well as Norman Bates’ “Mother-twirled lock of hair” shaped like a flat spiral on the floor of the cellar (Psycho), massive or monumental dark, ominous, man-made masses (Foreign Correspondent, Saboteurs, North by Northwest, Marnie…) These objects metonymic of an impossible desire are the products of an latent and forceful Oedipal crisis and bear a heavy tint of incestuous stain. The spiral or elliptical lock is often barred (like a barred galaxy). The bar stands for the trace of the original repression which normatively bars the subject, constituting “it” as such (like the scarifications/marks/incisions/cuttings/tattoo of the rites of passage into adulthood-sexuation). But then why the visual insistence on something that normally everybody has internalized as such in order to become a subject? This over-determining obsessional presence of the bar, or the twist ( barred circle) certainly indicates that something is returning from the past, something which was not normatively assimilated or inscribed, and therefore returns from the unconscious. The Nouvelle Vague film-maker Chris Marker discerned in Vertigo, in the whorl of Kim Novak’s blond chignon a figuration of time’s helix--illustrating the domination of the past over the future, the be-come over the to-come, where “avenir/à-venir” rhymes with souvenir. Marker was on track, since the non-discursive dominion of the past over the futures indicates the presence of the symptom. This (twisted/barred) lock located between the seen and the unseen is on the edge of consciousness since it escapes memory but is still omnipresent if one pays close attention or operates a trans-filmic close reading. Although it functions as a fetish it goes beyond it, and belongs to the order of scopic perversion/père-version. Most Hitchcock’s women are marked by/with this incestuously sealed stain via the spiral lock of hair such as Carlotta/Judith (KimNovak) in Vertigo, and Mrs. Brenner (Jessica Tandy) as Mitch’s mother and Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) in The Birds, two movies where Hitchcock hitches a ride on the wild side of madness (the line between madness and artistic creativity being always thin)… Why does the Mother return with full force and potency in his movies? It is because for/in Hitchcock, the M(o)ther wants to become the Other (The Name-of-the-Father), the Other of the (primary/original) other—which is normatively impossible. This is made very clear in Psycho, Marnie and The Birds. The internalization of the “bar” (so to speak) has not worked, because the Name-of-the-Father, the primary signifier of sexuation and symbolic castration or paternal metaphor is foreclosed, which means that it is not registered in the subject’s Symbolic. Interestingly enough, there is rarely a positive, strong father image/position in most Hitchcock’s movies. Hitchcockian fathers are not present on the screen: they are not part of the picture or shine through their absence. They form a series of passive, impotent or obscene, anal-retentive, villains, elderly figures, or aged husbands. viii In both cases the Hitchcockian place of the father is a negative one: they are out-ofplace, out-of-range, or have been displaced. The name-of-the-father is negated but returns (since
it cannot be erased, as such, out of existence) in what Lacan calls the Real, making a hole in the Symbolic. The paternal metaphor which holds in place the field of fantasy, generating the field of reality (since reality is structured by fantasy according to Lacan) and protects the subject from the logic and terror of the Real is negated, barred of access. The hole in the Symbolic produced by the lack of the paternal metaphor punctures Hitchcock’s filmic material. It corresponds in Hitchcock’s movies either to the spiral hair piece marking so many Hitchcockian heroins and mother figures, Mother’s twisted lock of hair, or to gouged-out eyes (or empty orbs of skulls) as in Psycho and The Birds. The obsessional image/object that Hitchcock literally twirls with, is the recurrent twisted lock of hair and its different avatars: circular braid (Notorious), spiral-like lock (Psycho), elliptic helicoidal lovelock (Notorious—19456)… In Psycho, prefiguring its Lacanian topological use, Mother’s shock of hair is twisted like a Moebius strip. In Vertigo’s credits, going over its/the limits, as if Hitchcock’s camera-eye was looking awry (à la Zizek), the elliptic ring or loop’s transformations smoothly glide along a seriality of forms, following a continuous deformation (like a Jordan curve), going over the limits (from the eye’s pupil to a torus or the image of a barred galaxy), but nevertheless following a pattern that limits this apparently limitless drift in space (obviously the topological deformation is closed, i.e. made without cutting or gluing, following/obeying a certain homeomorphism)--the metamorphic directly ties up to the metonymic. What unites/re-assembles/conjoins the eye’s pupil (metaphor of the gaze) with a fetishized substitute for the mother’s pubic patch in this puzzling short-circuiting (reminiscent of an hallucinatory dream work) is what Lacan calls the object a with its connection to what Lacan theorized as the Real. ix It is extremely interesting to realize that this iconic putting-together corresponds to the anamorphic skull with its hollowed out eyes in the trompe-l’oeil paintings of Mannerist and Baroque art, as mentioned earlier
In fact, in a sequence reminiscent of these Baroque tricks, Marion’s sister, during the famous fruit-cellar sequence, “unveils” the horrifying Mother’s skull with its exorbitant/ex-orbited
hollowed-out eyes. Her hand touches Mother’s shoulder (similar to the squatting necessary to find the right point-of-view in front of an anamorphic painting) causing the stool to swivel around, revealing the horror…). In a scene worthy of a Gothic story, à la Edgar Alan Poe, panicstricken, the same hand, then, hits the hanging light-bulb which oscillates back-and-forth, flashing its beam of light in and out of the vacuous horror. It is the pathological fantasy-object, inaccessible to the subject (it emerges out of the unconscious and is tied up to the mother, the impossible primary object of desire) that closes the gap of the Real, the void of nothingness; this is the nothingness that the lock of hair appeals to and repeals at the same time, as is masterfully illustrated in Vertigo, when the loss of Carlotta/Judi by Scottie (James Stewart) epitomized by the famous lock, turns into a helix-like descent into madness, into the maelstrom, where the lock turns into a super-twisted knot, carrying with it into its abysmal fall, the very own, severed head of Scottie: hairdo, head, vortex, skull, all fall into the same trap of an invaginating gaze, as if disappearing into the singularity horizon of a black hole. Here the impossible dimension of love and desire wrapped into madness, takes on a cosmic and tragic dimension, since the very kernel of the subject’s being is in the unconscious. Here fantasy, symptom and sinthome are condensed into one, into the form of what Lacan calls the object little a. According to Lacan, the formula for psychosis corresponds to a breakdown of the signifying chain. It happens in many Hitchcock movies, such as in Psycho, Strangers on a Train, Frenzy. In Marnie, the signifiers of desire are locked into the mother’s fantasy molestation of her daughter and the subsequent murder of the “mother’s lover,” as in Psycho. In The Birds, the fantasy supporting the Symbolic, beneath the surface, structuring reality, is punctured—the phallic beaks of the birds literally tear apart flesh like the sound of the knife in Psycho and gouging flesh and eyes with such an unrelenting force and punishing implacability that it can only point to one culprit: the phallic Mother (à la Kali), Das Ding, the impossible maternal object of desire endowed with all the power of unleashed pent-up oedipal repression. If one were to draw a taxonomy of Hitchcock’s movies, one would discover that many are binary composites or opposites paralleling, echoing each other over the decades (Sabotage--USA: The Woman Alone—1936)/Saboteur--1942), that some motives mirror each other, or that some themes in earlier movies find resolutions in later ones. Moreover, there is a concatenation of uncanny, quasi hallucinatory image-objects throughout his films which puncture (one cannot say “illustrate” because we have left here the domain of a fantasy-sustained reality in order to penetrate into it, or better tiptoe around another dimension, another realm, the one of the Real— since the Real cannot be represented as such but makes its presence/absence felt via holes, violent ruptures, paradoxes…, in the Symbolic filmic texture. As if Hitchcock had also been a student of Lacan all along, his movies point towards the impossibility of the sexual relationship: couples are tied up by chance (literally as in The 39 Steps--1935), joined into problematic marriages (as in Rebecca--1940 where Max continuously calls his wife “monkey-face”), or re/united by chance (Spellbound—1945) except in Saboteur—1942, where the triangle foreshadows the conjuncture characteristic of Hitchcock's next stage: the Selznick period marked by a series of movies based on cinematographic narratives revolving around dysfunctional Oedipal triangles. This
filmic grand narrative will progressively evolve by tightening its focus until allowing the staging of a pre-Oedipal stage; at this point the seriality will qualitatively transform itself and effectuate a literal jump into the hallucinatory dimension (Vertigo—1958) reaching a climax with (The Birds— 1963), finishing with a serial killer (Frenzy—1972). It is as if the onto-genesis of the Hitchcockian symptom were unfurling itself like an origami. From Dial for Murder (1951) to The Birds, there is a crescendo in what could be called the failure of the fight or resistance staged by the Symbolic against the disrupting intrusion of the Real, as if a magmatic brew under the crater of a volcano had been percolating before erupting in a grandiose/grandiloquent paranoiac cosmic way with The Birds(1963) where nature punishes mankind. In The Birds (1963), a grand coalition of the “bird genus” attacks the humans of Bodega Bay. Using the birds as proxy, something comes out of the Real to literally pick out the flesh and eyes of people: the symbolic castration has migrated from the Symbolic into the Real, losing its very symbolic dimension, because it was barred (negated) in the first place. These image-objects no longer signify but “significate.” They not only participate in the general innerly (internally) duplicated structure of Hitchcock’s movies but help “invaginate” (turn upside/down and inside/out) the very filmic surface (most famous example is Psycho’s shower sequence (1960) when the camera’s gaze following the water stream from the showerhead, disappears counter-clockwise into the shower drain in order to reappear a few seconds later out of Janet Leigh’s dead-open pupil and eye. The famous shower scene illustrates the passage from one black hole and the re-emergence on the other side…. Where does the camera gaze disappear when it focuses down into the drain…. The traditional description of this hallucinating shower scene falls short of expressing the whole uncanny and metaphysical/cosmic dimension of the sequence: “ in one of the most brilliant images in any film—we follow the bloodied water spiralling down the drain. In an extraordinary lap dissolve, we emerge from the darkness of the drain ouf from behind her eye, open and stilled in death. The journey into the depths of the “normal” psyche has ended in tragedy.” x Something is slowly but inexorably spiraling out of control in
Let us draw a list of these paradoxical hallucinatory image-objects. 1) the drums, hammers and cymbals in The Man who Knew too much (1956). Metaphorically and metonomically they are linked to yonic and phallic representations as well as to death and castration, as well as ears and crushing sound-reminiscent of Hieronymus Bosch ’s ear/knife juxtaposition in his Garden of Earthly Delights (14901510). 2) The monumental objects which are at once part of the local color (iconic clichés), or part of a giant man-made the landscape. They participate in the wide-ranging symbolic dramatic dimension of the film (as diegetic elements), are invaluable parts of the plot, but also are symptoms of the intrusion of another dimension, the Lacanian Real , referring to what Slavoj Zizek calls das Ding –or the unavowable incestuous object of desire. Some examples of those “image-objects”: the Dutch windmill of Foreign Correspondent (1940), the giant Statue of Liberty crawled over by Robert Cummings in Saboteur (1942) as well as the penile, giant heads and skulls (also seen/represented from the back) of North by Northwest (1959) gazed at by Cary Grant and crawled over by him and Eva Marie Saint (reminiscent of Baudelaire’s Giantess ), the black ship hulls (obviously cartoonesque) at the end of the street in the Baltimore harbor where Mother lives (Marnie—1964). 3) The spy present in many of his movies. As a foreign agent/saboteur, he represents a foreign matter, analogous to the embodiment of the problematization of the gaze: 1) the blot 2) the fascinum in the scopic field. The blot is the sign which is not the sign of anything (the Lacanian Real). For instance, in North by Northwest or in Sabotage/Saboteur, the foreign element crawls onto a monstrous monumental head or sculpture (real representation of a giant head as phallic incestuous mother). 4) The locks, spiral twists, helix-like curls or shocks of hair marking/affecting the hairdo of Hitchcockian women. Especially in the later movies, it leaves exposed a large white forehead giving to the face a penis-like appearance. This frozen dimension of his symptom, its eternal temporality inscribes itself in a continuity, shaping his filmic form into a continuum. For Hitchcock, history is a stretched topology. This is why his filmic textuality is so open to psychoanalytic penetrability. It is also why all his movies have this special, slightly passé (or classy) type of melancholia which often comes out via the music in the sound strips of his films. The way he also graphically deals with his symptom makes Hitchcock a political conservative—something re-enforced by his aesthetics and values. Hitchcock was a multilayered “scandalographer” (murder he wrote and filmed) using and playing with anecdotes, clichés, puns, recipes—the ingredients of suspense. But the Hitchcockian suspension of disbelief of narrativity (mixing serendipity and black humor--a special British ingredient) allowed, unbeknownst to the audience, for the free play/ expression of his symptom. Suspension turns into suspense allowing for the insinuation of his own fantasy into
the audience’s fantasy. He played tricks on the spectatorship, at their expense, revealing their own “hidden” truth, their own symptom (Hypocrite lecteur, mon semblable, mon frère….). xi His own calculated and controlled sadism aroused the audience’s voyeuristic and sadistic fantasies, making them accomplices in his own dark phantasm and symptom. At his most scandalous, he make the others “pay” for his symptoms (like a serial killer), xii by coaxing, seducing, terrorizing, fascinating them into enjoying their suspenseful representation. The key to Hitchcock’s scandalous mise-en-scène is contained in the way he uses the gaze of the camera and the gaze of the spectator. It is also indicative of the seriousness of his symptom and the creative way through which Hitchcock alleviates it. He uses the troubling implications harbored by the duplicitous dimension of the look, turning around the spectatorial discourse of looking inside-out, “invaginating” this gaze and locking it until the climactic end..
As Lacanian praxis and theorizing has shown, the unconscious works (speaks) through assemblages of letters, pieces of the Real which work on the materiality of the signifier xiii which are unique to each individual, and which associate themselves unconsciously as partial objects or objects having departed (been cut off) from an impossible wholeness, the Mother. They form an amalgam, or a “pure singularity” with a center of accretion and a horizon, like a cosmic black hole, as metaphorized by Slavoj Zizek. It corresponds, of course, to the object a of Lacanian toponomic algebra. xiv Hitchcock’s movies are at once the product of a repression and a fundamental foreclusion where the preconscious or primary process and the secondary process organize themselves into a phantasy, a coherent story, directly linked to the unconscious phantasy—yielding what Freud called a “half-breed” (hybrid). xv The obsessional metaphors in Hitchcock’s movies cause the filmic dimension to go beyond the simple story-line of pure entertainment to become the tell-tale figures of a tragic discourse masquerading as entertainment. Here a fiction of the unconscious becomes the unconscious of a fiction redoubled by the fact that Hitchcock’s world is his representation as well as his dream. In fact Hitchcock hesitates between the two sides of the same coin in movies such as Spellbound (1945) or Shadow of a Doubt (1943). This hesitation
allows Hitchcock to not totally identify with his symptom (of which he was very certainly quite conscious—up to a point of course), and to create an opening where he inserts himself as ironic by-stander (cameo appearance). From the beginning to the end, his symptomatic creativeness inscribes itself in a temporal loop which strangely parallels the analytic experience. Beginning with the same obscure, undecipherable persistent ciphered and incomprehensible “imagemessage” like a message in a Klein glass bottle (“through a glass darkly’), except that the bottle follows a definitely oriented current/stream--as if Hitchcock had become a sinthom e, i.e. a subject that enjoys his symptom and has gone through his fantasy, who has gained a distance from this fantasy-work/construct, but a subject whose symptom still endures, still attached to this impossible object of enjoyment incarnated in/by the mother. This fundamental fantasy gives consistency to a Hitchcockian side as more or less incarnated by his protagonists/heroes (acted out by Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart rehearsing Hitchcock’s self-doubts, disguised/metaphorized under avatars such as castration anxiety, paralysis, fear of heights, overbearing maternal possession (Marnie/ North by Northwest…). Certainly unbeknownst (up to a certain point) to Hitchcock, recurring shapes/ forms/patterns symptomatically inform/reform/deform/puncture the textual surface of his films, the selfenclosed linear narrative. These peculiar images are the results of a censorship overwhelmed by the successive, unrelenting blows of an unconscious bent at expressing an “out-of-the-box” maternal drive (a fundamental “desire”). These obsessional object-images must be read at the level of the letter of Hitchcock’s discourse that his movies constitute. It is not a question of decoding them as if there were a one-to-one correspondence between these filmic images/objects and Hitchcock’s scenic indications or even intentions. It is more a question of deciphering them as if one were dealing with a superimposition of staves on a musical score. Hitchcock’s movies have to be taken à la lettre, as if dreams and analyzed semiotically, i.e. at the level of their filmic signifiers (moving images), and not only at the level of first/surface meaningfulness or even at the level of their latent content. These obsessional traits come out of the “bone of the symptom,” out of which the artist draws the substantial marrow feeding his creative act/move, which is why Lacan believed that there was more truth in the “special saying” that is art, than in all other discourses because art is directly more engaged in the Real of the symptom than in the reality of the Symbolic which often derives its symbolism from a natural analogy. At its most radical and seminal, art often locates itself beyond the Symbolic with its array/panoply of words and speeches. The image/metaphor/ hallucinated (and hallucinating) object of the symptom of Hitchcock is a variation on the skull with its dark open orbits, its dented jaws and its withered, coiled hair stuck to the cranium. This recurring object stands for the irreducible object of Hitchcock’s symptom in so far as it suspends (upends, punctures…) the truth of the Symbolic, of the “normal,” everyday story. It literally objects to the truth of a value which bases its economy on the truth, joy and normalcy of human life. This economy sustains itself on a fundamental illusion and lie that Hitchcock, quasi-sadistically deflates/punctures. Hitchcock destroys/subverts/taints the symbols
and myths that sustain our normal approach to the fundamentals of life: love and sex, romance and romantic illusions, family ties… This truth of the symptom is superior (according to the old Master) to the truth that reflects itself as a mirage in the eyes and mirrors of our lives. It is the Real truth that Hitchcock tries to wrestle out of his actors—especially women, again and again, in a quasi ravishing manner (aka the ordeal he put Tippi Hedden through). Our hypothesis is that Hitchcock suffered from psychosis and that he uses his symptom as a creative medium as well as a cure. This explains very well the duplicity of Hitchcock who lies with the audience and the subject matter (going to the extreme of even playing directly with the topic of psychoanalysis-Every author puts a little bit of himself in his characters. Hitch as subject put more than he knew in his movies, because he was submitted to the machinery of the “other scene” or scene of the barred Other. He was defined up to a point by the m(o)ther scene not framed/limited by the Big O(ther). Hitch’s film-making exemplifies the work of the cinematographic apparatus as automatic writing/inscription of the other scene with a certain robotic dimension attached to the characters which then take on puppets’ or dolls’ roles. Hitch’s artifact verges on the artificial. Vertigo could be interpreted as the making of an imaginary doll—prefiguring the ‘perfect,’ ‘artificial’ women of Stepford Wives. This Hitchcockian fantasy is not based on the normal/normative fantasy of the displacement of desire onto the “other scene,” typical of the structure of the Freudian pleasure principle and the repetition principle, but a return to the primary scene (as illustrated by the origin of Marnie’s symptom.) The mechanical repetition of the syndrome and actuation of symptoms can be masterfully followed from film to film. The mechanical dimension, product of the rhetoric of the unconscious, works along a three-tiered path. As Slavoj Zizek explains, the Hitchcockian subject (character/hero/victim) is the tool of the orchestrated mechanical machination he produces (suspense, horror, etc…). Hitchcock himself is the victim/subject/tool of this machination (caught in the loop of his own machination). At another level, he is the tool with which “being” poses its question—the being before being, i.e. before the enactment of desire which wants lack, when the ego still pines for the mother. In this sense the cinema of Hitchcock is a cinema of the m(o)ther scene. Hitch’s cinema more than any other exemplifies the impossibility of the desire to finish the project of coming to terms with the original power-house of desire, i.e. the primary wound. This desire about/of a desire launches the subject into an endless deferring from film to film, although Hitch in a very calculated move progressively zeros in on his symptom with the final cinematic crisis (The Birds). Hitch’s project is, from the beginning, doomed to incompletion and repetition since, as cinema of desire, it is fundamentally structured by the impossibility to come to terms with the desire. Desire is locked into a refusal of the signifier which brings about metaphorical substitution and locked into a lack of being which brings metonymic displacement. xvi But the progression brings to life, animates and (re-)creates the symptom. The machinery of repetition accelerates until the ultimate “passage à l’acte.” One can follow its metamorphic
transformation from the stuffed birds, the stuffed mamma’s boy and the stuffed mummy of Psycho to the active, live, apocalyptic birds, the possessive but controlling live m(o)ther, the active and responsible mother’s son and the free-spirited, but in the end catatonic blond doll of the Birds. i
This essay in response to Sacha Gervasi’s movie Hitchcock (2012) adapted from Stephen Rebello’s Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho.
This essay follows the work of the late Thierry Kuntzel and floats along in the wake of the seminal work of Slavoj Zizek. This is why in Hitchcock's movies the exterior of the field of vision is heterogeneous to its interior (in contrast to the classical or poetic realist films of the 30s and 40s such as the humanist films of Renoir) and why the naïve opposition between “hard reality” and the “dream-world” is problematized or displaced. iv Peter Conrad. The Hitchcock Murders. Farrar, Strauss and Giroux. New York, 2000. xii. iii
Hence the title one of Slavoj Zizek’s books.
Peter Conrad. The Hitchcock’s Murders. Faber and Faber. 2000. Karen Horney in Our Inner Conflicts wrote that “analysis is not the only way to resolve inner conflicts. Life itself still remains a very effective therapist.” viii Except maybe in The Man who Knew too much (Cary Grant) and the C.I.A. operative in North by Northwest. In Notorious (1946) Alicia (Ingrid Bergman) is caught between her Nazi husband or father –image and her love for the American journalistspy Devlin (Gregory Peck). In Shadow of a Doubt (1943), the father of young Charlie (Henry Travers), doubled by his acolyte Jack, is a bumbling idiot, etc. In these darker movies of the 1940s, the story is generally related from the point-of-view of a woman caught between two men. A connection exists between the impotent, helpless father/father figure and the woman’s perspective. This is reminiscent of Lacan’s famous quote “What does the hysterical woman want?... A master but one whom she could dominate.” In Rebecca (1940), the heroine (Joan Fontaine) is married to a helpless, mournful, castrated husband still under the influence of his dead wife. This is reminiscent of the Bronte sisters’ novel Jane Eyre, where, at the end, the heroine is happily married to a blinded, helpless, father-like figure. ix “According to Lacanian theory, every screen of reality includes a constitutive ‘stain’, the trace of what had to precluded from the field of reality in order that this field can acquire its consistency; this stain appears in the guise of a void Lacan names object petit a. It is the point that I, the subject, cannot see: it eludes me in so far as it is the point from which the screen itself ‘returns the gaze’, watches me: the point where the gaze itself is inscribed into the visual field of reality. In psychosis, however, objet a is precisely not precluded: it materializes itself, it receives full bodily presence and becomes visible--for example, in the form of a pursuer who ‘sees and knows everything’ in paranoia. In the Wrong Man, this kind of object which materializes the gaze is exemplified by the table lamp, the source of light. As Lacan says in his Seminar XI: ‘that which is light looks at me.’ ” Slavoj Zizek. All you Wanted to Know about Lacan and did not want to Ask Hitchcock. Verso Press. New York. 192. x Donald Spoto. The Art of Alfred Hitchcock: Fifty Years of His Motion Pictures. Doubleday & Cy. New York. 1992. 374. xi Baudelaire’s introduction to Les Fleurs du Mal. xii Like the serial killer Ed Gein that Gervosi’s movie Hitchcock uses. xiii Lacan Seminar XX—Encore. xiv Cf Serge Leclaire’s work . xv The Unconscious, vol xiv, p. 190, 1. xvi Something well explained by Jean-Luc Nancy and Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe. The Title of the Letter. A Reading of Lacan. Suny Press. 1992. vii
Arrested by the Preface: Lacanian Discourse Analysis and the Speaking Subject Emaline Friedman University of West Georgia 2013 Abstract The following is an account of how prefaces, or utterances meant to preempt further speech, aid the development of Lacanian discourse analysis. The preface is conceptualized as a moment of speaking where the Imaginary and Symbolic are recoiled, giving the discourse analyst insight into the truth of the speaking subject. This point is articulated alongside an explication of a few concepts in Lacanian psychoanalytic theory that render the preface important. Other facets of Lacanian discourse analysis are approached along the way, including methodological woes, aims, and the challenges it faces as a result of (1) emerging, chronologically, amongst an array of discourse analytic perspectives hailing from psychology’s turn-to-language and (2) positing a wholly different conception of the speaking subject from those other discourse analytic perspectives. Introduction The following is an account of the “preface”, a moment in speech when a subject qualifies or preempts a longer, forthcoming utterance, from the perspective of Lacanian Discourse Analysis (e.g., Cuéllar 2010; Frosh, 2002; Frosh, Phoenix & Pattman, 2003; Hook, 2003, 2008; Parker, 2005a, 2010). The thesis of this paper is that the preface is a useful key in guiding the execution of Lacanian discourse analyses. First, I will elaborate a few constituents of a Lacanian theory of discourse relevant for the purposes of this piece, the Other as a series of paradoxes, the Imaginary register, and the Symbolic register as a system of exchange. These three concepts will be crucial in recognizing the value for Lacanian discourse analysts of employing the preface as an analytic tool. Then, the function of the preface will be considered through a discourse psychological perspective as a means for distinguishing a Lacanian notion of subjectivity through discourse from more common conceptions of subjectivity in discourse analysis. Against this backdrop, the preface will be characterized as a moment in speech that guides toward a type of analysis in line with Lacan's conception of discourse and the types of subjectivity and sociality that it entails. By constituting a moment of suspension where the Imaginary and the Symbolic are recoiled together, the preface will shed light on the constitution of the speaking subject as locatable in the structural elements of his or her speech. In addition to its utility in analyzing actual speech, the preface will function to urge discourse analysts to continually question their own versions of speakers' subjectivities. Theorized as both an analytic guidepost for the discourse analyst and vulnerable moment of suspension for the speaking subject, the preface is used here as a methodological development for Lacanian discourse analysts as well as an inevitable, structural component of speech that affirms the emergence of the speaking subject between necessity and nonsense. Further, it will be shown to provide a strong foundation for
unpacking stylistic nuances and quirks that adequately addresses the complex situation of the speaking subject and his or her implication in and through the structure of speech. Throughout the piece, I will also use the preface as a platform for discussing a few concerns, values, and aims of Lacanian discourse analysis. Since acts of prefacing are typically of more structural import than they are rich with what discourse analysts may be tempted to deem ‘meaningful content’, the preface is as valuable a tool in the practice of Lacanian discourse analysis as it is in theorizing its commitments. These commitments, to certain notions of subjectivity, truth, and knowledge, will be cast in distinction from the commonplace assumptions of discourse psychology. The vaguely comparative flavor of this paper is not meant to contribute to the discussion of the different merits and pitfalls of each tradition. I am more interested here in setting the scene of discourse analytic research in psychology in order to invite thought about the execution of Lacanian discourse analyses via what will be proposed as a useful tool to tailor to this particular style of discourse analytic research. The Imaginary For the purposes of explaining some of the theoretical differences between Lacanian discourse analysis and other discourse analytic traditions that borrow from Anglo-American psychological concepts, I will give a brief overview of the Imaginary, one of the three registers on which Lacanian psychoanalytic theory is centered. The “Imaginary” in Lacan completes the trifecta of registers, “Real”, “Symbolic”, and the “Imaginary”. Each of these dimensions functions in total complementarity with the others, serving, in concert, the topology of the Lacanian subject. The Imaginary will be unpacked apart from the Real, not included in this piece, so that the elements that most impact the considerations of discourse analysis are made salient. The Symbolic will be referenced heavily here before a full elucidation in the next section because neither of these registers temporally precedes another in speech production. Taking each register as a separate starting point for discussing their interrelation will illuminate different facets of this interrelation. It will become clear that the subject of Lacanian discourse analysis is the subject of the enunciated instances of intersection of the Imaginary and the Symbolic registers. The Imaginary register is based on identification, and stems from the formation of the ego during the mirror stage. In the mirror stage, the subject identifies with his or her own image seen, for the first time, as dissociated from the body. The choice of the word “Imaginary” for this register is based in the Latin “imago”, meant to connote that the Imaginary is concerned with the image (Fink, 1995). More specifically, it features identification with an image that ultimately alienates the subject from the body. Due to the alienating distance created in this stage, the ego emerges to assuage the traumatic difference between self and other by means of ideals with which the person may identify. In this sense, the Imaginary stems from the subject’s original relationship to the body, and the texture of this relationship for any subject will depend upon the unique way that the alienating image with which the he or she identifies is discreetly contorted by demands of the Other, discussed below. Even as a realm of appearances, the Imaginary is structured by the Symbolic because of its execution through language. We can think operation in the Imaginary register as having to travel through the structural mandates of language and the system of exchange in the Symbolic
order. Due to this necessary passage through language, the ideals and identifications that would have emerged, based upon the image that creates the ego in the mirror stage, are unrealizable or consistently miss the mark. These ideals and identifications are unrealizable precisely because of their expression in symbolization. At this point we can see that another meaning of “imaginary” comes from the fact that the subject imagines that these ideals (i.e. meaning) are actually possible to convey in speech. Speaking subjects, then, have no alternative but to operate under the fundamental illusion of the Imaginary, that signification and signified meanings will unearth their truths. In the Imaginary, or the domain proper to the ego, subjects continually attempt to cement their identities by reducing the traumatic difference between self and other to individual identities in the form of ideal images (Julien, 1995). When Imaginary relations are spoken of in Lacanian discourse theory, we are not dealing with relationships that do not actually exist between subjects. Rather, imaginary relations are relations between egos, each one based on many ideal images emerging as demand from the Other. In that these ego relations are subject to the structural mandates of language, making perfect expression impossible, all social relationships where speech is used for communication can be considered part of the Imaginary register. The Symbolic and the Imaginary interlock as two sides of language, as the signifier in the Symbolic, and signified in the Imaginary. The emergence of the speaking subject, the subject of Lacanian discourse analysis, occurs at the intersections of these two registers, made apparent through how language is used (and, as we will see, how language is using). The abstract, theoretical relationship between the Symbolic and the Imaginary must be filled in by analyses of the particularities of subjects’ speech. Lacanian discourse analysis, and more specifically, treatment of the preface should be dedicated to developing an account of how this theoretical relationship is manifested in speech and reformulated in line with the ostensive, ideal self of the Imaginary. Where the Imaginary strives toward fixity, the Symbolic is in constant motion (Bowie, 1991). These contradictory trajectories of movement in each register are most visceral in their products—the imperfections and difficulties of speech. Acts of prefacing are the apparent, continuous mark of the difficulty of starting communication as the subject caught between these heterogeneous movements. The Symbolic and the System of Exchange The symbolic, as we have seen in relation to the Imaginary, cannot be equated with language as a whole. Instead, the part of language that is proper to the symbolic dimension is that of the signifier, as opposed to the signified or signification in the Imaginary (Zizek?). Signifiers in and of themselves have no true meaning, and are only constituted in relation to other signifiers. This basis in difference is where the notion of the Other as the entire system of language comes from (Lacan, 1977). Because, in the Symbolic, no pre-determined relations exist between signifier and signified, it is in this register that subjectivity is created. Moreover, the appearance of the unconscious through this symbolic order, an order which is other, characterizes the often asserted disjunction between the ego of the Imaginary and the subject of the unconscious. Without denying the structural connections between the two, discourse analysis from a Lacanian perspective is unequivocally more concerned with the latter.
In terms of importance relative to a theory of discourse, the Symbolic is the seat of emphasis upon structural determination given in language. This function is what often elicits characterizations of the Symbolic as law, order, or mastery (Fink, 1995). Further, this register is considered to reign supreme over the other registers by virtue of its role as the only passageway through which we have any access to the operation of either the Imaginary or the Real. As a gatekeeper or determinative structural mandate, operation in the other registers cannot even be thought without its influence. However, this mandate is not only epistemological. The Symbolic also bears upon the process by which the psyche is structured. In this sense the Symbolic cuts across the other registers in a way that renders them fundamentally different rather than just poorly accessed. We see in the Symbolic that the arrival of a signifier is sufficient for the sense that there exists a universe of signifiers, though this is not to say that there is nothing beyond the set of symbols that comprise a language (Evans, 1996). This is particularly important later, when we will characterize the preface as (yet another) re-initiation into the Symbolic, where coiling with the Imaginary takes place. As we have said, the preface constitutes a moment of recurring initiations into the Symbolic order, which works both for and through the subject of speech. If we understand the preface as an intiation into the Symbolic, it is important to consider the psychic developmental trajectory of the subject. The original initiation into the Symbolic order is the final point in the mirror stage after an Imaginary identification has been made. From this developmental perspective, the Symbolic arrives on scene with the Imaginary, as if to grant access (albeit incomplete access) to the identification just formed. This line of reason urges the discourse analyst to envision this dual play of registers as equally constitutive of the subject in moments of speech. David Pavón Cuéllar (2010) accounts for the interaction between the operation of the symbolic order and the speaking subject by posing a system of mutual exploitation where the subject always loses by virtue of his or her investment. In the system of symbolic exchange, the subject’s real being undergoes a sort of consumption as he or she is set to the task of sustaining the system upon having enlisted that same system for expressive purposes. The subject surrenders his or her “raw material” to become the real, divided subject of discourse whose remainder is the predicative exploitation or value for the system to which he or she is disposed by operation in the Symbolic realm. Hence the insistence that the real appearance of the speechbeing of words always refer to the petrified appearance of being, or the symbolic speaking being that is entirely distinct from the missing real being of the speaking act (Cuéllar, 2010, p. 282). Ironically, the ongoing process by which the real subject inevitably becomes replaced by the real speaking subject, producing a lack described by Cuéllar as exploitative and divisive, hatches alongside the production of speech. Where the movement of this process is most apparent is necessarily where, in a sense, it is already complete by virtue of taking place within the Symbolic, moved by a speaking subject. This Lacan points out, too, ‘the more the subject employs the signifier to get out of the signifying chain, the more he is integrated into the chain, and the more he becomes a sign of the chain’ (12/02/58, p. 245). Analytically, this point is crucial in suggesting that we eschew a notion of a beginning, content with interpretations that catch the subject in moments of speech. These moments are comprised of, among other deeds, delicate negotiation with an Other, even while the speaking subject has already submitted to the
sacrifice entailed by the whole of the Symbolic. More pressing still are the refusals and resistances uttered, which only reinforce the chain of signifiers (Lacan, 1957-1958, 12/02/58). This portrait of the structure of the symbolic system creates an unrest; a violent divergence of the subject that is barely but infuriatingly apparent. This poignant lack is not only important as a constituent of the formation of the unconscious, but also surfaces in a homologous manner at the level of the body and of the subject 1 (Verhaeghe, 2001). The exteriority and alienation of that which is most intimate, our real being, manifests as a scathing, itchy absence where it would be in the universe of discourse. All our best attempts to renegotiate the terms of our circumstances as speaking beings are met with recurring failures of integration. These troubles hover over the discursive scene, appearing as miscommunications, struggles to reconcile points of view, and other misunderstandings amongst speaking beings in the Imaginary. Cuéllar insists that the hostility of the expressing subject is a structural hostility that is inevitable in language which conceals it, making it detectable but nevertheless unintelligible. Moreover, he claims that such hostility is only functional insofar as it has its own exchange value in the Symbolic as a symbolized object of the repressive mechanism of the unconscious (p. 296). It is by way of this structural hostility toward the unavoidable, inapprehensible difference given in the universe of signifiers that Lacanian discourse analysis comes to parse out the subject of speech from the confounding imaginary subjects. In contrast to Cuéllar’s determination, I suggest that this structural hostility can induce manifold reactions on behalf of the subject that need not mirror the aggression inherent in his or her own division. The speaking subject as such is as capable of hostility and aggression in the Imaginary as they are of understanding and communication. Insofar as the speaker answers the Other in speaking, he or she is part of diverse, overlapping relations that render styles of speech production more complex than that of a one-to-one matrix of affect. The hostility of induction into the symbolic is visceral in prefaces which, despite already being staged within the structure it references, can be likened to fresh moments of initiation into the realm of signifiers. Also, the subject’s own varying and revolving way of bearing his or her division can be useful in discourse analysis for providing the flavor of impending talk. Taken in concert with the paradoxes of the Other (below) and the imbrication of the Imaginary and the hostile system of symbolic exchange here described, we can consider the preface to be a monument to representational fumbling. This fumbling is gripping in the context of discourse analysis in that it is one of the more transparently empty moments of signification. As a testament to overwhelming failure of the symbolic system which it is a part, prefacing always alludes to its own shortcomings. However, the expressive inadequacy of the preface is structurally constitutive of its function as an operative set of signifiers in a system whose success amounts to a divided subject. This subject is recursively formed through doing the bidding of a representational system which embeds and informs him or her. Indeed, there are infinitely many 1
In a chapter of his Beyond Gender, Verhaeghe teases out the homologous structure between the lack in the Symbolic, caused by structural incompatibility between systems of language and organic systems, and the lack in the Real, precipitated by the loss of the original state of non-sexed being upon sexual reproduction and birth. This loss at the level of the Real is mirrored and taken up phalically in the Symbolic and the Imaginary, thus producing a homologous lack in each of the three modalities. Tracing lines of thought in Lacan’s Encore and Seminar XX from as early as 1948, he discusses the implications of homology between the body, the unconscious, and the subject for a Lacanian ontology (pp.130-132)
ways that the speaking subject can appear in the face of the interlocking of the Symbolic and the Imaginary. Crucial for the purposes of discourse analysis is the fact that these appearances are visibly contained in the use of the preface. The Other In order to appreciate Lacan’s theory of discourse and the discourse analytic strategies that do it justice, I will turn to the notion of the Other. This idea stands in distinction from the little “o” “others” who are other actual subjects, people with whom interpersonal relationships may be formed (Lacan, 1953, seminar II). The Other, as we will see, exists outside relations in the Imaginary as a non-localized collection of perspectives, norms, and rules from which we see ourselves. Hook (2003) identifies paradoxes of the Other which are helpful in setting out theoretical backdrop against which we must tailor current efforts to investigate the benefits of the preface as an analytic knitting point. Among these benefits is an expanded view of Other(s) of discourse, locatable or functionally ascertainable through the preface. These paradoxes cleverly amount to a survey of different conceptualizations of the Other, which is a classically thorny and loaded element of Lacanian psychoanalytic theory. As we will see further on, these different ways of thinking about the Other in Lacan are enormously helpful in developing the Lacanian discourse analytic project by parsing out and guiding toward ways of meeting its goals, which can be as variable as its subjects. At the outset, Hook points out that the Other subsides on a different plane, in isolation from the interchanges that go on between speaking subjects, even though it ultimately bestows a psychic reality that links and motivates subjects. This is because the Other cannot be conceptualized or understood psychologically; it persists as absolute alterity, beyond the intersubjective, though another subject may, at times, provide for the speaker a physical embodiment of the Other. On this account, the Other is recognized as establishing the co-ordinates for intersubjectivity and promptly escaping descriptive capture as just another subject through these coordinates (Hook, 2003, p. 4). The apparently paradoxical nature of the Other here comes from being deeply implicated in the activities of inter-subjectivity, presiding, and leaving traces of its presence without assuming the role of another subject within these activities. That the Other may be embodied by other speakers is a testament to the absent, ghostly entrenchment of the Other in the discursive setting. Moments of embodiment also provide a limit case of proximity of the Other by which we can get a sense for the drastic variability of subject/Other postures. If we take for granted that the Other may have variable locations and different degrees of proximity for each subject, the prospect of taking a relational/interactional perspective between speaker and lurking iterations of the Other becomes even more appealing. As an alternative to assessing a speaking subject and formulaic type of Other with specified features that act upon or demand from the subject, each party (subject and Other) may be better ascertained or comprehended in specificity as per unique discourse analytic goals by tracing their joint development and mutually/contextually informed revolutions through the discursive scene. Drawing jointly upon Lacan’s assertion in Ecrits (1977) and Žižek’s (2005) more structuralist account, the Other, notes Hook, seems to connote both the conditions of the unconscious and the storehouse of available signifiers within speech. This paradox is important
in that it grounds the apparently external locus of speech and emphasizes the degree to which a psychoanalytic form of discourse analysis must concern itself with theorizing Others individuated in subjects. There arises the notion that the Other resides, in a sense, inside the speaking subject as the familiar (indeed, the only) way in which expression in the form of speech is achieved. This provides a direct contrast to the notion that the Other is still very much, as already mentioned, outside of the speaker as an impersonal set of communicative templates and suppositions. Essentially, this paradox points out that a Lacanian discourse analysis may do well to carefully parse out and distinguish between dynamics of the Imaginary and Symbolic realms, whose interplay influences the speech of the subject upon whom they act. If both of these stories of the Other are to be taken seriously, we seem to be committed to a very external “personal”. In order to reconcile, the apparently internal and external quality of the Other, reducing it neither to an inevitable force internal to and active upon the psyche nor to social presuppositions, institutions, and norms, a Lacanian discourse analytic methodology should focus chiefly on the relational qualities, quirks, and tendencies that arise between the enigmatic Other and the speaking subject with whom it emerges. These paradoxes of the Other generate a few distinct, though not mutually exclusive renderings of the Lacanian Other, the delineations of which illuminate the range of forms and expanded, indeed often unexpected, possible encounters, effects, and interactional trajectories for development between and among forces imbricated to create moments of speech. The ‘Other as rules of the game/set of codes’ marks one pole wherein the Other can be understood as radically exterior. The ‘Other as embodied little other of conversation’ is a rendering of the Other that still functions externally but is recognizable or pronouncedly and tangibly relatable to the speaking subject within the Imaginary dynamics enacted in speech. Finally, the ‘Other as discourse of the unconscious’ marks the other pole of theorizing the Other where it is most singular to the subject’s style of speaking as to typify his or her expression and constitution. Taken together, all of these Others present a non-exhaustive spectrum of relational spatiality. These conceptions serve, additionally, as a reminder that fixing or presuming a certain type of relation to the Other is equally limiting and misrepresentative as fixing the meaning of a signifier for a subject. For the purposes of discourse analysis, the temptation to extract any generalizable or overarching truths about the Other, either for a particular subject or as a more broad attempt to characterize the Other in Lacan must be resisted. Instead, the contextualized moments of speech in which this interaction is strikingly impactful (to be sure it is always entirely impactful, even decisive) on the speaking subject must be explored such that the discourse analyst can get acquainted with the various customizations and enunciated products possible within and cultivated through such an interaction. This interactional focus recommends that the enunciations uttered in discourse supervene the precise determinations of either speaking subjects or Other(s) with whom a paradoxical relation exists. Privileging this always-occurring encounter in discourse analysis may inform contingent determinations of context-dependent embodiments of the Other, but even these designations should ultimately seek recurring ways of handling the Other, visible in the idiosyncrasies of speech. The Lacanian discourse analyst must ask how the Other is simultaneously taken up and taken in to the degree that these encounters form the available modes of relating, always through speech, for a subject. We can understand the multifarious locale of the Other as a function of the interactions between its fundamentally freefloating form and the speaking subject through whom it is also, at least partially, domesticated.
