Come For the Fate, Stay for the Destiny (1.05.12)
Or better yet, let Bollas explain. The term "destiny drive" is taken from his book, Forces of Destiny, but he's really reframing established psychoanalytic ideas in a more modern theoretical context that sees the mind as intrinsically intersubjective and "object related" as opposed to being more like a hydraulic machine driven to discharge instinctual tension.
(I hate to get all pedantic on your asses, but this is an important point to get out of the way. In modern psychoanalytic theory, "object" mainly means "subject"; this is because classical psychoanalysis regarded subjects as merely the object of an instinctual discharge. When they shifted the focus to the subject, they retained the old nomenclature. Hence, modern psychoanalysis is confusingly called "object relations," when it would be more accurate to call it "subject relations." The shift is as profound as the move, say, from Newtonian to quantum physics, but it is as if they retained the old language.)
I don't want to get too bogged down in theory, but the point is that modern psychoanalysis focuses much more on the discovery, articulation, and elaboration of the true self, as opposed, say, to instinctual conflict between id and ego. Instincts are still important, but they are understood to operate in an irreducibly interpersonal field.
Now, the question is, how does the true self actualize and grow? Bollas's thesis is that it is through the discovery of one's unique idiom, which you might say is the signature of the true self: human idiom is that peculiarity of person(ality) that finds its own being through the particular selection and use of the object. In this sense, to be and to appropriate are one.
In other words, you might say that the true self is a preconceptual logos, or clueprint, that must find the objects it requires in order to elaborate itself and "live." In this regard, Bollas says that the self's idiom is "akin to a kind of personality speech, in which the lexical elements are not word signifiers but factors of personality."
There is no real being in the absence of this articulation of one's idiom, only a kind of paradoxical "negative being." Or, to turn it around, when you cannot articulate your idiom, your life will feel like a stifling prison, whatever the outward circumstances.
Hence what I was saying yesterday about the centrality of liberty. In the absence of liberty, it is very unlikely that you will be able to discover your own unique idiom, which is again the key to the articulation of the true self. Private property is a fundamental expression of (and requirement for) liberty, and the most precious property is one's self. But without secure private property, how can the self appropriate what it needs to speak its idiom? If those things are determined by the state, or by political correctness, the self is sharply constrained in its ability to find its real idiom.
You could also say that when you fail to find your idiom, you will feel as if you are haunted by a kind of fate that blankets your life, and from which you cannot escape. More on which below.
In the introduction to the book, Bollas speaks of his own child, and I am sure most of you parents out there will fully relate: "What struck me was how he was who he is from scratch. He seemed to be in possession of his own personality, his very own unique configuration in being (what I term an idiom) that has never really changed in itself."
In cogitating on this common observation, Bollas simply transferred this awareness to the therapeutic setting, and realized that one of his primary functions as a therapist was to be of assistance to the patient "for private articulations of his personality potential -- which could only be accomplished by eliciting different elements of my own personality." Bollas realized that in order to do this, he had to temporarily ignore his own idiom so as to "be" what the patient required of him at any given time. (Here again, you parents out there will relate.)
Here you can see the problem. A patient comes into therapy because they are bogged down by their fate. Something happened early in life that foreclosed their destiny, and now they don't know how to find it, because it is buried beneath so much life history, forced choices, defensive adaptations, etc. But the true self is still there, seeking a way to express itself and be. This innate urge to articulate the true self is what Bollas calls the destiny drive. The therapist's job is to serve as a mediator, or midwife, in the birth of this latent self.
Now, what is this true self, phenomenologically speaking? I would say that it is aliveness itself, only transposed to the key of mind, or consciousness. Although difficult to define, one can see it as a kind of red thread that runs through one's life. You definitely know when it has been touched, and it is obviously critical to pay attention to these sometimes subtle moments of contact, in order to "find your way."
The odd thing is that the true self is obviously a form of "knowledge," but it is more in terms of inclinations to "perceive, organize, remember, and use" the world in a certain way. When there is a good fit between idiom and world, it brings with it a very specific form of "joy," which Bollas has elsewhere called "the erotics of being." For example, the joy some people find in this blog is simply a case of finding your idiom mirrored to you in a satisfying way, so that you become aware of your own true self. One can only wonder why our jester is addicted to a foreign idiom that can bring him no joy or peace.
We not only require people to articulate our idiom, but material objects, books, films, music, hobbies. As Bollas says, we could conduct a kind of "person anthropology" by paying attention to the objects chosen by this or that person. I know that this blog is as unique as my fingerprint, in that it represents the fruit of my own inimitable selection of objects and subjects for the articulation of my being. I don't have many readers, but I suppose it's surprising that I have any, given how personal it is.
Back to the idea of destiny vs. fate. According to Bollas, only in modern times do we begin to see an increasing distinction between the two terms, so that destiny begins to take on more positive connotations -- the idea that "one can fulfill one's destiny if one is fortunate, if one is determined, if one is aggressive enough" The whole idea of destiny could only take root once people gained a degree of economic and cultural freedom, and were "able to take some control of their lives and chart their future." (One can well understand why America is the land of the "true self," at least for conservatives, whereas liberal victimology represents the perverse erotics of fate; don't think for one moment that people do not take perverse and sadistic pleasure in their victim status.)
But fate has very different connotations. Again, it results in being "pushed around" by the past instead of "lured" by the future. The more one is fated -- in particular, by mind parasites -- the less one can manifest one's destiny. (I am sure it would be fruitful to meditate on the implications of this as they pertain to the idea of predestination, which can either be enslaving or liberating, depending upon how it is understood.)
Now, when a patient comes in for treatment, it is often because they are a victim of fate, or the Curse of the Mind Parasites: "The person who is ill and comes to analysis either because of neurotic symptoms, or characterological fissures, or psychotic ideas and pains, can be described as a fated person. That is, he is suffering from something which he can specify and which has a certain power in his life to seriously interfere with his capacity to work, find pleasure, or form intimate relationships."
Bollas says that "we can use the idea of fate to describe the sense a person may have, determined by a life history, that his true self has not been met and facilitated into lived experience. A person who feels fated is already someone who has not experienced reality as conducive to the fulfillment of his inner idiom."
Okay, let's pause, take a breath, and reflect on these ideas in more personal terms.
Nah, let's just stop for now. To be continued.
Related idiom @ American Digest, The Star:
To see something special. To see something beyond yourself and your imaginings. To follow it wherever it leads. To always remain prepared for miracle[s]. That is the inner music of the story of The Star. Like all stories that survive, it is the music of the heart and not of the head, and like the heart, it will endure.