The Preface of Discourse Psychology There have been a number of attempts to bring discourse analysis, as it has been popularized in social psychology, into conversation with what discourse analysis might look like from a Lacanian notion of discourse (e.g. Neill, 2013). These attempts have been limited due to the lack of actual use of any form of Lacanian discourse analysis, rendering it only a theoretical or emerging system of discourse analysis (Parker, 2005a). Further, and much more of an impediment to the development of Lacanian discourse analysis is the danger of forcing Lacan into the discourse analytic practices used in Anglo-American psychology. Ian Parker has pointed out incompatibilities between discourse analysis as it has been executed in the turn-to-language in social psychology and the conceptions of discourse given in Lacan’s body of work (ibid). Although the many types of discourse analysis in psychology do not necessarily agree with respect to theoretical underpinnings, methodological principles, and applications, the most convergence between them is upon shared notions of what it is to be human. These notions are the same ones underlying most psychological research in Anglo-American psychology. Suffice it to say that the differences between discourse as conceived in psychology and discourse for Lacan suggest radically different subjects and forms of sociality. So far, I have focused on the type of discourse analysis proper to the speaking subject of Lacan. Now I will switch gears in service of the secondary idea of this paper, the imperative to fashion the tools or guiding mechanisms of discourse analyses to the particular discourse analytic systems they serve. This imperative comes from the idea that the ways different discourse analytic systems treat analytically important moments of speech (e.g. the preface) are so varied that they may not simply be swapped between systems. The underlying commitment of this notion is that the methodological strategies and tools of discourse analytic systems contain and affirm their ontological positions and conceptions of subjectivity. As such, they recursively have a determinative impact on the type of analyses generated. The following is a short account of the function of the preface and the type of information it yields about speaking subjects from a broad discourse psychology perspective. No doubt, there are multiple discourse psychological perspectives (see Malone & Roberts, 2010), and stark theoretical differences between them. The forthcoming account is simply meant to show the way that discourse analytic tools reflect and inform different ontologies. Secondarily, we have more opportunity to grasp how different the psychological and psychoanalytic ontologies and their corresponding, distinct notions of being human truly are. Again, this difference is the force motivating both the Lacanian discourse analytic project and my insistence on rearticulated tools and strategies. The preface, known alternately across discourse analytic traditions as “precursor” or “hedger” are the remarks prior to what the speaker considers the content or juice of their speech turn. Prefaces are often conciliatory, explicatory or context-disclosing and can vary in length depending on how much introductory information the speaker sees fit. I will use the term “preface” as an umbrella term meant to denote what the conversation analytic tradition has studied at length under the more specific guise of “pre-indexing”, which has been broken down analytically to study various goals and doings (e.g. “pre-sequences” [Sacks, Schegloff, and Jefferson], “indirect speech” [Searle], “disclaimers” [Hewitt and Stokes], “politeness forms” [Brown and Levinson]) (Beach & Dunning, 1982). Though most work on these speech
mechanisms have been geared toward explicating particular accomplishments resulting from their use, there seems to be significant convergence on the very broad notion that these “pre” devices function communicatively. Prefacing initiates and structures sequencing, acts as a strategy for setting up a social backdrop conducive to mutual understanding, maintains a sense of community between speakers, and can even evade or assuage responses that threaten credibility (Beach & Dunning, 1982). Common to all of these uses is the idea that prefacing forestalls forthcoming speech in order to manipulate it for a speaker’s conversational aims (ibid). Other conversation analytic research describe “reference recalibration repair” and other practices of talk, similar in that formulations are tailored or repaired, suspending the development of an upcoming speech turn for the purpose of amending and fine-tuning its referents (Lerner et al., 2012). Moreover, study of these speech phenomena are meant to expose inferences made about shared knowledge between speakers and lay bare how this knowledge operates in practice. A preface can successfully reformulate categories of identification or alter the way some part of forthcoming speech is understood by offering a suggestion for one interpretation over another. Put differently, prefacing is much like adding commentary or delivering another referential frame through which other speakers might consider the prefacer’s forthcoming speech. On this account, prefacing can open the way for novel or more nuanced communicative exchanges that allow more mutual understanding. The temporal placement of the preface here is a crucial element of its function with regards to future speech turns. The preface comes before the utterances to which they are to be applied, as opposed to mid- or post-speech corrections and reformulations, also studied in the psycho-discursive tradition (Bolden, 2010). This is a good place to begin considering the subject drawn up by this notion of the preface in distinction from the speaking subject of Lacan discussed above. This subject appears to be someone whose corrective and expansive uses of the preface actually work to create true understanding of a signified meaning for speakers. Based on the assumption that good use of speech will be sufficient for understanding between speakers, it follows that the preface would be used, along with future speech, to get a sense for one’s wishes, beliefs, emotions, and concerns. That these are communicable and important for getting a sense of the truth of a subject imply a subject who is fundamentally in control of what they say and how they say it. The sheer possibility of fully expressible beliefs and desires attributes to a speaker a full knowledge of these beliefs and desires. As we will see, commitment to this true understanding can only generate an analysis of signified meanings in the Imaginary register. A psychological rendition of the preface amounts to just this, since psychology tends to emphasize understanding between speakers rather than the interplay of forces that produce speech from a Lacanian perspective. Although a cursory sense of what is going on in the Imaginary is not without value, a preface that corresponds only to this register and the subject therein amounts to an analysis of egos, subjects who know, rather than of speaking subjects whose truths involve more than just their claim to knowledge. Lacanian Discourse Analytic Preface as a Grounding in Structure
In the last section, we took a brief look into how psychology ventures to get information about speakers through their speech. This notion takes for granted that speaking is intentional and creates mutual understanding between speakers. The latter condition, the supposition of mutual understanding, invokes a subject who is the sole agent of his or her speech, and is set to the task of making him or herself understandable. Our conception of the subject in relation to the Symbolic, the Imaginary, and the Other requires recourse to an entirely different type of discourse analysis. Correspondingly, the tools and devices used to analyze the subject of Lacan will contribute to and spring from these differences. According to Lacan, it is the combination of structural necessity and investment that comprise the truth of the speaking subject. Therefore it is crucial that a discourse analyst not get caught up analyzing alleged ideas, opinions, and propositions formed by signifiers in speech. This distraction locks the analyst in the realm of the Imaginary instead of the Symbolic, where the truth of the speaking subject is locatable. The preface, itself a repetitive structural element of speech, grounds the analyst in the project of mapping the topology of speech. Regardless of the signified content of the preface, be it long (I'm only saying this 'cause I wasn't sure if you knew...) or short (I'm sorry, but...), its frequently early appearance at the beginning of many utterances and longer speech turns give prompt hints of the way a subject's speech is apt to contain gaps, repetitions, and self-stopping blockages. In this way, the discourse analyst’s ears may perk up to the quirks and nonsensical signifiers of speech through which the subject’s unconscious, in its complex logic, appears and speaks. Another provocative facet of prefacing is the sense in which it can be viewed as an attempt on behalf of the subject to speak beyond what he or she is saying, or, to produce a metalanguage. These attempts at best indicate the subject’s interpretation of his or her own speech--interpretations produced within the grips of the Imaginary. In this way, the amount of prefatory work done by a subject can be indicative of the subject’s own interpretation of his or her relationship to the symbolic realm overall, as it is interwoven with the specificities of the operative Other, constraining and constrained by the speech of the subject. However, this selfinterpretation executed by the preemptive self-corrections and communicative prescriptions of preface work is inadequate as an analysis because it only deepens and re-inscribes the shortcomings of the symbolic system that it supports. When a subject tries to speak beyond or outside of the speech that is available to them, they can only refer more signifiers to other signifiers. This failure to cementing a shared meaning or arriving upon a concrete referent turns out to be an illusion which exists solely in the Imaginary. Our look at the structure of the symbolic system of exchange found this illusion necessary to the subject’s continued use of speech at all. Still, discourse analysis must turn its focus on the failures and gaps in speech that function in tandem with this illusion. We are again reminded that any analysis of the Imaginary is an unnecessary contribution from the discourse analyst; subjects may pursue this sort of inquiry on their own. Prefacing work, then, can also be thought about as conditioned by the subject’s investment in the Imaginary reality of the meaningful content of the forthcoming signifiers that he or she is on the brink of uttering. Neither, though, can we simply eschew the fact that the interpreter and subject are both couched in the same ‘proletarianized’ position, to use Cuéllar’s (2010) term, with respect to the symbolic system. Discourse analysts by no means stand detached from the symbolic system; this system operates the same way whether an utterance is an interpretation or some other
enunciation. On this ground, analyzing prefaces can be seen as a continuation of the interpretive work that the subject is already doing as preparation for extended utterances that the subject hopes will secure a status of credibility beyond that which can be afforded by the symbolic system. That the interpretive work of the discourse analyst still represents a composite part of one unitary system of symbolic values is a useful reminder that the interpretation as well as the utterance has both Imaginary and Symbolic values. This point, that interpretation relies on the structural interplay between the two registers that make speech intelligible, is cautionary. Working with prefaces reminds us that the aim of the speaker in the Imaginary is often to maneuver a way of signifying without the constraints inherent in signification, i.e. to be steps closer to being “really understood” (Lacan, 1977). Lacanian discourse analysis must utilize the imaginary sense of speech and the real “nonsense” which comprises the unconscious of the speaking subject. Where the (non-temporal) passage of the Imaginary through the Symbolic is concerned, an interpretation is always of an interpretation, making analyzable discourse quite a complex web of interpretations. Therefore, more thorough interpretations, as interpretations of interpretations, are not those that spend more time chasing and tracing signifiers whose links appear in the enunciating acts of a subject. A good interpretation does not speculate about the ‘real meaning’ to which a signifier refers and the meaning to which that ‘real meaning’, appearing necessarily as yet another signifier, refers (Parker, 2010). Rather, a thorough interpretation should encapsulate sense and nonsense by focusing on the enunciating acts and signifiers used by and using the subject. How, then, can this element of prefacing inform discourse analyses? Neill has suggested that, for analysis to proceed, the discourse analyst must separate Symbolic from Imaginary meanings (Neill, 2013). Insofar as a preface can be taken as a signifier set of the Imaginary, it can be helpful to designate master signifiers. For Ian Parker, repetition of signifiers and metaphors that conceal other signifiers show the location of quilting points that ensures the continued circuit of speech (Parker, 2005a). If the preface is understood as one large signifier whose use joins the speaker with a speech structure, then its repetitive occurrences can be used as indicative of forthcoming master signifiers. These master signifiers can be easier to parse out given the various Imaginary investments (including the investment in the Imaginary) contained in acts of prefacing. To the extent that prefaces are guiding points to the concerns of the subject in the realm of the Imaginary, they designate qualities of the Other to which subjects cling. With respect to the emphasis that Lacanian discourse analysis places on discerning the Other of speech, the Other of the preface marks the recipient to whom the aggression, reticence, or any other way of handling the mere fact of employing a system of symbolization, is addressed. Even if we are agnostic with regards to the form that the struggle of the symbolic may take for a subject, we can take for granted that the subject is never the isolated storehouse containing the traces of this struggle. The Other of the preface, then, is an impactful reminder of the paradoxical qualities of the Other that make Lacanian discourse analysis challenging—external, internal, the whistleblowing overseer, and the deeply, even sentimentally, individuated. These qualities can broaden discourse analyses to fathom more complex subjects who mistake themselves in the discourse of another (Malone & Roberts, 2010).
Further, the Lacanian perspective resists the prospect of totalizing interpretation, whereas most discourse analyses tend to resists such interpretations in order to preserve the sanctity of context and, in doing so, more modest claims. What distinguishes one from the other is that the type of knowledge theoretically ascertainable by psychological discourse analyses is total. If these researchers had unlimited resources and funding to execute analyses in all contexts, they might claim that they have total knowledge about a particular subject. This exposes another fundamental philosophical difference between a Lacanian discourse analysis and those adopting the theories of the subject offered by Anglo-American psychology. A Lacanian analysis meets the limits of knowledge about the subject at apprehension rather than understanding. Understanding connotes that meaning is conferred from one subject to another, whereas apprehension points to a grasping of a subject-specific logic. Instead of trying to understand, for example, what the subject really wants by searching for it in their speech, we must try to apprehend the way this desire, regardless of its object, appears through and comes to bear on the structure of speech (Verhaeghe, 2001). As we have seen in the account of the system of symbolic exchange apropos to any instance of the speaking subject, the preface can be taken as a natural beginning point for getting a sense for a subjectâ€™s Other as he or she burrows deeper into the system of symbolic currency. The subject is, as it were, inculcated anew into the truth of the symbolic: that it is ultimately divisive. The frustration of diving yet again into a communicative universe, the only one available, that works not only for the subject but through him or her as well serves as an everpresent reminder of the limits of the discursive field and its irreversible effects on the speaker who is simultaneously using and being used. In this vain, acts of prefacing, distinct from other enunciations, reveal the unique nuances of how any individual speaker is concealed in relation to their concerns in the Imaginary. During prefacing, a lack in the Imaginary is broached by the subject, obliging him or her to try to close gaps and make repairs that they are ill-equipped to make. As a result, we see a subject whose deep entrenchment in the Imaginary coincides with the limits of what can be said. For use in discourse analysis, the style of the preface marks the subjectâ€™s own customized reaction upon brushing up with his or her own concealment by the Symbolic. To be sure, speakers are often consciously aware of the difficulties of everyday communications. Prefaces are similar moments of doubt, frustration, and suspension, even though they are common, if not perfunctory, as in the preface of a novel, textbook, or presentation. There are two distinct but related differences between the chaos that inheres in the preface and that of other conversational fumbling. The first is the preemptive status of the preface. The second, which we will handle now, is the locus of knowledge for the speaker. Is the subject at least minimally aware of the violence inhering in his or her own repetitive initiations into the structural constraints and allowances of the symbolic domain? Phrased as a more general concern, how much or in what sense might we say a speaking subject engages with the truth of the Symbolic? From a Lacanian perspective, this knowledge is fluctuating, fleeting, and confounded by other factors stemming from communicating at the level of the Imaginary. In fact, these questions can only be answered with respect to a particular subject. Instead of attempting to preestablish limits for how and in what manner the speaking subject can interact with or demonstrate the truth of his or her constitution and maintenance in the space between the
signifiers he or she utters, we should focus on how this appears for each subject. Here, we are not trying to generate any theory of knowledge or systematic way to analyze. On the contrary, any theory of knowledge is surrendered for glimpses at the real speaking subject who uniquely maintains and grapples with knowledge that is neither universal nor necessarily apparent at all. Analyzing prefaces are simply opportunities to discern a subjectâ€™s relation to the real of the Symbolic. And further, since the preface is preemptive of the speech in the Imaginary, we can conclude that prefaces speak to concerns therein. Therefore, we are able to analytically untangle a subjectâ€™s relation to the real of the Symbolic because of the tight knitting of the Imaginary and Symbolic in moments of prefacing. As a note of caution, it would be a mistake to glean, from the characterization of the preface as an initiation into the Symbolic realm that any prefacing work done on behalf of the speaking subject exists outside of the Symbolic realm. Because prefaces are still only configurations of signifiers, functioning still as more agents of symbolic exchange, they do not evade or transcend the limits of what is ascertainable from the speech of a speaking subject. The truth of the speaking subject is not to be found in what we think they are trying to communicate, but rather in the way their division by speech persists. This persistence creates the topological elements of speech. These include repetitive use of certain signifiers, self-corrections, logical connections between signifiers, to name a few. Therefore, we must take pains not confuse any meaning that we may be tempted to claim comes from the speech content of the preface with the truth of the speaking subject. In this respect, Lacanian discourse analysis must utilize different tools and discourse analytic strategies than other traditions of discourse analysis coming from the turn-to-language in psychology. As we have seen, discourse analytic camps that aim to generate a psychology of the subject based on the meaningful content of his or her speech are, from a Lacanian perspective, analyses of the Imaginary. Lacanian discourse analytic work supports a form of enigmatic wisdom stemming from a comparatively small sphere of mineable determinations possible about any subject of speech. Based on the functional distinction between (1) the Imaginary subject, (2) the subject of the Symbolic, and (3) the unknowable Real subject, a Lacanian perspective points out, as its analytic product, particularities, styles, nuances, gaps, and systemic mishaps pertaining to how and why knowledge found in discourse is not of the Real subject but of the truth of the Symbolic. These distinctions encompass the importance in Lacanian discourse analysis of valuing form over content. This distinction involves attending to the formal or structural qualities of speech rather than the specific signifiers that are used by speakers to impart meaning. As we see from the connection between the Symbolic and the Imaginary, this attempt at true communication is, according to Lacan, a structural impossibility because of the nature of symbolic exchange. When speakers attempt to understand one another or convey meaning with signifiers, they are operating in the Imaginary register where, as speaking subjects in the commonplace conditions of speech, they perpetuate their own division. So, analyzing prefaces, typically understood to supplement future speech rather than hold a complete, stand-alone meaning, helps the discourse analyst resist an analysis of the content of spoken utterances. This temptation to understand or extract an underlying meaning from the signifiers, used between
speakers to form and uphold social relations, must be swapped for comprehension of the formal structure of the subject's speech. Conclusion I hope to have shown that Lacanian discourse analysis can benefit from familiarity with and use of the â€œprefaceâ€? as an analytic tool. The preface is a tool particularly in line with the aims and philosophical commitments embodied in Lacanian discourse analysis as opposed to other forms of discourse analysis currently popular in discourse psychology. Because it is an important moment for gleaning topological or structural facets of speech, the preface is a marker of the type of truth with which Lacanâ€™s theory of discourse is concerned, the truth of the Symbolic. In this sense, it finds the speaking subject in between the dictates of the Symbolic and those of the Imaginary. Moreover, the preface and Lacanian discourse analysis should be taken as exemplary of the notion that the methods and tools of discourse analytic systems contain within them ontological ideas and types of subjects they can encounter. For these reasons, it is important that the strategies and implements of discourse analyses correspond to the elements of speech prioritized by researchers, whatever they may be.
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Hewitt, J. & Stokes, R. (1975). Disclaimers. American Sociological Review 40: 1-11. Lacan, J. (1957-1958). Le Séminaire. Libre IV. La Relation d’Objet. Paris: Seuil, 1994. Lacan, J. (2006a). Instance of letter in the unconscious or reason since Freud. In B. Fink (Trans.), Écrits (pp. 412–444). New York, NY: Norton. (Original work published 1966) Lacan, J. (2006d). The subversion of the subject and the dialectic of desire. In B. Fink (Trans.), Écrits, (pp. 671–702). New York, NY: Norton. (Original work published 1966) Lacan, J. (1977). Écrits: A selection (A. Sheridan, Trans.). New York, NY: Norton. (Original work published 1966) Lerner, G. H., Bolden, G. B., Hepburn, A., & Mandelbaum, J. (2012). Reference recalibration repairs: Adjusting the precision of formulations for the task at hand. Research on Language & Social Interaction, 45(2) Malone, K. R., & Roberts, J. L. (2010). In the World of Language but not of It. Theory & Psychology, 20(6), 835. Parker, I. (2005a). Lacanian Discourse Analysis in Psychology: Seven Theoretical Elements. Theory and Psychology, 15, pp. 163-182. Parker, I. (2010). Psychosocial studies: Lacanian discourse analysis negotiating interview text. Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society, 15(2), 156-172. Philippe, J. (1995). Jacques Lacan's return to Freud. New York, NY : NYU Press. Verhaeghe, P. (2001). Mind Your Body. Lacan’s Answer to a Classical Deadlock. In: Verhaeghe, P. Beyond Gender. From Subject to Drive. New York: Other Press, pp. 99-132. Žižek, S. (2005). Interrogating the Real. (Eds.), R. Butler & S. Stephens. New York & London: Continuum.
“Towards Lacan’s Approach of Subjectivity: On the Staging of Fundamental Fantasy, Jouissance and Gaze in Stanley Kubrick’s Cinematography” Wim Matthys
Abstract I deploy Lacanian theory on the fundamental fantasy to argue that the cinema of Stanley Kubrick and specifically A Clockwork Orange (1971), is propped up by the basic scenario “C observes: A overpowers B.” This scenario adds the third party of an observer to the basic script that underlies the different versions of the fantasy of fustigation described by Freud in his 1919 article “A Child is Being Beaten.” The scenario involved not only structures the narratives of Kubrick’s cinema, but also provides three positions for Symbolic-Imaginary identification (aggressor, victim, observer) to his films’ spectators. Secondly, we indicated that the three Symbolic-Imaginary positions of the scenario ultimately are underpinned by Real kernel of jouissance. Thirdly, it is on the level of the jouissance in staging and observing violence that we retrieve the ultimate indication of Kubrick’s subjective implication in the creative process. Moreover, by reference to Lacan’s theory on the gaze, we indicate that the ultimate effect aimed at by Kubrick is that also his spectators undergo a jouissance-related experience in observing his cinematographic depictions of violence.
**Look for Wim Matthys book to be published soon** Copyright © 2013 The Johns Hopkins University Press. The article “‘Observe All!’: On the staging of Fundamental fantasy, Jouissance and Gaze in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange” will appear in AMERICAN IMAGO, Volume 70, Issue 2, Summer, 2013, pages 225-247.
“…The Hands Forgotten in Each Other”: Being-for-Others in Sartre’s Being and Nothingness and Relational Needs Katharine Wolfe
…[W]e walked together, hand in hand, silent, sunk in our worlds, each in his worlds, the hands forgotten in each other. That’s how I’ve held out till now.” Samuel Beckett, Texts for Nothing …[O]ne remakes oneself by finding meaning in a life of caring for and being sustained by others. While I used to have to will myself out of bed each day, I now wake gladly to feed my son whose birth, four years after the assault, gives me reason not to have died. He is the embodiment of my life’s new narrative and I am more autonomous by virtue of being so intermingled with him. Susan Brison, Aftermath
Susan Brison’s articulation of her relationship to her son in the above epigraph bespeaks what I willing be calling a relational need: Her son’s need to be fed is her need to fed him, and she feels and responds to it gladly as something the satisfaction of which fulfills them both insofar as her love and care for him connects their mutual welfare. In this respect, Brison’s self-experience in relation to her son shows that there are needs that are not only present when we feel some form of desperation, privation, or penury, but can be present together with feelings of joy, of bliss, and even of freedom and autonomy at the same time that they nonetheless concern some of our most vital interests, and expose and respond to some of our most profound vulnerabilities. Relational needs such as Brison’s thus point to the co-constitution of self and Other, as well as to our capacities to shape both ourselves and our world through investments of meaning and of care in it that concern the welfare of others as a constitutive part of our own self-care. What does this have to do with Sartre’s Being and Nothingness? Being and Nothingness is perhaps best known for its unflinching commitment to freedom. In Being and Nothingness,
Sartre makes freedom the defining attribute of conscious experience – what he calls “being-foritself” – and, moreover, a ‘nothingness’. Perpetually escaping and ‘surpassing’ itself towards its objects, consciousness is what its objects are not - translucent, indeterminate, and transcendent where they are opaque, determinate, and immanent. Not being what its objects are, moreover, is what makes consciousness free on Sartre’s account. Brison’s experience of freedom in bondedness to another and of autonomy in need offers an important rejoinder to any such notion of freedom. Further, just as it is known for its unflinching commitment to freedom, Being and Nothingness is equally noted for its treatment of interpersonal relationships as principally, if not exhaustively, conflictual and threatening rather than reciprocal, caring, and mutually supporting. I ultimately hope to show that Being and Nothingness offers a richer account of being-for-others than this conflictual approach might suggest, and that it can offer some important insights towards what I call, following feminist theorists such as Jennifer Nedelsky and Susan Brison, relational selfhood even if these insights are largely held in check by a problematic subjectobject dichotomy. Indeed, it should not go overlooked that, for Sartre, selfhood as such is in fact relational. Although in Being and Nothingness Sartre account of relational selfhood renders it largely negative, the insight that selfhood as such is relational is very rich, and expands to allow for much more positive insights into being-for-others in Sartre’s later writings. For instance, in Notebooks for an Ethics, Sartre speaks of an “appeal to another that is a promise of reciprocity,” and of making a “gift of myself” to another in such a way that “I do not seek my own ends, rather I submit myself to his.” (1992: 284-285). Moreover, in Notebooks for an Ethics, he describes the “structure of authentic love” as “to unveil the Other’s being-within-the-world, to
take up this unveiling, and to set this Being within the absolute; to rejoice in it without appropriating it; to give it safety in terms of my freedom, and to surpass it only in the direction of the Other’s ends” (1992: 284-285; 508). These beautiful expressions of relational selfhood, I want to suggest, are made possible by some of the insights of Being and Nothingness, although Being and Nothingness itself focuses much to exhaustively on the negative dimensions of relational selfhood due to its dichotomous ontological purview. Even with these later articulations of relational selfhood in mind, then, I want to insist that there are nonetheless some crucial aspects of relational selfhood that Sartre’s philosophy not only misses but occludes. 1 While Sartre understands selfhood as relationally constituted, he sets selfhood after and against an immanent form of self-experience that is immediately and nonreflectively tethered to a world filled with meaning and value, and where selfhood is relational, this imminent mode of self-experience is not. With this move, Sartre truncates the extent to which our relations to others can constitute the very investments of meaning and of value that make our world arise. In this respect, Sartre’s phenomenological ontology might be described as, to invoke Beckett’s words once more, forgetful of our hands in each others. 2
Consciousness as Intentional In order to set the stage for taking up Sartre’s account of being-for-others in Being and Nothingness, it is important to start with a consideration of Sartre’s account of being-for-itself. For Sartre, “[m]y being-for-itself throws me not only into the world but into a world with 1
See, for instance, Nedelsky’s “Reconceiving Autonomy: Sources, Thoughts, and Possibilities” (1989: Yale Journal of Law and Feminism. Vol. 1: Issue 7. 7-36) and Laws Relations: A Relational Theory of Self, Autonomy and Law (2012: Oxford U.P.) 2
A more elaborate treatment of Sartre’s work in regards to the issue of relational needs would address his account of need in both Critique of Dialectical Reason and, more surreptitiously, as it appears in Being and Nothingness’s account of desire.
others,” and it is only in starting from our self-experience as beings thrown beyond ourselves into the world that we can understand the nature of our being-for-others (1956: 338). At the heart of Sartre’s account of “being-for-itself” in Being and Nothingness is his theory of consciousness as intentional. The concept of intentionality is crystallized in the principle that “[a]ll consciousness…is consciousness of something” (1956: 11). For Sartre, that consciousness is always consciousness of a certain object means that the objects of our conscious experience are not in our consciousness, either in the form of representations or of impressions, but, rather, are outside of us in the world. In Being and Nothingness, Sartre expresses this point thus: “to be conscious of something is to be confronted with a concrete and full presence which is not consciousness” (22). As intentional, consciousness is a kind of perfect translucency or, in the language of Being and Nothingness, a nothingness; consciousness is a “revealing intuition… of a transcendent being,” not a thing-in-itself (23). Yet that consciousness is intentional also means, according to Sartre “…that consciousness is born supported by a being which is not itself” (23). This dependence of consciousness on the being that it is not means that what is other than consciousness has an ontological priority over it, and, importantly, that consciousness does not begin in a void for all its translucency, but only in immediate relation to what is other than and beyond itself. Without an object, there can be no consciousness. Hence, consciousness is a selftranscending activity only insofar as it is supported by what it is inescapably beyond it and other than it. In emphasizing both transcendence and radically dependency as fundamental features of intentional consciousness, moreover, Sartre’s account of consciousness understands it quite differently than it is conventionally understood. Neither of these features of consciousness, it
must be noted, make it in any sense fundamentally reflective. Indeed, reflexivity, for Sartre, cannot be a basic structure of consciousness insofar as reflection turns away from the world. Yet this does not mean that consciousness has no awareness of itself. Rather, consciousness encounters itself immanently within its transcendent movement towards an object; it encounters itself as just this very movement. To describe consciousness as intentional is to say that consciousness is wholly directed outside of itself towards the things and is at one with itself in its immediate experience of them. As such, consciousness is immediately, rather than reflectively, self-aware. Indeed, it is this aspect of self-awareness immanent in intentional consciousness, as Dan Zahavi notes, that makes intentional consciousness apt to be called â€œbeing-for-itselfâ€? (2010: 215). Yet it must also be noted that Sartreâ€™s account of being-for-itself is one that understands it as set apart from and ontologically dichotomous with those very things upon which it depends. For as much as intentional conscious is translucent and exists in being beyond itself, the support it finds in its surround, and which it depends upon for its own existence, is dense, opaque, and inert. In his account of being-for-others, we will see that this dichotomy between being-for-itself and being-in-itself takes the form of a dichotomous relationship between subject and object that makes true intersubjective experience elusive if not impossible. There is, moreover, a great risk of abstraction in this view of consciousness as fundamentally transparent and self-surpassing, which has implications both for how Sartre understands freedom, and for the extent to which self-experience is understand as relational in his work.
Intentionality and Being-for-Others
A fascinating feature of Sartre’s account of interpersonal existence in Being and Nothingness is that he insists upon the radical alterity of the Other to me and of myself to the Other at the same time that he treats selfhood as relationally-constituted. Against Husserl and Heidegger, and not unlike Levinas, moreover, he emphasizes that both of these aspects of our being-for-others and of their being-for-me are experienced in our concrete, face-to-face encounters in the world. Our being-for-others and their being-for-me is not merely an ontological background to our lived experience but is something by which we are “touched to the quick” in our lived experience in the world (1956: 302). Further, selfhood as relationally constituted, for Sartre, is first and foremost immanently lived and pre-reflective just as is being-for-itself (301-302). In this respect, being-for-others, for Sartre, allows for “an intimate relation of ourselves to ourselves” in our immediate, lived experience in the midst of the world that would not be possible without it (301). Caught up in the intentional movement of being-for-itself described above, Sartre emphasizes that neither my actions nor my distinctive orientation towards my surround refer back to a me over and above or before and behind them; I am these acts and these distinctive orientations throwing me beyond myself into the world, and nothing more. This is an important implication and condition of being-for-itself as, ontologically and fundamentally, an absolute nothingness and a perpetual escape from any fixed and solidified existence (349). Yet the fact that I can be perceived by another radically changes this insofar as my existence before another alters my relationship to my self. Aware of myself in a world with others, a new form of self-awareness arises at the level of my unreflective, immediate and intentional existence (349). I become aware of myself as at a distance from myself at the very level of my immediate, non-reflective existence in the world. For Sartre, it is only on condition of this non-reflective experience of myself as at a distance
from myself in immediate, non-reflective experience in the world before another that I become able to solidify and sediment my own existence by making myself an object to myself through reflection. Indeed, for Sartre, it is this solidified and sedimented experience that a ‘self’ often signifies: the ‘self’ is not my real, engaged and intentional existence in the world but a kind of frozen denaturing of it in which I experience my existence as less free or indeterminate than it is. Moreover, this artificial congealing of an existence that always and everywhere retains the ability to be something other than it is amounts to an act of bad faith for Sartre. The self that emerges non-reflectively in being-for-others is like the self that emerges in reflection insofar as it is an objectification of an original, radical freedom for Sartre, albeit one that is in the world rather than in some magical, purely-internal place, above it or beyond it as some reflective notions of the self would have it be. Equally importantly, moreover, the self that emerges for me in my being-for-others, unlike the self I encounter in reflection, is an object that is not my object: This self appears for me only insofar as I am “an object for the Other” (349). Thus, this dimension of my selfhood is there in the world beyond me in relation to another. Insofar as the other sees me as an object in their world, I become immediately and non-reflective an object to myself that I myself cannot know. This sense of existing immediately and non-reflectively beyond myself seems to open towards some positive implications. It allows, for instance, that one can be much more than one knows oneself to be, and that one’s sense of one’s own person can exceed whatever limitations self-doubt, self-criticism, and failures of self-confidence might reduce it to. It allows that my own impact on the world and influence on others can surprise me in its richness and value, and not only in its capacity, for instance, to do harm or to have consequences I did not intend. It also entails that any attempt I make to concretely and exhaustively know my self rather than
immanently live and feel it will inevitably make me something other and something less than I am. Yet the intimate, non-reflection relationship we have to ourselves by virtue of appearing before Others is largely, if not exhaustively, negative on Sartre’s account insofar as the dimension of my selfhood revealed by it is thought of as nothing other than my existence as an object in another’s world, where this implies for Sartre that I am interpreted, judged, and assessed by that Other in ways that undermine rather than enhance or enable my own subjectivity. Sartre’s principle example of such an experience of being-for-others is the experience of shame. He writes: “I have just made an awkward or vulgar gesture. This gesture clings to me; I neither judge it nor blame it. I simply live it… But suddenly I raise my head. Somebody was there and has seen me. Suddenly I realize the vulgarity of my gesture, and I am ashamed.” (302). The change in my self-experience here arises not because I have turned back upon myself in reflection, but, rather, because the appearance of the other in the world has made me an object of judgment to myself within it “for it is as an object that I appear to the Other” (302). It should be noted that my existence for myself as an object for another is in no way a distortion of what I am for Sartre. Rather, it is another fundamental and real dimension of my existence; it is that which I am but which I do not know. It is me and yet it is completely incommensurable with any sense of myself I might have in a world all my own. This dimension of my selfhood is not even there potentially in a world without others. In this respect, “I need the Other in order to fully realize all the structures of my being” (303). My objective existence in the world is something there originally for Sartre but not something that is originally for-me; It is only through my being-for-others that I come to experience this dimension of my own selfhood.
With this point in mind, moreover, Sartre’s account of shame comes to offers glimmers and flashes of the insight that my being-for-others reveals myself to myself as someone who bears an inescapable and insurmountable ethical responsibility in the world. He claims, for instance, that, outside of this relationship to another, one’s acts are immanently justified – their doing and their justification are one for there is nothing beyond them against which they might be assessed (347-348). Being-for-others, however, means that there is a limit to my freedom and that I carry a burden of responsibility with me as an inescapable part of me, irreducible to something that I can definitely and exhaustively know (351). Moreover, he emphasizes that we are responsible for the selves that we are in relation to others and, indeed, that to deny that I am this self that depends on my relation to others would be a gesture of bad faith (303; 350). “Each of my free conducts,” he writes, “engages me in a new environment where the very stuff of my being is the unpredictable freedom of another” and “I accept and wish that others should confer upon me a being which I recognize” (351). All of these gestures troublingly assume that it is only the existence of other people that gives rise to an ethical responsibility in the world and not, for instance, the vital and meaningful natural world which makes my life possible and in which all of my actions take place. Yet they move towards a rich conception of ethics that could well be extended to include our responsibility to the natural world as well as to other people. Despite some of the richness here, the claim that the other perceives me as an object and only as an object, and thus that this is how I come to experience myself before another subject, continues to dominate Sartre’s sense of what being-for-others entails. Even when another person’s judgment or witnessing of us causes us to feel shame, to stay with Sartre’s own principle example – better suited than many to suggest the sense of objectification before another he emphasizes, we are not necessarily objectified by them so much as made aware of what we
have done, given pause to tarry with it, and to feel its meaning and its important in a world that never was and never will be all one’s own. In this way, the relationship that another person bears to us that gives rise to shame not only allows for our subjective capacity to give meaning and value to the world and to shape it accordingly but can even positively demand this of us insofar as shame is an affect that alerts us to our responsibly for what we do. There are many other lived experiences of being-for-others, moreover, where it is hard to believe that objectification enters in at all. To give just one of numerous available examples, and to speak, for a moment, from my own self-experience, when I first looked upon the face of my newly born sister I did not see an ‘object’ in the world. What I saw was a new beginning, a both completely mundane and utterly miraculous event, and a new source of meaning and significance in my own life that would make it forever different and richer than it was before. When she chastises me now for living too far away and not coming to visit enough, I do not feel myself reduced to an object in her eyes insofar as my actions and my choices have a different meaning and significance for her than for me which I would never assume to fully know. Rather, I feel awoken to and reminded of the fact that my actions matter more and have deeper meanings that they ever would in a world without her in it. Indeed, at the same time that Sartre emphasizes that one’s fundamental experience of oneself as existing before another is as an object for them, he emphasizes that the Other who causes me to feel shame and who causes me to experience a new dimension of my own selfhood which is both mine and beyond me cannot be an object for me insofar as the Other must be their own source of meaning and significance in the world if they are to reveal me to myself as they do. If there is one key thing that Being and Nothingness brings to an understanding of intentionality that is not there in Sartre’s earlier works on the topic, such as The Transcendence
of the Ego or his early essay “Intentionality”, it is just this idea that intentionality is the source of our capacity to invest our surround with meaning and significance. The other is an opening of the world to meaning, just as I am, by virtue of the radical indeterminacy that is their intentional relationship to the world. Where Sartre would call this our ‘nothingness’, it could be described in more positive terms as one’s capacity to shape one’s own life through investments of concern and of care within it, and through the pleasures and the values to which these investments give rise or of which they speak, where this co-related self and world making is never complete but ever on-going. Sartre emphasizes, moreover, that to view the Other as an object is to act as if I where the one organizing and giving meaning to their world and as if they where like any other object in mine (314). It is a denial of what our existence in a shared world reveals and impresses upon us as a concrete, immediately felt and immanently lived truth: That another person fills the world with meaning and significance just as I do and that the meaning and significance that they give to it is radically incommensurable – although, I would insist, not necessarily incompatible – with my own insofar as we are different subjects. Although we often attempt to make the Other a knowable object for us in the interest of disavowing the dimension of our own selfhood that exists in being-for-them, when I encounter the other genuinely and authentically I encounter her as outside my own understanding and even beyond my possible experience; I encounter her as “an absence”, as “strange to me”, as “inaccessible to me”, as “out of my reach,” “beyond experience,” and “outside the world” (304; 305; 307; 310; 317). In encountering the other, what I can and must do is not know her but experience just her very un-knowability, that is, her radical difference from me and her existence beyond my own interpretative horizon, together with the un-knowability of the self which I am
for myself in being before her. For Sartre, this amounts to a direct experience of her as a subject “in connection with me” and this relation to her, and not that of any objectification of her, is “the fundamental relation” I bear to another (341). And yet, for Sartre, encountering the Other as a subject happens only in and through experiencing oneself as an object before the Other: “It is in and through the revelation of my being-as-object for the Other,” he writes, “that I must be able to apprehend the presence of his being-as-subject” (344-345). This means, at least in the frame of Being and Nothingness’s treatment of being-for-others, that there can be no reciprocal and mutual encounter between two subjects in the world. For this reason, my being-for-others is an experience of “my freedom escap[ing] me in order to become a given object” in an alien world (350). Being-for-others pins down the for-itself and closes off its escape routes, rendering it concrete and determinate and stripping it of its perfect translucent and sheer and utter freedom (351-352). Sartre thus calls my being-for-others “[m]y original fall” (352) Further, in my being-for-others, on his account, the world drains away from me and flows towards the Other: “…it appears that the world has a kind of drain hole in the middle of its being and that it is perpetually flowing off through this hole” (345). Things no longer arrange themselves around me but pull away from me because the Other, in reducing me to an object, is this “drain hole” at the heart of my world. Sartre’s speaks of this as an alienation of the world from me coupled with an alienation from my own freedom (353). He thus conceives of my being-for-others as my being in the midst of a world that has been “stolen” from me. While Sartre denigrates responding to our own objectification and our own loss of the world with attempts to reduce the Other to a mere object and thus reclaim the world for ourselves, how could such a struggle not ensure if what I am to another person can be nothing
more than an object insofar as I recognize them for the unique center of meaning that they are? And how could it not ensure if what it means for there to be other subjects in the world is that my world is lost to me? I’ve already raised some objections to the point that another person, as a subject, can only perceive me as an object. What remains to be addressed is this additional and correlated claim that the existence of the Other is a threat to and even a loss of my world.
While Sartre’s notion of being-for-itself as transculent and as a kind of ontological nothingness might make it seem as if we are impartial or disinterested observers of our world, this is not Sartre’s considered position in Being and Nothingness. Rather, he takes it that one’s world reveals itself as having certain meanings and certain values according to one’s projects and investments within it. It does not appear in the same way or with the same meaning to any observer as it does to me. Looking up ahead toward the mountain path I am going to travel before reaching a small summer cabin and enjoying a weekend retreat, for example, I may see an opportunity for exercise, fresh air, and for hearing bird songs, while my partner might see a risk of re-injuring his ankle and of surprising a bear with its cubs. Certain features of the world and certain possibilities it holds open fall back and come forth according to our interests and concerns in relationship to it, and certain features of it appear as constraints or as supports accordingly. Indeed, these dimensions of meaning, and the correlated interests and investments they belie, are what make our surround, in Sartre’s terms, a world and not just a collection of objects (405). But how can the dimensions of meaning and significance that populate our lived world come from a subject that is pure ‘translucent’ or ‘nothingness’? How can being-for-itself both be a source of meaning, significance, and distinction and remain a complete and utter nothingness?
Doesn’t being the source of meaning and differentiation make consciousness, as Hazel Barnes puts it, “into a very formidable something”? (1956: xxiv) For Sartre, we can take up any of a multitude of meaningful and distinct relationships to being precisely because intentional consciousness is, essentially, nothing – a “total emptiness” – standing in contrast to and in distinction from the plenum of being which it tends towards. It is consciousness that, in introducing an ontological gap into this ontic fullness, breaks being open, and thereby introduces meaning into the world – a rupture in the fullness of being is the condition of meaning for Sartre (25). Being-for-itself thus introduces differentiation and significance into Being-in-itself through the distinction of itself from it and through its failure to be what it is, and nothing more. Yet this way of understanding how being-for-itself introduces meaning, I would argue, requires us to be grossly indifferent to the specific meanings and significances it introduces. As the upshot of the differentiation of itself from being-in-itself, there is no way to explain or justify any particular meaning or value mattering to me more than any other. Without the meaning and significance we find in the world mattering to us – not in general but in its particularity, it begins to feel as if Sartre’s worlds are meaningless worlds. Pure freedom, without any underlying investment of value to guide it, seems to be a painfully apathetic proposition, and what it affords in terms of an open horizon of possibilities is quickly undermined by the seeming indifference of them all. Sartre might insist that what gives any choice we make in the world and any correlated horizon of meaning and significance that corresponds with it any worth is just that fact that I have freely chosen it. This is how, in “Existentialism is a Humanism,” Sartre articulates his response to a student seeking advice from him on which of two possible courses of action is the right course to choose – staying with his mother and protecting her well-being, tied to his own,
or joining his country’s fighting forces and acting in the interest of a larger social and political welfare (2007: 30-31; 49-50). Sartre’s understands the horizon of meaning and significance that we bring to our experience of our intentional surround and the value that accompanies it to be a function of our ability to do something with it as free. Our freedom thus seems to be the one and only value, if we can even call it this, in the world, and the world may justifiably be treated as instrumental to achieving a particular set of goals I freely will. Contrast this with how meaning and value comes to fill Susan Brison’s world as she awakens needing to fed her son described in my introductory epigraph: She awakens joyfully, needing to feed him because he needs to be fed. Indeed, his need to be fed is her need to feed him. Moreover, this need gives to her world color and meaning insofar as she is intimately bonded with him. Her bond to him and her corresponding need to care for him doesn’t negate or trump her own projects or interests; Rather, her bond to him and the care that moves her in relationship to him is at once her tie to him and to the world. It is a world-making bond. Beckett’s words capture this beautiful: Even when we feel ourselves as somehow in a world of our own, our hands lie in one another’s. A world is not something we have unto ourselves, but something always and immediately shared; it is shared from the moment of our birth and even before birth in a mother’s womb. What is more, the ties that bind us in the world are not infringements on our capacity to bring meaning and value to it, but can be one of the richest sources of meaning and value our actions could possible have. Certainly, these ties that connect us to others and our corresponding investments of meaning, care, and value in the world are not etched in stone. Moreover, for as much as the relational aspects of our selfhood can be affirming and enriching, how we are treated by others in a shared world can also be deeply damaging and harmful. Brison’s Aftermath, from which this
passage is drawn, is a philosophical exploration of the aftermath of sexual violence. She illuminates the extent to which a relational self can be deeply injured and even broken through our relations to others and through how others treat us. Our relational selfhood reaches so far that it is not at all uncommon for survivors of violence to feel as if they have died and that the world that was can never be regained. At moments, moreover, Brison’s analysis of trauma makes use of the subject-object distinction employed by Sartre, albeit, importantly, by no means does she employ it as a way to understand our relational selfhood at large: “Victims of human-inflicted trauma,” she writes, “are reduced to mere objects by their tormentors: their subjectivity is rendered useless and viewed as worthless” (2002: 48). She adds, moreover, that insofar as human-inflicted trauma “destroys the belief that one can be oneself in relation to others” (Brison quoting Judith Herman 1992, 53), it likewise destroys one’s ability to “be oneself even to oneself, since the self exists fundamentally in relation to others” (40). Further, at the same time that Brison stresses that the relational nature of selfhood shows itself in such experiences of trauma, she also stresses that it shows itself just as powerfully in the self’s rebuilding through establishing new relationships after such traumas. Thus, as she writes, the relational self is "...vulnerable enough to be undone by violence and yet resilient enough to be reconstructed with the help of emphatic others," and through new investments of care in the world such as her bond with her son (2002: 38). While both relational selfhood in general and relational needs in particular bespeak real vulnerabilities to harm, then, they also show that vulnerability can be much more than such a liability. Indeed, Sartre notes that our being-for-others is an immediate and non-reflective mode of awareness of our own vulnerability, that is, of our own liability to harm and to danger as well as of our own dependency (347; 358). In our most intimate and deep-reaching relations to others,
we are absolutely vulnerable to harm in the world, but this vulnerability is not merely the upshot of the fact “that I have a body which can be hurt,” as Sartre describes it, but follows from what it means to be invested in one’s world at all – I am vulnerable in the world insofar as what happens in it matters to me, and, in this respect, vulnerability is not purely negative but is part of having a meaningful relationship to others and to one’s world. At one point in Being and Nothingness, Sartre himself writes: “…I have always known that the Other existed,… I have always had a total though implicit comprehension of his existence… which comprises a surer and deeper understanding of the nature of the Other and the relation of his being to my being than all the theories that have been built around it” (338). Nonetheless, in beginning with being-for-itself qua pure intentional consciousness and attempting to understand being-for-others through it rather than starting from our self-experience in a shared world he misses the extent to which our relations to others shape and even form our investments of meaning and value in the world. He misses, to take up the language of Annette Baier, who Susan Brison turns to in her own treatment of relational selfhood, that we are all always and already “second persons”, that is, persons “who grow up with other persons,” who were “long enough dependent upon other persons to acquire the essential arts of personhood”, who “come after and before other persons”, and who are “essentially successors, heirs to other person who formed and cared for [us]” (Baier 1981: 180-184). Sartre approaches our being-for-others as if our projects in the world, and our corresponding investments of meaning and significance in it, precede it, and as if our relations to others appear only secondly as “the limit of my freedom” and a threat to it (351). But this is simply not the case. Brison’s awakening to fed her son is not something she could elect not to do without hurting herself because her own welfare and her own sense of value in the world is so
deeply connected to him. This deep and intimate connectedness stems from certain investments of care and of love that are not merely passive or biological, but are shaped and created through her and her interaction with him. For this reason, this bondedness is an expression of her freedom and her autonomy at the same time that it reveals that this freedom and autonomy is enriched, if not ultimately constituted, through her investments of care in a world shared with others. Sharing a world with others and having investments in it that commit us to it and to those we share it with in ways that exceed our momentary volitional control means, moreover, that there are certain things that one cannot do, cannot will, and cannot endure, but these ‘cannots’ are not a mere limitation of our freedom but a pivotal aspect of what makes freedom meaningful. Further, it is not a delusion about oneself that makes one experience one’s investments of care in the world as at one time informing one’s freedom and limiting what one can do and what one can endure, but, rather, a rich and powerful attunement to one’s selfhood, and one’s freedom as a component of it, as constituted by much more than willful, volitional intent, or a subjectivity that begins in a world unto itself. Living out one’s own welfare as intimately tethered to that of others - such as Brison does in feeling a relational need to care for her son awakened by his own need for that care - is a profound part of making a world, and with it, a horizon of meaning, values, and investments, through, and not against or in spite of, our relations to others within it.
Works Cited Baier, Annette. 1981. “Cartesian Persons”. Philosophia. Vol. 10; Issue 3-4. 169-188. Beckett, Samuel. 2010. Texts for Nothing and Other Shorter Prose, 1950-1976. Ed. Mark Nixon. London: Faber and Faber. Brison, Susan. 2002. Aftermath: Violence and the Remaking of a Self. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton U.P. De Beauvoir, Simone. 1954. She Came to Stay. New York and London: W.W. Norton & Company. Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. 2002. The Phenomenology of Perception. London: Routledge. Nedelsky, Jennifer. 2012. Laws Relations: A Relational Theory of Self, Autonomy and Law. New York: Oxford U.P. --------- 1989. “Reconceiving Autonomy: Sources, Thoughts, and Possibilities.” Yale Journal of Law and Feminism. Volume 1: Issue 7. 7-36 Sartre, Jean-Paul. 2007. “Existentialism is a Humanism.” In Existentialism is a Humanism. Trans. Carol Macomber. New Haven, CT: Yale U.P. 17-73. --------- 1992. Notebooks for an Ethics. Trans. David Pellauer. U. of Chicago P.: Chicago. --------- 1970. "Intentionality: A Fundamental Idea of Husserl's Phenomenology." Trans. Joseph P. Fell. Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology. V.1; No.2; pg. 4-5. --------- 1960. The Transcendence of the Ego: An Existentialist Theory of Consciousness. Trans. Forrest Williams and Robert Kirkpatrick. New York: Hill and Wang. --------- 1956. Being and Nothingness. Trans. Hazel E. Barnes. New York: Washington Square Press. Zahavi, Dan. 2010. “Shame and the Exposed Self”. Reading Sartre: On Phenomenology and Existentialism. Ed. J. Webber. London: Routledge. 211-226.
WITHDRAWING FROM THE UNCONSCIOUS Toward a model of association-dissociation
Alberto Varona, Psy.D. Assistant Professor, Core Faculty Clinical Psychology Adler School of Professional Psychology 17 N. Dearborn Chicago, IL. 60602 707-228-9718 firstname.lastname@example.org
Biographical statement: Dr. Alberto Varona is Assistant Professor of clinical psychology at Adler School of Professional Psychology where he teaches Psychopathology I & II, Psychoanalytic Approaches and History & Systems. He earned his doctorate from the Wright Institute in Berkeley, CA, after many years studying religion and philosophy. His current interests include philosophy of mind, philosophical phenomenology, process philosophy and psychoanalysis and neuropsychoanalysis.
WITHDRAWING FROM THE UNCONSCIOUS
WITHDRAWING FROM THE UNCONSCIOUS Toward a model of association-dissociation Keywords: Unconscious, repression, dissociation, association, consciousness, subjectivity
Abstract: The use of the concept â€˜the unconsciousâ€™ and the collapse of spacial metaphors into literal reality has made accurate theorizing a challenge. However, the phenomena of non-awareness or partial awareness is crucial to psychoanalytic investigations. As such, a model of dissociation (and its conceptual partner association) that articulates the mechanisms of its process may advance our theorizing significantly. Dissociation, as a process rather than a structural content, clearly covers the phenomena of unconsciousness without the use of spatial metaphors. In order to accurately accomplish this task the relationship between subjective experience (phenomenal consciousness), awareness and cognitive notations (first and second-order judgements) will be explored more fully.
WITHDRAWING FROM THE UNCONSCIOUS
WITHDRAWING FROM THE UNCONSCIOUS Toward a model of association-dissociation When I was learning about the concept of the unconscious as a graduate student I asked, “What is in the unconscious and how does it get there? “ I really can’t remember the answers my instructors gave but I do remember I was left with a nagging feeling of discomfort. Don’t get me wrong, I continued to use the concept. Over the years I drew several conclusions about what was in the unconscious from the statements of my instructors, some explicit and others not. My instructors correctly interpreted my questions to be about the content of the unconscious. This was not a new or profoundly innovative question as it has certainly been asked and explored before. Once the questions had been set up in this manner there are subsequent natural extensions to those questions. Did the unconscious contain our motives, memories, fantasies, impulses, language and emotions? Did our ‘internal object relations’ live at least partially submerged within this unconscious realm? Did the contents of the unconscious get there because they sprung from there, the conscious mind being its second home? Did unconscious mental content originate from the external world of experience and then somehow find itself plunged into the realm of darkness, eternally bound therein?
What I wish someone had said to me was that the questions themselves needed consideration. Now, several years later, I feel prepared to consider the initial questions themselves without throwing the phenomenal baby out with the conceptual bathwater. There is a need to question, clarify and adjust our concept of the unconscious so that psychoanalytic thinkers can be better 3
WITHDRAWING FROM THE UNCONSCIOUS aligned with developments in psychology and philosophy and yet retain the phenomena of nonconscious content. It is important that psychoanalytic thinkers persevere with their concern with the subjective realm of experience; an elusive and immanent realm that sometimes borders on unconscious oblivion but never fully disappears into it.
This paper unpacks the two questions: “what is in the unconscious and how does it get there?“ I will address some of the difficulties with the concept of the unconscious as a location in mental or brain space and the subsequent difficulty with the mental content that would find itself contained in such a location. I will also address the difficulty with explaining how mental content gets to the unconscious location and what it is like consciously to have unconscious content. Once I have done this, I will try to go beyond the difficulties themselves and suggest a model of the mind that addresses the phenomena we find ourselves clinically and conceptually concerned with, without falling into these same difficulties. In order to do this I will use the concepts of psychological consciousness and phenomenal consciousness (Chalmers, 1996). These concepts will help me elaborate the concept of dissociation as a primary function of the mind, a function that is intricately related to and on a continuum with the function of association. I suggest that the association–dissociation continuum is conceptually correlated with phenomenal consciousness and that mental content (motives, memories, fantasies, impulses, language and emotions) is conceptually correlated with psychological consciousness and is flexibly stationary. The relationship between the association–dissociation continuum and mental content is crucial in this regard and will be discussed as well.
WITHDRAWING FROM THE UNCONSCIOUS Unconscious location There are two primary ways to use the word ‘unconscious’. The word can be used as a noun or as an adjective. As a noun the article ‘the’ often precedes the word. This article precedes a noun. The question, “What is in the unconscious” also contains the preposition ‘in’. This suggests that the noun it precedes contains the object in question. The object in question is “the unconscious”, a thing that contains other things. A thing that is a reservoir for other things, thereby possessing space, is a container. As a container that holds mental things ‘the unconscious’ has a location. It becomes both a thing and a place. This is the reason it naturally leads to questions about what it contains and investigations into where the unconscious part of the mind is in the brain. This is a troubling use of the concept unconscious. Not all theories use this concept as a noun and those that do are often using a container metaphor as an aid to conceptualizing. However, this aid can quickly become a conceptual hurdle when the metaphor is lost and the container becomes literal. This use of the word ‘unconscious’ is problematic.
‘Unconscious’ is also an adjective 1,. As an adjective it modifies or describes the noun and cannot be used alone. If I ask, “Is that memory unconscious?” what I am wondering is, “Is the memory (noun) not conscious (adjective)?” The subject in question is “memory”, which may or may not be associated with consciousness. In my opinion this is an appropriate use of the word. When the word is used in lectures and in articles it is often used both ways. This is troubling because this can cause the greatest conceptual confusion. Bouncing between a descriptive 1
In other psychological literature the word unconscious is often used appropriately as an
adverb as in: “his unconscious activity…” This use acknowledges the automatic quality with which many acts are performed without controlled cognitive effort.
WITHDRAWING FROM THE UNCONSCIOUS modifier and a spatial object often results in the abandon of the metaphor. To the extent that the word is used as an adjective it is implicitly distinguishing between three aspects of the mind: mental content, awareness and consciousness. The content in the example given above is “the memory”. Consciousness is related to awareness (Chalmers, 1996) and it thereby elucidates the content of memory by being associated to it. This is a meaningful distinction to make, as these three aspects of mind: mental content, awareness and consciousness, are phenomenologically distinct and conceptually useful.
Unconscious mental content Mental content is a general concept that includes memories, fantasies, thoughts, language, object-relations and emotions. When mental content is discussed in relation to ‘the unconscious’ it is assumed that ‘the unconscious’ contains mental content. Psychoanalytic thinkers sometimes believe that “the conscious” and “the preconscious” can contain mental content as well. Having lost the spatial metaphor, we presume that mental content migrates from one location to the other. The concept of repression is proof that the loss of the spatial metaphor has necessitated a mechanism that explains the movement of mental content from the conscious mind to the unconscious mind. This is very confusing. Does mental content literally migrate? Of course not. Given a robust correlation or identity between the mind and the brain, we would likely conclude that mental content is relatively stationary. It would be bound by the structures of the brain wherein it is encoded. So if mental content (i.e. the memory of a traumatic event) is sometimes conscious and sometimes not, should we presume that it is moving around in the brain going from unconscious regions to conscious regions? Of course not. The spatial use of ‘the unconscious’ aims to capture phenomenological experience; we are sometimes aware and
WITHDRAWING FROM THE UNCONSCIOUS sometimes not aware of mental content. This can be explained differently and with more precision.
Repression: mental contentâ€™s migration to the unconscious The mind-as-iceberg metaphor (Fechner, 1860), adopted by Freud and later psychoanalysts, is useful for visualizing the phenomena of non-conscious mental content but it comes with a great price. The price of this metaphor is that the mind and its properties (consciousness, preconsciousness and unconsciousness) are misunderstood as locations and containers with content (memories, fantasies, thoughts, language and emotions) moving in and out of them. This may seem unusual to the reader but I believe that it is common in everyday theoretical discussions and conceptualizations. The great price paid for this loss of metaphor is theoretical stalemates and confusions. The greatest evidence for this is the concept of repression.
Repression is a supposed defense mechanism that suggests mental content (i.e. the memory of a traumatic event) is moved from the container of the conscious to the container of the unconscious passing as it must through the container of the preconscious. As a defense mechanism what repression does not suggest is how mental content would migrate from one place to another. The defense mechanism does not explain this because it does not make sense for mental content to migrate. Repression as a defense mechanism aims at explaining one thing: how mental content sometimes eludes conscious awareness entirely when it should be remembered. Repression may succeed at explaining this, but does so with troubling use of the concept of a spatial unconscious as well as mental content as migratory.
WITHDRAWING FROM THE UNCONSCIOUS Does unconscious mental content have the quality of unconsciousness? Unconsciousness itself is a problematic descriptor. It is contrasted, of course, with consciousness. It suggests that there is mental content (memories, fantasies, thoughts, language and emotions) that has eluded consciousness. However, unconsciousness goes even further than that, suggesting there is mental content that is unavailable to consciousness altogether. This is why the under-theorized concept of the preconscious becomes a compelling necessity in order to explain the relationship between unconsciousness and consciousness. It is critical to state that mental content that is unconscious would be unavailable to consciousness by the mere definition of the term. Mental content that is supposedly unconscious but is available to consciousness indirectly through dreams, symptoms, relational patterns, etc. is preconscious at best. It is preconscious by virtue of the fact that those dreams, symptoms, relational patterns, etc. are properties of that mental content and thereby partially conscious. They may be marginal, peripheral properties of the mental content but they are not entirely distinct from that content. To the extent that the dreams, symptoms, relational patterns, etc. are available to consciousness, so is the mental content of which they are properties. To say that they are not properties of the mental content is to disconnect them from each other in a manner that would prove theoretically counterproductive.
In fact, if there were such a thing as completely unconscious mental content, mental content not at all available to consciousness, it would be clinically irrelevant. This mental content would be irrelevant in the same way that the existence of gnomes is to your daily work performance. If there are gnomes but they have no impact whatsoever on your mind and life then it truly does not matter at all whether or not they exist. Unconscious mental content is like gnomes. To the extent
WITHDRAWING FROM THE UNCONSCIOUS that they are un-impactful to the mind and life, they do not matter clinically at all. Furthermore, unconscious mental content, as previously understood, does not have the quality of unconsciousness. It has the quality of partial consciousness or pre-consciousness. It is always available in some relevant way to consciousness. Mental representation, at its most elemental level, represents the entire horizon of experience as responses to the world in a complex (multisensory, somatic, emotional and cognitive) manner (Varona, 2012). Taking one aspect of that complex representational horizon in isolation from other aspects may be useful for simplification, but is phenomenally inaccurate.
The phenomenon being described as unconscious is a phenomenon that is evident to the observer in an indirect way. Letâ€™s explore the previous example more fully. Suppose a clinician has hypothesized that there was a traumatic sexual event in a clientâ€™s life that is unconscious. The clinician has noticed some aspects of the complex representational horizon (dreams, symptoms, relational patterns, etc.) but is seeking another aspect, the cognitive (symbolic) aspect, to address in therapy. The clinician believes the event has aspects more central to or critical for the healing of the phenomena exhibited. For example, suppose a clinician notices that a patient has a persistent pattern of getting involved in relationships in which he is treated with overt sadism, he possesses unusual sexual preoccupations and he is prone to dissociative consciousness when under acute distress. The clinician may presume the patient has an unconscious sexual trauma.
What the clinician is likely presuming is that the person has no conscious experience of the cognitive memory of sexual abuse. This cognitive memory is deemed more central to or critical for the healing of the phenomena (abusive patterns, unusual sexual preoccupations and
WITHDRAWING FROM THE UNCONSCIOUS dissociation). To the extent that the entire mental content is a broad series of responses (broad, multi-sensory, somatic, emotional and cognitive) to the traumatic event, the cognitive memory of the traumatic event is only one aspect. It may be deemed a clinically critical aspect, useful for the healing of traumas, but it does not make the entire phenomenon unconscious. In fact, it could be argued that the majority of the traumatic responses are quite available to consciousness, even if they are not overtly associated with a sexual traumatic event memory. The phenomena in question (being treated with overt sadism, possessing unusual sexual preoccupations and being prone to dissociative consciousness when under acute distress) are aspects of the alleged traumatic event and thereby render the trauma partially conscious, even if the cognitive memory of the alleged sexual trauma is not. In this example the unconscious mental content does not really have the quality of unconsciousness. Rather, all the phenomena that make the example relevant for investigation are relatively available to consciousness even if one aspect, the cognitive memory, is not. Having a more substantive idea of mental content (responsive, broad, multi-sensory, somatic, emotional and cognitive representation) highlights how unconsciousness is a poor descriptive term for most of the phenomena relevant to therapeutic investigation. Prereflective consciousness, thoroughly discussed by Dorothy Legrand (2007), might be a more useful term.
Phenomenal and psychological consciousness So far I have focused primarily on mental content and its relationship to a spatial unconscious. This falls under the realm of psychological consciousness, sometimes defined in the philosophy of mind as the â€œeasy problemâ€? (Chalmers, 1996). Psychological consciousness (cognition from here on) refers to thinking, memories and awareness. It is called the easy problem because
WITHDRAWING FROM THE UNCONSCIOUS despite its complexity it is well within the explanatory scope of philosophy and science. Neurological and cognitive scientific explanations are not complete, but it is safe to presume that they will one day suffice for explaining thinking, memory and awareness. These domains are crucial for understanding human phenomena and despite being the “easy problem” they are quite complex.
Some philosophers have found it useful to distinguish these cognitive processes from Phenomenal consciousness - a word that refers to the phenomena of subjective experience. David Chalmers calls this the “hard problem” because, as things stand today, there is an explanatory gap between psychological consciousness (cognition) and phenomenal consciousness (subjective experience). Phenomenal consciousness is best articulated as ‘something it is like to experience X’ (Chalmers, 1996. Nagel, 1974).
Chalmers says: "on the phenomenal concept, mind is characterized by the way it feels; on the psychological concept, mind is characterized by what it does. There should be no question of competition between these two notions of mind. Neither of them is the correct analysis of mind. They cover different phenomena, both of which are quite real" (1996, pg. 11).
In his book The Conscious Mind, Chalmers sustains a naturalistic position that takes phenomenal consciousness (subjective experience from here on) seriously as a distinct property of the mind.
WITHDRAWING FROM THE UNCONSCIOUS It is the natural property of the mind that is characterized by the immanent phenomena of experiential life. This distinction is crucial for psychoanalytic thinkers because it can aid in understanding the nuanced processes that underlie mysterious human phenomena. In a sense, this distinction has been implicit in psychoanalysis for some time. In much contemporary discourse the distinction between thoughts and subjective experience has featured prominently.
In my view, psychoanalysis is inherently property dualistic. For property dualists both cognition and subjective experiences are considered natural and related, yet distinct properties of the mind. This distinction has been crucial to psychoanalytic theorizing, subjective experience being its special concern. If this is so, expanding the understanding of the relationship between these properties could be useful for advancing our theories. Chalmers also distinguishes subjective experience (e.g. ‘what it is like to experience red-ness’) from awareness in that awareness involves a purely cognitive judgment (e.g. ‘that is red’). Nevertheless, Chalmers argues that subjective experience finds its psychological correlate in awareness and can be investigated therein. To be aware of something is to cognitively note it 2. Chalmers (1996) says, “Where there is consciousness, there is awareness. My visual experiences of a red book upon my table is accompanied by a functional perception of the book” (pg. 220). Chalmers (1996) says:
An example that distinguishes awareness from subjective experience is given by David
Chalmers: You are having a conversation with a friend only to suddenly “realize” that there has been a car alarm sounding for several minutes. Once you realize this you also realize
you have been aware of it for sometime. The realizing of the sound is not awareness itself but rather subjective experience.
WITHDRAWING FROM THE UNCONSCIOUS "The primary nexus of the relationship between consciousness and cognition lies in phenomenal judgments. Our conscious experience does not reside in an isolated phenomenal void. We are aware of our experience and its contents, we form judgments about it, and we are led to make claims about it... The various judgments in the vicinity of consciousness I call phenomenal judgments, not because they are phenomenal states themselves, but because they are concerned with phenomenology or with its objects. Phenomenal judgments are often reflected in claims about consciousness: verbal expressions of those judgments"(pg. 173).
Phenomenal judgments are cognitive notations made through the link between awareness, subjective experience and/or the objects of subjective experience. For Chalmers there are three kinds of phenomenal judgments. The first-order judgments are, “the judgments that go along with conscious experiences, concerning not the experience itself but the object of the experience” (pg. 175). He continues,
“This cognitive state is what I am calling a first-order judgment... We may think of the contents of these first-order judgments as making up the contents of awareness, where awareness is the psychological counterpart of consciousness... These judgments are not strictly about consciousness. Rather, they are parallel to consciousness, and generally about objects and properties in the environment, or even in the head... experience and first-order judgments -and therefore consciousness and awareness- share their contents” (pg. 175).
WITHDRAWING FROM THE UNCONSCIOUS For Chalmers, the first-order judgment is the cognitive correlate concerned with the object of experience, not with experience itself. This will be central for a theory of associationdissociation. This will be explored later. Even more useful is Chalmers second-order judgments which are:
"â€Ś more straightforward judgments about conscious experiences. When I have a red sensation, I sometimes notice that I have a red sensation. ..second-order judgments also include judgments about particular kinds of conscious experiences, as when one notes that some drug produces particularly intense sensations, or that a tingle one gets before a sneeze is particularly pleasurable." (pg. 176)"..our second-order judgments about consciousness are by and large correct. We can call this the reliability principle... When I think I have just experienced a pain, I have usually just experienced a pain. There is also a converse principle, which we might call the detectability principle; where there is an experience, we generally have the capacity to form a second-order judgment about it... Our second-order judgments can sometimes go wrong, providing exceptions to the reliability principle. This might happen due to inattention..., failure to grasp relevant categories, mental illness or neurophysiological pathology, and for various other reasons." (pg. 218-219)
For Chalmers a second-order judgment is the cognitive correlate concerned with the experience itself. It operates under two basic principles: reliability and detectability. In the reliability principle we can assume: if there is a cognitive judgment of an experience, there has usually been an experience with which the judgment is concerned. In the detectability principle we can
WITHDRAWING FROM THE UNCONSCIOUS assume: if we have an experience we will usually make a judgment that is true to the experience. Nevertheless, he makes it very clear that there are exceptions to these principles and thereby exceptions to the accurate link between second-order judgments and the subjective experience. This, together with linkage errors in first-order judgments, will form the foundation of a theory of association-dissociation. Chalmers suggests that these failures of accuracy may have to do with, “inattention..., failure to grasp relevant categories, mental illness or neurophysiological pathology, ..(or)… for various other reasons.” (pg. 219)
Briefly returning to the example of the supposed sexual trauma listed above, there was no awareness of a sexual trauma memory, a failure of first-order judgment. However, there was awareness of the subjective experiences presumably related to sexual trauma, a successful second-order judgment. There has also been a failed linkage between subjective experience related to sexual trauma and its object, the cognitive memory of the event. Chalmers has not articulated a model that addresses the breach that sometimes exists between first-order and second-order judgments. A concept must be applied for occasions when a person is aware of a subjective experience and forms a cognitive notation but still fails to associate that notation with the object related to the experience. This is a detectability failure of first-order judgment and a linkage failure between first-order and second-order judgments. The result of this is the lack of awareness of the object of experience coexisting with the awareness of the subjective experience itself. The converse sometimes may be true: a lack of awareness of subjective experience with a subsequent failure to form a cognitive notation of that experience, coexisting with the awareness of the object of experience, the memory of an event, with the subsequent successful cognitive notation of that event. The associative failures between these are likely caused by the failure of
WITHDRAWING FROM THE UNCONSCIOUS either a first-order or second-order judgment. The cognitive notations must both be symbolically encoded in order to actually be associated to each other. Failure on either side can make such an associative link impossible. An example of this would be when someone knows of a traumatic event, but cannot have a notable experience to accompany that event. The opposite example is when someone has subjective experiences of an event, but cannot associate them with the memory of an event. The association-dissociation model can accurately be applied to give conceptual shape to these phenomena.
The dissociative end of the continuum Subjective experiences should not be understood in isolation from the objects of those experiences. The dynamic property dualism I propose does not assume that subjective experience is an isolate. Rather, subjective experience is a natural, non-material property of the mind that is enhanced by cognitively noting it; the creation of second-order judgments. Awareness, and its correlate subjective experience, is intentional (Brentano, 1874), which means that it always has an object of awareness that likely results in subjective experience. If awareness must have an object of awareness, then a shifting of awareness from one object to another may result in a failure of linkage. Peter Goldberg (1995) also suggests that a necessary aspect of dissociation is in the shift of awareness to an alternative source of experience, usually found in rhythmic processes or on the surface of oneâ€™s own body. This automatic process could result from anticipated dangers and arousals that are correlated with attending to particular phenomena that resemble historical phenomena.
Definitions of dissociation have often alluded to the distinction between cognition and subjective
WITHDRAWING FROM THE UNCONSCIOUS experience. For example, according to the DSM-IV-TR, dissociation is the “splitting off of clusters of mental contents from conscious awareness” (DSM-IV-TR, p 693). Cardeña (1994, p 31) defines one of the broad categories of dissociation as an alteration of consciousness involving a disconnection from the self or the world. Dissociation is best defined by reference to three domains: attention, awareness and its subsequent cognitive notations (first-order & secondorder judgments), memories or events (objects) and subjective experiences (something it is like to experience x). Dissociation is therefore the process of attentional shifting, shifting awareness and subsequent difficulty creating cognitive notations of either subjective experiences or the objects of experience. In this definition attentional shifts, associated with awareness, are transitory. Subjective experiences and objects can either be attended to or not attended to: impacting the success in making cognitive notations. This symbolic failure is the consequence of dissociation not the mechanism itself. The failure of cognitive notation in either first-order or second-order judgments makes the linkage between these impossible. This results in the common structural problems often associated with pathological expressions of dissociation. It is important to note that dissociation itself, the process of shifting attention, thereby impacting awareness, is normative and useful in daily functioning. These normative shifts of attention explain how we are sometimes not conscious of certain experiences or mental content, even though we are always capable of becoming conscious of them; especially those experiences or mental content symbolically encoded in first-order and second-order judgments. Those subjective experiences or objects of experiences that have been most vulnerable to the dissociative process are those furthest from conscious memory although never in their entirety.
The associative end of the continuum
WITHDRAWING FROM THE UNCONSCIOUS With these definitions in place, it is useful to revisit the concept of association. For a long time association has been a vague concept in psychoanalysis, despite its long history in philosophy and psychology. However, for a model of association-dissociation to be useful both ends of the continuum must be defined. Association, as the other end of dissociation, would be defined as a link between the cognitive notation of subjective experience and the objects of experience. The cognitive notations are created with the aid of awareness as are the links between them. These associative links or notations occur as a result of the contiguity between experience and its objects, contiguity in time and space. The objects of experience are either present external events or their symbolic correlates. The link would be defined as a relationship in which awareness has aided in the creation of a cognitive notation that is contiguous in either time and space with another cognitive notation. Association is the conceptual counterpart of dissociation in the sense that it represents the attentional process correlated with awareness of subjective experience or the object of experience and the resultant cognitive notation links. The concept of dissociation is therefore inexorably linked to the concept of association. Every dissociation implies an association, even if that association constrains the process of constructing a contiguously accurate symbolic notation of actual experience. In actual experience, awareness of subjective experience, its objects and their cognitive notations, is never eliminated, it shifts; a process that carries both benefits and costs. The shift to an alternative object of attention in the process of dissociation will often be a shift to the surface of oneâ€™s own body or to rhythmic processes as the usual danger is perceived as danger from the external environment. However, what is most important to note is that there is a shift of attention from the object of danger to an alternative object. Therefore, if one finds a dissociative process in which an external object is being attended to the implication is that the source of danger is perceived as danger from the internal milieu.
WITHDRAWING FROM THE UNCONSCIOUS
Pathological dissociation The process of dissociation described above explains the mechanisms of normative dissociation. It would be overly simplistic to reduce all expressions of dissociation, especially those of trauma-based dissociation, to the exact mechanism. Trauma-based dissociations are extreme, and despite their function, also represent great dysfunction. Elizabeth Howell (2005) 3 states trauma is the event that causes dissociation (pg. ix) but, as she herself counters, dissociation does not require trauma. In fact, trauma is likely to activate mechanisms of dissociation to a degree that is extreme and with more structural consequences.
One technical difference I have with Howell is in my emphasis on dissociation as a process that results in separations of structural mental content. Howell says, “in a general sense, (dissociation) refers to a rigid separation of parts of experience, including somatic experience, consciousness, affects, perception, identity, and memory” (pg ix). She continues, “Dissociation refers to the separation of mental and experiential contents that would normally be connected” (pg. 18). Extreme forms of dissociation do have problematic structural consequences but those do not define dissociation, they define traumatization. In order to explain the mechanisms of extreme dissociation it is useful to keep in mind the unique state of consciousness that exists 3
Elizabeth Howell’s book The Dissociative Mind is a wonderful collection and summary of
the phenomena of dissociation. Most of the views expressed therein are in line with my
own views. I differ with her view of dissociation as related to mental structure whereas I see dissociation as a dynamic process that results in implicated mental structure. For me the mind is a verb (a process or activity) not a noun (a thing or substance).
WITHDRAWING FROM THE UNCONSCIOUS while those processes are operable. During extreme dissociative processes a person experiences a quality of consciousness that is unlike that of normative dissociative processes. The quality is often described verbally as, “being out of it”, “disconnected”, “lost in my head” and sometimes, “feeling vacant”. Herein we have clues about the mechanisms of extreme dissociative processes.
Utilizing the model described above, it can be supposed that what has shifted in extreme dissociative processes is the object of one’s attention and awareness. In normative and extreme dissociative processes, attention and awareness shifts from one object of experience to another. However, the differences between normative dissociation and extreme dissociation is in the object of experience selected 4. This selection process is automatic and the object of attention is selected on the basis of its unlikeliness to increase arousal and distressed states. In extreme dissociation, shifting attention and the resultant awareness occurs to ensure the utter avoidance of somatic, external and mental experiences that are likely to be difficult to endure. This difficulty is a result of a constitutional and individually variable sensitivity to physical and mental threats or danger. This automatic process requires the finding of an object of experience that withdraws attention and awareness, as far as possible, from the threatening objects of experience. As such, somatic threats result in attention to out-of-body objects of experience, external threats result in attention to mental objects of experience and mental threats result in attention to external objects of experience. In the most extreme cases in which somatic, external and mental threats coincide, the attentional function itself, and its conscious correlate awareness, becomes reduced and a subjective experience of vacancy becomes prominent. Vacancy is also the chronic subjective 4
I use volitional language only for the sake of clarity. I believe the ‘selection’ process is an
WITHDRAWING FROM THE UNCONSCIOUS experience of a person who frequently utilizes extreme dissociation. This experience of vacancy results from the turning of the extreme dissociator’s attention to their own mental world or sense of self and not finding well-linked mental content but rather disparate fragments of mental content that have resulted from the dissociative process.
Repression and its disconnects How does the model of association–dissociation impact repression if repression is characterized as a total non-awareness (or at least a partial non-awareness) of certain mental content? Repression is an unnecessary concept and the phenomena it describes would be better described with the use of dissociation (Davies, 1996, pg. 564). Dissociation itself has two expressions: 1. non-awareness of an object of a subjective-experience or 2. non-awareness of the subjectiveexperience of a known object of experience. In either case, these would be noted by the ‘alteration of consciousness’ that is characterized by shifts in attention and awareness. Repression historically has been used to explain expression number 1. Unlike repression, this definition of dissociation has a possible explanation of how this process is accomplished. It does so by highlighting the redirecting of awareness and of subjective experience to an alternative object or experience. Extreme dissociation can be identified through uncommon fixation objects, alterations of awareness, the reduction of expectable subjective experience, and/or a sense of pseudovitality (Goldberg, 1995).
Consciousness–unconsciousness in a model of subjective experience So where does this exploration leave the concept unconscious? There would be two possible uses for the concept unconscious. Neither involves using ‘the unconscious’ as a location and
WITHDRAWING FROM THE UNCONSCIOUS container. The first use for the concept is as an adjective and modifies a noun to acknowledge the lack of cognitive notation of a subjective experience or its object. However, a nuanced understanding of the symbolic mind makes this use problematic. A concept that implies partial consciousness would be more useful. The terms preconscious, marginally conscious or prereflective may be more useful.
The second use for the concept ‘unconscious’ attempts to explain the lack of subjective experience related to the cognitive notation of an object of experience. For this phenomenon we currently use the terms ‘isolation of affect’, ‘compartmentalization’ and ‘denial’. This may result from dissociation from an expectable object of experience that resulted in an association to an alternative object of experience. This alternative object of experience can result in: 1. A lively distraction, 2. A vacant distraction or 3. A pseudovitality. The consequence of these processes may be called unconscious in the sense that the expectable subjective experience is not evident. This said, the model of association–dissociation, in which attentional shifts are primary and normative, captures the phenomena much more clearly and with greater explanatory power than the model of conscious–preconscious–unconscious. To be clear, there are mental contents and processes not privy to awareness and reflection. In fact, these make up the vast majority of mental content or processes. However, there is no unconscious mind or space. This would be an erroneous use of the word that objectifies the mind and reduces it’s dynamic processes to moving or shifting solids. This may seem like a purely semantic argument, but when defining and applying theory to the human mind, words matter.
WITHDRAWING FROM THE UNCONSCIOUS It is difficult to anticipate all objections to the arguments presented here. In fact, the ability to do so would undermine the purpose of writing a paper to stimulate dialogue. Nevertheless, initial reviewers have posed questions that are worthy of address. The first of these is: Are you just splitting semantic hairs when discussing the concept unconscious? The short answer is no, but the question deserves greater attention. Second: Is your argument an attempt to draw a line in the sand separating you from more traditional psychoanalytic thinkers? Probably, but not just. Psychoanalytic theorizing is often too insular; as such, it is useful to attempt integration with other schools of investigation to stimulate a broader exchange of ideas and eventual growth. Third and more content related: Are you inaccurately reducing dissociation to the process of attention? Fourth and related to the third: Doesnâ€™t your argument suggest a type of conscious and controllable dissociative process more than it does an unconscious dissociative process of defense as it has been previously understood? These are both valid presumptions, but not intended.
Back to the first question: Are you splitting semantic hairs? I do enjoy the analysis of words used in theory, their meanings and their implications. That acknowledged, I do not think that this entire paper can be disregarded as just a semantic argument. Let me be clear, in psychology, there is nothing trivial about semantics or arguments about them. No analysis in our field can be purely semantic in the sense that semantic arguments actually matter in theorizing. Semantics define the referents of a syntax or word. When speaking of the word unconscious what is referred to, non-awareness or partial awareness, is a valid referent. However, the word itself possesses multiple meanings, albeit implicit, depending on how it is used. Some meanings, such as the unconscious as container with location, can confuse matters when elaborating theories.
WITHDRAWING FROM THE UNCONSCIOUS Also, if we return to the referent, non-awareness or partial awareness, we might find other concepts that can still describe the phenomena with less confusion. This leads to the second question.
Is your argument an attempt to draw a line in the sand separating you from more traditional psychoanalytic thinkers? Again an admission: I have a wish to be in dialogue with a group sometimes deemed exclusive. This said, I am not the first person to question some of the psychoanalytic assumptions, including the unconscious and the neglect of dissociation models, while still wishing to remain in the dialogic fold. I do however, want to be very clear that there are domains of investigation that psychoanalysis has generally neglected and yet are worthy of consideration. Also, there are problems with some of the assumptions of psychoanalytic investigations (the unconscious and repression) and that is a bane for all of us, not just for a few. Finally, there are some areas of investigation, like dissociation, that lost prominence for reasons other than theoretical. Some of the reasons many psychoanalytic ideas flourished or floundered was due to the personality cults associated with them. Nevertheless, one of the things that distinguishes a pseudo-science from science is the openness to being critiqued and allowing for information that might invalidate our investigations. Also, once this has occurred, it is crucial that the contested be allowed to respond or submit to having their theory fall by the wayside. There is no true gain (only pseudo-gain) in bolstering our ideas when they have been shown for their inadequacies.
Are you inaccurately reducing dissociation to the process of attention? Partially. I am suggesting that what we call dissociation is related to the process of attention and that when we turn our
WITHDRAWING FROM THE UNCONSCIOUS attention away from something that seemingly demands it, we are doing something normatively dissociative. This does not mean all attentional processes are dissociative. Dissociation would be the process in which attention is shifted in defensive avoidance of mental content, events or subjective experience, thereby creating procedural barriers to linking processes. As such, dissociation could be discussed as a normative and sometimes problematic defensive process with the automatic aim of avoiding distressing arousal. Willful attentional shifts, aimed at attending to meaningful mental content, events or subjective experiences would thereby be nondissociative. The distinction is then based on whether the attentional process is defensively avoidant of an object of perceived danger or willfully pursuant of an object emotionally meaningful for notation. The greatest objection here may come if neurological investigations produce evidence that attention and dissociation are distinct neural processes. However, in his most recent synthesis of neurological findings Allan Schore (2012) suggests that dissociation is a process of parasympathetic conservation-withdrawal that disengages a person from external world stimuli (p. 61).
The dissociative process, Schore suggests, represents a metabolic shutdown that serves the purpose of feigning death and producing pain-blunting opiates. The further suggestion made in this current paper is that the shift of attention away from the source of potential danger serves the disengagement from external world stimuli and serves the additional function of avoiding increasing amounts of fear and reactivity that would likely result from attending to the object of danger. If dissociation involves a shift of attention from one object to another, particularly from objects in the external environment and/or perceptions of distress from the internal milieu of the body (emotional, state-dependent information), then the objective of reducing the perception of
WITHDRAWING FROM THE UNCONSCIOUS danger is accomplished. This would suggest that in many cases of pathological dissociation an observer would notice a shift of attention to the surface of one’s own body and to rhythmic processes. Even fixation on a particular benign object in the external milieu, under deeper scrutiny, is experienced as fixation on the reflection of the object on the retinal surface, not attention to the projection of that object in the mind. We may discover that the shift to a fixed object in the external environment or to the surface of one’s own body is simply a subset of the freezing process that represents the feigning of death.
Finally, doesn’t your argument suggest a type of conscious and controllable dissociative process more than it does an unconscious dissociative process of defense as it has been previously understood? Yes and no. No, I do not believe that this process is conscious or willful. I believe that the attentional process is an automatic process that evolved in the human for survival and to manage other mental boons and burdens. This same evolved attentional process has been utilized by humans to ensure distance from perceived dangers inherent in having a welldeveloped mind (i.e. - awareness of one’s history, anticipation and enhanced subjective experience). It can be used to avoid distressing experiences and events. This great, albeit derivative, capacity is both promising and problematic as it offers a solution but can also come with great fallout. Nevertheless, this otherwise automatic process, which is an exploitation of another primary process (attention), can be employed in a willful manner. I am not suggesting that it is useful or recommended to do so, but it is conceivable. Still, conscious employment of the dissociative process would not be defensive as much as it would be a coping strategy. What I mean by this is that if it is employed at a conscious level it would necessitate greater awareness of what is being avoided and thereby a less effective process of defense. In other words, by the
WITHDRAWING FROM THE UNCONSCIOUS time one employs a conscious “dissociation” or distraction, the material being avoided has already been attended to, demanded awareness, been cognitively noted and subjectively experienced. The success of its conscious employment of attentional shifting would be minimal.
Conclusion What is in the unconscious and how did it get there? There is no such place as the unconscious. This is a murky way to talk about human experience that probably needs to be shifted. On the other hand, there are a great deal of mental processes that occur to which attention is not drawn and awareness is not accomplished. However, it is difficult to relinquish the use of the concept ‘unconscious.’ It is difficult because psychoanalytic thinkers and clinicians are quite identified with this word and in a sense the entire practice of psychoanalysis is based on exploring the unconscious. However, psychoanalysis has not based its exploration on ‘the unconscious’ as much as on the phenomena of the absence of awareness and/or the absence of subjective experience. These phenomena are quite immanent, useful to retain and to explore, even if the concept previously used to describe them is not.
When there is an absence of awareness of mental content or of subjective experience, there is nevertheless a great amount of relevant and derivative mental content and subjective experience with which the person does has contact. For this the word ‘unconscious’ really does not apply. More precision in the use of the word ‘unconscious’ is warranted. It would be more pragmatic and therapeutically promising if there were more precision in describing what aspect of mental content or subjective experience is unconscious. The absence of awareness of subjective experience, the objects of experience and the structural failures that result from these processes,
WITHDRAWING FROM THE UNCONSCIOUS always involves the dissociation process. The dissociation of awareness and sometimes of subjective experience from one object to another always co-occurs with the association of awareness and the resultant subjective experience to another object. If this true, the most precise descriptive model for the phenomena of non-awareness or structural problems of linkage would be ‘association–dissociation’ rather than ‘conscious–unconscious’.
The reclaiming and elaboration of the association–dissociation model in psychoanalysis should prove very fruitful. Also, the continued psychoanalytic focus on shifts of awareness, the resultant subjective experiences and the cognitive notations or structural mental content should bring much needed clarity to our investigations. My hope is that this paper will stimulate dialogue and responses that will continue to help move innovative psychoanalytic investigation forward. 7118 words
WITHDRAWING FROM THE UNCONSCIOUS
American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed., text rev.). Washington, DC. American Psychiatric Publishing. Brentano, F. (1874). Psychologie vom empirischen Standpunkte. Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint. Linda L. McAlister (ed.). London, UK. Routledge, reprinted in 1995. CardeĂąa, E. (1994). The Domain of Dissociation. Dissociation: Clinical and Theoretical Perspectives. New York, NY. Guilford. Chalmers, D. (1996). The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory. Philosophy of Mind Series. Oxford University Press, USA Davies, J.M. (1996). Dissociation, Repression and Reality Testing in the Countertransference: The Controversey Over Memory and False Memory in the Psychoanalytic Treatment of Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse. Psychoanalytic Dialogues, Vol. 6. Fechner, G.T. (1860). Elemente der Psychophysik, Bd. II. S. 521. Goldberg, P. (1995). â€œSuccessful" dissociation, pseudovitality, and inauthentic use of the senses. Psychoanalytic Dialogues, Vol. 5(3). Howell, E. (2005). The Dissociative Mind. New York, NY. Routledge. Legrand, D. (2007). Pre-Reflective Self-Consciousness: On Being Bodily in the World. Amherst, NY. Trivium Publications. Janus Head, Vol. 9(2). Nagel, T. (1974). What it is like to be a bat?. Philosophical Review, Vol. 4. Schore, A. (2012). The Science of the Art of Psychotherapy. New York, NY. Norton Press. Varona, A. (2012). Expanding the concept of internal object relations: Introducing the concept of Horizons. Presencing EPIS. Vol.1, Issue 1.
A Contemporary Psychoanalytical Citizen Working with the Unconscious in Cultural Life
Joseph Scalia III I suggest that the time has come for psycho-analytic theory to pay tribute to this third area, that of cultural experience which is a derivative of play. --- D. W. Winnicott 1
Society has not yet been driven to seek treatment of its psychological disorders by psychological means because it has not achieved sufficient insight to appreciate the nature of its distress. … If communal distress were to become demonstrable as a neurotic by-product, then neurosis would be seen to be worthy of communal study and attack. And a step would have been taken on the way to overcoming resistance in the society. --- W. R. Bion 2
Let us consider the possibility, which I propose is the case, that to be a
psychoanalyst is also, necessarily, to be a citizen of the world, indeed, a citizen for
the world – but, in a very singular way which characterizes and defines only the
psychoanalyst. We make and sustain, through our acts – acts which are at times
observable and at times invisible - a potential space for the heretofore unthinkable or unutterable, a potential space for the repressed to find its way to full speech, as Lacan called it . When we are at our best, we allow to course through us all the disavowed yet crucial experiences, representations, presentations, affects and
emotions which, in the clinic, the analysand cannot yet bear or articulate and, in society, in groups, the collective and many of our fellow citizens expel from
themselves out of anxiety, or cannot receive in the first place due to lack of a certain ego capacity, of which I will speak momentarily.
I am here proposing two interrelated functions for the psychoanalyst who adopts a responsibility in day-to-day cultural life. Speaking of his work with patients
deficient in “object usage,” i.e., in their ability to perceive and meaningfully interact with the uniqueness of others and of objects in general, a mature Winnicott 3 said:
“…[I]t is only in recent years that I have become able to wait and wait for the natural evolution of the transference arising out of the patient’s growing trust in the
psychoanalytic technique and setting, and to avoid breaking up this natural process by making interpretations. … It appals (sic) me to think how much deep change I have prevented or delayed in patients in a certain classificatory category by my
personal need to interpret” (italics original). Winnicott makes clear that he does
still interpret with patients who have developed the capacity to “use the object”, but that doing so with those deficient in this capacity will bring on defense in the form,
for example, of aggression, in the form of destructive action. It is providing a holding environment, a facilitating environment for societal interlocutors to develop the
capacity for object usage that is one of the main points I propose for “working with the unconscious in cultural life,” one of the main functions I propose for the
psychoanalyst qua citizen for the world. The complement of this provision, the
second of the two cultural psychoanalytic functions I am proposing, is that which is akin to interpretation in the clinic, when we can rely on the interlocutor’s own
management of his id impulses, be they greed, aggression, or lust. Then we can
invite critical reflection which challenges passionately held convictions., because the
individual already has this capacity, a capacity which is being insufficiently deployed at a given juncture. But this latter can occur or be developed in a work group, a
group which has formed in order to accomplish an agreed upon task, formed to do rationally driven work, only when the basic assumptions posited by Wilfred Bion, those of fight-flight, pairing, and dependency on a leader, do not unconsciously
undermine the group’s capacity for work. Bion shows that the way out of the pitfalls of the basic assumptions is an understanding of their effects and a “communal attack” upon this “common enemy.”
It seems to me that for a group of otherwise opposed interlocutors to come together to attempt to solve what Emmanuel Levinas calls “insoluble problems,” each member must adopt a certain responsibility in relation to one another, a responsibility of which Levinas also speaks.
Two aspects of the ethics of Emmanuel Levinas come to mind here. The first of these is the necessity for a fully lived life of taking responsibility for the
responsibility of the other, or, yet more fully considered and redoubled, taking
responsibility for the responsibility of the other for the responsibility of the other.
In the first case, and already premised on a concern for the welfare and the right to dignity of all human beings, one must take stock of whether one’s fellows are
adopting such an ethic, and if they are not, to act in a manner to correct that malady. In the second case, one must include in such action a focus on whether one’s fellows are also adopting an ethic of holding others accountable to ethical action. This, at least, is my reading of the teaching of Roger Burggraeve on the work on Levinas. 4
Furthermore, it is inextricable from the proposals put forward in this paper.
Yet, and insofar as the above could be seen as analogous to the psychoanalytic interpretive function, there is a second aspect of Levinas’s work which seems
analogous to Winnicott’s notion about “waiting and waiting.” Or, rather it combines the two functions. Consider that Eigen 5, who quotes this passage somewhat more extensively than I do, finds in it a way into the notion that to live without the ethic that Levinas here proposes is necessarily to live an impoverished life. Here are Levinas’s thoughts:
A new attitude … the search for a proximity beyond the ideas exchanged, a proximity that lasts even after dialogue has become impossible. Beyond dialogue, a new maturity and earnestness, a new gravity and a new patience, and, if I may express it so, maturity and patience for insoluble problems…. Neither violence, nor guile, nor simple diplomacy, nor simple tact, nor pure tolerance, nor even simple sympathy, nor even simple friendship – that attitude before insoluble problems, what can it be, and what can it contribute?
What can it be? The presence of persons before a problem. Attention and vigilance: not to sleep until the end of time perhaps. The presence of persons who, for once, do not fade away into words, get lost in technical questions, freeze up into institutions or structures. The presence of persons in the full force of their irreplaceable identity, in the full force of their inevitable responsibility. To recognize and name those insoluble substances and keep them from exploding in violence, guile, or politics, to keep watch where 3
conflicts tend to break out, a new religiosity and solidarity – is loving one’s neighbor anything other than this? Not the facile, spontaneous élan, but the difficult working on oneself: to go toward the Other where he is truly other, in the radical contradiction of their alterity, that place from which, for an insufficiently mature soul, hatred flows naturally…. One must refuse to be caught up in the tangle of abstractions…whose dialectic, be it ever so rigorous, is murderous and criminal. The presence of persons, proximity between persons: what will come out of this new spirituality, that proximity without definite projects, that sort of vigilance without dialogue that, devoid of all definition, all thought, may resemble sleep? To tell the truth, I don’t know. But before smiling at maturity for insoluble problems, a pathetic formula, let us think … of St. Exupéry’s little prince, who asks the pilot stranded in the desert, who only knows how to draw a boa constrictor digesting the elephant, to draw a sheep. And I think what the little prince wants is that proverbial lamb who is as gentle as a lamb. But nothing could be more difficult. None of the sheep he draws pleases the little prince. They are either violent rams with big horns or too old. The little prince disdains the gentleness that only comes with extreme age. So the pilot draws a parallelogram, the box in which the sheep is sleeping, to the little prince’s great satisfaction. I do not know how to draw the solution to insoluble problems. It is still sleeping in the bottom of the box; but a box over which persons who have drawn close to each other keep watch. I have no idea other than the idea of the idea that one should have. The abstract drawing of the parallelogram – cradles of our hopes. I have the idea of a possibility in which the impossible may be sleeping. 6 [Italics original.] I have in mind many different types of situations, and here I will cite some of my own experiences. Perhaps we find ourselves interacting with juvenile justice
officers or child protection services workers who – representing society, as they are - are unconsciously caught in an enactment of revenge, for their client’s aggressive or acting-out behaviors, but who consciously only imagine themselves acting
morally. Or we are environmental activists and are involved in discussions between opposing land-use stakeholders, when one or more of them is driven by hatred
while cognizing their concepts and communications as responsible and courageous ideological critique of their blind and greedy interlocutors. Or, we are a member of a panel discussion and hold theoretical and praxis viewpoints seemingly clashing
with those of our fellow panelists, and disdain is expressed in the guise of critique. 4
Yet again, we are writers or institute directors and we wish to make a place for our voices to be heard. Yet further, we might be part of a community group aiming at
improving public education for all students and we discern the group’s blind spots as unwittingly perpetuating or aggravating some of the very problems it aims to resolve or ameliorate.
In all of these situations, I have sometimes acted contrary to what I am here
proposing – sometimes in ways reparable and sometimes not. To “wait and wait” can be the most difficult thing. Of course, it inheres much more than a passive
waiting. It necessitates that we are filled with the effects of the destructivity that our fellows are repressing, it necessitates that we survive it, that is, that we receive the projective identifications that are disavowed, that we do not act in any way to
discharge those effects, and we wait for our peaceful provision of this potential space to be critically filled by interlocutors who are moved unexpectedly by this receptivity. If there are the two functions that I propose, then it becomes necessary that we
differentiate between those who are yet to become capable of object usage and those who already are so capable but who are critically derailed for more classically
psychoneurotic reasons, those who, in the clinic, can receive and work with an
interpretation, those who, in society, are able to contemplate new ideas even when those ideas oppose long-invested ones.
When I say I propose these two cultural functions, which I have sometimes metaphorically thought of as the staff and the sword, I propose that these are already existing functions, inherent in being a psychoanalyst, but which we have not yet made explicit as necessary to be situated in group undertakings. Our choices are either to repress – or helplessly bemoan, which amounts to the same thing - what is
happening to our world; or else to be transformational objects 7 in every social
activism opportunity we find ourselves; or – through our own wish to be rid of the effects of the world’s destructivity and thereby interpreting prematurely and
inflaming our addressees – to unwittingly exacerbate the destruction all around us. There really are no other possibilities.
________________________________________ As a collective, our destructivity has now banished a billion human beings, out of a total of 7.2 billion, to an unthinkable poverty, and billions more to a poverty and a
poor working class socioeconomic existence which the more privileged Westerners of us can envisage but not empathize with. We have created a world in which Child
Protection Services often causes the shattering of the very families with whom it has
intervened to preserve, a world in which a Juvenile Justice system often creates the very delinquents it is charged with rehabilitating, and a world in which
accountability measures and “evidence-based” practices in education and in
psychotherapy also generate exacerbation of the problems those fields are charged with ameliorating. We have seriously damaged the ozone layer, significantly
acidified our oceans, destroyed half of our reef-building corrals, drastically reduced a biodiversity on which our ability to survive may absolutely depend, and have
destroyed forests and topsoil and water supplies to an extent from which we may not be able to recover 8. Predominantly unconsciously, our collective pride,
arrogance, and greed, our collective lust and rage, have determined much of our trajectory. Such matters are clearly, per definitionem, the purview of the psychoanalyst.
On the eve of the second anniversary of 9/11, the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Naht Hahn, addressed interested members of Congress, their staffs and their
families, plus whatever members of the public could find remaining seating at the
Library of Congress. In reply to a question by Terry Tempest Williams 9, dressed in
his brown robes and seated on a cushion on the floor, the monk acknowledged that
of which Williams spoke, “the extravagant lifestyle in America [that] is its own form of violence on the planet,” but continued:
Dear friends, please take care of yourself if you want to protect the environment. The very well-being of the planet depends on the way you handle your body, your feelings, your perceptions, and your consciousness….If you cannot deal with the problem of consumption, and the problem of pollution and violence within you, how can you deal with problems of consumption and pollution and violence outside of you in nature?
But one must ask, How is this to be accomplished? Merely pointing out the need for the accomplishment, from one’s position of presumed knowing, indeed,
“interpreting” it, will not only not be helpful where it is most needed, but will lead to yet further aggressive-destructive defenses against knowing.
Furthermore, dare we, in the first place, even acknowledge the primacy of
unconscious emotional experiencing as a determinant of civilization’s trajectory? Christopher Bollas proposes a “contemporary psychoanalytical citizen” 10 whose
task is “to shake the self out of the paralyzing state endemic to thinking about the [avoidant, hateful and destructive] mentality of the group.” Bollas is referring to
Bion’s 11 attention to the projective identificatory aspect of group mentality 12 and
the countertransference it occasions in the analyst. While noting that the Earth is
“now threatened by economic greed and human contempt for nature,” Bollas places consideration of the unconscious in the forefront of urgency:
It is not simply the case that we are reluctant to think about mass psychology; it is the object of a repression that, in the extreme, constitutes negative hallucination. When thoughts about the reality of the group are repressed they return in derivative form, such as concern about climate change, the spillage of oil or economic recession. Since each of these thoughts is of course legitimate in itself, it authorizes individuals and groups to express a displaced worry about a more disturbing reality: that as a group we humans are in thrall to the death drive. Identity politics – from “Friends of the Earth’ to ‘Save the Whales’ to ‘No More Drilling’ – serve as symbolic actions against the repressed, but they are useless in terms of confronting this unconscious destructiveness. [Italics mine.]13
Repression in the extreme of negative hallucination may be that of which we are
encountering a great deal today. Negative hallucination is a psychotic form which
has destroyed the mindâ€™s ability to perceive, to even think thoughts which may be
vital to our survival. â€œ[R]epeated use of negative hallucination produces a psychotic mind unable to perceive, much less deal with, reality.â€? 14
When the psychoanalyst becomes politically or socially active, (s)he faces the
repression of many social forces. Here, the psychoanalyst might be erroneously
content to point out certain oppressions or exploitations, as though these utterances will be gratefully received and repression will be lifted. Of course, such an approach is sheer defensiveness and instead of the presumed (conscious) aim, the destructive
forces and effects of unprocessed primal anxiety and its concomitant aggression will become manifest. In turn, these effects then become potentially workable for the
analyst willing to welcome them, willing to welcome them in all of their toxicity and blindness 15.
So, once again, the point is made that the contemporary psychoanalytical citizen
must differentiate between the need for his containing and naming functions, and he must determine which is called for at any given moment.
Freud knew that a world which embraced psychoanalysis would be a world which
no longer needed psychoanalysis. It would be a world, in short, of a mutated human ethic, of one whereby the collective would practice a good of the all, and one which,
thereby, structurally necessarily would not wed itself to any ideology, a world which made a constant space, a permanent space, for revolution - revolution here
understood as the overthrow, at any point, of any hegemonic or culturally influential ideology that has outlived its serviceability 16.
Yet, we live in a world wherein the praxis and the intellectual discipline of psychoanalysis are increasingly threatened in their very continuation.
Psychoanalysts ought not, cannot be timorous in speaking of the singularity and
crucial nature of our discourse and praxis. We must not hide on the sidelines in the
face of the hegemonic and financially wealthy insurance-pharmaceutical-psychiatric
industrial complex and its discourse, which would obliterate psychoanalysis if it could. That is, we must first materially survive if we are to become able to
contribute in new ways to the unfolding of civilization and its culture, if we are to
remain available to psychically survive the destructive forces the group needs us to contain.
Taking the term from Freud’s dream book, Žižek 17 names Acheronta movebo as the way to undermine ossified ideologies. That is, rather than be content to plead
directly to the conscious mind, instead influence the subject at the level of his or her unconscious, influence the unconscious to break through at points of critical need. Moving the River Acheron, of the underworld: that was Freud’s aim. It is the aim which we have inherited from him.
I cited Winnicott’s being appalled at some of his more youthful clinical work. While I can readily relate to that sentiment, and be saddened by what I might have
provided some of my patients had I been more mature, I can identically reflect on ways I have been an actor in society. As the director of Northern Rockies
Psychoanalytic Institute, as a former President of Montana Wilderness Association, as a psychoanalyst who has interfaced clinically and ideologically with both Child Protection Services and Juvenile Probation Services, I have erred in ways whose
alternatives make me wonder just how much social change I could have contributed to, but missed the chance of! The hopefulness in the change in myself goes to the
social change I can now facilitate and might still facilitate going forward through the rest of my life.
When I can listen to societal interlocutors speak through the lenses of their
repressions or negative hallucinations, understanding the destruction which their
blindness yields, but can hold the tension of my own counter-transference, if I may
call it that, when I can “wait and wait” and not need to interpret either to
“demonstrate my cleverness” – as Winnicott put it, or to blindly discharge the
tension I experience as a projective identification-welcoming object: what can
happen? If I choose to occupy a space of a transformational object 18 in society, with
all of the psychological imperatives thereby incumbent upon me, what changes can I bring about? And if all psychoanalysts who could so function, themselves also chose to so function, what could we accomplish in the world? What if we even openly offered ourselves in that way?
A friend of mine remarked about an earlier version of this paper: “It’s dark.” I
propose that we psychoanalysts have a responsibility to facilitate the possibility of
lightness, and the joy of people in the social order finding ways through their hatred
and closed ideologies to generative thinking, receptivity, and newly found
appreciation for each other! How fine a thing it is then to enjoy life, in its rich movements and evocative moments!
D. W. Winnicott’s (1967) “The Location of Cultural Experience,” The International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 48: 368-372. 2 W. R. Bion (1961 , pg. 14). Experiences in Groups and other papers. London and New York: Routledge. 3 D. W. Winnicott (1969, pg. 711). The Use of an Object. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 50: 711-716. 4 Roger Burggraeve, ___________, Keynote Address at the Annual Conference of the Existential Psychoanalytic Institute and Society, Missoula, Montana, August 1, 2013. 5 Michael Eigen (2005), Emotional Storm. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press. 6 Emmanuel Levinas (1999, ), Alterity and Transcendence, pgs. 87-89. New York: Columbia University Press. 7 Christopher Bollas (1987), The Shadow of the Object: Psychoanalysis of the Unthought Known. New York: Columbia University Press. 1
See, for example: John Bellamy Foster, Brett Clark, and Richard York (2010), The Ecological Rift: Capitalism’s War on the Earth, New York: Monthly Review Press; and Slavoj Žižek (----), In Defense of Lost Causes, … 9 Terry Tempest Williams (2004, pg. 106), The Open Space of Democracy. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock. 10 Christopher Bollas (2013, pg. 105), China on the Mind. London and New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group. 11 Bion, ibid, pg. 149. 12 Although Bion referred to the group and the collective, he was well aware that it is constituted by an “aggregate of individuals” who are distinct from one another, but that “belief that the group exists” is part and parcel of the regression to dependence that occurs when one fails to establish differentiation of self and others when “establishing contact with the emotional life of the group” (Bion, 1961; pgs. 141142). 13 Ibid, pg. 100. 14 Ibid, pg. 101. 15 Jeffrey Eaton calls this the “projective identification welcoming object,” in “The Obstructive Object” to be found in his (2011) A Fruitful Harvest: Essays After Bion. Seattle: The Alliance Press. 16 This is the point made by Alain Badiou in his (2003) Saint Paul: The Foundation of Universalism. 17 See, for example, his (2005) Interrogating the Real. London and New York: Continuum. 18 Christopher Bollas’s (1987) The Shadow of the Object: Psychoanalysis of the Unthought Known. New York: Columbia University Press. Here Bollas writes that “It is usually on the occasion of the aesthetic moment … that an individual feels a deep subjective rapport with an object (a painting, a poem, an aria or symphony, or a natural landscape) and experiences an uncanny fusion with the object [or phenomenon, which can include an ideology], an event that re-evokes an ego state that prevailed in early psychic life. … Such aesthetic moments do not sponsor memories of a specific event or relationship, but evoke a psychosomatic sense of fusion that is the subject’s recollection of the transformational object” (pg. 16). And, later, “Once early ego memories are identified with an object [or phenomenon] that is contemporary, the subject’s relation to the object can become fanatical, and I think that many extremist political movements indicate a collective certainty that their revolutionary ideology will effect a total environmental transformation that will deliver everyone from the gamut of basic faults: personal, familial, economic, social and moral. Again, it is not the revolutionary’s desire for change, or the extremist’s longing for change, but his certainty that the object (in this case the revolutionary ideology) will bring about change that is striking to the observer” (pgs. 27-28; italics mine). And, finally, “The ego experience of being transformed by the other remains as a memory that may be re-enacted in aesthetic experiences, in a wide range of culturally-dreamed-of transformational objects (such as new cars, homes, jobs and vacations) that promise total change of internal and external environment, or in the varied psychopathological manifestations of this memory, for example in the 8
gambler’s relation to his object or in the extremist’s relation to his ideological object” (pg. 28; italics mine).
From the Wounded Self to the Sacredness of Being: The role of psychoanalysis in the philosophy of Paul Ricoeur and Julia Kristeva Daniel Bradley EPIS 2013
Ricoeur’ encounter with the writings of Freud was deep and transformative. It is true that the major themes that he will take from Freud’s psychoanalysis—the fractures within the self, the problem of illusion, and the pervasiveness of desire—are already present in his early work from the 1950s on the experience of evil and the limits of human freedom. However, it is not until his close reading of Freud in the 1960s that he comes to see these themes as a constituting a crisis for phenomenology that necessitates a change in method from pure phenomenology toward a technically oriented hermeneutics informed by the social sciences. In this article, I attempt neither to show how Ricoeur’s philosophical thinking was changed in this encounter, nor how this encounter with psychoanalysis remains influential, if less pronounced, in Ricoeur’s later philosophy. Rather, my interest is in the way Ricoeur first formulates his turn to hermeneutics as a response to the crisis that psychoanalysis presents to philosophy and the way that his initial attempt to navigate this crisis leads directly to a notion of the Sacred rooted in an understanding of desire as the desire to be. I then put this analysis into dialogue with the work of Julia Kristeva. Kristeva presents a powerful foil for Ricoeur, for she follows a similar trajectory in her philosophical encounter with Freud from the crisis constituted by the challenge to the unity of the modern self, through the “post-modern” pre-occupation with illusion and desire, to a philosophy of the sacred that provides an existential response to the crisis of the subject. My work here is phenomenological rather than analytic in that its conclusions ought to be “seen” in the differences that emerge from the juxtaposed trajectories of Ricoeur and Kristeva rather than from the validity of any one particular line of argumentation. However, the article is
organized around the claim that for both Ricoeur and Kristeva the work of Freud constitutes a crisis for philosophy in its wounding of the ego and that the way they deal with this crisis has a great impact on their understanding of desire and the sacred. The striking homology of this trajectory among two highly influential thinkers from different generations and such different streams within recent French thought suggests, to me, that we must continue to understand our search for truth, and our understanding of the role of the sacred in philosophy in particular, as deeply rooted in the enduring challenge to the subject posed by psychoanalysis. This article also proposes that the juxtaposition of Kristeva and Ricoeur’s journey from the crisis of the self to the sacred via a philosophy of desire will bring to light strengths in each of their projects that reveal weaknesses in that of the other. Kristeva gives a compelling account of desire as an movement toward the other that opens the possibility of thinking the sacredness of nature or Being, and this reveals the insufficiency of Ricoeur’s understanding of the sacred as tied to the desire to be. Ricoeur’s return to the sacred is rooted in his great insight that our desire for the fullness of existence, the desire to be, is already a response to being before a posting of our own existence. However, this necessarily minimizes the ways in which desire is not only conatus but also eros, the ways in which desire ruptures the project of my own being in an ecstatic yearning for a Beloved that is both particular and sensuously encountered. This onesided emphasis in Ricoeur’s philosophy of desire then leads to an unbalanced understanding of the sacred that is able to think, in powerful and compelling ways, the sacredness of our striving and creativity, but unable to think very well the sacredness of being or of nature. Kristeva, on the other hand recognizes the yearning for the other that is also constitutive of desire, and by way of a different understanding of the rupture of the modern self occasioned by the philosophical encounter with psychoanalysis, one that takes Plotinus rather than Descartes as the watershed of
Modernity, she gives a different path through desire and illusion to a notion of the sacred that recognizes an encounter with the other in its particularity and sensuousness such that the possibility is opened for again talking about the sacredness of being and even the sacredness of nature. This appeal to Kristeva, however, is not a final panacea, but only the beginning of a dialogue. For it seems that while Ricoeur is able to adequately address the problem of illusion, at the expense of an account of desire for the other, Kristeva is able to give an account of our yearning for the other, at the expense of an adequate response to the challenge of illusion. If this more exploratory thesis, that Kristeva and Ricoeur each offer something missing in the philosophy of the other, is true, it seems to me that the implications again go far beyond an understanding of the work of either. For while in this article, I remain very narrowly focused on a few works from Ricoeur and Kristeva that mark their journey from the challenge of psychoanalysis to the consequences this yields for a philosophy of the sacred, I think that the two are emblematic of an unsatisfactory choice that has come to grip the Husserlian legacy over the last 50 years. On the one hand, a “hermeneutics of the text” inspired by Ricoeur, Habermas, Apel, and others is deeply attuned to the social sciences and their methods for overcoming illusion through a purification of subjective experience, but this branch of the phenomenological tradition remains unable to transcend the desires of the self for a good life, lived with and for others in just institutions, towards the otherness of the other. 1
On the other hand, a
“phenomenology of alterity” inspired by Levinas and Derrida that looks to ethics as first philosophy remains deeply committed to a response to the other in the rupture of my desire for well-being, but it provides inadequate responses to the problem of illusion. Of course defending that claim is well beyond the scope of this article, but it suggests to me that not only is the
Of course Ricoeur wrote an entire book entitled Oneself as Another. It is my contention that this book can account for the other as constitutive of the self, but not as truly relational. But that is another project.
Freud’s “wounding of the self” an enduring contribution to the philosophical tradition, it constitutes a challenge that has not yet adequately been met. Still, I hope the reader will be content with a juxtaposition of Ricoeur and Kristeva in their journey from an encounter with Freud to a philosophy of the sacred, while keeping in mind the larger question of the interrelations between desire, illusion, and alterity, and the implications that these have for theories about the nature of hospitality, the gift, and the sacred that mark contemporary debates.
Ricoeur and Kristeva agree that the “crisis” precipitated by a philosophical reading of Freud is centered on its challenge to the self as synonymous with consciousness. In summing up the philosophical significance of Freudian thought in his own work, Ricoeur writes
I would adopt its decided anti-phenomenology and its dynamics and economics as the instruments of a suit which is filed against the illusory cogito which first occupies the place of the founding act of the I think, I am. In short, I make use of psychoanalysis just as Descartes made use of skeptical arguments against the dogmatism of the thing; but this time it is against the cogito itself—or rather at the heart of the cogito—that psychoanalysis splits the ego’s claims to apodicticity and the illusions of consciousness. In an essay written in 1917 Freud speaks of psychoanalysis as a wound and humiliation to narcissism analogous to the discoveries of Copernicus and Darwin when in their own way they decentered the world and life with respect to the claims of consciousness. 2
This challenge to the identification of the self with consciousness has at least three major interrelated implications. First, it means the self is irreducibly plural. Second, it means desire must be a central theme for philosophical inquiry. Third, it means that a reflection on illusion must serve as more than a preparatory practice but for philosophy. These three themes occupy a central place in the thought of Ricoeur and Kristeva. However, while both begin with the
The Conflict of Interpretations. Ed. Don Ihde. Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University press, 1974. p. 172 [Henceforth CI]
challenge that the irreducible plurality of the self poses to our notion of Personhood that we have inherited from our Western philosophical tradition, the two emphasize different historical roots as the source of that inherited understanding and thus are lead to a different emphasis in the ways that the crisis of the challenge to this self is felt.
As we will see, Kristeva, looks to Plotinian
Neo-Platonism as the dominant source for our inherited understanding of self and is thus lead to privilege the question of love in relation to otherness from which her understanding of illusion will follow. On the other hand, for Ricoeur, it is the Cartesian cogito that is the primary target of the Freudian fracturing of the self, which naturally leads to a focus on illusion as an epistemological concern. The skeptical worry in Descartes is rooted in the multiplicity of competing claims to truth. And so the turn to subjectivity only comes to silence the skeptical worry by achieving a turn from plurality to unity. In Descartes’ turn to truth, he no longer listens to the multiple voices of his teachers, but rather listens to the unity of an inner voice within himself. But this is only the case if the foundation of pure subjectivity is absolutely simple. So truth is achieved by the asceticism of withdrawal from an illicit over-extension of the self into the multiplicity and ungroundedness of the external into the certainty and unity of the self understood as the purity of the will. 3 Once Freudian thought ruptures the pure simplicity of the self as self-transparent to itself in consciousness, the modern defeat of skepticism, rooted as it is in consciousness, from Descartes to Sartre, becomes unmoored. The devil that Descartes so duly banished back to Hell is unshackled and we are threatened to be overcome by illusion. It is significant that Freud himself saw the history of demons and devils in western culture as a way of speaking about the unconscious in such a fruitful way that he considered 3
The formulation for this argument is taken from the talk entitled “Descartes, Pelagianism, and the Sceptical Life” given by Felix O’Murchadha at the National University of Ireland, in April 2012.
demonology a major precursor to his own work. 4 But with the banishment of the evil genius in the Meditations and the devil’s increasingly unfashionable status in the Enlightenment, the effectiveness of ‘the devil’ as a tool for talking about illusion will not be recaptured until the development of depth psychology in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Through, Ricoeur this question of illusion takes center stage for philosophy, particularly in its postphenomenological guise.
Thus, through his reading of Freud, one of Ricoeur’s great
contributions to contemporary thinking is his insistent reminder that we must learn, again, to face the problem of illusion—the persistent and ineradicable possibility that our claims to truth have been infected with deceit, distortion, and fantasy. As Ricoeur writes in his seminal essay “Existence and Hermeneutics,”
we have indeed learned from all the exegetic disciplines and from psychoanalysis in particular, that so-called immediate consciousness is first of all ‘false consciousness.’ Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud have taught us to unmask its tricks. Henceforth it becomes necessary to join a critique of false consciousness to any rediscovery of the subject of the cogito in the documents of its life. 5
This renewed focus on illusion reveals the importance of a method or “way” for uncovering the places where a creative imagination is not revealing anything beyond the distortions and fantasies that it is imposing upon the world.
So, Ricoeur argues that we must forgo an
immediate ontology of belonging to Being or metaphysics of participation and instead take the “long route which begins by the analysis of language. In this way we will continue to keep in contact with the disciplines which seek to practice interpretation in a methodical manner, and we
See Freud “A Seventeenth Century Demonological Neurosis” SE XIX. “Existence and Hermeneutics,” Conflict of Interpretations, 18.
will resist the temptation to separate truth, characteristic of understanding, from the method put into operation by disciplines which have sprung from exegesis.” 6 Thus, by recognizing the importance of integrating truth and method, Ricoeur’s hermeneutics is able to embrace the plurality of the self revealed in psychoanalysis, the fracturing that explodes the pure simplicity of the Cartesian cogito, while still facing the problem of illusion. However, this is achieved at a high price. For it leads philosophy to see meaning as independent from its source and thus has a tendency to fail to see in an experience of meaning an encounter with a source of meaning, whether that is understood as another person, living being, or Being itself. This is revealed in Ricoeur’s insistence that we shift our understanding of experience from a Heideggerian or Platonic hermeneutics of belonging to an understanding of experience as encounter with text. As he writes,
the distanciation in which this hermeneutics [of belonging] tends to see a sort of ontological fall from grace appears as a positive component of being for the [hermeneutics of the] text; it characteristically belongs to interpretation, not as its contrary but as its condition. The moment of distanciation is implied by fixation in writing and by all comparable phenomena in the sphere of the transmission of discourse; for fixation is the condition of a much more fundamental phenomenon, that of the autonomy of the text. 7 Ricoeur goes on to say “the emancipation of the text constitutes the most fundamental condition for the recognition of a critical instance at the heart of interpretation; for distanciation belongs to the mediation itself.” 8 In the space that this distance opens between meaning and Being, all the methodological techniques of the social sciences may be brought to bear, and the illusions of subjectivity can be purified.
“Existence and Hermeneutics,” CI, 11. “Hermeneutics and the Critique of Ideology” in From Text to Action. P. 298 8 CI, 298 7
This powerfully recognizes the ways that desire distorts subjective experience and reopens philosophical discourse to the tools needed for an ascesis of subjectivity that would uncover these illusions. Further, Ricoeur has not abandoned hopes of an ontological ground for philosophical thinking, but it remains an elusive ontology. If the emphasis on meaning as a result of creative imagination rooted in desire is what distances Ricoeur’s hermeneutics from a philosophy of meaning as an immediate belonging to Being, it is also what prevents it from a complete dispersal into “language games” that prescind all questions of ontological significance to encounters with meanings. Ricoeur’s central insight is that meanings are sedimentations of desire, but that desire is desire to be. So even if an encounter with meaning is not a direct encounter with Being, it is so indirectly as mediated by works that spring from the pathos of the unchosen desire for existence. As Ricoeur writes, “the cogito can be recovered only by the detour of a decipherment of the documents of its life. Reflection is the appropriation of our effort to exist and of our desire to be by means of the works which testify to this effort and this desire.” 9 Further, this takes us beyond a Sartreian respect for each individual’s autonomous will towards a true rooting of subjectivity in Being:
by understanding ourselves, we appropriate to ourselves the meaning of our desire to be or of our effort to exist. Existence, we can now say, is desire and effort. We term it effort in order to stress its positive energy and its dynamism; we turn it desire to designate its lack and its poverty: Eros is the son Poros and Penia. Thus the cogito is no longer the pretentious act it was initially—I mean its pretension of positing itself; it appears as already posited in being. 10 This de-centering of the self means that Ricoeur is able to make a place for thinking about existence as sacred, for it is a response to a call to Being that I do not issue and to which I can only respond or refuse. As Ricoeur summarizes, “the sacred calls upon man and in this call 9
“Existence and Hermeneutics,” p. 18. ibid
manifests itself as that which commands his existence because it posits this existence absolutely, as effort and as desire to be. Thus, the most opposite hermeneutics point, each in its own way, to the ontological roots of comprehension. Each in its own way affirms the dependence of the self upon existence.” 11 This re-articulation of the sacred at the heart of human striving and productivity is a major achievement in the wake of Kant and Heidegger. However, it fails to account for the concrete ways in which creativity is a response to the sensuous world and its beauty. What is at stake is the full richness of the nature of desire. Within this opening onto experience, there is both the desire for the coming of the other as the fulfilment of my own being, the realisation of my meaning, and there is desire for the other that is experienced as a rupture into my being. These two movements are never fully distinct, but in the self-other relationship the first emphasises the becoming of the self and the community, the second an ecstatic force that propels the lover towards another. So although this is a continuum not a duality, we can distinguish eros as one pole and conatus as another. Ricoeur lets the richness of this tension collapse by viewing desire for the other always within the terms of the desire for the realisation of one’s potential in a fulfilled existence. In doing so, he subsumes eros within conatus.
The strength of Ricoeur’s
link between the distance at the heart of meaning as text, which opens up the space for methodological purification of desire, and ontology through the desire to be, is also its weakness. For desire must always be seen as fundamentally desire for fullness of being, and the import of the rupture into one’s being, which is so important in Plato’s account of love and so powerful in the experience of love itself, is not thought in its full significance. Ricoeur is not making a direct attack on eros as desire for the other in its otherness, but by tying desire to the desire for a happy, fulfilled, and whole existence there is little room left for 11
CI, “Existence and Hermeneutics,” pp. 22-23.
the other pole which emphasises the otherness of the other. Thus, wherever we see a discussion of the other it is always in relation to the development of the potential of the self. In ‘Existence and Hermeneutics’ Ricoeur claims of the exegete, it “is thus the growth of his own understanding of himself that he pursues through his understanding of the other. Every hermeneutics is thus, explicitly or implicitly, self-understanding by means of understanding others.” 12 Meaning is always directed from the other back to the self. We see this even more clearly a little later, for the encounter with the other is interpreted, not only in the light of my self-understanding but in the light of my desire to be. Ricoeur continues, “this logic is then no longer a formal logic but a transcendental logic. It is established at the level of the conditions of possibility: not the conditions of the objectivity of nature, but the conditions of the appropriation of the desire to be.” 13 In the same way in which an understanding of the other in a transcendental logic is tied to the desire to be, the irruption of the other in poetic language is tied to the development of my own possibilities. In Figuring the Sacred, we see that poetic language is a break with ordinary language, which far from saying nothing new, opens up an entirely new world. As Ricoeur explains, “the world of the text is what incites the reader, or the listener, to understand him or herself in the face of the text and to develop, in imagination and sympathy, the self capable of inhabiting this world by deploying his or her ownmost possibilities there.” 14
Again we see
meaning as tied to the encounter with world. Unfortunately, this notion of “World” lacks the alterity of the sensuous. Thus, Ricoeur’s hermeneutics cannot account for the sacredness of nature. However, we can now see that this impoverishment is rooted in Ricoeur’s subsumption
CI, p. 17. FM, p. 19. 14 Figuring the Sacred: Religion, Narrative and Imagination. Trans. David Pellauer. Ed. Mark I. Wallace. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995. p. 232. 13
of eros into conatus, for in this impoverished understanding of desire all yearning is ultimately reduced to the desire to live a good and full life in just institutions with others. Kristeva shares a great deal with Ricoeur. In particular she sees the meaning of Freudian psychoanalysis as hinging on its power to explode the unity of the subject. She opens the summary of her work in the “Epilogue” of Tales of Love writing,
The existence of psychoanalysis reveals the permanency, the inescapable nature of crisis. The speaking being is a wounded being, his speech wells up out of an aching for love…. Periods and societies that believe they are outside the crisis appear, in the psychoanalyst’s eyes, symptomatic: through what miracle of repression, idealization, or sublimation has the discontent with ‘splitting’ been stabilized, or even harmonized within a code of believable, sound, permanent values? 15
However, for Kristeva, the being that this splitting “wounds” or decenters, is not the cogito, for her model of the subjectivity that we inherit in the West comes not most fundamentally from Descartes, but from Plotinus as he marks the increasingly dominant response to the problem of otherness anticipated in the myth of Narcissus. As Kristeva writes, “the exquisite details of this myth [Narcissus] thus indeed converge, it seems to me, on the theme of unification through the multiplicity of unessential reflections, which one more directly encounters in Plotinus’ handling of the myth of Narcissus.” 16 With Plotinus the possibilities for idealization charted by the Greeks remain viable, even as society moves from the communal bonds of the city state to the exciting yet lonely expanses of the cosmopolitan world. But his project requires the sacrifice of the multiple and even abyssal nature of the void:
Platonic dialogism is transformed , with Plotinus, into a monologue that must indeed be called speculative: it leads the ideal inside a Self that, only thus, in the concatenation of 15 16
TL 372 TL. 107
reflections, establishes itself as an internality. To the narcissistic shadow, a snare and a downfall, it substitutes autoerotic reflection, which leads ideal Unity inside a Self that is illuminated by it. Narcissus has been transcended, and beauty becomes embodied in the inner space. 17 According to Kristeva’s version of the story, this identification of the self with the One allows for a defense within Christianity of the Narcissism necessary for interiority and subjectivity. But the price for this interiority is high. For in its pure form, Plotinus’ philosophy of the One, makes relation with alterity impossible and condemns love to auto-eroticism. In Kristeva’s view the Christian story of Kenosis and Crucifixion offers an alternate idealization that provides an opening to alterity through idealized suffering and universal love, but throughout the Middle Ages and early Modern period, Plotinus’ vision erodes this possibility and becomes dominant in the West. As Kristeva writes, the “auto eros that I see as sublime hypostasis of narcissistic love was to constitute the decisive step in the assumption of inner space, the introspective space of the western psyche. God is Narcissus.” 18 She continues, “the Narcissan Plotinan divinity is love, but it is a love of self and in self. The one who constitutes himself though it creates himself in and for himself. Not for the Other.” 19 Now, taking Plotinus rather than Descartes as our model for the fundamental articulation of the simplicity and unity of the Western self, the dispersal of subjectivity effected by psychoanalysis leads us in a different direction, for what is at issue is less the problem of skepticism than the ability to love. The rupture of the unity of the self obliterates the idealizations that are the foundation both of subjectivity and of love. Thus, if for Ricoeur, the question is how to overcome illusion after the defeat of the Cartesian project, for Kristeva, the question is how to love again after the disruption of Plotinian subjectivity. 17
TL, 109. TL, 111. 19 TL, 113. 18
One possibility is to try to recover the interiority that has been lost in order to reestablish love again on the same subjective grounding upon which it had rested.
The stakes of psychoanalysis—but also its crises—are here. Are we to build a psychic space, a certain mastery of the One, at the very heart of the psychic founderings of anguished, suicidal, and impotent people? Or on the contrary are we to follow, impel, favor breakaways, driftings. Are we concerned with rebuilding their own proper space, a ‘home’ for contemporary Narcissi?... I see psychoanalysis rather as a departure from that enclosure, not its warden. Does the old psychic space, the machinery of projections and identifications that relied more or less on neuroses for reinforcement, no longer hold together? Well, it may be because another mode of being, of unbeing, is attempting to take its place. We should not attempt to give it the outlines of the ‘own proper self’… let it remain floating , empty at times, inauthentic, obviously lying. Let it pretend, let the seeming take itself seriously. Let sex be as unessential because as important as a mask or a written sign—dazzling outside, nothing inside. 20 This was written in 1983 and that date might perhaps afford us some patience with the rather inebriated excesses of postmodernism. More importantly, despite the contrast between Kristeva’s exuberant outpouring and the sobriety of the language of her parents’ generation that is used by Ricoeur, the two remain quite close in understanding creativity, and its source in the vitality of the imagination, as the new ground of meaning in the face of the fracturing of the subject. After all, for Kristeva, the fracturing of meaning is not the point of philosophical discourse; rather, the point is to foster a love that can manage the risks and opportunities of this fracturing. She writes, “Freud, the post-Romanticist, was the first to turn love into a cure; he did this, not to allow one to grasp a truth, but to provoke a rebirth—like an amorous relationship that makes us good as new, temporality and eternally. For transference, like love, is a true process of self-organization, comparable to what contemporary logical and biological theories call ‘open systems.’” 21 Here, she is very close to Ricoeur. However, Kristeva’s project maintains the
TL, 380. TL, 381.
possibility, indeed the necessity, of thinking the way that creativity is rooted in a response to being. For if this relation remains unthought, then love is either impossible or imprisoned and ignorant. Love remains impossible, for Kristeva, as in the dominant secular materialism of the West, when the longings of the self for pleasure and satisfaction remain divorced from any transcendent and ideal structures of meaning, and love thus collapses into the desire for conquest and appropriation. 22 It remains imprisoned and ignorant, for Kristeva, when, as in the Christian epoch, it is forgotten that the idealized structures of meaning that transform lust into transcendence and open a space for love are products of human creativity. Yet, Kristeva argues that there is a space for thought prior to the choice between self-satisfaction and the artifacts of human creation. This space is the emptiness or void out of which meaning emerges. If “a work in progress” of human creativity is the answer to the crisis occasioned by psychoanalysis, this work must be permeated with love. And it must not be forgotten that love is always rooted in the void. Imagination is a discourse of transference—of love. Through and beyond desire that longs for immediate consummation, love is edged with emptiness and supported by taboos. The fact that we have no love discourse reveals our inability to respond to narcissism. Indeed, amatory relationship is based on narcissistic satisfaction on the one hand, on idealization on the other. 23 If her answer is to love, these loves will not be happily-ever-after loves in which my new idealizations will protect timeless truths that will guarantee my identity. Rather, her version of love is a trust in the inexhaustible richness of the emptiness out of which the self will be constantly reborn in love, but also a trust in our ability to think this emergence. Thus, while for Ricoeur in his subsequent work, “the sacred” remains the limit of a philosophical discourse that
“Galileo and Sade are the conquering heroes of that epic.” TL 378. TL 381
can never really think the encounter that would link meaning to nature or being, Kristeva’s subsequent work turns to think the sacred not as a limit but as a source of meaning. Early in her collection of correspondences with Catherine Clément, published as Le feminine et le sacré in 1998 and as The Feminine and the Sacred in 2001, Kristeva asks tentatively, but also suggestively, “what if what we call the ‘sacred’ were a celebration of a mystery, the mystery of the emergence of meaning?” 24 Further, for her this emergence of meaning that we encounter as sacred is intimately connected to the sensual. “Simply put, given the waters we are in now, between the Virgin and her ‘stricken,’ the time of absence, serenity, and the loss of the self, I claim that what comes back to us as ‘sacred’ in the experience of a woman is the impossible and nevertheless sustained connection between life and meaning.” This is still the emptiness or the void that Kristeva has been writing about since the 70s, but there can no longer be any doubt about the sensuality and alterity of the source of meaning in this encounter that precludes any overly intellectualistic interpretations of her earlier writings on painting and music. She writes, the experience of the sacred
entails the passing through the nothingness of oneself as well as the nothingness of language, to obtain a bouquet of traces and sounds that challenge intellection, in favour of what they [the mystics] call ‘the paradise of love.’ It seems to me that that ambitious expression designates an act of giving form to sensible flesh, a delicious act always to be begun again, but one that requires a certain annihilation of self, of self-consciousness. 25 This theme permeates the book. Near the end she writes, “we have only one way remaining to stay alive, which is to think: yes I say ‘think’ and not ‘calculate.’ To visit, the best we can, that cut, that prohibition, that reversal of meaning, where meaning is born on the edge of the geranium or of the water of the Fier, on the edge of nothingness. To go along both sides, from
The Feminine and the Sacred, New York: Columbia University Press, 2001. p 13. [Henceforth FS]. FS, 35.
nothingness to being and back.” 26 Here the ways that the fullness of desire, the richness of sensual experience, the pregnant excess of the Maternal, are woven into the experience of meaning as encounter with an interplay between presence and absence is accounted for in a manner that Ricoeur’s hermeneutics fails to do. However, we must not fail to note that although Kristeva allows philosophy, again, to be nourished by a reflection on the sacred as transcending human productivity to include receptivity to that which grants the possibility of meaning, she has still not faced the problem of illusion that motivates Ricoeur’s turn to hermeneutics in the first place. If we interpret Kristeva’s work from the 80s as kind of Nietzschean affirmation of life lived as an artistic creation, then her disregard for the border between truth and illusion is not problematic, for both are equally expressions of creativity and vitality. However, in her later writings on the sacred, this is not the case. For here, receptivity and responsiveness become crucial and a sacred creativity must be able to tell where meaning is a welcoming response and where it is an arbitrary imposition of self-will onto the other. So it seems to me that it remains for a more complete response to the crisis precipitated by Freud to incorporate the insights of both Ricoeur and Kristeva, to find a way to understand the splitting of subjectivity that allows for both love as an opening onto the emergence of meaning from the darkness of the sensuous void and a method or way for interpreting the illusions of distorting and infantile desire. The task remains to wed a hermeneutics of illusion to a phenomenology of the sacredness of being.
Running head: PHENOMENOLOGY IN PSYCHOTHERAPEUTIC PRAXIS
Phenomenology in Psychotherapeutic Praxis: An Introduction to Personal Existential Analysis
Janelle L. Kwee Trinity Western University, Langley, British Columbia, Canda, and the Existential Analysis Society of Canada, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Alfried A. Längle International Society for Existential Analysis and Logotherapy, Vienna, Austria
Authors’ Note Janelle L. Kwee, School of Graduate Studies, Master of Arts in Counselling Psychology Program, Trinity Western University, and the Existential Analysis Society of Canada, Vancouver, BC; Alfried A. Längle, The International Society for Logotherapy and Existential Analysis, Vienna, Austria. Correspondence concerning this proposal should be addressed to Janelle L. Kwee, Master of Arts in Counselling Psychology Program, Trinity Western University, 7600 Glover Rd., Langley, BC, V2Y 1Y1, Canada, Janelle.email@example.com.
PHENOMENOLOGY IN PSYCHOTHERAPEUTIC PRAXIS
Abstract Personal Existential Analysis (PEA) is the primary psychotherapeutic method utilized in Existential Analysis (EA), a phenomenological and person-centered psychotherapy that aims to facilitate discovery of a responsible way of dealing with oneself and the world for a fulfilled and mentally and emotionally free existence. The existential approach to psychotherapy is known more for its philosophical rather than methodological tenets, yet there is instructional, empirical, and therapeutic utility in delineating transparent structures of psychotherapy. Toward this end, the practice of PEA offers a viable application of Viktor Franklâ€™s anthropology, illuminating therapeutic processes for phenomenological practice. Systematically, PEA facilitates, a) reconnection with reality by working on a clear view on the facts, b) experiencing selfacceptance through connecting with oneâ€™s impressions and feelings, c) fostering inner dialogue toward better understanding and inner positioning, and finally, d) coming to an acceptable and responsible action. Corresponding to the dialogical nature of personhood, in which the human being is in a constant process of exchange with oneself and the world as a basis for realizing being a person, the methodical steps of PEA support authentic inner and outer dialogue with the aim of restructuring the capacity of the person, which eventually allows for genuine encounter. Keywords: Phenomenological Process, Existential Analysis, Existential Psychotherapy, Personal Existential Analysis (PEA)
PHENOMENOLOGY IN PSYCHOTHERAPEUTIC PRAXIS
Phenomenology in Psychotherapeutic Praxis: An Introduction to Personal Existential Analysis Existential Analysis (EA) is a phenomenological and person-oriented psychotherapy with the aim of helping a person to discover a way of living in which one is able to give “inner consent” for one’s actions. This central aim can further be described as guiding a person towards mentally and emotionally free experiences in which a person is able to make authentic and responsible decisions (Längle, 2012). What does this mean in practice? How do we describe this, methodologically? Since existential approaches to psychotherapy are regarded more for their philosophical underpinnings than for their techniques (Prochaska & Norcross, 2014), one might be surprised or even resist the perceived confines of any particular method. Indeed, we tend to speak about phenomenological and existential psychotherapies in abstract and flexible terms, contrasting this approach with rigid and manual-based treatment approaches. However, there is instructional, empirical, and therapeutic utility in delineating transparent structures of psychotherapy. Moreover, the therapeutic structures of phenomenological practice do not reflect dogmatic explanatory frameworks, but rather aim to facilitate a receptive, descriptive, and dialogical process in which the existential task of being a person can be realized. The primary therapeutic method in EA is called Personal Existential Analysis (PEA; Längle, 1995). In exposing the processes of PEA, we offer a praxis-focused description of phenomenology. Grounded in the anthropology of Viktor Frankl who identified meaning-seeking as the deepest human motivation (Frankl, 1988), the framework of EA elaborates three other existential motivations that precede that of the search for meaning (Längle, 2005). These include the motivations to be, to experience value, and to be oneself. Corresponding to each of the
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Fundamental Motivations (FM) is a primary existential question (Längle, 1999a, 2012). These are:
I am here. Can I be? Do I have the necessary space, protection and support?
I am alive. Do I like to live? Do I feel my emotions and experience the value of my life?
I am me. May I be myself? Am I free to be me?; and finally, the primary question of meaning-focused logotherapy,
What am I here for? What do I live for? What gives my life meaning?
Together, within the theoretical framework of EA, the four existential fundamental motivations make up the cornerstones of existence. Fulfillment is experienced as one is able to affirm the existential questions corresponding to the four FMs: “Yes” to the world (FM 1), “Yes” to life (FM 2), “Yes” to one’s self/person (FM 3) and “Yes” to meaning (FM 4). These FMs provide the structure for understanding the person on which the process of PEA is based. In this paper, we focus specifically on the person’s capacity for dialogical exchange in order to describe the corresponding psychotherapeutic steps of PEA. Dialogical Exchange as the Basis of Personhood In the existential-analytical framework, human life can be seen as the chance for something (“Das Leben ist nie etwas, es ist nur die Gelegenheit zu einem Etwas;” Hebbel, 2013), a dynamic possibility rather than a fixed reality. Imagining life as a chance for something suggests that there is a creative challenge and great opportunity in each person’s existence. It is not possible to accomplish the purpose of one’s life simply by being born, by one’s instincts, or by nature. To have a fulfilled or meaningful life cannot be reached objectively, but is accessed through the subjectivity of the person, through which the person is in dialogue with one’s self and with the world. To reach this chance or possibility, there must be active fulfillment of being
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a person. Indeed, there is freedom between each person and her or his life, no matter what the objective circumstances of that life may be. In Frankl’s existential-analytic framework (Frankl, 2004), the person has the noetic power of opening to the world, as well as of differentiating from the world. Personhood is fundamentally enabled for dialogue. Inner Consent The aim of EA is to help a person discover a way of living in which he or she is able to give “inner consent” to his or her actions (Längle, 1999b; 2012). Giving inner consent is part of a dialogical existence. It represents an answer, given as part of an active exchange with oneself and the world. To give inner consent is a capacity that is possible as a result of experiencing oneself as really being in life, and can be experienced towards the simple, everyday conditions as well as to “big” decisions. As a psychological construct, it contains the philosophical concept of freedom. In giving inner consent, one experiences oneself as free. As an illustration, let’s take the example of the person who has contemplated smoking cessation. Based on various considerations, they are convinced that it is the “right” decision to quit smoking. To name a few of these possible considerations, their physician has warned them of the health risks of continuing smoking, the social acceptability of smoking in public areas has declined dramatically in recent years, and the financial burden of the habit is unwanted. It may not be so difficult for this person to decide to quit smoking. However, consent is closer to one’s personal felt experience than deciding is. Although a real decision incorporates inner consent, deciding is understood more commonly in cognitive terms, whereas one must be completely personally oneself in order to give consent. Consent emphasizes the emotional aspect of a decision and must be separated from external demands associated with ideologies, parents, education, or the social climate.
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To give authentic, inner consent, it must correspond to the person in that very moment. So, a decision to quit smoking might be quite clear, but the experience of inner consent doesn’t only depend on what is logical or clear cognitively, but arises from an experiential felt sense of “yes.” It requires the person to bring him or herself fully into an activity, to ask oneself, “how do I feel about smoking this particular cigarette right now?” Or, “do I give consent to smoking this cigarette?” Perhaps the person will notice that it is only a habit to smoke a cigarette at this particular moment, or perhaps she or he will notice that smoking in that particular moment would bring a feeling of existential value, and can therefore affirm doing it even though it contradicts a cognitively framed goal. It is then possible to give inner consent to not taking up a cigarette at one point during the day, but experience full consent in smoking in another moment. Another possibility is that the person discovers a lack of consent to smoke but still “decides” to do it, which is common in addiction. By pausing for a brief moment of contemplation, the person enters the situation and can increasingly respond with an authentic action. If one finds a lack of inner consent to smoking, it becomes increasingly frustrating to do so against one’s own personal feeling. This sensitization expands the personal freedom within which one may experience selfacceptance and self-determination. Although the overarching logical goal of quitting smoking may be established, the person, through remaining in a dialogical posture with oneself in each decision point through the process of changing a habit, is able to mindfully experience his or her own presence in the situation, which fosters development of the personality. Through cultivating the freedom inherent in giving inner consent to one’s actions, people can discover a responsible way of dealing with life and with the world, another aspect of the stated aims of Existential Analysis. To be personally responsible means that one can stand
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behind what one does, with authenticity, meaning that one’s responses correspond to his or her true self. To deal with references that, in each person’s existence, we encounter particular realities. A good or meaningful life with inner consent should not be confused with an ideal or fairy tale life. Fulfillment through inner consent develops through dialogical encounters in each person’s situation in the world. Each person is invited to give an answer to each real situation, the givens in his or her existence. These situations correspond to both inner and outer realities. To deal with oneself requires being in dialogue with oneself, taking a position towards one’s own feelings, wishes, hopes, and anxieties. The outer realities in the world are the constraints outside of us. Though general personal development may be cultivated in each dialogical encounter, inner consent can only be given to specific situations. To understand this, we only have to ask the person who has at one point felt so sure in their heart that they are ready to quit smoking forever, yet experiences daily reminders and felt “invitations” to take it up again. It must be in each of these specific moments that a person gives his or her answer. Potentials of the Person Consistent with a conceptualization of life in terms of its possibility, or the chance for something, Frankl described the development of personality as a possibility that a person can fulfill. Central in the actualization of personhood is dialogue, and there are three constituent elements for dialogue to be possible (Längle, 2003):
Dialogue has an addressee.
The addressee should understand what is said.
Dialogue requires a response.
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These three constituent elements, then, are essential in the actualization of a person’s potentials through dialogue. Corresponding to the external activities of the person in dialogue are the three subjective modes of experience of being impressionable (associated with being addressed), taking an inner position (associated with understanding), and being expressive (associated with being responsive). See Figure 1. Receptivity. First, a person can be reached or accessed because of her or his capacity for receptivity. The person is the addressee in the dialogical encounters of his or her life. When another person greets any of us by name, a specific person has been addressed and no other I can be substituted. It calls the person who has been named into the encounter. Even if the basis for the encounter is relatively banal, it raises the intensity of one’s self-awareness. When one is personally singled out in a crowd, he or she may blush, or feel exposed or embarrassed, as a result of being personally addressed and now having the responsibility to take a position, or give an answer. When one of us, in our own life, is addressed directly, we experience a constraint— an inevitability. In the moment of being seen and addressed, one cannot hide anymore; one is detected as oneself. This goes along with being personally touched. In the situation of being addressed, one must answer; any response, even not reacting, is an answer. But in this situation, in one’s openness and accessibility to the world, one has the freedom of what and how to answer. Through the capacity for receptivity, one is open to being touched by and called into an encounter with the unique world that corresponds to your own life. Nobody else can answer to your situation. There cannot be templates for authentic dialogue because to be authentic it must correspond to the unique person who is addressed in the context of his or her actual situation in the world.
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Impression. Being receptive is experienced subjectively as being impressionable. Impressions do not necessarily correspond to the observable reality. They are spontaneous emotional responses that provide material for further processing. Being addressed and being impressed upon produces primary emotionality that is recovered in the first step of the therapeutic process. Being impressionable is commonly understood to be gullible or to be easily influenced. The term is used here to capture the experience of being subjectively impressed upon by one’s life and one’s experiences, in the sense that these make a subjective imprint on a person. Understanding. A person’s capacity to understand is the second constituent element necessary for dialogue. As understanding is less concrete and tangible than the other elements, we describe it first by its absence. Without understanding, a person’s response to being addressed is simply a reaction or arbitrary behaviour; it does not represent an opening up of the person, and is not therefore a genuine encounter. The pleasantries of everyday greetings between strangers often strikingly lack this element of understanding. Though there is an apparent addressee (“hello, how are you?”) and a reply (“fine, thank you”), an authentic dialogue is lacking because there is no intimate reflection or understanding within the person who is addressed in between the moment of being addressed and answering. In fact, this is not an answer in the existential sense. This conversation simply follows the template of common social norms, and that which follows a template of norms cannot authentically and uniquely correspond to the I in the situation. In contrast, the person who is drawing on the capacity for understanding, takes him or herself out of a situation in order to gain perspective in the context of one’s existence. In the process of understanding, one moves from being under the influence of a
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situation to looking at the situation in relation to other experiences she or he has had. This private reflection facilitates understanding. Inner Position. To come to an inner position is the result of the subjective activity of understanding. In taking an inner position, personhood takes up its own place in front of that which was “pressed” on the person through the im-pression. The raw affective reaction is taken up in a reflective process of inner dialogue. The person is free to bring his or her own values into a position, connecting these values with the new information carried by the impression. This step moves the person subjectively from primary emotionality to integrated emotionality (Längle, 2003). On the basis of understanding and sensed positioning, followed by a cognitive confrontation of the content with knowledge and experience, arises a deep inner movement which calls for action. The will in a holistic sense is born. The inner movement tends towards a kind of realization of that which emerged within oneself in contact with the outer impact. Responsiveness. The third element in dialogue is responsiveness. A person is able to give an answer. Giving an answer means that one has understood something and found a personal position, something corresponding to one’s own. Answering, similar to being addressed, is concrete and tangible, something we readily observe through language and nonand para-verbal expressiveness. For the person giving a response, answering is disclosing oneself: by showing what he/she has inwardly, intimately generated (in the process of inner positioning) and giving it into the world by expressing it. We can say that a person is called into an encounter when he or she is receptive to being addressed. Then, the person brings a particular situation into context through private contemplation, a process of sifting and sorting other experiences relative to the situation in order to understand. Finally, in giving an answer, one experiences the resolution of decisiveness, of taking a position. After finding oneself
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inescapably called into an encounter, considering the situation and locating his or her person in it, it is possible to give an answer, to reveal to oneself or to the world, to say, “here I am, this is my position.” Expression. Corresponding to responsiveness is the subjective capacity for expressiveness. After finding an inner position, a person is ready for action, ready to be exposed and to express an answer. In the person’s chosen expression, she or he realizes what is possible in the situation. An impression is transformed through one’s own understanding and inner positioning, and the person fulfills the potential of a situation when entering back into the factual world with a response. Drawing on each of these capacities for dialogue, a person is able to be in an encounter, to be in contact with oneself and with the world. Through encounter and dialogue, the person develops and matures into the potential of his or her personality. In the dialogical context of life, existence is giving answers to the questions of each situation. In the psychotherapeutic application of PEA, the therapist helps the person give adequate answers by connecting them to their faculties for dialogue with themselves and the world. The process takes place within an encounter between the client and the psychotherapist, and mobilizes the client’s resources for dialogue and encounter in the situation of his or her life. Psychotherapeutic Application of PEA The terminology of Personal Existential Analysis can be seen as a tautology since existence, by definition, is always personal. However, this description of the central method of Existential Analysis is appropriate because the focus is on strengthening the power of the person. Although the person is always present, one’s existence can be dominated by psychic processes. The therapeutic work in PEA centers on activating the resources of the person by helping the ego
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to accept and take over a greater role of ownership and direction in one’s life. Thus, the central considerations in PEA are the person and existence, where the person is the center of existence. The work of PEA is concerned with locating personhood in its authenticity, enabling openness and exchange with the world. Suffering, disappointment, frustration, and loss are all part of the conditions of real life. It is in the context of the challenges of real situations that the person has the chance to develop a response. In this personal response, an individual is able to fully enter his or her existence, bringing the resources of the person together. In order to do this, one has to work with real situations, either biographical or actual, present-day situations. It is not possible to apply PEA to abstract problems such as “always feeling anxious.” One must be able to identify a situation in which she or he feels anxious and work on this particular situation in order to cultivate personal capacities to deal with anxiety in this and then other situations, over time changing the tendency to experience anxiety. Though the experiences of distress vary significantly (and may be communicated through depression, anxiety, psychosomatic complaints, or interpersonal problems, to name a few), the common element of suffering that is worked on through PEA is that of not being sufficiently present as a person. Thus, any experiences in which one feels, “I am not totally me” or “I cannot be totally me” can be used for the application of PEA. PEA is contraindicated for experiences of schizophrenia, paranoia, other psychotic states, and serious depressive states when a person lacks the energy to take an inner position, and is unable to relate effectively to impressions because of the distortions caused by a unilaterally negative mood (See Längle, 2003, p. 44). Systematically, PEA facilitates,
reconnection with reality by working on a clear view on the facts (PEA 0),
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connecting with one’s primary, often unconscious understanding and feelings (PEA 1),
fostering inner dialogue toward better understanding and finding oneself by inner positioning (PEA 2), and finally,
coming to an acceptable and responsible action (PEA 3).
Corresponding to the dialogical nature of personhood, in which the human being is in a constant process of exchange with oneself and the world as a basis for realizing being a person, the methodical steps of PEA support authentic inner and outer dialogue with the aim of restructuring the capacity of the person, which eventually allows for genuine encounter. The conceptual model of personal dialogue informs the sequence of PEA, which includes four steps, described below and denoted as PEA 0, PEA 1, PEA 2, and PEA 3. See Figure 2 for a summary of the process. Information (PEA 0): What happened really? The first step (PEA 0) of description and information gathering is a common step in most psychotherapeutic processes. The basic question is, what happened? Exploring the facts with open ended questions allows clients to start a relationship with their situations and to reconnect with reality. By stating what happened, when, how, and with whom, a person moves into a concrete admission of the facts. Not surprisingly, the facts of an existential situation that prompt a client to seek psychotherapy, are often unpleasant, commonly associated with pain. It is a natural defense against this pain to avoid dealing with reality as it is, yet the work cannot continue unless reality is established. By stating factually, what happened, one is able to deal with the life and circumstances that correspond to his or her own existence, not an imaginary one. It is only in this particular existence that the person can be mobilized. Connection with reality is a prerequisite for
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existential-analytical dialogue. In this first phase, the psychotherapist is careful to direct the conversation to facts, minimizing opinions, wishes, and explanations. Describing the facts, including feelings, of the existential situation helps a person to find blind spots, to recognize more fully his or her inner and outer reality, and to enter a relationship with it. No close relationship exists without emotional involvement. Thus, emotional responses to entering relationship with the facts of one’s existential situation, are expected, welcomed, and essential for the remaining therapeutic process. In fact, these emotions are indicators of being alive, as a person, in one’s own life circumstance. Impression (PEA 1): How is it for you and for your life? The basic question in PEA 1 is, how is it for you? There is usually a general movement of attraction or repulsion to being impressed upon, to being impacted or affected. In this step, now that the facts have been illuminated as a basis for working within the basic conditions of life, they can be left just as that. The facts are a framework within which the client explores spontaneous feelings, impulses, and reactions. By allowing one’s experiences to be, selfacceptance can be cultivated. In the step of PEA 1, the therapist and client work on detecting the primary emotion, impulse, and phenomenological content. Primary Emotion. By definition, a primary emotion is unfiltered and spontaneous. Yet, we are accustomed to placing value judgments on our emotions, labeling pleasant ones “good” and unpleasant ones, “bad.” In this step of PEA 1, the client is invited to practice mindful acceptance of the spontaneous emotions and affects. This work consists of looking for how the situation touched the person inwardly and making a precise description of his or her feelings. The therapist empathically joins with the client and may describe and offer what the therapist feels in order to facilitate the client’s work in this step.
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Impulse. The impulse is the spontaneous emotional reaction to the impression. The direction of movement in the impulse is usually either attraction or repulsion. The impulse can be described like the energy of a magnet, which either pulls towards or pushes away from another one. Elements from expressive therapies (such as Gestalt, art, or music) can also be utilized to help clients detect, describe and capture their emotional and affective inner movement. Phenomenological Content. After identifying the primary emotion and impulse, the therapist helps the client do a phenomenological exploration of their experience. What is the message you received in this experience? What do the facts (what happened and how it happened), tell you? Do you understand what hurts you mostly and why? Even when the answers appear obvious, self-understanding can be an inherently healing experience and it is important to ask and to identify the personal meaning of one’s emotional experience. This step uncovers the main content which most often is captured emotionally but not really understood and thus remained hidden to the person. Inner Positioning (PEA 2): What do you make of it; What do you personally say to it? Having clarified the experience of being impressed upon and of what touched the person emotionally by that what happened, it is now time to “digest” the “swallowed” information. In this step, the client elaborates and connects the situation to one’s authentic self, to one’s former experiences, and to one’s existing set of values and projects. An additional opening of the person occurs in this process. This requires intimate contact, an inner touching of the content, an evaluation of how this connects with one’s personal world. This process of adoption and selection starts with working on understanding, i.e. connecting the new information with preexisting values. To come to an inner position towards what happened is to activate the power of the person to differentiate from the world and to maintain one’s own. When the person is
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touched emotionally, one is subjected to the alien influence. The person then needs to regain power over him or herself, to be sovereign over its own. The person is given the authority to judge the situation, and he/she needs to do so to regain oneâ€™s own profile in life. Judging is to assert what it means to her or his own life. In a process of constant dialogue, this step involves understanding, emotional evaluation, cognitive evaluation, and finding oneâ€™s will. Understanding. The process of understanding involves three steps. It starts with selfunderstanding. The content gained in the phenomenological analysis is now investigated with regard to why it can have such an effect on oneself. Why does it hurt so much, shatter, disturb, irritate? Do you really understand that? Do you recognize the values which were hurt, the expectations, the needs and hopes, about the life history behind? After having clarified the self-understanding, we move to the next step of understanding the other. The interpersonal situations of life often have a theme of being hurt, betrayed, or let down by another person. This can make it difficult to work on the theme of understanding the other. But it is necessary to have a look on the other and their possible motives. Without trying to understand the other person, dialogical existence cannot be realized. Pursuing otherunderstanding is necessary to restore trust into the world and in the Mitwelt (world of the others), in order to have an orientation for being together. Understanding does not imply condoning or even forgiving another person, and is helpful even when forgiveness is not intended. In some cases of extreme trauma or violation, people do not want to try to understand the other person for self-protection. Of course this has to be respected and is needed for their stability. Many things become understandable when carefully examined. The understanding sought is not an understanding of a singular objective reality, but the ability to empathize with various possibilities, to take perspective, to take into account a greater context. However,
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sometimes facts remain that are simply not understandable to a person. The third step of understanding in PEA 2 is to explicitly clarify what is not understood, or what does not appear to be understandable for both the client and the therapist. Describing the not understandable is important. It may help a person make sense of having feelings or reactions which don’t seem to make sense. Emotional Evaluation (Moral Conscience). The emotional, personally sensed evaluation invokes the person’s moral conscience. “Do you have the feeling that it was OK, that it was right, that it was correct? Did it do justice to you? Have you been seen? Did you do justice to the other?” Questions like these uncover the deepest, most intimate level of the person, their personally felt position. This position coincides what has long be called “moral conscience.” But existentially seen it is a personal moral conscience, not an extension of religious or societal norms. The person is free to detect, within his or her own situation, a feeling of moral judgment. Was this right? Deep down, what is your judgment about this? By making judgments about the situation, the person is asked to make use of his or her essential freedom and autonomy. In making a judgment, the person differentiates him- or her-self from the primary emotional experience, which is now integrated into the person’s entire system of personal values. Cognitive Evaluation (Taking a Stand). On the solid ground of the emotional (felt) evaluation, the person should try to come to a cognitive, conscious position. In this step, the person makes sense of the knowledge and sensations he or she has been able to integrate in order to inform his or her cognitive judgments. “What do I think about my mother? How do I judge her behavior?” Stimulated in the preceding steps, the person can be fully present in her or his cognitive position. This includes also all external information, science (including knowledge about disorders!), and experiences. Finding a cognitive position is a definitive, clear result of the
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client’s work on understanding and finding one’s moral conscience, and leads to finding one’s will. Finding one’s Will. After positioning, we ask again after what is moving in the person. Is there an inner movement that makes you want to do something with your situation? Is something needed? Do you have the feeling that you want to make use of the information you have considered, the position that you have identified? After inner positioning, a person is ready to discern his or her will. Sometimes, there is nothing to be done. Sometimes, the will is to rest and the person has found that understanding and positioning has been curative, sufficient for the time being. Sometimes, it is clear that something needs to be done. The will that has been identified (e.g., “I want to speak to my mother about…”) forms the content for the expression in PEA 3. Expression (PEA 3): What do you want to do? In expression, the will is brought to earth. The person, expressed in his or her will, is becoming tangible, concrete, and focused. In action, the person carries out his or her existence, in the culminating experience of self-actualization by doing what is felt to be needed in the world and for oneself. In reaching the step of expression, the person’s real situation and corresponding feelings and reactions have been explored, one has worked on understanding the meaning of one’s situation and his or her position toward it, and the person has discerned one’s will. Now the person is prepared to make this orientation and ideal realistic, fulfilling one’s intentions in a way that is responsible, meaningful, and personally authentic. Fulfilling the tasks of each step of PEA, the person can find his or her felt “yes”—or inner consent—for one’s actions, thus realizing one’s inner freedom in the outer world. By acting, one becomes personally present.
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Meaningful activity is not accidental or arbitrary. It is intentional, felt, reflected, and carefully chosen in concordance with the inner self. To be realistic, the psychotherapeutic process is structured to help the client who may be clear in his or her will, but needs support and encouragement to apply it in a specific way, being able to answer the questions, what?, to whom?, when?, and how? What? First, the therapist guides the client in articulating, based on the direction of movement inherent in his or her will, what he or she wants to do. The person chooses an activity that meaningfully corresponds to his or her experience, values, and purpose and seems to be feasible and realistic in the given situation. To whom? The therapist also helps the client to identify the relevant people in his or her chosen course of action. Perhaps there is somebody the client needs to talk to, to write a letter to. Perhaps the chosen activity is private, directed towards oneself. Who is the recipient of expression in this phase of dialogue? To whom does one need to answer? When? The person is encouraged to identify when he or she can carry out one’s chosen course of action. When is an appropriate time? When is it possible? Is there a time when one expects to have a better chance of experiencing an encounter with the person one’s activity is directed to? Some people are more accessible or have more energy when they have had a break from work or family stressors in their own life. Sometimes it is advisable to announce a wish to encounter or talk and ask for a private time. How? Finally, the therapist prompts the client to consider the specific details in his or chosen activity. “How do you want to do this? What preparation or accommodation should be made in order to do this?” “Would a phone call be best, a letter, or a pre-announcement made by somebody else, etc.?”
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The step of practical action involves re-inserting the person into the world. Changing patterns in behaviors and relationships is difficult. It is frustrating to express a new position when it meets resistance from the other. At this step of the process, the therapist offers support and solidarity to the client. The therapist helps the client, as a person who is emerging into the potential of his or her unique personality, stay connected to his or her authenticity and self-worth, as well as to the meaning and value in his or her intentions. The “adequate and responsible action” we aim to help clients discover in Existential Analysis does not imply a polished and perfect performance. The process of realizing being a person is not neat and tidy, but full of practicing and experimenting in the messy complexity of the person’s real life. Similar to learning to walk for a toddler, implementing new actions can feel clumsy, and it is common to trip and fall. Supporting the process of practicing and experiencing is the client’s own decisiveness and will, which has emerged and been strengthened in therapy. The clearer the will, the easier it is to get up after a fall, to keep practicing, and to determinedly work on carrying out one’s existence in practical action. The therapist also provides support for the client’s process of actualization. The therapist remains in connection and dialogue with the client, as the client takes new practical steps in fulfilling his or her existential intentions. The therapist provides a relational base of support from which to encourage the client in developing increasing autonomy in carrying out his or her unique existence, normalizing such stumbles and falls as integral parts of the journey of authentic self-actualization in a meaningful and fulfilled existence. Conclusion “He who treats two patients in the same manner has, at least, wrongly treated one” ~Dubois
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Viktor Frankl used to reference the quote cited above, which he attributed to the French physician, Dubois. As a phenomenological method to psychotherapy, the practice of Personal Existential Analysis facilitates an idiographic description and understanding of a person in his or her unique situation in the world. Nomothetic observations, which are systematized into general explanatory frameworks about human behavior, are also useful in offering a holistic view of the person. As human beings, we share a number of physical, mental, and psychological characteristics. This shared reality justifies the search for general laws. However, the individual characteristics of body, soul, and spirit, which cannot adequately be observed or measured in the scientifically oriented paradigms, are the primary themes of interest in EA. A parent who is familiar with typical patterns of sleep behavior in infants, generated from nomothetic observations, can readily appreciate that one’s own child has not read the “baby book.” Of course it can be helpful to normalize or predict disruptions in sleep patterns as the result of teething, illness, or growth spurts. However, what is most relevant in any given moment is what one’s own child’s unique needs and experiences are, based on their current physiological status, psychosocial adjustment, temperament, and other idiosyncratic factors. The way one’s own child can best be helped when in distress is through an idiographic approach to understanding and empathizing rather than a nomothetic approach to explaining. Similarly, situated in the school of Humanistic-Existential approaches to psychotherapy (Längle & Kriz, 2012), PEA approaches the person as the subject, who is best helped through an idiographic focus on understanding the person in his or her actual existence. The direction of psychotherapeutic work in PEA is toward mobilization of the person, who can ultimately only be understood in one’s singularity. The person is the subject, engaged in dialogue, not the object of
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analysis. Experiences in which one feels any variation of, “I am not fully myself” are appropriate for the work of personal existential analysis. This method, which must be applied to concrete and specific circumstances, may also be applied in a cyclical process within a person’s broader life context. For example, a client may focus their work in PEA on specific problematic incidents with one’s partner. The client may be able to go through the steps of PEA with separate situations, each time gaining clarity about the situation, one’s phenomenological experience, one’s inner position, and then taking up a responsible action. These situations may also fit into a broader theme or pattern in the relationship, leading to increasingly integrated inner positioning and decisiveness. The result of working on specific situations may lead a client to take the action of standing up for her- or himself in an argument. Over time, the client may express a decisive position about the whole direction of the relationship, perhaps even resolving to end it if the conditions in the partner do not become adequate for a genuine encounter. In conclusion, PEA, the primary method in Existential Analysis, is a systematic application of a phenomenological perspective in psychotherapy. Though phenomenological perspectives are often understood better by what they are not (i.e., dogmatic, manualized treatments developed from universal observations), and we who subscribe to them often resist confines out of a commitment to “not put one’s client in a box,” PEA offers a transparent structure for assisting one’s client in their singular, personal, life journey. One of the authors (AL) has devoted his professional career to sifting and synthesizing observations about how to effectively accompany clients in their personal development toward a fulfilled and meaningful existence. PEA was developed from this work. The other (JK) is a clinical psychologist with feminist-informed perspectives about relationality and connection as the basis for personal
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development, an interest in reducing oppressive power dynamics in the therapeutic encounter, and a commitment mobilizing the strengths and resources of an individual to be oneself. PEA has provided an effective framework for realizing this. In the steps of PEA, several processes take place. The individual,
relates personally to the conditions of his or her existence through exploring the facts (PEA 0),
connects to one’s own feelings and impressions, thereby building capacity for self-acceptance and acceptance of “what is” (PEA 1),
engages inner dialogue to come to understanding and inner positioning, thereby experiencing self-distancing (PEA 2), and ultimately
comes to decisive and responsible actions toward oneself and towards the world, thus experiencing self-transcendence in the subjective carrying out of one’s existence (PEA 3).
Corresponding to the dialogical nature of personhood, in which the human being is in a constant process of exchange with oneself and the world as a basis for realizing being a person, the methodical steps of PEA support authentic inner and outer dialogue with the aim of restructuring the capacity of the person, in order to facilitate the possibility of encounter.
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References Frankl, V. (2004). On the Theory and Therapy of Mental Disorders: An Introduction to Logotherapy and Existential Analysis. New York: Brunner-Routledge. Frankl, V. (1988). The Will to Meaning. New York: Penguin Books. Hebbel, F. (2013) Tagebücher. Stuttgart: Reclam, Eintrag No. 1854. Längle, A. (1995). Personal Existential Analysis. In: Psychotherapy East and West. Integration of Psychotherapies. Seoul: Korean Acadamy of Psychotherapists, 348-364. Längle, A. (1999a). Was bewegt den Menschen? Die existentielle Motivation der Person. In: Existenzanalyse 16, 3, 18-29. Längle, A. (1999b). Existenzanalyse – Die Zustimmung zum Leben finden. In: Fundamenta Psychiatrica 12, 139-146. Längle, A. (2003). The method of “Personal Existential Analysis.” European Psychotherapy 4(1), 37-53. Längle, A. (2005). The search for meaning in life and the existential fundamental motivations. Existential Analysis, 16(1), 2-14. Längle, A. (2012). The Viennese School of Existential Analysis. The search for Meaning and Affirmation of Life. In: Barnett L., Madison G. (Eds.). Existential therapy: Legacy, vibrancy, and dialogue. New York: Routledge, 2ß12, 159-170. Längle, A. A., & Kriz, J. (2012). The renewal of humanism in European psychotherapy. Psychotherapy, 49(4), 430-436. doi: 10.1037/a0027397. Prochaska, J. O. & Norcross, J. C. (2014). Systems of Psychotherapy: A Transtheoretical Analysis, Eighth Edition. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning.
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Figure 1. Conceptual Framework for PEA within an Existential-Analytic Anthropology
PEA-0 • Description • Narrative • What happened
PEA-1 • Phenomenological Analysis • (Empathic attitude)
Figure 2. A Summary of the Procedural Steps of PEA
PEA-2 • Perception • Judgment • (Confrontive attitude)
PEA-3 • Execution • Action • (Encouraging Attitude)
A Radical Phenomenology of Wilderness Spirituality
A Radical Phenomenology of Wilderness Spirituality
Abstract: In light of the rising popularity of wilderness psychology and spirituality and their practical applications, such as wilderness therapy, this paper articulates a phenomenologically based heuristic for navigating and interpreting one's primordial experience of wilderness encounter. The framework is derived from the historical development of Husserl’s common sense attitude via Patoĉka's revision and Erazim Kohàk’s radical experiential brackets. This understanding invites a subversion of the affective nature of one's common sense attitude through an experiential bracket. The brackets disrupt and deconstruct our common sense attitudes by allowing a space for dissonant affective elements of our experience to presence themselves to us. This influx of radical alterity incites a reevaluation of our given relationship to life the universe and everything else. The heuristic supports the subversion and deconstruction of our common sense attitudes in pursuit of a more open relationship to our life-world. Furthermore, the paper will attempt to demonstrate how the heuristic provides a language for navigating and making sense of one's wilderness encounter.
A Radical Phenomenology of Wilderness Spirituality
Introduction: The wilderness has attracted a great deal of attention in the past few decades. From the work of environmentalists such as Aldo Leopold and Rachel Carson to the work of religious scholars such as Beldan C. Lane, Susan Bratton Powers, and Douglas Burton Christie, and popular secular authors such as Edward Abbey, and Douglas Peacock: others the wilderness gained a voice in our culture. We have seen a dramatic rise in psychological reflection on wilderness experience and the near exponential increase in wilderness therapy- particularly for delinquent youth. Philosophical reflection on wilderness experience has begun, but is still lacking. Lots of work has shown that wilderness has near or actual spiritual significance; but what happens phenomenologically to establish that significance? I intend to propose a phenomenological description of wilderness spirituality. Using the radical experiential brackets of Erazim Kohák and his grounding in the philosophical lineage of Edmund Husserl, I have set out to describe the experience of a spiritual encounter in the wilderness and how wilderness facilitates an encounter with the numinous mystery. Yet, the phenomenological method offers us more than mere description. The radical experiential brackets Kohák proposes, invite us into a praxis and heuristic for disrupting our common-senseattitudes and opening ourselves to the previously unimagined alterity of the numinous. In this way, the brackets not only assist us in describing wilderness spirituality, but invite us to practice wilderness spirituality and the reorienting reevaluation of our life-world that it offers. The wilderness has always been understood in contradistinction to culture and humanity. Hence, any wilderness oriented praxis will by necessity incorporate a significant critique of the cultural apparatus of the day. In our world, that cultural apparatus is technology and relationships of control and manipulation are typical of our culture’s relationship to its life-world. This is 2
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where I start: by establishing that technology is the common-sense-attitude of our time. I then describe the experiential bracketing of technology, established by Kohák, and conclude with an outline of the encounter with alterity in the experience between the brackets.
Technology as Common-Sense-Attitude In his criticism of the objectivistic approach of science, positivism, and empiricism, Edmund Husserl identifies the assumption of an objective world of mere objects factually existing “out there” from one’s self as the natural standpoint, or common-sense-attitude. 1 A common-sense-attitude is simply the assumption, or assumptions, that precede and inform our perceptions. Hence, by assuming that there is a world of things that we can objectively access, measure and catalog we characterize our perceptions before we can even experience them. Erazim Kohák, in his commentary on Husserl’s Ideas, explains that the assumptions that constitute our common-sense-attitude have such an effect on our perceptions as to produce “a low level theory rather than a direct report.” 2 By articulating the basic theoretical nature of the scientific common-sense-attitude Husserl begins his deconstruction of the scientific approach. And, for a philosophical critique of science, that is sufficient. However, since he first published Ideas in 1911 the common-sense-attitude of science has, despite extensive criticism from philosophers, religions, and scientists alike, not simply survived but grown in its commonality. Particularly since the rise of postmodern thinking and the oft-correlated popularization of relativism in all spheres of life and thinking; the objectivistic assumptions of science have served as a bulwark of certainty against the sudden onset of the “vertigo of relativity”. 3 As Daniel Taylor notes in his little book The Myth of Certainty, this desperate clinging to certainty closes us off to mystery, depth, and encounters with the numinous. 4 This commons-sense-attitude of objective certainty has not only been propagated and sustained in the realm of epistemological 3
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reflection, but has been buttressed by the immense proliferation of personally accessible technology. The propagation of personal technology has been tremendous. In early 2012 The Pew Research Center found that â€œ88 percent of Americans have a cell phone, 58% have a desktop computer, 61% have a laptop computer, 18% have an ebook reader, and 18% have a tablet computer.â€? 5 Or in a more classic metric, Nielsen found in 1975 that the average number of televisions per American household was 1.75 with over 57% of households having a single set. In 2009 the average had jumped to 2.86 and 54% of households having three sets. 6 These studies do not mean much on their own but are indicative of and illustrate how normative technology has become in our culture. The prevalence of internet access, climate control for homes and businesses, electronic banking, shopping, and socializing are all products of a common-senseattitude that was necessitated by and is extrapolated from, the very scientific attitude Husserl critiqued. This attitude sees the world not simply as objectively accessible and factually knowable, but also as manipulatable, and appropriately manipulated. The pursuit of the technical manipulation of the objective world has, since the beginning, been implicit in the scientific project. 7 Now, rather than being locked up in a scientific laboratory, technology has brought into the purview of the common individual the ablity to access and manipulate her world in astounding ways. The assumptions of technological manipulation are not limited to electronic gadgets but are wrapped up in the very fabric of the scientific approach to the assumed objective world. As the Catholic thinker, Gabriel Marcel demonstrates, the scientific method itself is a technology: [The scientific method is] a group of procedures, methodically elaborated, and consequently capable of being taught and reproduced, and when these procedures are put into operation they assure the achievement of some definite concrete purpose. 8
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Marcel is clear, just as Kohák and Husserl, that technology, on the surface, is not morally problematic in itself. It is a proper use of human ingenuity for the solving of legitimate problems. But that is only in the abstract. When we look at our relationship to technology in experience, it is clearly more complex. Even writing in the early 1950’s Marcel identifies the move from our pursuit of technology for the purpose of achieving some end- he uses the example of a car used to get from place to place- towards a value of technique for the sake of technique which loses sight of the original goal. In his example the car collector who has such a ‘passion’ for his vehicles that he cannot see them as a means of transportation. We see the same relationship occurring in people who need to have the latest model iPhone and are willing to camp for days in front of the store to buy one. Or we can see it in our culture’s obsession with sexual performance, which has led to a major market of toys, performance enhancing drugs, and books promising greater technique to lead to more and better orgasms. Marcel’s definition of technology is useful because it pulls thinking about technology away from simply electronics or gadgets. Rather, thinking about technology means that we need to look at our basic relationship to the world. Technology is more than a vibrator or an iPhone, it is a methodology for maximizing a desired outcome. This pursuit of maximized outcome in all pursuits is implicit in the technological common sense attitude. Jacques Ellul writes in his watershed, The Technological Society, the basis of technology is “the totality of methods rationally arrived at and having absolute efficiency in every field of human activity.” 9 We have seen this pursuit of efficiency spread from factories and laboratories into the home. From appliances to detergents, from our food to our toilet paper, and from sex and procreation to the way we die; the pursuit of efficiency and the assumption that we can invent a way to do this better is basic. It is not good enough in our
A Radical Phenomenology of Wilderness Spirituality
culture to simply wash dishes by hand to save water, we need a water efficient dishwasher. Or in the realm of procreation, a great part of the promise of in vitro fertilization and genetic mapping is to make the process of reproducing humanity more efficient and “effective.” Our technological approach to life has become typical. The pursuit of efficiency and effectiveness has come to outweigh most other considerations. Kohák presents a parallel description of technology. He, taking his starting point from Husserl, also begins with the thinking that ground our contemporary technology obsession: the scientific method. He argues that the scientific approach is rooted in “‘objective reality’ – the conception of nature as a system of dead matter propelled by blind force.” 10 Kohák is emphatic that this objectivistic view of the world is “the product of a subject’s purposeful and strenuous activity, a construct built up in the course of an extended, highly sophisticated abstraction.” 11 This activity is itself a technology pursuing efficient ends. Again, this is not a bad thing in itself; only when we stop seeing it as a procedure towards an end and see it as a description of reality does it become problematic: As a methodological device, [the scientific method] is a useful and legitimate procedure. Increasingly, however, we have come to treat the construct it yields, useful for the purposes of manipulating our physical environment, as if it were what nature in truth is. 12 Here Kohák identifies that the increasing commonality of our technological common-senseattitude conflates the world of the scientific method with reality. This conflation of scientific method with reality develops in tandem with the technological artifacts and the two cannot be divested. Kohák goes on to counter the potential objection that our technology is insubstantial compared to the wild powers of the creation: “Our world of artifacts may be no more than the thinnest of layers covering the rhythm of living nature, but it is that layer that we confront in our daily experience.” 13 His response is clear- technology is more influential in our daily lives than
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the created world, because it has become the common-sense-attitude of our time. Defending this assessment, Kohák uses the categories typical and exceptional: With the expansion of our technology, we have, in effect, translated our concepts into artifacts, radically restructuring not only our conception of nature but the texture of our ordinary experience as well. It is exceptional rather than routine for us to sit before a croft of an evening, watching the all-reconciling night spread out. 14 The non-technological experience is now exceptional. Technology, on the other hand, is the typical experience, the assumed way of being in the world for our culture, and fundamentally characterizes our relationship to our life world. In a passing comment, Kohák powerfully uses the example of time to show just how pervasive our technology has become: “The idea of 1800 hours on 6 June 1981 is a pure artifact, a construct imposed upon nature’s rhythm, subordinating and ordering it.” 15 The 24 hour day, the 30 or 31 day month, the twelve month year are all abstract technologies through which we perceive the time of our existence. If we did not have the technological artifact of abstract time we would never experience 7:00 AM, or NOON, or 25 December. Rather, our experience would be characterized by dawn, dusk, waning and waxing moons, autumn and winter. Yet this is not how we commonly experience time. We experience it as 9:00 AM to start work, 5:00 PM to commute home, five minutes late for a meeting, or 15 minutes early to a party. Just like the rest of technology, these constructs are useful for their purpose, but they do not describe the nature of time given in human experience. Despite being a tool, our concepts of clock-and-calendarordered time have become our basic assumption about our relationship to time. It, also like the rest of technology, has become our common-sense-attitude, unquestioningly characterizing our relationship to our life world. Before the 1912 invention of technologies as ubiquitous as the shopping bag or the Dixie cup, Husserl argued that scientific objectivism’s view of the world as factually existent and 7
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objectively accessible was our common-sense-attitude. Not much has changed since then. Science remains enthroned as the primary source of knowledge and wisdom in our culture. However, it has been aided by the omnipresence of technology. Technology now characterizes our common-sense-attitude. Not only do we see the world as factually existent and objectively accessible, but also assume it to be technologically manipulatable. This technological manipulation appears in many ways, from simple procedures for attaining efficiency to sophisticated methods of changing our environment, all the way down to the way we conceive of time. Once having established the common-sense attitude in question, Husserl’s phenomenological method calls for the practice of an epoche, or a bracketing. This procedure is at the heart of phenomenology and is the very procedure Kohák radicalizes to an experiential level. Kohák’s Radicalization of Husserl’s Epoche Kohák clearly takes his place in the intellectual genealogy of Husserl, attributing to Husserl the discovery of “the affirmation of the primacy of the subject, though in his full destiny and context.” 16 With that recognition one must change one’s focus. This is the role of the Husserlian epoche. The epoche is primarily an intellectual project and yet our experience is always more than intellectual. Following this, Kohák’s radicalization is also indebted to Patočka’s emphasis on embodiment and the centeredness of our experience in our incarnation in the world among the objects we experience. The idea that humans do not belong in and among creation is in Kohák’s view “primordially, radically counterintuitive. Humans, notoriously, live their lives in and as their bodies whose rhythm is integrated with the rhythm of nature.” 17 And since we live incarnated in our bodies, so too are our experience and our perception incarnated.
A Radical Phenomenology of Wilderness Spirituality
And if we are to study our perception then our bodies must be taken into account as well. Thus we have the development of phenomenology; from the study of consciousness through to embodiment and then culminating in the radical bracketing of experience fully in line with Husserl and Patočka: The first task, posed by Husserl’s Crisis was that of a recovery of the ‘natural’ world of our lives, the world of good and evil, as ontologically significant. Patoĉka’s work, I believe, goes a long way toward meeting that need. The next step needs to be a recovery of the natural world without quotes, the world of nature, as meaningful, not just in conception but in perception. 18
In his pursuit of “nature without quotes,” Kohák develops a radical and experiential epoche. Kohák, again, follows Husserl’s lead and articulates his practice in opposition to the materialistic ontology of modern science. Science, according to Kohák, is dependent upon the conception of the world as a mass of meaningless value-free matter. Where Husserl starts his reflections on arithmetic and ends with positivism, Kohák has a century of continued technoscientific development and the practical use of the scientific ontology that is necessary for our current consumption of ‘natural resources’ for materialistic gratification. With the presumed death of God, Kohák points out, the creation can only be a “cosmic accident” that is “contingently propelled by blind force, ordered by efficient causality” and conveniently available for our unmitigated consumption. 19 But this is not the only foil Kohák has for his brackets. By the mid 20th century the existential turn in philosophy had provided Kohák with another foil against which to define his version of the epoche. Husserl’s context at the end of the long 19th century, was one of confidence and faith in the human spirit and in technological progress. With the Great War, the Even Greater War, and the Greatest War that Never Happened, the 20th century was a much less optimistic place. Kohák cites Sartre, Camus, and even Heidegger in their description of the human as an embattled outsider contingently thrown 9
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into an absurd world. 20 As the epitome of the despair of existentialism, Kohák cites Sartre’s Being and Nothingness. Sartre, in Kohák’s reading, argues that the world is arbitrary and humans have an arbitrary will to create their own sense of meaning in life. The material realm is at best meaningless and at worst, threatening; the meaning of life can only be seen in retrospect as one reflects on why they did what they did. 21 This intellectual climate further entrenched the scientific construct of a meaningless and arbitrary material realm. This view of life as arbitrary provides an additional counterthrust to Kohák’s epoche. In order to establish his radical epoche in contradistinction to the scientific and existential views of his day, Kohák proposes brackets on two levels. First is the typical Husserlian bracketing of our conceptions. Here, Kohák proposes that we suspend our ontological judgments, specifically our “conception of nature as ‘material.’” 22 To radicalize his epoche, Kohák goes further to propose the bracketing of technology as our “constructs are no longer merely conceptual. We have translated them into artifacts which effectively hide the sense of our lived experience from us.” 23 It is this dislocation of our lived experience that Kohák’s epoche attempts to bridge. Given that our perceptions are embodied and our bodies are now insulated by our artifacts, Kohák proposes a practical bracket of technology: If the products of human techne become philosophically and experientially problematic, it is, I would submit, because we come to think of them as autonomous of the purpose which led to their production and gives them meaning. […] This is why I choose to stress Husserl’s conception of bracketing. The task of critique of artifacts appears to me strictly analogous to the phenomenological critique of theoretical constructs. […] Even so, it is not the purpose of bracketing the world of our techne to return, as Thoreau might have sought to do, to some prelapsarian, pretechnological existence but rather to restore its validity by capturing the moral sense which it simultaneously mediates and obscures. 24
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In Kohák’s personal practice of bracketing, he moves to a cabin on an abandoned New Hampshire farm and lives off the grid, lighting with candles and heating with a wood stove. The practical outcome of Kohák’s brackets is that he has reconstituted his life in order to encounter experience without technological trappings. Without culture and technology, an individual reverts to the more primordial concerns of the wilderness beyond our technological apparatus: food, water, and shelter. Brackets are not a value judgment, but rather a recognition that technology changes the context within which we experience life and our relationship to our experience. As Kohák notes, it may be that our highly technical society “may make philosophical reflection impossible when it assumes an absolute ontological status and subordinates the moral subject to its mechanical order.” 25 The purpose of bracketing our technology is to privilege the primordial experience behind the artifacts- not to judge technology as morally bankrupt. Kohák recounts his practice of radical bracketing in The Embers and the Stars: A Philosophical Inquiry into the Moral Sense of Nature. Throughout the Embers, Kohák attempts to articulate the moral principles he views as givens in the human experience of the creation. In this pursuit, he articulates a perspective on technology that views it as a link in a positive feedback loop of experience. This feedback loop misdirects our reflection so that we assume that life is meaningless unless we impose meaning and order upon it. This feedback loop is grounded on the design we build into our artifacts. Technology of any sort is designed by humans to meet some purpose. A lamp is designed to provide light to read, or to cook, or to tie flies by- depending on the lamp. A computer is designed for word processing, gaming, internet surfing, or video editing. Each machine has a design and a purpose. A nail gun and a stapler have two distinct designs and two distinct
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purposes. When we experience technology we experience the design implicit in them. The more our experience is saturated with technology, the more our experience is saturated with human designs. The pervasiveness of technology, and the human designs implicit in, insulates us from “primordial” experience. Kohák refers to primordial, in this sense, to describe a situation where we experience prior to having imposed our structures of understanding, or our designs upon the experience. Hence, the designs implicit in technology change our experience, so that we experience human design rather than the primordial- that is the experience that is prior to the imposition of human structures. Technology amplifies our own sense of design and reduces our availability to alterity that wilderness offers. This is the source of the positive feedback loop Kohák attributes to technology; the more we insulate ourselves with technology, the more our experience is defined by that technology, which leads to reflections about the meaning of our experience to be defined by technology. Kohák interprets the technological culture of the west as one totally participating in Sartre’s worldview; as a life project that imposes meaning and order on the non-human world. Kohák’s principle concern is that technology does not determine our thinking about meaning, morality, and spirituality: Sensing the life of the forest around me, I think only a person wholly blinded and deafened, rendered insensitive by the glare and the blare of his own devices, could write off that primordial awareness of the human’s integral place in the cosmos as mere poetic imagination or as ‘merely subjective’. 26 It is this pursuit that informs his methodological conviction of “not only a conceptual bracketing, but a practical bracketing as well, a bracketing of artifacts.” 27 The practice of experiential bracketing disrupts the positive feedback loop of our technological apparatus and clears a space in our experience for new and previously unimagined encounters with alterity. The Experience Between the Brackets: 12
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Between the radical brackets the wilderness experience has many common and shared characteristics. The reversion to primordial concerns of food, water, and shelter which we do not commonly concern ourselves with is a prime example. In regards to our openness to the numinous mystery, the experience of fear appears most central to the wilderness encounter and to all accounts of wilderness spirituality. Wilderness has, since Hebraic times, stood in opposition to civilization: a region of disorder and danger, and uncontrolled environment where humans do not belong. Even the United States Government has defined wilderness legally as: A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain. 28 Roderick Nash, in his watershed Wilderness and the American Mind, argues that wilderness defies analytic definition, but through an etymological analysis, finds that wild beasts, disorder, confusion and wild-ness dominate. 29 As Kip Redick summarizes: In wilderness all cultural orientation is absent and the person who wanders there becomes “bewildered.” Wilderness is a landscape where humans have not left artifacts of habitation or as Nash articulates, predominately the environment of the non-human. 30 Fear is an appropriate, natural, and human response to “bewilderment” and alterity. Environments where we do not have our cultural apparatus or technological gadgets are legitimately dangerous places. The revealing of fear is important in practically all wilderness spiritual accounts. The desert fathers saw fear as central to their spiritual practice because their practice “required courage, a willingness to face one’s own fragility as well as the fragility and brokenness of the world.” 31 Belden Lane connects the harshness of landscape to one’s sense of the harshness of the numinous which undercuts typical religious optimism:
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These are places where human beings have frequently encountered a God of seemingly fierce indifference […] This is the God of Abraham’s children, Tibetan devotees of the Dalai Lama, and even Scots Presbyterians who made their way to New England […] In each case their God was no less foreboding and captivating than the landscape through which they moved. 32 The fierce indifference of the numinous and the world opens us up to an existential fear- the fear of nothingness and death. Kohák tells of a storm raging through his New England valley and the fear of an unexplained vision: There is a sense of dark, ominous force abroad, exploding from behind the clear world of the sunlit day and the placid surface of a mind seemingly at peace. […] The vision, the moment of fear, then the exaggerated behavioral response, all that came from within. 33 Kohák, here, points to the inclusive and self-indicating nature of fear that “comes from within.” Yet the existential fear is legitimate. The non-human world is vast, inhospitable, and indifferent. Kohák recalls a January night when the emptiness of his life-world revealed itself: Only gradually I grew in aware of immense, intergalactic emptiness bearing down on my house, leaning against the shakes, leaning into the windows, pressing down on the frozen forest and deep into the snow. […] Only the moon remained, and the vast, cold emptiness of the space, the deep all-devouring cold, freezing all life, pressing down on me and demanding its own. Something like a panic seized me. […] There was nothing. 34 The possibility of being nothing, of emptiness, of frigidity, and of death are all apparent in the wilderness. Our fragility and vulnerability, typically concealed from our experience by our dayto-day doings and the comforts of our social and technological life, become central to our selfperception in the wilderness. Often these fears become tied to an object, like a bear or a snake: an object which we can then avoid via a pistol or bear spray. But these technological objectivications tie us to what Marcel calls the problematic way of relating to the world. The problematic locks us into a certainty that denies the possibility of an encounter with and release into mystery.
A Radical Phenomenology of Wilderness Spirituality
The presence of death and fear does not, however, necessarily induce a disavowal of our common-sense-attitude. Instead, our fears tend to perpetuate and further entrench our stunted relationship to alterity by further buttressing our habitual objectivism towards our life-world. Our common-sense-attitude suggests that to be afraid is a bad thing and that one must act to alleviate the fear. Our actions, being primarily technological, are wrapped up in the objectivistic and scientific conceptualizations that we regularly indwell. Our actions, in this manner, become dictated by the fear they attempt to overcome and we become incapable of experiences that we have not previously imagined. Our conceptualization, our gadgets, and our actions, in the common sense attitude, combine to close us off to the unknown, unexpected, and non-human other, completely undermining any attempt at spiritual openness. Though this creates a potentially dire situation, we do not have to act out of our common sense attitude of technology in response to fear. We are free to relate to fear out of openness, acceptance, and release. Existential fear is not outside ourselves. It is not an object to be overcome, but it includes and implicates us. Therefore, an authentic response to the revelation of fear cannot be one of tightening control and the leveraging of mental faculties. We cannot overcome ourselves via a property or ability of ourselves. We must respond to these mysteries through release. Or, in Patočka’s language, our fear warps our relationship to the truth by making us a slave to itself. An act of self-sacrifice, a giving of one’s self, disrupts the self-oriented and constrained being of technological fear, allowing us to be open to truth once again. Or, again, in Kohák’s language, we wield our technology in the aim of dissuading fear and end up making ourselves a servant to our technology. Only a radical experiential bracketing of our technological apparatus will disrupt our perceptual experience enough to open us to a previously unimagined reality. This radical
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bracketing consists of a refusal to rely on our technological attitude as a means of achieving existential security. The refusal to use technology as our common sense attitude creates a space for dissonant affective elements of our experience to presence themselves to us. This influx of radical alterity incites a reevaluation of our given relationship to life, the universe, and everything else. The ability of technology to center our being-in-the-world on certainty and control is why our response to fear in the wilderness is central to our receptivity to the other and our willingness to encounter the numinous mystery. The great desert writer Edward Abbey quotes Major John Wesley Powell, the canyon country explorer: You cannot see the grand canyon in one view, as if it were a changeless spectacle from which a curtain might be lifted, but to see it you have to toil from month to month through it labyrinths. It is a region more difficult to traverse than the Alps or the Himalayas, but if strength and courage are sufficient for the task, by a year’s toil a concept of sublimity can be obtained never again to be equaled on the hither side of Paradise. 35 Powell presents an encounter that requires one to face their fears with “courage” to open themselves to the revealing of the canyon in it labyrinths before one can gain the “sublimity” it promises. Peacock, the figure Abbey based his infamous character Heyduke on in The Monkey Wrench Gang, gave an interview with National Geographic where he describes how and why he has come to devote his life to being around and protecting Grizzly bears: Because you really can't be self-indulgent in grizzly country. You've got something bigger than you out there, something that can kill and eat you any time it chooses to, though it seldom does. Being among grizzlies forces humility. And that's what I needed, because that's the emotional posture behind learning: humility. 36 Peackock identifies the thrust of relationship between humanity and wilderness as one necessitating human humility. Our common-sense-attitude, on the contrary, is one that asserts
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our power and will over creation. Where human assertions of power and will are impossible, a posture of humble reception is demanded. This receptivity points towards an understanding of wilderness that transcends the physical space we find ourselves in and incorporates a more existential element. David Douglas describes the nature of wilderness not so much as a place with particular characteristics but as a way of being: For me, wilderness depends not only upon the terrain and wildlife but upon one other quality: My vulnerability. Is this the setting where I feel less self-sufficient, more conscious of my reliance on God? 37 The vulnerability before the indifference and dangerous otherness of the wild is a foundational element of the humility of humanity in wilderness that allows us to release our fears. So long as we continue to assert ourselves we will be unable to release our attempts to control and protect and accept the uncontrolled encounter with the numinous mystery. As Kohรกk realized on the night of the January moon, we cannot assert ourselves before the power of non-being. While in the moment it feels final, the bracketing of our efforts to overcome our fears does not end in submission, death, or nothingness. Between the brackets, when we are not pitted against the creation in a fit of promethean defiance, when we release ourselves from the responsibility of maintaining our own security and certainty, we are offered a new vision of being in relationship with our life-world. Between the brackets of our common-sense-attitudes we are offered a vision of life in which we radically belong: a vision of belonging which strikes against the grain of our commonsense-attitude of technology. This vision calls into question the entire cultural imagination of civilization rising like an island in a sea of wilderness and, more importantly to our contemporary imaginations, it calls into question the singular person standing out against the mass of meaningless matter creating her own meaning. Rather, without our technologies of
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maintaining control and certainty, we are faced with a radical and fearful nothingness in death. This vulnerability demands a self-emptying humility that ultimately opens us to love. As Lane writes: When people are drawn geographically to the remote edges of our world, they are carried metaphorically to the edges of themselves as persons, invited into an emptiness as exhilarating as it is frightening. Encountering overwhelming fierceness at the end of all possibilities, they know themselves to be loved in wild and unanticipated grace. 38 Lane makes a direct comparison between the physical limits we transgress when we enter a physical wilderness and the existential limits we transgress when we enter an existential wilderness. In the history of wilderness spirituality, Lane remarks, the liminality of the wilderness pulls one out of themselves, allowing the love and grace of the numinous to enter. This sudden acceptance of love and grace is evidenced in the Buddhist-influenced Robert Kull. Kull describes a shift of release of fear in the dark, bear-ridden woods, which makes room for a fullness of belonging and acceptance: The world was no longer a hostile alien place, but my home. No true separation remained between me and the world. After that night of inner transformation, the whole world seemed vibrantly alive, and I lived for several weeks deeply integrated into the universe, glorying in the beauty of mountains, lake, and sky. There was also Something Else out there; Something non-physical and beyond definition. I was part of that, too, and felt accepted and at peace. 39 Kullâ€™s reorientation from a fear of the world that nearly drove him out of the wilderness to a relationship of belonging and acceptance is characteristic of the possibilities of release into the mystery of fear in the wilderness. Integration, acceptance, glory, and vibrant life all evidence a dramatic shift in conscious perceptions of a world intent on destruction, death, and darkness. This same shift is even evident in Abbey, despite his resounding distaste for all things spiritual. He still acknowledges a life in the world beyond humanityâ€™s: A variety of asters are blooming along the road and among the dunes; with yellow centers and vivid purple petals, the flowers stand out against their background of rock and coral18
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red sand with what I can only describe as an existential assertion of life; they are almost audible. Heidegger was wrong, as usual; man is not the only living thing that exists.40 And though he does not deign himself to speak of love and acceptance after his near-death experience in Havasu Canyon he does illustrate a shift in perception from the midst of despair to release. After having submitted to death, Abbey looks up out of the canyon at the sky: Across that narrow opening a small white cloud was passing, so lovely and precious and delicate and forever inaccessible that it broke the heart and made me weep like a woman, like a child. All my life I had never seen anything so beautiful. 41 Even Abbey’s claim that the night spent under the rock overhang, after the canyon incident, despite the discomforts, rain, and nightmares, was the “happiest night” of his life points towards a shift in consciousness. I would also venture to posit that the tenderness and detail with which Abbey approaches the desert country throughout his writing, while not providing us a specific punctiliar moment of realization, evidence a recognition of a radical belonging and acceptance within the wilderness. Kohák’s reorientation to a posture of love and grace is perhaps the easiest to identify. The entire text of Embers and the Stars is a description of Kohák’s vision of life and his life-world between his radical technological brackets. On the night of the January moon, Kohák shifts into a posture of gratefulness for “the miracle of warmth, the miracle of life, for the fullness of Being.” 42 Throughout his text he speaks to a shift in perception that moved from a position of human action over the wilderness to human acceptance and love within the living wilderness. In a reflection on the harm that humans must bring about to survive, Kohák receives an invitation during a thunderstorm where the power of the storm and the lightening offered him a new way of perceiving his role in the world, “there comes an overwhelming, agonizing, and reconciling recognition of being accepted, being justified. Here the dweller is an alien no longer. Nature envelopes and accepts him.” He found an acceptance in the power of a storm he could not effect 19
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or avoid. Similarly, using the language of a forest clearing as a metaphor for radical experiential brackets Kohák finds the living reality of creation: In the intimate green peace of the forest clearing […] the nature which throughout the day obligingly assumed the guise of an artifact does not disintegrate into meaninglessness. It stands out in its own being. The brook cascades over the rocks like flowing silver. The trees swings gently in the breeze. An owl hovers in the treetop over the rabbit grazing unconcerned under the protective cover of broken branches. [... Nature] is not alien to our human mode of being: quite the contrary, it is radically its kin. Though perhaps a stranger in the world of his own making the human in his humanity, […] is at home in a nature which is not yet his, subdued by him and depersonalized in it subjugation. 43 The great takeaway of Kohák’s text is the shift in perception that is offered during the practice of radical bracketing. We are invited to no longer see the world as object for our manipulation but rather as a living world in which we belong and are accepted. This world is one we encounter and receive, full of mystery, grace, and belonging. The world is not our world to do with as we please, but it is our home.
Husserl, Edmund. Ideas: General Introduction to Pure Phenomenology. translated by W.R. Boyce Gibson. (New York: Collier Books, 1962), 53. 2 Kohàk, Erazim. Idea and Experience: Edmund Husserl’s Project of Phenomenology in Ideas I. (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1978), 11. 3 Peter Berger, Sociology and Theology, Theology Today, October 1967 24: 329-336. 4 Taylor, Daniel. The Myth of Certainty. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992), 35. 5 Pew Research Center, “A Closer Look at Gadget Ownership” accessed 4 April 2013, available from http://www.pewinternet.org/Infographics/2012/A-Closer-Look-at-Gadget-Ownership.aspx. 6 Nielsen Company, “More than Half of Homes in U.S. Have Three or More TVs,” accessed 4 April 2013, Available from http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/newswire/2009/more-than-half-the-homes-in-us-have-three-or-more-tvs.html. 7 Jaques Ellul, The Technological Society, translated by John Wilkinson (New York: Knopf, 1964), xxv-xxvi. 8 Gabriel Marcel, Man Against Mass Society, (South Bend: St. Augustine Press, 2008), 61. 9 Ellul, Technological Society, xxvi. 10 Kohàk, Erazim. The Embers and the Stars: A Philosophical Inquiry into the Moral Sense of Nature. (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1984), 6. 11 Ibid. 12 Ibid., 12. 13 Ibid., 13. 14 Ibid., 12.
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Ibid., 16. Kohàk, Idea and Experience, 194. 17 Kohàk, Embers, 5. 18 Erazim Kohàk, “The Crisis of Rationality and the “Natural” World,” The Review of Metaphysics 40:1 (1986), 106. 19 Kohàk, Embers, 3-5. 20 Ibid., 4. 21 Ibid. 22 Ibid., 22. 23 Ibid., 23. 24 Kohàk, Embers, 24. 25 Ibid.. 26 Ibid., 6. 27 Ibid., 22. 28 The Wilderness Act, U.S. Code. vol. 16, secs. 1131-1136, (1964). 29 Nash, Roderick. Wilderness and the American Mind. (New Haven: Yale UP, 2001), 1-7. 30 Kip Redick, “Wilderness as Axis Mundi: Spiritual Journeys on the Appalachian Trail,” in Symbolic Landscapes, edited by G. Backhaus (New York: Springer, 2009), 69-90. 31 Douglas E. Christie, The Blue Sapphire of the Mind: Notes for a Contemplative Ecology, (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2013), 77. 32 Lane, Beldan C. The Solace of Fierce Landscapes: Exploring Desert and Mountain Spirituality. (New York: Oxford UP, 1998), 52. 33 Kohàk, Embers, 142-143. 34 Ibid., 61. 35 Ibid., 169. 36 Ted Chamberlain, “Doug Peackock: Vetran of the Grizzly Wars”, accessed 11 April 2013, available from http://www.nationalgeographic.com/adventure/0007/q_n_a.html. 37 David Douglas, Wilderness Sojourn, (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1987), 10. 38 Lane, The Solace of Fierce Landscapes, 50. 39 Kull, Robert. Solitude: Seeking Wisdom in Extremes. (Novato, California: New World Library, 2008), xii. 40 Abbey, Edward. Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness. (New York: Touchstone, 1968), 248. 41 Ibid., 204. 42 Kohàk, Embers, 62. 43 Ibid., 74. 16
7/13/13 Babb, Montana 307-333-3682 Justin.Pritchett@gmail.com
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Empathy: An Activity, not an Attribute
Introduction In Kohut’s writings, Stolorow (1993) tells us, there emerge two uses of the concept of empathy. There is, on the one hand and more or less consistent with Kohut’s (1959) original conception of it, the notion of empathy as an investigatory stance, as “a mode of observation attuned to the inner life of man” (Kohut 1982: 396). On the other hand, there is the notion of empathy as a mode of affective responsiveness and bonding, as, that is, a “powerful emotional bond between people” (397). What we need to do, Stolorow argues, is keep to Kohut’s (1959) original conception of empathy as a special investigatory stance and use a different term, ‘affective responsiveness’, to designate the phenomenon of the powerful emotional bonding between people. For, Stolorow argues, these two uses of the concept of empathy actually get at distinct ways of being with an other. Now, Kohut himself talks about empathy in at least three ways (see Kohut 1982). On the one hand, he discusses empathy from an experience-distant, or meta-theoretical, perspective. From this experience-distant perspective, empathy is considered in an epistemological context as a way of knowing. On the other hand, Kohut discusses empathy from an experience-near perspective. From the perspective of experience-near theorizing, Kohut distinguishes two levels of empathy: (1) as an information gathering activity of the analyst and (2) as a powerful emotional bonding between people (1982: 397). Thus, despite the fact that he did feel ambivalent about continuing to distinguish these notions of empathy as different levels of the same phenomenon, Kohut unswervingly continued to do so. 1
Kohut felt ambivalent about continuing to distinguish these notions of empathy as different levels of the same phenomenon or activity because he thought that doing so led him to say somewhat contradictory things. For, while Kohut stressed that empathy considered from an experience-near perspective as an information gathering activity is never by itself supportive or therapeutic, he simultaneously maintained that empathy “per se, the mere presence of empathy, has…a beneficial…[or] therapeutic effect – both in the clinical setting and in human 1|Page
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In line with Kohut’s insistence that the two notions of empathy which Stolorow wants to distinguish are actually different aspects of the same phenomenon, I want read the notion of empathy as an information gathering activity together with the notion of empathy as affective responsiveness in order to get at the overarching phenomenon to which they both point and in which they are both, as I will argue, equiprimordially co-implicated. With this phenomenon in view, I will attempt to articulate a robust conception of empathy as something more than, but still indebted to, what either of these two aspects of empathic activity could make of a concept of empathy on their own. In short, the robust conception of empathy which I posit advances empathy as an essentially intersubjective and mutually regulated receptive-response exchange in which patient and analyst lead and accompany each other through a temporal process of psychical experiencing which neither of them has created but in which they both, essentially, participate. We will start by considering the final conception of psychoanalytic cure articulated by Kohut (1984). By first looking at the subtle work that empathy is playing in this Kohutian framework of effective psychoanalytic treatment, we will get a sense of what empathy, as a phenomenon, looks like in the context of meaningful situation. We will then consider the conception of empathy that Kohut articulates from the perspective of experience-distant theorizing. This will provide us with a background for our discussion of the two levels of empathy gotten from experience-near theorizing. In our considerations of the two levels, I will attempt to show that these notions of empathy function in the Kohutian framework of effective psychoanalytic treatment as the pragmatic consequences of Kohut’s conception of empathy gotten through experience-distant theorizing. The aspect of empathic activity spoken about as an ‘investigatory stance’, I argue, gets at the analyst’s pragmatic participation in empathy in the analytic space, while the aspect of empathic activity spoken about as ‘affective responsiveness’ gets at, primarily, the patient’s pragmatic participation in empathy. Thus, while Stolorow insists that these two notions of empathy get at distinct ways of being with an other, they emerge, on my account, as different aspects of a particular way of being with each other. 1
life, in general” (Kohut 1982: 397). This paper aims, in part, to show why Kohut’s continuing to signify these seemingly contradictory ‘levels’ of empathy under the same name was appropriate. 2|Page
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In his final work, How Does Analysis Cure? (1984), Kohut argued that psychoanalytic cure is gotten through the successful negotiation of the presence and absence of empathy at particular crucial moments in the psychoanalytic situation. An empathic bonding and breakdown sequence between patient and analyst is specifically advanced as bringing about such an effective treatment. What is at stake in our grasp of Kohut’s conception of empathy, then, is not least our understanding of the pragmatic material contexts in which, according to Kohut, occurs psychoanalytic cure. In this work, Kohut (1984) posits empathy as the basis of the essential activity involved in the basic therapeutic act. The fundamental constituents of the basic therapeutic act, Kohut maintains, are that of understanding and explaining (94). “In the understanding phase, the analyst verbalizes to the patient that he has grasped what the patient feels; he describes the patient’s inner state to the patient, thus demonstrating to [her] that [she] has been “understood,” that is, that another person has been able to experience, at least in approximation, what [she herself] experienced, whether, for example, the experience in question is one of inner emptiness and depression or of pride and enhanced self-esteem” (176-177). Here, the basic step is the appreciation by the analyst of what the patient is experiencing (feeling, sensing, etc.). This appreciation by the analyst of what the patient is experiencing can, moreover, be communicated to the patient through explicit, verbal utterances or through implicit, nonverbal means; in short, it is communicated through the analyst’s embodied engagement with the patient. The explanatory aspect of the basic therapeutic act is also based on empathy. Here, however, the accuracy, breadth, and depth of the analyst’s genetic interpretations will be strongly influenced by his theoretical equipment (Kohut 1984: 184). Moreover, there is in the explanatory phase an important difference from the understanding phase. This difference is not only a cognitive one but, more significantly, an emotional one: The intensity of the archaic bond of an identity of inner experiences based on the analyst’s ability to perceive the patient accurately and then to communicate what he perceives is lessened as the analyst moves from understanding to explaining. Yet, and this is the crucial point, while the archaic merger is lessened, an empathic bond on a more mature level of experience supplants what has been left behind. The empathic connectedness between patient and analyst is thus retained and, beyond doubt, even deepened in its scope via the analyst’s imparting his dynamic and genetic insights to the patient. As he engages in his explaining activity, the analyst enables the patient to continue to feel supported by the fact that he, the analyst, retains his selfobject2 2
In his last work, Kohut (1984) defined ‘selfobject’ as “that dimension of our experience
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functions and, ipso facto, enables the patient to become more objective vis-à-vis himself and his problems (Kohut 1984: 185).
Through the understanding-explaining sequence, which arises and is maintained in and through the empathic activity between the two, a working-through process is set up that re-creates in analysis a situation in which the patient may develop a more cohesive and resilient self that is able to seek out for itself the fulfilling responsiveness of needed human others, a self which can, at the same time, be sustained by and through her empathic resonance with others, in contrast to a defective self that needs archaic ties for her survival. Now, precisely what is this empathic activity which underlies the understanding-explaining sequence is what we are after. In the context of and through the patient’s experience of and participation in the analyst’s understanding, a need that had been thwarted in the patient’s development is reawakened, this time, however, directed at the analyst. This need manifests itself as a dependence on the analyst to serve for the patient specific psychological functions that she cannot perform for herself. Such psychological functions, generally speaking, include the mirroring, idealizing, and alter-ego selfobject transferences. Inevitably, however, there occur breakdowns in the patient-analyst system. For, the analyst cannot always know and be precisely what the patient needs him to be. These breakdowns are empathic breakdowns where the patient’s dependence on the analyst is frustrated. According to Kohut, these instances when the empathic activity between patient and analyst breaks down are key pieces of the working through process which leads to psychoanalytic cure. The patient, in these instances, turns away from the analyst, emotionally retreats. In the case of optimal frustrations 3, where, for long enough, there is a non-fulfillment by of another person that relates to this person’s functions in shoring up our self” (49). An everyday example of one serving a selfobject function for an other is as follows: a person feels sad, upset, and destabilized and an other gives her a hug which results in her feeling reinvigorated. The other, serving a selfobject function for the individual, has just performed a psychological function for the individual that she could not perform for herself. In the psychoanalytic situation, the selfobject needs that Kohut discusses are met through the mirror, idealizing, and alter-ego selfobject transferences (see Kohut 1971; Kohut 1984). 3
Optimal frustrations occur when, after a basic in-tuneness exists between the self and its selfobjects, the selfobject fails to respond to the self in the needed way but to a nontraumatic degree – in such cases, for instance, as when the response of the selfobject is based 4|Page
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the analyst of the direct need of the patient, the working through of this frustration and the reestablishment of a bond of empathy between the patient and analyst leads to what Kohut calls ‘transmuting internalization’, whereby the patient incorporates into her self the psychic structure that is needed to meet or at least deal with the lack of fulfillment of the need for whose gratification she depended on the analyst. 4 While the basic move towards an effective psychoanalytic treatment is the appreciation by the analyst of what the patient is feeling (Kohut 1984: 96), the final move of analysis is the shift from the patient’s dependence on the analyst as archaic selfobject with whom she can merge to the establishment of a bond between patient and analyst in which the analyst is recognized and functions, generally and for the most part, not as a part of the patient’s self that is necessary for her cohesion, but in a developmentally mature way, as a source of calmness, strength, and understanding (Kohut 1984: 77). This shift occurs, in short, in and through the establishment and maintenance of an empathic-boding and -breakdown sequence between patient and analyst. Now, the establishment and maintenance of this empathic-boding and -breakdown sequence, and, as such, the movement towards psychoanalytic cure, I argue, does not simply occur in virtue of some particular quality or activity of the analyst, not simply in virtue of him performing the basic therapeutic act or attending to the patient in and through a particular on faulty empathy (Kohut 1984: 70). There are, moreover, two important consequences of optimal frustrations. (1) Through a process which Kohut has called ‘transmuting internalization’, optimal frustrations bring about structure formation in the individual so frustrated. This provides the individual with increased self-regulatory capacities. (2) An optimal frustration “prepares the soil for shift in self-selfobject relations”, a shift which Kohut conceived as being of great significance. This shift is, in essence, the shift from the dependence on archaic modes of contact with selfobject others to the ability to be sustained by the empathic resonance of mature selfobject bonds (70). 4
In short, the three-step sequence by which the patient incorporates new structures into her self is: (1) the activation in the patient of a specific need directed at the analyst and an associated optimal frustration, (2) the non-fulfillment of that need by the analyst, and (3) the substitution of the direct fulfillment of that need with the establishment of a bond of empathy between the patient and the analysand (Kohut 1984: 103-104). 5|Page
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investigatory stance. As has been said, according to Kohut the condition for the possibility of all of this is empathy, and insofar as empathy is, as I will argue, the condition for the possibility of the analyst being receptive and responsive to the patient in such a way that the patient may feel understood by him, empathy is not an attribute that can be predicated of the analyst but is, rather, an intersubjective activity. It is this notion of empathy as an essentially intersubjective activity towards which we are working in the next section through our method of reading together the notion of empathy as a mode of observation and the notion of empathy as affective responsiveness. 2 In his seminal paper published in 1959, Kohut posited introspection and empathy as delimiting the psychical field (Kohut 2010). Because the psychic realm is coextensive with whatever can be disclosed through introspection and empathy, and because it is in virtue of introspection and empathy that we are able to observe mental life at all, introspection and empathy, Kohut argues, must serve as the essential constituents of the psychoanalytic mode of observation, of, that is, psychoanalytic fact finding. That introspection and empathy are the essential constituents of the psychoanalytic mode of observation is the case both in the sense that, even though other acts may be employed in conjunction with them, introspection or empathy are necessarily involved in all observations of mentality, and they may be present alone (Kohut, 1959: 462). To say, on the one hand, that introspection and empathy may be employed in conjunction with other acts in order to observe psychic life and experience is to account for cases in which one engages in, say, an imaginative, deliberate process in and through which one grasps something essentially psychological, such as in the case of the unusually tall man (461). To say, on the other hand, that introspection and empathy may be present alone is to account for cases, such as those which crystalize in the psychoanalytic situation between the expert analyst and his patient, where introspective and empathic acts may occur without deliberate effort and where there is not, in fact, another act employed in the observation of the psychic. According to Kohut, in short, introspection and empathy are necessarily employed in the grasping of mentality, with and through other acts or all on their own. Considered in an epistemological context as a way of knowing, empathy, Kohut (1984) writes, “is a value-neutral tool of observation which (a) can lead to correct or incorrect results, (b) can be used in the service of either compassionate, inimical, or dispassionate-neutral purposes, and (c) can be employed either rapidly and outside of awareness or slowly and deliberately, with focused conscious attention. [It is defined] as “vicarious introspection” or, 6|Page
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more simply, as one person’s (attempt to) experience the inner life of another while simultaneously retaining the stance of an objective observer” (174-175). Kohut’s definition of empathy as vicarious introspection is directly related to his idea that, through empathy, one can from an objective standpoint observe the psychic experience of an other. By emphasizing that empathy is objective, Kohut struggles to make us aware of the fact that the psychic life of the other is observed not through a mysterious telepathy of sorts but, rather, through one’s own personal affective experience (Lessem 2005). And by defining empathy as a kind of introspection, Kohut tries to call our attention to how the emergence of an interpretation from empathic receptivity is mediated and made possible by one’s awareness of her own receptivity to the meaningful expressions of the other’s sensory-affective life (Agosta 2010). In the psychoanalytic setting, Kohut tells us, the analyst is supposed to maintain a position of prolonged empathic immersion in his patient’s subjectivity. What this means is that, rather than understanding and interpreting his patient on the basis of his theories, the analyst is supposed to try to understand and interpret his patient from his patient’s experience (Lessem 2005). 5 This requires the analyst to make a focused attempt to enter the “subjective reality” of his patient (Orange 1993), to experience, that is to say, what things are like for his patient and the meanings that they have. The analyst, Kohut maintains, should introspect the vicarious experience aroused in him by the other, and through this introspection, Kohut supposes, the analyst can from an objective standpoint observe a psychological fact. We will now turn to consider how empathy, as described above, plays out pragmatically between patient and analyst in the Kohutian framework of effective psychoanalytic treatment. Considered pragmatically from the standpoint of the analyst, I argue, empathy is a data-gathering activity through which the analyst is affected – led, as it were, by and into – a psychical experience that is not of his own making. This data-gathering activity, as a being-lead-into, informs the analyst’s interpretive response activity, which, according to Kohut, is the 5
Here Kohut is critiquing how traditional Freudian psychoanalysts listen to and engage with their patients. “One reason for Kohut’s emphasis on empathy was that he had become concerned that (Freudian) analysts – and he included himself – were not listening adequately to their patients. Instead, he thought that they were rigidly understanding and interpreting from their theories rather than primarily from their patient’s experience. An authoritarian, omniscient quality, Kohut believed, was too often present in analysts’ listening to and interpreting their patients” (Lessem 2005: 63-64). 7|Page
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understanding-explaining sequence. Since, I argue, all interpretations gotten through the analyst’s empathic receptivity emerge through and are made possible by his awareness of his own receptivity to the meaningful expressions of the other’s sensory-affective life, the analyst’s interpretations of what the patient is experiencing are shaped by his own subjectivity. For, if the analyst’s attentional awareness tends to be directed towards some objects and not others as a result of the analyst’s own unique constitution, and if the analyst tends to attribute certain meanings rather than others to things also as a result of his particular make up, then the analyst’s interpretations of the patient, mediated and made possible in the way described above, are gotten through and shaped by his own subjectivity. Empathy, considered pragmatically in this way as a data-gathering activity of the analyst, is not, moreover, that which satisfies the selfobject need of the patient. Rather, empathy is that which guides the correct and accurate actions and responses of the analyst. Empathy, in this sense, informs the appropriate therapeutic selfobject function vis-à-vis the patient, but it is not, by itself, the selfobject function which the patient needs (see Kohut 1982: 397). Kohut, in suggesting that the analyst should maintain a stance of prolonged empathic immersion, in other words, does not, contra Stolorow’s (1993: 44) interpretation, suggest that the analyst’s empathy amounts to him providing for the patient continual selfobject experiences free from painful repetitions of past childhood traumata. Rather, he simply suggests that analyst should try to understand the data he receives from the standpoint of his patient’s experience, not from the standpoint of his theories. And understanding the data he receives from the standpoint of his patient’s experience, I argue, involves the analyst being-led-into a psychical experience, through his empathic receptivity, by his patient, and this leading of the analyst into the psychical experience is what sets the conditions for the fulfillment or frustration of the experience which the analyst takes the patient as having. 6 Considered pragmatically from the standpoint of the patient, empathy is the patient’s experience of the analyst’s felt understanding. For, empathy, considered from the standpoint of 6
Notice that, given what I have argued for about the shaping of the vicarious experience produced in the analyst (for instance, the tendencies of his attentional awareness to notice some things and not others and in certain ways, his theoretical background, and the meanings that he tends to attribute to things), the conditions for the fulfillment or frustration of the experience the analyst is led into and takes the patient as having are, to some degree or another, shaped by the analyst’s subjectivity.
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the patient, is not, strictly speaking, for Kohut a quality or act of the analyst, but it is, rather, the patient’s experience of the analyst’s response (Lee, Rountree, & McMahon 2009). To be sure, in the psychoanalytic situation, a condition for the possibility of empathy actually having occurred at all is, for Kohut, the patient’s experience of the analyst’s response as an in-tune response or, in other words, the patient’s experience of the analyst as psychologically attuned to her. This is the aspect of empathy which, Kohut claims, “the mere presence of…has…in a broad sense, a therapeutic effect – both in the clinical setting and in human life in general” (Kohut 1982: 397). 7 The responsive in-tuneness of an empathic human surround – the experience, that is, that other psychical beings are aware of you as having your own sensory-affective experiences which they can more or less experience too – is, according to Kohut, a psychological necessity. It is, generally and in most cases, the absence of a responsive in-tune human surround that has led to the defect in the patient’s self, according to Kohut, and it is in virtue of and through the empathic environment constituted by the patient-analyst system that that very defect can be cured. The patient’s experience of the analyst’s felt understanding is not a separable moment of passive recognition by the patient of something that already finished happening. Rather, it is part of the dynamic context in and through which the analyst’s interpretive activity unfolds. In other words, the understanding and enacted appreciation by the analyst of what the patient is experiencing unfolds in real time together with and through the patient’s experience of it. Thus, patient and analyst are co-implicated in this empathic activity, and empathy, we find, is not a quality or attribute of the analyst but is, rather, an intersubjective activity. This empathically enabled receptive-response exchange between patient and the analyst, I argue, amounts to a mutually regulated leading and accompaniment. At this point we have gotten a sense of the underlying empathic activity we sought earlier when we considered Kohut’s framework of effective psychoanalytic treatment: If we consider simultaneously both the activity through which the analyst gathers data about his patient’s experience and that activity through which the patient experiences the analyst’s response as psychologically attuned to her, we find they both point toward a phenomenon of which they both are aspects, indeed a phenomenon in which they are both essentially co-implicated, namely the phenomenon of empathy as a mutually-regulated, intersubjective, temporal activity. 7
That is to say, Kohut claims that the feeling that an other is attuned and response to you has a ‘therapeutic’ effect both in and out of the psychoanalytic setting. 9|Page
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The patient, through her free associations, leads the analyst into and through her subjective reality in order for him to grasp, understand, and, ultimately, explain it. While the analyst, for his part, leads the patient through the transference analysis and interpretation. In and through their embodied engagement with each other, patient and analyst move each other with their affect-laden words and comportments. The patient feels the analyst grasp and share with her the psychical experiences which he can more or less feel too, as he moves with her knowingly through those experiences, comprehends what they are like for her and the meanings that they have, and, through his comprehension and clarification, transforms their significance. In the explaining aspect of the analyst’s interpretation, the analyst departs from moving just with and in the space they share and negotiate through their mutually regulated understanding, and he intervenes with his theoretically guided and felt elucidations. Through the articulation of dynamic and genetic insights, the analyst generalizes the experience of the patient by situating it in larger contexts of significance, while still remaining there for her in the psychologically needed way. 8 By disrupting the intensity of the archaic bond established through the willingness of the analyst to follow the patient along into and through her subjective reality and share experiences with her, the analyst’s explaining activity lessens the intensity of the patient’s archaic tie to the analyst. Given that, through his explaining activity the analyst is still being with the patient in an experience-near way and operating in and through his experience of her feeling psychologically attuned to him, this provides the opportunity for patient and analyst to engage in an empathic bond on a more mature level where the patient does not for her 8
A question may arise as to whether a conception of empathy which posits empathy as not only a way of knowing but simultaneously as a mode of affective responsiveness harbors dangers for a therapeutic practice. The question is whether or not, given the fact that patient and analyst are both co-implicated in constructing the analytic situation and that both patient and analyst are constantly informing and re-informing each other’s perspective, if the analyst’s being led by the patient’s experience unfolds with and through the affective bonding between them, that detracts from the analyst’s supposedly objective stance or role as a clinician. Moving away from the Freudian ideal of neutrality and the withholding of gratification, for Kohut all experiencing is more or less affective. The affective resonance with an empathic other, furthermore, is not an obstacle in the way of what would otherwise be the analyst’s clear minded, objective observations of the patient’s psychical experiences but, rather, it is equiprimordial with the analyst’s empathic observation and genetic insight. 10 | P a g e
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immediate psychological cohesion depend on the functioning of the analyst-other but, rather, is simply sustained and strengthened by their shared psychical experiencing. While the explaining activity of the analyst is, like his understanding activity, guided by the analyst’s experience of the patient as feeling understood by him in the way described above, things are most likely to break down during this explanation aspect of the analyst’s interpretation (Kohut 1984: 101-103). The analyst’s dynamic and genetic explanations, that is to say, are, from the standpoint of the felt experience of the patient, more likely to miss the mark than the analyst’s understanding activity on its own. The analyst’s “missing the mark” occurs in real time with and through the shift from the patient’s experience of the analyst as psychologically attuned to her to the analyst as being out-of-tune and radically other. In and through this empathic breakdown, the patient withdraws into her self and disavows her felt need for the empathic resonance of the analyst. Given our conception of empathy, we can see the sense in which this breakdown is not a failure of the analyst’s empathy, as if empathy were a predicate that could be attributed to him, but rather, it is a failure of the patient-analyst system. The working through of the frustration is a dialogical process through which the patient and analyst inform and re-inform each other’s perspective in order re-establish a bond of empathic resonance. If this frustration is an optimal one, through the working through of the frustration and eventual reestablishment of a bond of empathy between patient and analyst the patient incorporates into her self the psychic structure for which she depended on the analyst prior to the breakdown in order to meet her psychological need which she could not previously meet for herself. 3 Recent self psychologists (e.g. Orange 1993) have argued that, in Kohut’s account of psychoanalytic cure, the notion of countertransference has been neglected. The ideal for the self psychologically oriented analyst was, according to Kohut, to empathize with the patient’s experience. This ideal had a significant negative consequence for self psychological theory (Lessem 2005). For, because of the emphasis on the empathic therapist, the way in which a particular analyst contributes to the shaping of his patient’s experience had not been addressed. The robust conception of empathy that I have proposed is supposed to present a way of thinking empathy that accords well with Kohut’s conception of effective psychoanalytic treatment while, at the same time, providing a way to, in our conception of the empathic process itself, account for how a particular analyst contributes to the shaping of his patient’s experience. 11 | P a g e
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Recall that the analyst’s interpretive interventions emerge, on my account, through his own subjectivity and affective experience. The fact that the analyst’s grasp of the patient’s experiences are gotten through his own subjectivity and affective experience entails the result that, although the patient leads the analyst into her psychical experience, subjective qualities of the analyst contribute to precisely where this leading brings him and what meaning he attributes to it. This also holds true for where and how the analyst leads a patient into psychical experiences. The analyst is led into a psychical experience by his patient which has been shaped by aspects of his unique constitution and affective reality, and thus, the interpretations that he makes from his empathic receptivity about those experiences are always marked in some way or another by him, particularly by his affectivity and theoretical repertoire. The way in which the patient organizes her experience and makes sense of things will, as a result, be influenced by the analyst’s responses in general and interpretations in particular. This shaping by one of an other’s experience is not, in some sense, something that ought to be feared or avoided. Rather, this shaping is, I argue, constitutive of how we are able to experience what things are like for each other at all. 9
Conclusion In this paper, I have posited empathy as an essentially intersubjective and mutuallyregulated temporal activity between patient and analyst which, in short, amounts to a leading and accompaniment. Specifically, I have attempted to show that, considered in the framework of Kohut’s conception of effective psychoanalytic treatment, the two levels of empathy which Kohut distinguishes point to an overarching phenomenon, from which I have articulated the conception of empathy described above. As such, what Kohut refers to as ‘levels’ of empathy, I argue, should be spoken of as being different aspects of empathic activity. As equiprimordial aspects of empathic activity, both ‘levels’ co-implicate each other and depend on each other for 9
I do not intend to suggest that the analyst should not reflect on how he might be contributing the shaping of the patient’s experience. Rather, I just mean to show that this shaping is a consequence of the fact that all observations of the psychic life of others are gotten through introspection – through, that is, our own subjectivity and affective experience – and that, through the shaping of one’s own subjectivity, the vicarious experiences that are aroused in her by the other are given meaning in terms of human interrelations and felt meanings. 12 | P a g e
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the condition of their possibility. The aspect of empathic activity which Kohut talks about as a data-gathering activity of the analyst addresses, in Kohut’s framework of effective psychoanalytic treatment, the pragmatic activity of the analyst in the psychoanalytic space, while the aspect of empathic activity which Kohut talks about as affective responsiveness addresses, primarily, the pragmatic activity of the patient in the psychoanalytic space. 10 That which leads the analyst to respond appropriately to the patient depends on the analyst grasping, more or less correctly, the experience of the patient, on, that is to say, the patient feeling understood by him. 11 And the patient’s experience of the analyst’s response as being psychologically attuned to her depends on the analyst being led to correctly and accurately respond to her, on, that is to say, the patient engaging with the analyst, and re-engaging when the empathic bond between them breaks down, in a receptive-response exchange in which the two negotiate and mutually-regulate meaning and experience. Empathy, as such, is achieved not through a static act but, rather, through a fundamentally dynamic, dialogical process which unfolds, intersubjectively, through time. 12 And, insofar as empathy is understood in this way, we find that ‘empathy’ does not refer
It should be noted at this point that I do not intend to suggest that in empathy the analyst does not have affective responses to the patient and the patient does not gather information about the psychical experience of the analyst. Both of these do, in fact, occur. However, due to the pragmatic structure of the (Kohutian) psychoanalytic space, the patient’s psychic life is what the analyst is supposed to be interested in grasping for the sake of her developing a more developed self, and the patient’s felt sense of affective responsiveness is the focus of Kohut’s theory for reason that her psychological development is what is supposed to be at stake. 11
Here I could have said: That which leads the analyst to respond appropriately to the patient depends on the analyst grasping, more or less accurately, the experience of the patient, on, that is to say, the analyst’s experience of the patient being understood by him, i.e. his trying and re-trying interpretations and techniques in order to experience the patient as understood by him. In the empathic process that I am proposing, however, understanding and appropriate responses are something which are worked for, not given, and that are achieved, essentially, through time. 12
A question that arises is whether, if this notion of empathy is essentially a “leading and accompaniment”, reciprocity is a condition for success. Since the resonance-recognition 13 | P a g e
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to a particular quality or activity of the analyst but, rather, to a relational activity between patient and analyst. Furthermore, this conception of empathy is theoretically helpful when attempting to reconcile Kohut’s conception of empathy with issues of countertransference.
References Agosta, L. (2010). Empathy in the Context of Philosophy. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillian. Kohut, H. (1959). Introspection, Empathy, and Psychoanalysis: An examination of the relationship between mode of observation and theory. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 7, (pp. 459-483). Kohut, H. (1971). The Analysis of the Self: A systematic approach to the psychoanalytic treatment of narcissistic personality disorders. New York, NY: International Universities Press, Inc. Kohut, H. (1982). Introspection, Empathy, and the Semi-circle of Mental Health. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 63, (pp. 395-407). Kohut, H. (1984). How Does Analysis Cure? Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press. Kohut, H. (2010). On Empathy. International Journal of Psychoanalytic Self Psychology, 5 (2), (pp. 122-131). Lee, R. R., Rountree, A., & McMahon, S. (2009). Five Kohutian Postulates: Psychotherapy theory from an empathic perspective. Lanham, MA: Jason Aronson. loop does not occur in one static moment but, rather, through the informing and re-informing of each other’s perspectives, it dynamically unfolds through time, reciprocity is, in a sense, a condition for success, insofar as, through their attempts at “getting on the same wavelength” they are each empathically receptive and responsive to the other, and they recognize that, though, say, the patient may not feel entirely understood by the analyst or think that the analyst’s responses are entirely attuned to her, and though the analyst may know his responses are not precisely the correct ones but, given his current stage in the dialogue, the best he can do. Psychological attunement, in other words, comes in degrees. 14 | P a g e
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Lessem, P. A. (2005). Self Psychology: An introduction. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. Orange, D. (1993). Countertransference, Empathy, and the Hermeneutic Circle. In R. Stolorow, G. E. Atwood, and B. Brandchaft (Eds.), The Intersubjective Perspective, (pp. 177-186). Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson Inc. Stolorow, R. (1993). The Nature and Therapeutic Action of Psychoanalytic Interpretation. In R. Stolorow, G. E. Atwood, and B. Brandchaft (Eds.), The Intersubjective Perspective, (pp. 43-55). Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson Inc.
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The Homeric DSM / A Corrective Historical Experience 1 Steven Goldman, Ph.D. Introduction The question I am exploring with you today is how to become one soul. My theme is the soul and I'm focusing on that small part of existential psychoanalysis that concerns not analysis or existence but psyche or soul. I will trace some of the history of the idea of the soul -- and of psychological unity -- whose trajectory runs from ancient times to the present. The point I am trying to make today is that when we understand the history that precedes existentialism and makes it possible, we are in a stronger position to take charge of our lives -- and thus to do some good. In my remarks today I am claiming that history is too important. We need it to be less important so that we can be free for creative responsiveness to life. The crux of the issue is that history becomes too important when we become trapped in a single, obsessional vision of the past. Thinking historically helps to liberate us from the tyranny of one idea above all others -- this helps us get oriented in our thinking about contributions from thinkers like Binswanger, Jaspers, Heidegger, Medard Boss, Rollo May and Irvin Yalom -- some of the founders of the therapies we are exploring in this conference -- all of them thinkers who envision a new kind of freedom. Freud, working with Sรกndor Ferenczi and Franz Alexander, envisioned something like a corrective emotional experience -- a way of talking about what is therapeutic in analysis. My addition here is on behalf of the same ambition to free ourselves from the past. But I am arguing for a corrective historical experience, to liberate us from the strictures of a narrow and disempowering conception of history -- thus a way of talking about what is therapeutic in studying history. I am reaching for a way of reclaiming the past from blank facticity, to serve the cause of creative self-determination. I am claiming that what we are able to do in thinking runs parallel with what we are able to do in life -- we cannot jump ahead of ourselves into the future, but at the same time we have to fight against the inertia of the past. So I'm discussing existential psychoanalysis, which I define in Yalom's terms as a dynamic approach to therapy which focuses on concerns that a human being faces just by being alive 2 -- and my point of view emerges from thinking about the history of philosophy. Jaspers -- an important contributor to existential thinking and a physician credited with inaugurating the "biographical method" in psychiatry -- i.e., taking extensive background histories and noting how patients themselves feel about their symptoms -- held that psychotherapy is not grounded in medicine but in philosophy, which is why it demands to be examined
A version of this essay was delivered at the 2013 conference of the Existential Psychoanalysis Institute and Society (EPIS), held at the University of Montana, Missoula, Montana, August 3, 2013. I would like to thank my friends Kevin Boileau, Ph.D. and Eric Springsted, Ph.D. for reading drafts of the essay and providing helpful criticism. 2 Irwin Yalom, Existential Psychotherapy (New York: Basic Books, 1980), p. 5
from an ethical point of view. 3 And I am claiming that when we carry this out, and examine psychotherapy from an ethical point of view, we free ourselves from obsessional thinking -- we are forced to confront ourselves and the world we live in -- this means that we take responsibility for ourselves -- whatever may befall us, despite immensities of limitation -- in Yalom's terms "responsibility acceptance is equivalent to a positive sense of life meaning"4 -- which I would call intelligible freedom or more simply the examined life. (1) the Homeric Background The history I am following today begins with the soul or psyche. This Greek term, psyche, the basis of English words like psychology, psychiatry, psychic, psycho, is a feminine noun with the sense "breath, life breath, life spirit," a kind of wind or air or ether in us without which we begin to swoon, faint, and lose consciousness, but which also underlies powers with more restricted senses, such as heart, appetite, mind, sense, understanding, or even the person himself -- as separate from everything about him; also the shade, the ghost, the departed soul, as opposed to any physical or outward thing -- very like the Hebrew term nefesh, or vital spirit -- what in Latin is called anima. In this conception, the body is merely a kind of envelope which, after death, rots and becomes nothing. But the bodysevered soul lives on in some nether state -- in Hades, in Sheol, in Limbo, an idea that we see in virtually all primitive cultures and which the Structuralists, for example -- thinkers like Saussure, Lﾃｩvi 窶心trauss, Roman Jakobson, Jacques Lacan -- referred to as an inevitable premise of human reasoning. 5 We can see this idea at work in the earliest written documents we possess, for example in the first line of Homer's Iliad, which speaks of Achilles' anger and the destruction that follows it for his people the Achaians, "which threw down many strong souls (psycha) of heroes into Hades, and gave their bodies to the delicate feasting of dogs, of birds, so that Zeus' planning was fulfilled, from the day on which Atreus' son Agamemnon, king of men, and brilliant Achilles, first fell into conflict." It occurred to me that we might create a kind of Homeric DSM -- a Homeric diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, for categorizing different sorts of disease conditions of the soul -- as a precursor basis for understanding how we look at psychological phenomena today. Homer introduces a number of terms for normal psychological functioning, as well as terms for disease conditions of the soul, just as we do, and many of the terms we use for these ideas today, both in everyday language and in medicine, are descendants from Homeric times. Here is a comparative list:
Karl Jaspers, translated by Ralph Mannheim, Way to Wisdom (Princeton: Yale University Press, 1951), p. 47; see also Karl Jaspers, Philosophy and the World, translated by E.B. Ashton (Chicago: Gateway Press, 1963), section 11, "The Idea of the Physician." 4 Yalom, Existential Psychotherapy, p. 456. 5 Claude Lﾃｩvi-Strauss, Anthropology and Myth: Lectures 1951-1982, Ed. R. Wallace (London: Basil Blackwell, 1987).
Homer Psyche -- soul Eros -- impulse Logos -- reason Mania -- madness Hubris -- arrogance Miasma -- pollution Nemesis -- wrath Pthonos -- jealousy Nous -- mind Kradie -- heart Phrenes -- wits Thumos -- spirit Epithumia -- desire Ecstasis -- frenzy Agon -- struggle Moira -- fate Até -- blindness
DSM - V Soma -- body Akrasia -- weakness Aidos -- shame Ataraxia -- calm Autarcheia -- independence Bouletikon -- planning Prohairesis -- choice Enkrateia -- self-control Etor -- heart feeling Ker -- heart thinking Hexis -- habit Katathesis -- assent Hedone -- pleasure Sophrosune -- temperance Sophia -- wisdom Phantasia -- imagination Timé -- honor
Neurodevelopmental / Neurocognitive disorders Bipolar disorders / cyclothymia Depressive disorders Obsession Compulsion Substance disorders Schizophrenia, psychosis Trauma / stressor disorders Anxiety disorders Somatic symptoms disorders Dissociative disorders Gender dysphoria Disruptive disorders / Impulse control disorders Personality disorders
It is easy to sort out the Greek roots of most of the current DSM vocabulary -- e.g. neural, cognitive, cycle, schizoid, phrenetic, somatic, dysphoria, trauma -- but the connection here is not simply linguistic. In many cases the modern terms follow a logic exactly parallel to their ancient counterparts. An example is the term até, which means something like 'bewilderment, infatuation, or reckless impulse,' and which was sometimes considered a kind of 'judicial blindness' sent by the gods. The idea of judicial blindness -- of divine workings behind mental phenomena -- foreshadows and offers a useful parallel for the contemporary idea of repression -- of psychological material that is repressed, that is rendered 'unconscious,' and thus not allowed any outlet, which nonetheless escapes these confines in some unsuspected and often embarrassing way as the 'return of the repressed.' Até was personified as the goddess of mischief, ruin, disaster, catastrophe or reckless conduct, yet at the same time até was a psychological condition understood as a kind of sickness -- a normal attribution from everyday life in the community, and one that was disparaged. States of the soul, especially overwhelming disease conditions of soul, thus appear as personified forces -- as Gods -so that a myth recounting epic deeds of Gods is, at the same time, a story about human beings caught in the grip of powerful forces of nature (a condition examined at length in E.R. Dodds' classic study from 1951 The Greeks and the Irrational). Terms like mania (madness), hubris (arrogance), miasma (pollution), nemesis (wrath), pthonos (jealousy), point to a kind of fragmented psychology, in which disassociated part-selves assert themselves against what Homer calls nous -- mind -- just as powerful Gods assert themselves and overwhelm the plans of mere mortals. Psychological wholeness, on this picture, is still inchoate or as yet barely conceivable -not yet fully realizable, in the same sense that human nature is as yet still unthought in its own terms, but instead is laid out against the high-altitude world of the Olympians -- a scene perhaps something like these heights just behind us here in Montana.
Let's get some of the vocabulary on the table and begin to look at some entries in the Homeric DSM. Of course the term psyche is the most basic of these terms. Homer tells us that the psyche leaves the body at death through the mouth or through a wound or by the loss of blood -- later in history, pre-Socratic and Hippocratic writers assert that psyche inheres in the body as blood. 6 Each of us has only one psyche and, once the psyche is departed, no return of the psyche is possible. It appears that the psyche is not the self or the personality and in some ways it seems almost devoid of personality. Sometimes the term is translated as life, sometimes as ghost, for example as we see in the Odyssey, when Odysseus visits the shades of his departed family and comrades as they wander the land of the dead (Book IX). Psyche appears to look and sound just like the person who carries it in life. Yet psyche does not appear to have any specific mental or emotional functions -- it is more natural to use another word in talking about human powers. If we want to understand the mental and emotional activity of Homeric man, we have to look at terms such as thumos (spirit), kradie (heart), nous (mind), and phrenes (breast, lungs, diaphragm, heart as the seat of thought -- the location of our mind or wits or sense -- what in Latin is called precordia) -- also words like mania to explain unusual states; also hubris, excess or infatuation, typically punished by atĂŠ, disaster, for psychic diseases -- with mixed elements of human responsibility and divine retribution. The Greek scholar A.W.H. Adkins sums up many generations of work in classical studies when he writes in his definitive study From the Many to the One: "Today we are accustomed to emphasize the I which takes decisions and also expressions such as will and intention. In Homer there is much less emphasis on anything like the I or its decisions. The functions of the self take the foreground and enjoy a remarkable amount of democratic freedom." 7 Thus men act as heart or spirit or lust bids them. Odysseus for example wonders whether to attack the Cyclops, but another thumos restrains him. Athena asks Telemachus to offer her a gift -- whichever one his kradie chooses. Most famously, anger rises up in Achilles in his argument with Agamemnon, and Homer says that Achilles' shaggy breast was divided two ways, pondering whether to draw his sword and attack, or else check his spleen and keep down his anger -- these weigh evenly in his mind and spirit, but Athena suddenly appears behind him and holds him by the back of his hair, saying that mother Hera had sent her to restrain him -- and he says, "Goddess, it is necessary that I obey you two, though my heart is full of anger -- because I know that if I obey the gods' commands, then they will listen to me as well" (i, 218). 6
Hippocrates divides mental disorders into three categories: melancholia (black bile, resulting from an imbalance of bodily humors; melancholia or depression therefore has a physical basis), mania (from mainesthai, to be driven mad, enraged, e.g. used of Bacchic frenzy) and "brain fever." Aretaeus, a Greek physician from second century BCE Cappodocia, argued that mental disorders were exaggerations of normal personalities; thus naturally irritable people were prone to mania, and naturally serious people were prone to melancholia. He also observed that people could switch back and forth between mania and melancholia. See G.C. Davison and J.M. Neale, Abnormal Psychology, 3rd edition (New York: Wiley, 1982). 7 A. W. H. Adkins, From the Many to the One (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1970), p. 16. Some of Adkins' key predecessors include Werner Jaeger, Paideia, three volumes, 1949; E.R. Dodds, The Greeks and the Irrational, 1951, cited above; Bruno Snell, The Discovery of the Mind, 1953, discussed below; and J.P. Vernant, Mythe et PensĂŠe chez les Grecs, Ă‰tudes de Psychologie Historique, 1965.
(2) philosophers discuss the question There is a passage in the Iliad (xxiii, 698) that four of the great thinkers from ancient times -- Anaxagoras, Democritus, Plato and Aristotle -- all discuss. This passage draws their attention because of the way Homer describes the psyche -- it is a problem-text and invites different interpretations. The setting is the funeral games that Achilles has decided to put on in honor of his dead friend Patroclus. Among these games is a boxing match between Epeius and Euryalus. Epeius overwhelms his opponent and Euryalus is quickly flattened, carried out of the ring and laid out on the floor allophroneonta, 'wandering in his wits.' This unusual term -- allophroneonta, 'confused thinking' -- is also sometimes translated as 'senseless, witless, distraught in one's thoughts'; in other contexts it means something like 'thinking of other things,' or 'paying no heed,' or 'entranced in his own train of thought.' Thus the term indicates in some cases psychological dysfunction following the onset of some unusual condition -- in this case, a blow to the head -- but in other cases it reads as an otherworldly cast of mind -- a sense of ecstasy or even an out-of-body experience. Democritus comments on this passage that mind and soul are the same thing and that we are in brief exactly what we think (Fragment 171). Today we would call this a rationalistic kind of mistake, in which we identify the entirety of human psychology with conscious reasoning, thus ignoring the irrational parts of the soul, things about us that we are not aware of, forgotten or unconscious or forbidden thinking that slips out in mysterious ways (see Aristotle's review of his predecessors in Metaphysics, Book I). Anaxagoras comments on this passage in remarking that "mind sets the whole in motion" (Fragment 13) -- that is, mind is the cause of the world -- mind is the basis of phantasia, mental seeing or imagination, i.e. what we see in the sensorium of consciousness; which implies that the world the opens up to us in sensory experience. Today we would call this an idealistic kind of mistake, as implying that the perceptual world is ultimately a human construction, thus a delusion and species of unreality. Plato and Aristotle attempt to steer around both these mistakes -- rationalism and idealism -- and by doing so arrive at contradictory, rival and still influential solutions -both launching forward from Presocratic thinking and especially from Socrates' two key ideas about psyche or soul: first, that we should know it 8 and, secondly, that we should care for it.9 8
The inscription above the entrance to the Temple of Apollo in Delphi recommended that a person gnothi seauton -- know oneself -- an idea Socrates also expressed with other locutions using the word psyche -arguably, Socrates takes self-knowledge to be a principle task of philosophy. See Charmides 164D, Protagoras 343B, Phaedrus 229E, Philebus 48C, Laws II.923A, I Alcibiades 124A, 129A, 132C. 9 E.g. at Apology 29D, 38A; Gorgias 523a; Phaedo 114D. Some of the paradox in the use of the term care (therapeia) for the soul comes out in the discussion at Euthyphro 13. Socrates notes that the kind of therapeia aimed at dogs (the work of the houndsman) or horses (the equestrian) is intended to improve these creatures. Euthyphro's idea that eusebeia, piety, is therapeia for the gods, seems to imply that the care we take about holiness and the sacred, improves the gods -- an idea he quickly rejects as bordering on impiety. In the New Testament (e.g. Acts 27:3), Plato's term therapeia, service, tending to (originally used in a religious context), is replaced with the neutral epimeleia, take care of, take charge of, manage.
Plato often cites Homer in showing that psyche obviously includes different powers, parts or functions. But his arguments always steer towards reconciling difference and creating a harmony from dissonance. In the image from the Phaedrus, psyche is a charioteer reining in her black and white steeds -- earthly desire and heavenly spirit. The inexperienced soul is still green and foolish. Becoming enamored of matter, it seeks to unite with it and become a body itself in order that it might drink in bodily pleasures, but matter is recalcitrant and keeps up its game of enticing and withdrawing. As we strengthen the logos, the phrenes, the nous, our epistemic or knowledge-gathering capacities, the soul is roused from its earthly slumber in the body and reminded of its destiny in a higher intelligible world. It remembers its duty to seek the intelligible through study of philosophy, and to the extent that the soul becomes addicted to this study, it will be able to achieve its release and rejoin the intelligible world. Intellectual insight thus appears in parallel to kind of religious purification; and the therapeutic virtue of philosophy is not merely physiological or psychological, but also religious. Plato divides psychological conditions into curable and incurable (Gorgias 526, Phaedo 113, Republic X, 615). Psychological treatment for curable mental conditions is a form of education. But for incurable souls -- including especially tyrants, princes, and political rulers who practice forms of injustice in civic affairs, and who are models for us of human weakness -- a kind of epistemological dysfunction is at work, or inability to learn anything from experience -- also a self-satisfaction of arrogance that prefers holding power in an illusory state of mind, to powerlessness in a state of lucid consciousness. When Plato uses words like miasma or nemesis or pthonos (pollution, wrath, envy), he also adds comments with his master Socrates' irony, so that the personifications of these powers -- their transfiguration as Gods -- always return us to the problem of taking control of ourselves (â€œThe priests at the temple of Zeus at Dodona used to say that the first prophesies came from oak trees. People in those days, lacking the modern wisdom we have today, were content in their simplicity to listen to trees and rocks, provided that they spoke the truth,â€? Plato, Phaedrus 275b). Plato's philosophy proposes that human beings have some power over their actions - likewise he argues that this control is mainly a function of intellectual intuition -- that is, on the agent's glimpsing of the Forms, which again is Plato's image for an intellectual achievement -- and however limited this idea may be, it encapsulates one of the founding insights of existential psychoanalysis -- the idea that thought and emotion are bound up together; yet phastasia (imagination) is distinct from katathesis (assent); i.e., what we feel is bound up with judgments we are making, and if we are laboring under some error and making a poor judgment, then in the case that this judgment is exposed and we actually change our mind, then with the change in the content of our judgment, the emotion encrusted around it, and emerging from it, also changes. This important idea informs Stoicism, Theraveda Buddhism and, much more recently, what is now referred to as Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT). Aristotle's view of the soul is more complex. A human soul is first of all an animal soul. But the phusis (nature) of the human soul is such that by phusis man is a creature who lives in a polis -- man is a political animal -- human flourishing exists in and depends on society (Politics, Book 1, 1253a). And I think in a way Aristotle has overcome some of 6
the limitations of a Platonic view of the self, just as Heidegger overcame some of the limitations of the Cartesian view of the self -- not the lonely self that glimpses the ideal Forms, not thought as opposed to extension or the agent in us that knows, the "thing that thinks" -- but what Heidegger calls being-in-the-world, and what Buber calls the IThou experience, or existence as encounter -- a sense of ourselves that we get from a social context, that takes form and evolves in interactive relationships. Human being is not accidently a social kind of creature, but everything we are as people who feel, think and act emerges in the rich context of family, school mates, friends, colleagues, lovers, co-workers, and fellow citizens -- outward from the primordial society in the family, towards the limit of what the Stoics called "cosmopolitan" -- thus a way of belonging to, and taking care of, the world. If we look at all this work together, we see a portrait of the Greek personality that has not yet developed a firm and stable structure which we would regard as normal. Scholars such as E.R. Dodds, A.W.H. Atkins and Werner Jaeger argue that the failure to develop an egocentric personality in Greece is closely linked with the structure and values of Greek society, which necessarily externalize criteria of action and give no importance at all to intentions, to mere thoughts, rather than the consequences of human actions. This suggests that the achievements of the Athenians in particular -although outstanding -- were bought at a very high price. Thus paradoxically it is only with the loss of the polis -- the body of citizens -- one's city, country or community -- in Latin, civitas -- regarded by our Greek ancestors as being the only place in which a good life, or genuine happiness, was possible -- it is only when the city is lost that any solution appears to pry society loose from the strictures of a results-culture. That is: the only way people could develop an inner life, a sufficient inwardness to develop something like a moral conscience, was by destroying the warrior-culture competition that gave birth to the polis in the first place. An important stage in this history is the development in Stoicism and Epicurean philosophy of ideas such as apatheia -- indifference or dispassion -- and ataraxia -contemplative, lucid tranquility. Thus as the Greek city-state crumbles and is replaced by the Empire -- Alexander's empire and Rome's Empire and Christianity's empire -- the focus moves from the role one plays in a tribe -- a small society -- to a new focus on the development of the self in the context of an enormous megalopolis, over which very few people -- if even any -- have the slightest chance of altering its headlong pace of change. The focus is on oneself -- as Epictetus says, "on the things which are in our power" (Discourses 1, 1). The trajectory here is enormously complex. In one sense the movement is from godlike pride to humble strength -- from transcendental narcissism to a reality-based ego -- from aspiration that swamps all human feeling to an accepting humility more inclined to understand than conquer. In terms of psychological unity, there is movement from psychic chaos to genuine selfhood -- from a concrete mindset to psychological insight -- from dissociation to integration -- from many to one -- from the fragmentation of spirit and heart and impulse at war with each other, to one person feeling and thinking different things and trying to sort them out. All these developments run parallel as the deep foundations for a stable kind of personality and an end to the storm and tumult of the Homeric conflict-psyche. 7
(3) a summing up Classical scholars observed centuries ago that the ancient Greeks did not possess a concept of the will. Recent writers such as Max Weber, Karl Jaspers and Hannah Arendt argued that the encounter between Greek shame-culture and Judaic guilt-culture brings about the epochal change in the Western psyche that makes it possible for people to think of themselves as having a power of will, as making choices and being the authors of their own lives. Scholars such as Pierre Hadot, Albrecht Dihle and Michael Frede document what Stoicism contributes here -- the huge step forward in the ideal of Stoic self-command.10 Especially in Christianity, and with its intense inwardness and focus on prohairesis, or explicit choice, thus assertively (and even counterfactually) taking a side -we get to a place that (paradoxically) is less the real-world, less the world of facts and positions in society, and is more the dream-world, a world of wishes and hopes for social change. On the wings of imagination like this, we give ourselves a bit of breathing room and space for self-development, to create the interior world of thoughts -- the life of the Mind -- the complex subjectivity that grants a person what Kierkegaard tells us is an infinite freedom (Concluding Unscientific Postscript, 1846) -- the kind of freedom that Camus and Sartre and Unamuno articulated -- a tragic freedom, a condemnation to freedom, a dizzying, confusing freedom, what Nietzsche called the heaviest of all weights (The Gay Science, 1882) -- an 'existential freedom' in which the whole person awakens and begins to make authentic choices -- a world where we make ordinary and also outstandingly bad mistakes; a world of ordinary good things and also things that are remarkably good; -- that is: choosing to see the world in all its vast complexity, and as it really is. This is the third insight emerging out of a long stretch of cultural history informing existential psychoanalysis, from three precursor forms in the ancient world: -1 -- the distinction between imagination and assent (phantasia kai katathesis) 2 -- the redefinition of man as a political animal (politikon ho anthropos zoon) 3 -- the psychology of acceptance in struggle with suffering (ataraxia kai apatheia) I am arguing that these ancient ideas about the mind, politics and the role accepting plays in developing mindfulness, precede and make possible existential psychoanalysis. By this teaching, the only person in this world I can control is myself -- yet --strangely -- I cannot control even my own flow of thoughts -- but only where I give my assent. By this teaching I cannot be a self on my own -- I get to be an 'I' in an enormous context and with an entire world of people -- thus I exist in space and also in a web of relationships -I am a physical entity, but I am also inherently political in my nature. And because I am inherently political in my nature -- because I am in dispute -- I am free -- which means: I can practice assent; I can practice politics; I can be whatever I have the strength to see 10
Pierre Hadot, The Inner Citadel: The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001); Albrecht Dihle, The Theory of Will in Classical Antiquity (Berkeley: University Press, 1982); Michael Frede, A Free Will: Origin of the Notion in Ancient Thought (Berkeley: University Press, 2012).
and do -- or instead remain a slave, because the political world in which I live is corrupt -or because I am. I am returning to the existential claim that freedom consists minimally in my attitude towards whatever happens to me -- in Rollo May's formula, freedom has to do with transcending the immediate situation -- the self is simply "the ability to see oneself in all one's self-world relationships and possibilities" 11-- not to be rigidly confined to a specific world, or any specific obsession -- which Binswanger calls "fighting against the confines of a single world design" -- to which he adds what he considers the main point, that we have to see ourselves as in-the-world the way we really are before we can take any step beyond-the-world, and become at home in what he calls the eternity (Ewigkeit) and haven (Heimat) of love. This existence we are living, he says, can be at home, or not, in this place, entirely by the force of our choices -- i.e. by the power of will. 12 The ideas of will and of choosing freedom emerge from the long history that begins with the Homeric DSM and ends with ours -- terminating in a concept of transcendence. This is a point of view which takes the world as a point of departure for a flight on which everything depends -- which each person must venture on his own, by his own choice, and which can never become the object of any doctrine. Jaspers makes the interesting comment that while medicine pathologizes and tends to undermine individual selfdetermination, philosophy instructs and tends to support self-definition -- yet we have to rely on both.13 This means that there is an irresolvable tension in human being -- we are psyche and soma at once -- the psyche is many things, and so is the soma -- which means that we can never wholly unify our souls, or ever become one thing. Thus my inquiry is a failure and I have no formula for achieving psychological unity. And this failure I think is exactly the point of this subject whose history I have been tracing, and for my conclusion I will try to say briefly why I think this is so. We may feel sometimes that we are too many people at the same time and that there is just too much chaos and confusion inside of us. In other cases the problem is that we are stuck being exactly the same narrow person over and over again. But if we think through both these problems from the standpoint of the history of philosophy -- if we trace the history from Homeric times and think through what thinkers like Nietzsche and Yalom have argued -- we see that we have to reject the whole issue of unifying the soul and replace it with something else. The real issue isn't about being one person throughout life, or getting to the point where you don't feel drawn in different directions. The issue is how to live a good life. Thus I think we have to get away from the teaching about unifying our soul, and stick with the question about the good life. Pythagoras coined the term 'philosophy' and offered the analogy between intellectual curiosity and romantic pursuit. He argues that we cannot know what the 11
Existence, edited by Rollo May, Ernest Angel, and Henri F. Ellenberger (New York: Basic Books, 1958); section II of this text contains the essay by Rollo May "Contributions of Existential Psychotherapy." See section IV. 12 Existence, ibid. Section VII of this text contains the essay by Ludwig Binswanger "The Existential Analysis School of Thought," dating from 1946. See section III. 13 Philosophy and the World, 1963, cited above. See section 12, "Doctor and Patient."
good life is but can only seek it. That is: the good for man is to search for the good for man. The focus of our lives is on ethics -- but we are pursuing ethics as an inquiry rather than a doctrine. The gain of thinking about philosophy as a form of love is that this makes the case for the uncertainty of philosophic reasoning and offers the perspective that philosophic vision is subject to change. Psychopathology is in brief a refusal to change. The good life -- psychological health -- is something like the ability to change; it has more to do with accepting. Our Greek ancestors and especially Stoicism define this idea and I think in more recent times Wittgenstein had something like this in mind when he writes that "the solution to the problem of life is seen in the vanishing of the problem" (Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus 6.521) -- not that the problem is a pseudoproblem, that it is a false problem, or an unimportant problem or even nonsense -- but that eventually you find a way of handling it -- eventually you find your self-confidence, your gameness, and you simply immerse yourself in the river of life.14 Afterthoughts and objections I am tracing some of the history that precedes the development of the modern personality. In the same sense in which the therapeutic relation can be viewed as a kind of emotional realignment and "reparenting" process -- a way of restarting the human project with fewer deficits and more freedom of action -- I am envisioning a kind of historical realignment and "rehistorizing" process -- another attempt at overcoming entrapment in a narrow conception of what is possible in human reality. 15 This is the general sequence of argument that emerges from the re-history project:
14 As Yalom concludes in his work Existential Psychoanalysis, cited above; see IV, 11, "Engagement," pp. 478-83. 15 Heidegger is a pioneer in the turn of argument that begins with a concept of 'being the past' as a basic way in which Dasein, human reality, exists; thus the past is not something that "follows along" with a human being, but instead runs ahead and defines the basic possibilities. Tradition keeps Dasein from providing itself its own guidance and sighting of future possibilities. It blocks access to the primordial; it makes us forget; and we are lost as long as we remain in it. That is why the first step for any "authentic" self-determining being begins with an uprooting of the past -- what Heidegger calls a "phenomenological destruction" -- thus the point is never about discovering a person's "birth certificate" and to narrate his or her life from this departure, but instead, by uprooting the past, and delivering the past to selfdetermination, and thus "rehistorizing" Dasein from this standpoint, to discover the basic positive possibilities for human reality. See Being and Time, 1927, Introduction, Part II, section 6. Arguably, Foucault takes further steps along this line of thought -- to get free of history and its limiting influence on the agent's self-determination and action -- via his work in laying out a critical history of key human institutions such as schools, prisons, hospitals and factories -- as well as social and sexual mores. His work The Archeology of Knowledge, 1968, tries to show what 'knowledge' has meant, and how it has changed, through historical time; it rejects the idea that we can treat human reality as a "product" of history (which he calls "the retreat from man's origin"). His 1978 work Care of the Self tries to imagine a new kind of freedom emerging from critical history -- a "rehistorizing" project -- aimed at freedom and selfdetermination in pursuit of the good life. Since temporal, contingent, historical power has been used to control and define knowledge, when we finally get hold of this process via critical history and take back this power for ourselves, we rediscover ourselves in a position to control and define knowledge on our own.
1. Vocabularies of explanation (Homer and DSM each in various versions) change. 2. We cannot solve our problems, once and for all, without having any more work to do; there is no final vocabulary of explanation; just the latest. Mythologies of passivity come and go, and we may sacrifice our freedom of assent, of political engagement, and struggle in the face of suffering, to any of them, to our detriment. 3. The ancient teaching about unifying the soul is correct, but it is in effect the teaching that asks us to unify Being -- e.g. to unify the two worlds, above and below, sacred and profane; and of course this is exactly what we should do. This is a kind of project that we are working on or should be working on. But it is strange to think that we can set out to do this kind of work without having settled on a final meaning and brought the work of unifying our soul to a completion. Despite this we gain experience and reach steadier states of competent/happy being than earlier, less steady states -- we get older, we evolve a little bit -- we are a little wiser and a little more unified than before -- perhaps; in some cases but not in all. It is strange and in a way counterintuitive to think that we can do good work on any project with a divided soul. Work that emerges from a divided soul is a patchwork and does not let the soul shine in what it can do. Of course we want to act as a whole being and be all of a piece instead of remaining a motley jumble of instincts, memories and plans. It seems clear that we can't unify ourselves in the middle of the work we are doing -- we have to do this beforehand, before the work gets going, so that our best work will shine through; so that we work out of a place of wholeness and let the things we have to offer come forth. But in effect there is no beforehand. You cannot reach or get back behind yourself. There is only the now -there is the thing to do now -- there is always new work to be done -- the soul always has contradiction in it -- so that against our own principles, and against the dream of unifying the soul, we eventually have to give up the dream of unifying the two worlds and work more simply, just to do some good. 4. For which we have the question, what is the good, anyway? and thus the ongoing practice of philosophy, i.e., to ask this question and go on with it through life. I should say that in conceiving this work and in developing the argument that comes to the conclusion that I have expressed as a corrective historical experience, I have been guided by my study of the works of many classical scholars and historians, including many who reach nearly opposite conclusions, which in outline I want to review here. Bruno Snell, The Discovery of the Mind: the Greek Origins of European Thought (Die Entdeckung des Geistes, 1946) -- a hugely important source for thinking about ancient man's psychological understandings -- begins with Greek ideas about the body. Snell argues that, exactly like their ideas about the psyche, the Archaic Greeks also appear to have conceived the body in a fragmented way, as a collection of unlike parts. In their vocabulary, at its most ancient layer, there is no provision for the body at all. Snell demonstrates that the term soma comes late in Archaic times; before this there are words such as guia, melea, both meaning limbs, demas meaning the frame, chros the 11
limit of the body. Snell claims that the early Greeks simply did not grasp the body as a unit -- this is one of his most startling and counterintuitive conclusions.16 Psyche -- the subject of Ervin Rohde's pioneering study from 1903 (Psyche: Seelencult und Unsterblichkeitsglaube der Griechen -- Psyche: The Cult of Souls and Belief in Immortality among the Ancient Greeks) -- is the force that keeps the human being alive during its life. Conceived as the life principle, the idea of psyche also stirs up questions about the possibility of life after death. Rohde (a friend of Friedrich Nietzsche) and Snell both investigated the somewhat mysterious function psyche plays during life. Both conceived the point of studying history as enlivening our insight, and empowering our actions, in the now. Snell mentions that Homer does not appear to know the idea of depth as applied to internal states. So there is nothing like deep knowledge, deep thinking, deep feeling. Priam laments the fate of Hector by saying that "I groan and brood over countless griefs" (Iliad 24.639); quantity, not intensity, is Homer's measure of importance. This goes to the idea that ancient man did not conceive psyche as a place where everything transpiring in consciousness is collected together, which might be sounded down to its primal beginnings.17 Snell says that Homer, in his descriptions of ideas or emotions, never goes beyond a purely spatial or quantitative definition; he never attempts to sound their special nonphysical nature. Ideas are conveyed through the nous, a mental organ analogous to the eye (Iliad 14.61). Consequently to know is eidenai, which is related to idein, to see, so that 'to know' means something like 'to have seen.' The eye serves as Homer's model for the absorption of experiences (as Socrates thinks of knowledge in terms of handling physical material; as Plato thinks of knowledge in terms of mental seeing, or the intuition of essences -- a concept Husserl develops further in his 1913 work Ideas; these become important steps for Heidegger in his discovery of being-in-the-world). Thus the intensive coincides with the extensive -- he who has seen much is he who has amassed much knowledge -- wide-ranging experience engenders true knowledge. There are no divided feelings in Homer. We have to wait until Sappho to read about bittersweet Eros (the classic source on this remains Wolfgang Schadewaldt, Sappho, Dasein in der Liebe, 1950). Homer is unable to say: half willing, half unwilling. What he says instead is: he was willing, but his thumos was not. This means that there is no contradiction within one and the same organ -- within one and the same I -- but instead there is contention between a man and one of his organs -- his powers or functions or senses. It's like saying: my hand desired to reach out towards (x), but I withdrew it. That is: two different things or substances are engaged in a quarrel with one another. Snell draws the conclusion that in Homer there is no genuine reflection -- no real dialogue of the soul with itself -- which implies that genuine reflection depends on a kind of normalized dissociation -- a contradiction within one and the same I. 18 16
Bruno Snell, The Discovery of the Mind: the Greek Origins of European Thought, translation by T.G. Rosenmeyer (New York, Dover, 1953), p. 7. 17 Ibid., p. 16. 18 Nietzsche dissects the 'I' and the basis of reflection in his 1886 work Beyond Good and Evil, section 16.
We can see a kind of change from this condition in Heraclitus (fragment 115) where he says that psyche has a logos which increases itself. Thus apparently the soul has something capable of extending and adding to itself of its own accord. So the soul is a kind of base from which certain developments are possible. But we do not attach any similar ideas to the eye or to the hand. For Homer, mental processes have no such capacity for expansion; we can become experienced, but mind does not do this itself. Thus the augmentation of bodily or spiritual powers is always effected from without -- above all by the gods -- not by an inner nature of the human mind unfolding itself. Snell says that in Homer there are no genuine personal decisions. Even where the hero is shown pondering alternative courses of action, at the end the decision is made after the gods have arrived and tipped the scales in one direction or another. Thus there is always a divine meddling and that above all leads to resolution and action. Another way Homer describes these changes is to say that the thumos overwhelmed the kradie; or that one function trumps another. Snell says that Homeric man has not yet awakened to the fact that he possesses his own psyche, in which he may find the source of his powers, but instead Homeric man senses that he receives his powers as a natural and fitting gift from the gods. Independent psychic powers such as mind or heart have thus a magical connection and existence against a divine background. Despite this, the heroes of the Iliad do not feel that they are the playthings of chaos. That is, they acknowledge the Olympians, and they see the divine world as orderly; the gods have created a well-ordered and meaningful world, even if (despite our trying) we do not understand it. Snell's point is that the more the Greeks began to understand themselves, rather than attributing their characters to mythic origins, the more they adopted of the orderly, meaningful Olympian world into themselves. They infused heaven down into earth.19 Simone Weil's The Iliad: The Poem of Force, from 1945, quarrels with the idea that Snell expresses in his claim that Homeric man sees himself living in an orderly world. Weil argues that the true hero at the center of the Iliad is neither god nor man, but force. Gods wield force and man employs force. Force enslaves man and force takes men's lives. The human spirit is twisted by its relations with force; it is swept away, blinded, deformed, degraded, whether it submits or struggles against it. Force may turn a man subjected to it into a thing; exercised to its limit, it turns the man who wields it into a thing; in the end, in the most literal sense, force turns him into a corpse. Someone was here and in the next minute there is no one here; this is the spectacle that the Iliad drives home again and again; this is the inexplicable final terror of death. The cold brutality of the deeds of war is left undisguised -- plainly rendered to make us stare down the mystery of death. Neither victors nor vanquished are slandered, scorned or hated. Fate and the gods decide the changing lot of battle. Within the limits fixed by fate, the gods determine, with sovereign authority, victory and defeat. The gods provoke fits of madness and create obstacles to peace. War, chaos, trouble, ruin, force -when we finally see clearly, this is what gods want -- this is their business. Their motives are thoughtless -- caprice and malice -- they have no logos. Men are beasts or things 19
Bruno Snell, The Discovery of the Mind, p. 19.
neither admired nor condemned, and Weil argues that there is a sense of regret hanging over the scene that men are capable of such degradations. 20 Bernard Williams' Shame and Necessity from 1989 quarrels against another of Snell's conclusions -- he argues pretty much against the grain of most classical scholarship from the past century -- rather than accept the idea that Homeric psychology shows a fragmented character, he argues that ancient man was much the same as modern man. 21 Williams denies that Homeric man dissolves into parts, mental and physical. Williams mentions the use of the verb mermerizen, to be anxious or thoughtful. 22 His example is Iliad 24.41 where Diomedes is described as "wondering two ways." Williams thinks that in some cases, the state of uncertainty for the hero who is wavering between different courses of action closes simply by one course of action coming to seem to the agent, after some kind of deliberative process, to be better than the other. Williams describes case in which Athena seizes Achilles by the hair when he is wondering whether to kill Agamemnon. She speaks to him and tells him that Hera has sent her and asks for his obedience, and eventually he yields. Williams describes this interchange as a kind of stand-in for seeing that one course of action is better than the other, in terms the agent was already considering; 'divinity' gives him an extra and decisive reason, which he did not see before, for preferring one course of action rather than another. Williams argues that the gods are substitutes for a kind of deliberative process that human beings have already begun on their own. Another example is Iliad 10.503 where Diomedes is considering in the heat of battle what would be the worst possible thing to do, when Athena comes and persuades him not to do any of these things, but instead to head back to the ships. Williams wants to describe this as the agent acting on his own reasons, disguised as this divine intervention. At Odyssey 5 Athena intervenes to persuade Calypso to let the unhappy Odysseus go. But the reader already knows that Calypso has reasons to incline her to do just that -we notice for instance how unhappy her reluctant guest is when Odysseus later tells his host about Calypso and says that she let him go "whether by a message from Zeus or whether of her own mind had turned within her." The difference that underlies these alternatives seems to be that between a decision for which Calypso could've given a good reason, and another in which she perhaps herself doesn't know, it remains mysterious in the end why she chose as she did. When Medon is saying to Penelope why Telemachus might have made an expedition to Pylos, he says "I don't know whether some God moved him, or whether of his own mind he had an impulse to go" (Odyssey 7.262, see also 4.712) -- Williams argues that these cases shows us the Homeric explanatory scheme at work, which does not imply any thesis about human incapacity to assemble one's thinking, or make a decision, or to will an action.
Simone Weil, translated by Mary McCarthy, The Iliad, or The Poem of Force (Wallingford, Pennsylvania: Pendle Hill, 1945), p. 19. 21 Bernard Williams, Shame and Necessity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), especially chapters two ("Centres of Agency") and Six ("Possibility, Freedom and Power"). 22 Shame and Necessity, ibid., p. 36.
Williams says that Homer has no word that means practical deliberation. This is one of the reasons why people have said that the Greeks did not possess a concept of will. Efforts can be made within the mind -- but without any effect on shared praxis. Homeric characters can bring themselves up short, or recall themselves to some idea from the past. In many cases Homer uses the formula where a character addresses his own thumos. Iliad 11.407 is an example in which Homer seems to be saying that within the heart there is some kind of a debate going on -- i.e., exactly what Snell denies. So in general William seems to be arguing with Snell and he claims that Homer does have something like a concept of will. Williams says that the reason that Snell and other scholars did not find the concept of will in the ancient Greeks is because the sort of deliberation that these characters had was not in the interests of morality, i.e. not in the interests of duty. He means: will only counts as will (for Snell and others) if it includes an element in which the agent resists his or her impulses and initiates an action that is not the result of an urge, but instead emerges somehow via deliberation. In a sense, the problem then is a disagreement about what kinds of reasons people should have for their own actions; not about whether they act for reasons at all; not about whether they have any power of will or intention in doing so. When we try to discover a principle that regulates the functions of mind with regard to action in categories that get their significance from ethics, we see that in Western thinking we have to wait until Plato comes along. This ethical idea and moral way of looking at decision-making, according to Williams, is almost entirely Plato's invention. 23 So there's a problem in the philosophy of action -- that's one kind of problem -- there is a different problem in moral philosophy -- and when we talk about weakness of will (akrasia) and strength of will (enkrateia), we mean some 'will' kind of thing, but in the case of the early Greeks -- by good consent among scholars -- there is no moral or ethical content here. This supports the historical thesis that the advent of the moral conscience coincides with the long historical process that destroys the polis, destroys civitas, the Roman conception of citizenship, thus leading to the tribal-medieval world and its slowly expanding inwardness -- creating the modern 'interior' psyche. My argument is, that when we see this history aright, we grasp the slowly forming realization of the central thesis of all existential psychoanalysis, i.e., that the only person who can help me is me. I am not claiming that change comes about merely "by a deliberate, slow, dead heave of the will," as William James put it. 24 I am talking about the basic realization that no one can change one's world for one.25 Getting hold of history becomes a key for self-realization, as Nietzsche and many other thinkers have argued.26 This is why Freud describes the therapist's task as the "construction of the past" -- "his work of construction or, if it is preferred, reconstruction, resembles the 23
Shame and Necessity, ibid., pp. 42-49. William James, Psychology: Briefer Course (New York: Collier, 1962), (originally written in 1890), p. 430. 25 Yalom, Existential Psychotherapy, cited above, p. 292 26 Nietzsche first explored this thesis in his early work The Utility and Liability of History for Life (1874). George Orwell extends the thesis to political questions in his saying from Nineteen Eighty-four: "Who controls the past, controls the future: who controls the present controls the past." 24
archeologist's excavation of a dwelling place that has been destroyed and buried."27 As the British psychiatrist Charles Rycroft -- the colleague of Fairbairn and Winnicott -- puts it: "the analyst makes excursions into history in order to understand something which is interfering with his present communication with the patient, as a translator might turn to history to elucidate an obscure text."28
Sigmund Freud, The Standard Edition of the Works of Sigmund Freud (London: Hogarth Press, 1964), volume xxiii, "Constructions in Analysis," (originally written in 1937), here p. 259. 28 Charles Rycroft, Psychoanalysis Observed (London: Pelican Books, 1966), p. 18
Passion Alphonso Lingis
Cerro Aconcagua in the Argentine Andes, rising to 22, 837 feet, is the highest mountain in the Americas, and the highest mountain outside the Himalayas. It harbors several glaciers, the largest one some 10 kilometers long. I trekked its lower reaches and that evening went to a lodge at its base. At the front desk there was a self-published book entitled Aconcagua, which, after a look at it, I bought, and read that evening. The author, Juan Aguilar, is a psychotherapist, based in Buenos Aires. He tells of one of his patients, Miguel, a 51-year-old man, university educated, married with two children, running a successful real estate business. Miguel did not really suffer from chronic depression, but he complained that meaning had somehow gone out of his life. There were no sexual or emotional problems in his relationship with his wife, but conversation with her went down the familiar paths and sexual intercourse had become routine caresses and strokings with the familiar relief. He had become completely knowledgeable about the real estate business and skilled in dealing with buyers and sellers, but now sales no longer surprised or exhilarated him. He made a lot of money, but spending it no longer brought satisfaction. Improvements to his house, new appliances, a new car: nothing seemed to add anything to his life. “I buy things, spend money, and then don’t see the sense of it,” he said to the therapist. “Buying and selling real estate—does that have some meaning for me, for my life? Having a home, a wife,
children—is that what having a life means? Anyhow you don’t really ‘have’ a wife,
children; they have their own lives. And I don’t see what that means, you know.” After a long pause, he said, “I feel that I am like an actor on a little stage, making gestures and pronouncing my lines before other actors. Everything I say and do responds to what my employees say, what my customers say. After work everything I say and do responds to what my wife says, what my children say, what the neighbors say. Like I am in a web where the strings pull and I pull back. The worth, the meaning of what I say and do is just in that little stage. Is that all there is?”
He had bought some philosophy books. He had taken some philosophy courses in the university, so he felt that he could read and understand them. “But I need guidance,” he told the therapist. “And I need someone to help me connect the ideas of philosophy with my own situation.” After a few sessions in which the Juan listened to his patient tell his life and his trouble, he proposed that Miguel climb Aconcagua. He said that he would accompany him.
The ascent of Aconcagua by the south face involves routes that are among the
most difficult that mountain climbers attempt. But ascent on the north face can be done without ropes and crampons. However, the almost seven kilometers altitude, the extreme coldâ€”the wind chill can drop to -80Â° Fâ€”storm winds, and avalanches make this ascent also dangerous, and Aconcagua has one of the highest mountain death tolls in the world. Juan had twice climbed it, although each time turning back before reaching the summit. Privately he hoped that encouraging his patient would give him the extra drive and he would this time attain the summit.
Juan and Miguel set the date in February, midsummer, when Miguel could arrange six weeks leave from work. They had four months to prepare, keep to a healthy diet, no alcohol or cigarettes, weight training five days a week, an hour of cardio exercises daily. The book recounts the climb. Arrival at the base, days of acclimatization. Then beginning the ascent. Patches of loose rock, then ice. Frazzled ice, crevasses. The heavy fatigue as the climb rises. Unrelenting howling winds. Juan keeping up a high-spirited
demeanor, to support Miguel. But beginning to doubt his own physical stamina. Times
when he imagines Miguel injured or collapsing in altitude sickness, his own efforts to revive him and descend to safety failing. Thinking of the Hippocratic oath; first do not harm. Then the day Miguel is gasping for air, his hands immobilized with the cold, stopping, abandoning the climb the rest of the day. Juan anguished wondering what he could possibly be risking Miguelâ€™s life for, risking his own. Looking up to the summit, visible now, but not seeming any closer as they make less distance each day. Then the sky darkens, heavy snowfall, whiteout. They are two days from the summit. The winds hurl against them, they have to crouch and grip on the ice beneath them. The mountainside and the air are clotted with white; the contours of the ice about them vanish in the density of white. They turn back, a slow descent as the white everywhere darkens to ash grey and night falls. Four days to descend to the base camp. The book ends without the therapist relating what happened then, in the months and years that followed, without giving an appraisal of Miguelâ€™s subsequent state or recounting what changes he may have made in his life.
I found myself strangely gripped by this book in the following days, and have
thought back to it several times since. This book unsettled me; I did not know what to make of it. Miguelâ€™s despondency and his questions were about meaning, but this therapy was no talking cure, did not proceed by interpretation. It did not show him a meaningful realm to live his life; they went to stay weeks on the brute rocks and ice of the uninhabitable mountain. A domain of grandeur, but also forms of rock and formlessness of snow and sky refusing human apprehension, where the human figure and its intentions were reduced to insignificance, the mountain driving them off. They would be agape with wonder, that state that opens upon what is beyond the practicable and comprehensible, visions beyond what the human mind can imagine. They would be swollen with anxiety and terror before dangers beyond what means they could have to parry them, and sullen physical fatigue and the lassitude that no longer seeks to resist death. Impassioned states, that totally fill and throb in mind and body, disconnected from, disconnecting the experience and knowledge and enterprises of the past. Not opening upon a future: what was the utility of knowing these extremities of wonder, anxiety, terror, desolation, toxic lassitude? Are these not states that crush people, those who come to psychotherapy because grief, rancor, bitterness, jealousy, rage consume them and make them unable to conduct their lives?
What are passions? Let us separate the term “passion ” from the terms “emotion,” “affects,” “feeling,” “sentiment,” and “mood.” These terms, which gained currency in 18th century and have acquired the stamp of objectivity, are now the terms used in psychology, ethics, aesthetics, and legal and political discourse, as well as in evolutionary biology, anthropology, and neurobiology. They belong to a specific kind of analysis and explanation. Feelings or emotions are taken to be psychic reactions to body disturbances caused by things or events that strike one from the outside. They are conceived as transitory events occurring to the self, which subsists behind or beneath them. Feelings and emotions produce bodily reactions, gestures, and expressions, which can be observed by others. But the self distinct from them is taken to be something invisible, unperceivable from the outside, known by only one witness, from within, a sphere of privacy. I have a sense of myself when I take a distance from my feelings, observe them, judge them. The self can manage its feelings and emotions, control them, integrate them with its intentions and projects. Let us note that the sense of the self is not constant. Much of the time the tasks and the implements are laid out before us each day: the toothbrush, razor, and shower in
the morning, the bus to work, the tasks laid out in the factory or office. A layout of
directives in the things. We do what there is to be done. And the postures and manipulations we have picked up from others, and pass on to others. In all that we do not have a distinct sense of a self as an individual source of thoughts and decisions.
What I will here call “passion” we find in Homer’s Iliad, Sophocles, Shakespeare’s tragedies, Dostoyevsky, Melville and in a great deal of our literature and cinema. Vehement wonder, lust, rage, courage, or terror, jealousy, grief fill one’s mind and body, swollen with surging energy and heightened sensitivity. All our senses are enflamed. Impassioned states give us the experience of being self-identical and undivided. Mind and body are one. Rage saturates the mind and is felt throughout the body, in the postural axis, in the clenched fists and beating heart, the trembling limbs.
Impassioned states are not experienced as events occurring to the self, which would be experienced beneath or above them. Instead, the self arises in the passion, takes form in it. In wonder or in rage the sense of self surges, the self surges, and it is an awestruck or enraged self. In impassioned states the self arises, a force that confronts, makes claims on others and on the world.
Passionate outbreaks carve out space and time in distinctive ways. Impassioned
wonder, anger, terror, jealousy, and mourning mark out a territory where my life and my honor are cut off from what is not mine, where what is deserved is bounded from what is undeserved, where my intimates are separated from strangers. Passionate outbreaks disconnect from the public world and stake out a territory that is my space, my world. And passionate outbreaks structure time in a distinctive way. They do not take place in a never-ending line of time segmented into minutes, hours, and days, nor in the time we experience as stretching back and containing our past actions and encounters and extending forward where foreseen plans and projects are inscribed. Instead the time of an impassioned experience disconnects from the continuum of life and nature. Passion intensely and completely fills a present. In rage or mourning this throbbing present is backed up to what has just happened. What has just happened separates from the continuously passing field. In terror what is just about to happen, what is imminent, rises in high relief before the swollen pressure of the present. In the unending line of the time of nature and society, there disconnects this new structure consisting of the bloated present, the immediate past, and the imminent future. In current language â€œhaving an experienceâ€? designates something unexpected, intense, and with a limited endurance in which it evolves and comes to an end, such that it gives rise to a narrative. Having an experience is having an impassioned experience, an experience undergone in passion. Observing an event, however unusual, is not having an experience.
Awestruck wonder, that state in which our engagement in a practicable field is interrupted and we find ourselves abruptly opened upon regions and events that leave us stunned, that empty out our chattering mind and disconnect the skills and manipulations of our bodiesâ€”wonder is the fundamental impassioned state. Finding oneself, as Immanuel Kant says, beholding massive mountains treading skyward, gorges with raging streams cutting deeper in them, wastelands lying in deep shadow and inviting melancholy meditation. (CJ 129) Standing by night on the frozen tundra of the far north, and seeing, high overhead the Northern Lights shimmer i
10 n constantly changing colors like great sheer curtains in the black of outer space. One is isolated, in the midst of the raging electrical storm, before the vast inhuman icescape of Antarctica, which fill the whole of space about one. One is exposed, and feels the pounding of life within oneâ€™s undivided mind and body. The self is this deep, primate throbbing of life, insistent and indubitable. There is an element of wonder, before the astonishing, the bewildering, the overwhelming, in every passionâ€”in rage, in terror, in grief, in sexual passion. Impassioned lustful love is possessed with the apparition of the unforeseeable, uncomprehendable in another. Erotic passion is high-spirited, making claims on the world and on busied and detached others, confident and assertive.
Wrath asserts “Me!” and “my people!” before events of the world, in front of
others. It proclaims one’s worth dignity. It gives rise to our primary sense of justice and
injustice. Wrath is involved in deep friendship and love. We rarely break out in rage before slights to our person or our actions done by people with whom we have no friendship. Our vexation passes; their disparagement is as indifferent to us as they are. But when our most cherished friends and lovers slight us, our anger asserts how much we care for their regard and how injured we are by their disdain. Impassioned courage fills mind and body as one, arises in hard compacted energies before threatening forces and unsurveyable menaces, and takes a stand before the intolerable. Fatigue and pain are biological signals that alert us to harm in our organism and motivate us to act to remedy the assault it is suffering. But the awakening of passion also
resolves us to endure fatigue and pain. Impassioned obstinacy and courage pit their force against lassitude and pain. The self rises in this obstinacy and courage, severe and bent on triumphing in them. Passionate mourning is not simply an impotent sense of loss. It involves the claim that the loss, of oneâ€™s beloved, oneâ€™s child is unjust, unacceptable; it maintains this claim against the fates. It takes courage to mourn passionately.
In impassioned fear, terror, we find ourselves before imminent death in battle, in earthquakes, in flaming buildings, or when we are first told that the doctors have identified a disease in its terminal phase. We find ourselves overwhelmed, shattered, paralyzed, but also energized to scream and curse in refusal and to flee. There is some element of terror in impassioned envy, jealousy, and melancholy.
A passionate state, which fills mind and body, disconnects from the patterns of the past and blocks foresight of consequences, shuts off the warnings and counsel of prudence and rationality. A passionate state also excludes other passionate states. Rage snuffs out fear; an enraged person is fearless, as military commanders know. But fear can shut off anger; the abrupt appearance of a mighty enemy force provokes flight.
Greed shuts out empathy and grief before the misfortune of others, grief over the death of a rich relative. It is striking that impassioned states transform in a certain direction. Terror characteristically passes into shame. Impassioned jealousy turns into rage. Rage often turns into mourning. Impassioned ambition often turns into guilt, although guilt does not typically turn into ambition. Unrequited love turns into hatred. “In Shakespeare’s Winter’s Tale . . . King Leontes . . . passes from jealousy to rage, from rage to remorse, from remorse to mourning, and, finally, from mourning to wonder.” (VP 36)
Homer’s Iliad, Sophocles, Shakespeare’s tragedies, Milton, Dostoyevsky show us a world where events are launched, counteracted, redirected, consummated and consumed in impassioned states. Recent literature such as Knut Hamsun’s The Growth of the Soil and Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude show the eruption of passions forcing the zigzag lines that plot the lives of individuals and of a community. We today understand and share the passions recounted in Homer; passionate states are transhistorical and transcultural. And we share them with other species, rabbits terrorized by dogs, enraged pheasants defending their chicks against predators, elephants and dolphins that mourn their dead. Humans have always been confident that they recognize and identify impassioned states in other species. The psychology of feelings and emotions constructed by 18th century philosophers and psychologists fits in with the norms of everyday life in the political economy set up to maximize order and productivity. Albert Hirschman found that 17th and 18th century political philosophers declared that a political system must promote avarice above all, because avarice blocks out “the interruptive, short-term episodes of anger, grief, falling in love . . . that push aside the everyday attention to the present and the future on which our shared world of everyday work and economic life depends” (VP 33). “By its orientation to the long- and middle-term future, avarice also blocks structurally the entire set of passions that give priority to the past: anger, shame, regret, and mourning” (VP 34). The writings of these political philosophers forcefully added to the discrediting of the passions. A psychology that would enjoin us to take a distance
from passions, view them objectively, from the outside, as others view them, that
pathologizes the passions, is in fact assigning priority to everyday life in the political economy set up to maximize order and productivity, making it normative. But then we have to recognize that this life can be emptied by the erosion of meaning.
Impassioned states are not reactions proportionate to the situation; they are excessive. Our organisms are material systems in which, through excretion, secretion, evaporation lacks develop, which are experienced as needs. These open the organism to the outside; its senses scan the environment and the organism moves to take hold of substances and sustenance to satisfy its needs. The pleasure in needs satisfied closes in on the content in contentment and rest. But our organisms are material systems that generate energies, energies in excess of what they require to satisfy their needs. Impassioned outbreaks surge with excess energies generated within. There is the pride of standing forth, the thrill of rushing onward, the melodic movements that pick up
the throbbing rhythm of events and landscapes. The surging of excess energies within,
felt in exuberance, seeks out the muscle strains and fatigue of hard labor and hard play, which intensify oneâ€™s sense of surging energies, oneâ€™s sense of oneself. Wrath and terror respond to powerful and unexpected threats to our domain or our life. But awestruck wonder seeks out the grandiose and the terrible, releasing its excess energies without return, gratuitously. High-spiritedness greets the collapse of methodic manipulations, the absurdity of events in human society and in nature, seeks them out to affirm them in peals of laughter. The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche separated the surging of excess energies that are used for self-aggrandizement from the joyous exhilaration that releases excess energies without asking anything in return. These last he called the noble moments in life.
For philosopher Georges Bataille passions arise in the transgression of boundaries and taboos. Nature and society set limits to where we can go and what we can do. Beyond lies the unknown, the unpredictable, danger. Our excess energies drive us to plunge across the boundaries and taboos in exhilaration and anxiety. Anxiety in sensing danger and death. Exhilaration in sensing the surge of superabundant energies within. Passions are made of exhilaration and anxiety. They plunge into the unknown, the unknowable, the unmanipulatable, the unpracticable.
In erotic passion we know extreme pleasure and extreme anxiety. Lust is addressed to the other, in whose visible and palpable materiality there stir unknown visions, dreams, longings. Our caressing eyes and hands pass repetitively, aimlessly over the body of another, not gathering information, not knowing what they are seeking. They stir spasms of torment and pleasure in the otherâ€™s body. We violate the space of another, break through the identity that others constitute for the other and that the other assumes for him- or herself. We disrobe the other and ourselves, setting aside the protection and uniforms that clothe the body in the posts and functions of productive work and society. Our practical posture collapses, we abandon our limbs and organs to another, abandon dignity and self-respect, and identity. We drift in moaning and sighs, exhalations, the opacity of pleasure and night. La petite mort, the French say. One never regrets having made a fool of oneself for sex or for love. One regrets not having dared.
Impassioned states are not simply transitory outbursts; they give rise to passionate attachment to things. Passionate attachments are quite different from the utilitarian
attachment to things, or the attachment to things for their symbolic value. As passionate attachments philosophers Giles Deleuze and Félix Guattari cite food, for compulsive
eaters, bulimics and anorexics; a dress, lingerie, or shoes, for fetishists; a domestic dog or cat (TP 129). But so many things can function as the point of passionate attachment—a butterfly collection, a cabin in the wilderness, an endangered species of bird, the silverback gorillas of Ruanda. One is not merely attached to symbols, but to the dense and enigmatic reality of something alien to the human organism. Composing sounds into a music the world has never before heard, putting paints on canvas can appear to a man or a woman worth devoting all one’s energies and resources, all one’s life to. What is distinctive in passionate attachment is that the self undergoes metamorphosis. In the attachment to things for their utilitarian function, or for their symbolic value, the self asserts its independence and sovereignty. But in one’s attachment to a cat or a horse one feels the vital movements of cats or horses within oneself, and one senses one’s own sentiments and impulses in cats or horses. A fetishist sees lingerie animated with his voluptuous languor and feels lingerie embedded in his own body. A hunter acquires the sharp eyes, wariness, stealth movement, speed, readiness to spring and race, and the exhilaration of the beast he hunts, which are available for stalking prey but also for gamboling down the hills into the river, dancing, and sexual contests. A mountaineer acquires the hardness, rigor, obstinacy, endurance, and taciturnity of the mountain.
In erotic passion one feels oneself existing in the other’s attachment to oneself, in
the sense the other has of oneself; one becomes his or her lover. And the other feels himor herself existing in the intensity of the lover’s attachment to him or her, becomes the beloved. Passionate love does not produce communion or fusion, but instead an intense sense of oneself lodged in the other and an intense sense of the other lodged in oneself. The passion discovers ever more enigmas in the object of its attachment, in increasing wonder and beguilement, moves in fear before its or her vulnerability, anger before what threatens him or her. Ever more vehement passions crowd into it.
Friedrich Nietzsche contrasts passionate knowledge of a woman, a silverback gorilla, a landscape with the observation that takes a distance from it as an object, the observation we call “objective.” Passionate attachment moves through different passions, each revealing a new perspective and depth. We do not think we know a woman through a series of anatomical, psychological, cultural, sociological, observations. We think we do not know a woman until we have melted before her kindness and feared her wrath, been anguished before her vulnerability and retreated before her power, been illuminated by her insights and charmed by her foolishness, until she has made us laugh as we have never laughed, made us weep in misery.
For impassioned states exclude one another but also attract one another. The self devoted to order and productivity, the prudent and calculating self, seeks to manage its feelings and emotions, control them, integrate them in the service of its practical initiatives. Nietzsche, to the contrary, envisages a life that would harbor conflicting passions that would intensify and enflame one another. Anyone who manages to experience the history of humanity as a whole as his own history will feel in an enormously generalized way all the grief of an invalid who thinks of health, of an old man who thinks of the dreams of his youth, of a lover deprived of his beloved, of the martyr whose ideal is perishing, of the hero on the evening after a battle that has decided nothing but brought him wounds and the loss of his friend. But if one endured, if one could endure this immense sum of grief of all kinds while yet being the hero
who, as the second day of battle breaks, welcomes the dawn and his fortune,
being a person whose horizon encompasses thousands of years past and future, being the heir of all the nobility of all past spirits—an heir with a sense of obligation, the most aristocratic of old nobles and at the same time the first of a new nobility—the like of which no age has yet seen or dreamed of; if one could burden one’s soul with all of this—the oldest, the newest, losses, hopes, conquests, and the victories of humanity; if one could finally contain all this in one soul and crowd it into a single feeling—this would surely have to result in a happiness that humanity has not known so far; the happiness of a god full of power and love, full of tears and laughter, a happiness that, like the sun in the evening, continually bestows its inexhaustible riches, pouring them into the sea, feeling richest, as the sun does, when even the poorest fisherman is rowing with golden oars! This godlike feeling would then be called—being human. (GS §337) Nietzsche here envisions not a harmonious integration of our different emotions, but a taking upon oneself the deepest grief and sorrow over the most terrible losses, the boldest hopes, the most intense sense of honor of humans throughout their history, crowding these conflicting passions within oneself. They oppose one another and enflame one another. That would result in the most intense high-spiritedness, exhilaration, exultation, “a happiness that humanity has not known so far.” This state Nietzsche then identifies with god, nature, and humanity. It would be “the happiness of a god full of power and love, full of tears and laughter.” For Nietzsche does not conceive the highest kind of life, the divine life, as immobilized in bliss, but a life pounding with power and love, tears and laughter. There is no laughter without tears, for laughter is the release of power and pleasure before the unworkable, the collapse of utility and meaning, the absurd—and these call forth tears also. Love of someone is love because it is in conflict with power over him or her. But in the same person these two conflicting drives intensify one another. What Nietzsche identifies as the happiness that humanity has not known so far, the exultation made of the greatest intensity of conflicting passions, is the most truthful state. It opens widest upon, it engages most intensely with all that is and happens.
Discovering that all things, sheltering and nourishing and also indifferent and hostile are “entangled, ensnared, enamored” it says Yes to all that is and happens, loving one’s life,
loving life, loving the world (Z IV, The Drunken Song, 9. 10). We must trust our joy, for joy is the most truthful state. Nietzsche then says that the intensification and crowding together of contradictory passions would produce “a happiness that, like the sun in the evening, continually bestows its inexhaustible riches, pouring them into the sea, feeling richest, as the sun does, when the poorest fisherman is rowing with golden oars!” Here this state is identified with nature, with the sun, hub of nature, which gives inexhaustibly its energies to all life without asking for anything in return, and in this gratuitous outpouring creates all life and creates beauty. Pouring its gold into the sea such that the poorest fisherman rows with golden oars. That state would be the highest and also most natural state of humanity.
The exultant embrace of the world with superabundant energies is creative.
Creative of knowledge, which reveals and opens us, far beyond the limited sphere of human needs and concerns, to the vastness and complexity of the universe, to the songs of the cicadas that emerge only every 17 years, the songs of the sperm whales in the ocean abysses, the solar wind that illuminates the curtains of the aurora borealis, the 67 moons circling the planet Jupiter. Creative of paintings and sculptures that enhance and hold the ephemeral blush of a young woman, the glitter of autumn on a mountain lake. Creative of temples that enshrine mountains and caves and sky. Creative of songs and dance with which we join the songs and dance of nature. “‘O Zarathustra’ the animals said, ‘to those who think as we do, all things themselves are dancing. They join hands and laugh and flee—and come back’” (Z III, The Convalescent, 2).
The domain of the passions, surging in anxiety and exhilaration, is, Georges Bataille says, laughter, tears, poetry, tragedy and comedy, play, dance, music, ecstasy, the magic of childhood, the funereal horror, eroticism (individual or not, spiritual or sensual, corrupt, cerebral or violent, or delicate), the divine and the diabolical, the sacred, of which sacrifice is the most intense aspect, intoxication, combat, crime, cruelty, disgust. This domain outside of utilitarian existence Bataille calls “the festive” (AS III, 230-1) In designating the multiplicity of impassioned experiences “the festive,” Bataille indicates that the impassioned self is not isolated, closed in itself. We laugh and we weep with others. Before the collapse of laborious projects or pompous behavior or the disintegration of a sententious discourse into nonsense we laugh, we look at one another and are indubitably aware of what each sees and the pleasure each knows in peals of laughter; we are transparent to one another. In tragic and comic art our extreme emotions surge together; in dance and carnival our anxiety and exhilaration surge like crests of waves spreading among us, in erotic passion each is excited by the excitement of the other, the pleasure and torment of each invades the other.
Juan and Miguel descended Cerro Aconcagua and returned to Buenos Aires. Then what? They had not simply known feelings and emotions on the mountain that they could observe, judge, manage; they had known impassioned states that were undivided
between mind and body. Far from family and business that had constructed Miguel’s
identity, far from office that had constructed Juan’s therapist identity, there surged forth an impassioned self, an awestruck self, a self asserting itself in terror and rage, a hitherto unknown unsuspected self that in obstinacy and courage pitted itself against exhaustion and pain. They had known the anxiety and the exhilaration of transgressing the boundaries set by nature and society. These are not experiences that reveal the meaning of life and of the world; they encounter the inhuman, the destructive, the indifference in the substance of reality. They are not experiences that will be integrated in Miguel’s everyday life in Buenos Aires, a life devoted to order and productivity and to the accumulation of commodities beyond all needs and wants. They open, outside of the sphere of reason and work, upon the domain of the festive. Will Miguel driven violently from Cerro Aconcagua find himself bent on returning? Will he find himself attached to remote and forbidding landscapes, going back to the Andes, going to the Sahara, to the Ice continent of Antarctica? Will he deepen his passionate attachment in reading books, viewing documentaries, himself speaking, writing, creating? Will he become an environmental activist? Or perhaps he will remember the climb as a time in which he dared and risked as never before, and in the pain and exhaustion found he had resources to endure he did not know he had. Perhaps he finds in his office other mountains to climb. Perhaps he will rethink his real estate business, learn new computer technology to make it more efficient, train new employees. Perhaps his days, his weekends will be filled with things that have to be done, things that have to be said. Perhaps the urgency of things that have to be done and said will take the place of the meaning he had once sought for.
Three times now Juan has gone to Aconcagua and turned back before reaching the summit. Which of his next patients—banker, middle-aged housewife, college student--is going to hear the advice to climb Aconcagua with him?
Georges Bataille, The Accursed Share, vols II & III, trans. Robert Hurley (NY: Zone Books, 1993. Cited as AS.
Gilles Deleuze and FĂŠlix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, trans. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987). Cited as T.P
Philip Fisher, The Vehement Passions (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002). Cited as VP. Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgment, trans. Werner S. Pluhar (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1987). Cited as CJ.
Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, trans. Walter Kaufmann (NY: Vintage, 1974). Cited as GS.
Thus Spoke Zarathustra, in The Portable Nietzsche, trans. Walter Kaufmann (NY: Viking, 1968). Cited as Z.
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Professor Emeritus Roger Burggraeve, Ph.D. Roger Burggraeve was born in Passendale, Flanders (Belgium), in 1942. Salesian of Don Bosco (priest). Licentiate in Philosophy (Rome, 1966). Doctorate in Moral Theology (Leuven, 1980). Associate Professor at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, KU Leuven (1980-1988). Professor (Ordinarius) from 1988 till 2007; now Emeritus Professor. Has taught at the Faculties of Theology, Pharmacy, Philosophy, Canon Law, Medicine (Dentistry, Sexuality and Family Sciences) courses of Fundamental Theological Ethics; Sexual and Relational Ethics; Faith, Biblical Thought, and Ethics; Faith, Values, and Ethics: on Emmanuel Levinas’ Ethical and Metaphysical Thinking; Perspectives on Religion and Meaning; Pharmaceutical Ethics. As Emeritus with an assignment he continued till 2010 to teach courses on “Bible and Ethics”, “Christian Sexual and Conjugal Ethics”, and “An Ethics of Growth for Difficult Pastoral and Educational Situations” at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, KU Leuven. He actually taught the same courses as Visiting Professor at the International Institute for Religious and Catechetical Sciences 'Lumen Vitae' (Brussels), Dharmaram College (Bangalore, India), in Congo, Kenya, and Canada. Since 1987 he was the Co-founder and Chair, and now he is the Honorary Chair of the Centre for Peace Ethics, KU Leuven. Domains of research: the ethical and religious (Jewish) thinking of Emmanuel Levinas; the relationship between Christian faith and ethics; sexual, relational, marital and family ethics and education; ethics and (therapeutic/pastoral/educational) guidance; the relationship between bible and philosophy (with special attention for the dialogical Jewish philosophy of Rosenzweig, Buber and Levinas). He also developed an ethical model of growth for education, social welfare, and pastoral work. He is a member of several Ethical Committees (Caritas Catholica Flanders, Ethical Committee for Metally Disabled People, Flemish Welfare Union). He published more than 365 books, articles and contributions in English, Dutch, French, Italian, and Japanese on: Emmanuel Levinas; relational, sexual and marriage ethics; Bible and ethics; nationalism and holy war; education, pastoral guidance, social welfare and ethics; evil, judgement, revenge or retaliation, forgiveness and reconciliation. He is last but not least Spiritual Director at the Holy Spirit College in Leuven, where 50 to 60 international priests (Asia and Africa) reside for studies in theology, philosophy or canon law.
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Michel Valentin, Ph.D. Michel Valentin is Professor of French at the University of Montana where he teaches all levels of the French language, literature and culture included. His research/inquiry and teaching specialties are Literary/Textual Critical Theory, Postmodern Studies, the application of Psychoanalysis to Texts, Film Studies (especially French and West African), and 17th century Art and Literatures. He has published in several literary journals and has edited a book on the Muslim Veil.
Emaline Friedman, M.A. Emaline Friedman is a doctoral student at the University of West Georgia where she is currently a first-time professor. Having earned degrees in psychology and philosophy from the University of California, Santa Cruz, Emaline’s studies focus on critical discourse analytic systems and various accounts of subjectivity that borrow from psychoanalytic theory and materialist philosophies. She also enjoys writing poetry and spending time with her dog, Annie.
Wim Matthys Wim Matthys is a Ph.D. candidate in Psychology at the University of Ghent and resident psychologist at the Department of Psychoanalysis and Clinical Counseling. His Freudio-Lacanian approach of Stanley Kubrick’s films has resulted in International Publications and Conference Presentations around Europe and the United States. His primary research interests are applied and clinical psychoanalysis.
Katharine Wolfe, M.A. Katharine Wolfe is a Ph.D. Candidate in Philosophy at Stony Brook University and a Teaching Fellow for the Foundation Year Programme at the University of King's College. She has also taught for Bard College's Language and Thinking Program. Her work has been published in Deleuze Studies, Rethinking Marxism, and Contemporary Aesthetics. She is currently at work on a dissertation project addressing the relational nature of need.
Alberto Varona, Psy.D. Dr. Alberto Varona is Assistant Professor of clinical psychology at Adler School of Professional Psychology where he teaches Psychopathology I & II, Psychoanalytic Approaches and History &Systems. He is also the faculty advisor and guest lecturer for two student organizations, the Contemporary Psychoanalytic Study Group and the Great Books & Thinkers of the Humanities. He earned his doctorate from the Wright Institute in Berkeley, CA, after many years studying religion and philosophy. His current interests include philosophical phenomenology, process philosophy and contemporary psychoanalysis
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Joseph Scalia III Joseph Scalia III is a psychoanalyst in Bozeman, Montana. He is a Psya.D. Dissertator, in Psychoanalysis and Culture, at the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis. His published writings include Intimate Violence: Attacks Upon Psychic Interiority and The Vitality of Obects: Exploring the Work of Christopher Bollas. He has published a number of articles in Modern Psychoanalysis, The Journal of Interpersonal Violence, and with Lynne Scalia in Philosophical Studies in Education. Mr. Scalia is the Founding Director of Northern Rockies Psychoanalytic Institute and its Center for Cultural Critique and Intervention. He has been in practice since 1979, Having worked as a Staff Psychologist in such institutions as Arkansas State Prison, Warm Springs (Montana) State Hospital, and Western Montana Community Mental Health Center, and Since 1989 in private practice.
Daniel Bradley, Ph.D. Dan O’Dea Bradley graduated from Gonzaga with degrees in Biology and Philosophy in late 90s. At the National University of Ireland in Galway, he earned a Masters in Ethics and Cultural Studies and in 2008 was awarded a PhD in philosophy for his dissertation, “The Ambiguity of Desire: Truth and Illusion in the Discernment of the Divine.” Dan has been teaching in the philosophy department at Gonzaga University for the last five years. He regularly teaches Human Nature, Ethics, Phenomenology, and Hermeneutics. His research focuses on the phenomenology of religion, and he has recently published on Ricoeur and Kierkegaard. His research continues on those two thinkers as well as Heidegger, Edith Stein, Hossein Nasr, and Teresa of Avila. In Galway he met his wife Róisín who is now an adjunct lecturer also in the philosophy department at Gonzaga. The two of them have three children.
Janelle Kwee, Ph.D. Dr. Janelle Kwee is a clinical psychologist, with active credentials in Washington State and in British Columbia. She is a core faculty member in the Master of Arts in Counselling Psychology program at Trinity Western University in Langley, BC, where she provides clinical and research supervision in addition to teaching various practice-oriented courses. She has received postdoctoral psychotherapeutic training in Existential Analysis and Logotherapy under Drs. Alfried Langle and Daniel Trobisch, and is one of the founding members of the Existential Analysis Society of Canada, which is an affiliate of the International Society for Logotherapy and Existential Analysis in Vienna, Austria. Janelle grew up in Washington State where she enjoyed both summers and winters in the North Cascades. Lately, she mostly reserves time in the summer for the mountains, where she enjoys hiking with her enthusiastic young children and incurably urbanite husband.
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Justin Pritchett, Justin grew up in suburban Virginia making annual pilgrimages to Wyoming. After completing his MA in Theological Studies he moved to the mountains where he plays around with ideas loosely associated with existential phenomenology: issues of the grounding of human action, prereflective and transrational commitments, and the relationship between praxis and theory are common when he is not caught up in wonder at the immensity of the world, the grace of fish on the fly, and the delicate finish of beer."
Melayna Schiff Melayna Schiff is currently a senior student at the New College of Florida, the Honors College of the State University System of Florida, where she is focusing on philosophy and psychology. She is currently concentrating on understanding psychiatric diagnosis, and more specifically, the diagnosis of anorexia nervosa, through the lens of speech act theory. Her general research interests include continental philosophy, philosophy of language, metaphysics, psychoanalysis, and bioethics.
Steven Goldman, Ph.D. Steven Goldman, Ph.D. Steven Goldman grew up in Chicago and got interested in philosophy as a young person -- he has studied at St. John's College, The University of Paris, Heidelberg University, and completed his doctorate in philosophy at the Claremont Graduate University. Steve started teaching in the early 80s and is still teaching today -- formerly at places like the UC Irvine, the Claremont Colleges, the Venice Community Adult School, the Art Institute of Portland, Pacific Northwest College of Art -- and currently at Portland State University. Steve writes under the name Steven Brutus and has several books out there including Important Nonsense (2012), which was named one of the best 100 books of 2012 on Kirkus Reviews "indie list." Steve's most recent book is Religion, Culture, History: A Philosophical Study of Religion. Steve also started dabbling in philosophical counseling in the 1980s and has written extensively about the application of philosophy to therapy.
Professor Alphonso Lingis, Ph.D. Alphonso Lingis is an original among American philosophers. An eloquent and insightful commentator on continental philosophers, he is also a phenomenologist who has gone to live in many lands. His books include Excesses: Eros and Culture (1984), Libido: The French Existential Theories (1985), Phenomenological Explanations (1986), Deathbound Subjectivity (1989), The Community of Those Who Have Nothing in Common (1994), Abuses (1994), Foreign Bodies (1994), Sensation: Intelligibility in Sensibility (1995), The Imperative (1998), Dangerous Emotions (1999), Trust (2003), Body Modifications: Evolutions and Atavisms in Culture (2005), The First Person Singular (2007), Violence and Splendor (2010),and Contact.
â€• Jean-Paul Sartre, Nausea
Hellgate Canyon Bullet journal The Existential Psychoanalytic Institute announces its new journal entitled the
Hellgate Canyon Bullet, which will publish monthly articles in social criticism and radical social & political philosophy. Please contact us if you are interested.
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EPIS Membership It is autumn, the time for the EPIS membership drive. All of our members report significant appreciation of the benefits of EPIS membership. If your work is in phenomenology, psychoanalysis, Critical Theory, our cultural studiesâ€“clinical or theoreticalâ€“our community is committed to fostering your growth and development. Come check us out. Annual Professional Membership: $150.00 Annual Full-Time Student Membership: $75.00 Lifetime Membership: $2,500.00 Supporting Membership $50.00
EPIS RADIO Radio for the thinking person. EPIS Radioâ€“Radio for the Thinking Personâ€“has become wildly successful, entertaining discussions in psychoanalysis, phenomenology, Critical Theory, and cultural studies. If you know of a person you think we should interview, please have them contact us. Interviews are informative, valuable, and fun. episworldwide.com email@example.com EPIS Radio Programs The Existential Psychoanalytic Institute & Society 31 Fort Missoula Road, Suite 4
Eco- Phenomenology Summit July 30th, 2014 Register at: www.episworldwide.com The Existential Psychoanalytic Institute announces its Call for Papers for the July 30, 2014, Eco-Phenomenology Summit. We will consider all papers that address issues associated with the environment, humans, and culture from a phenomenological, psychoanalytic, or critical theory perspective. EPIS Conferences
Existential Psychoanalytic Institute 31 Fort Missoula Road, Suite 4 Missoula, Montana 59804 USA episworldwide.com episjournal.com for submission guidelines This one-day event precedes the EPIS 3-day conference on phenomenology, psychoanalysis, and critical theory.