Sunday, August 06, 2006

The Hauntological Foundations of the Psyche

I don’t know that I feel like blogging anything today. I’m still stinging from yesterday’s unfair wound to my vanity by the supposedly Vanity Fair Guy. I guess I’ll just wrap up the interview with Sigmund, Carl and Alfred. They have a few more questions.

First up, “Are there patients that haunt you? Have any influenced you?”

A: First of all, I resent the question. That’s no mere “patient” haunting me, that’s my mother. And yes, as a matter of fact, mother was a big influence on me. Like me, she was a dated but full-bodied crackpot with a rustic, tendentious nose and a jejune, slightly fruity finish. She would go well with a soft, friendly muenster--not as soft as the Vanity Fair Guy's abs, mind you, nor perhaps as pungent on an August day in Manhattan.

Patients that haunt me.... No, not really. Maybe that one who never paid his bill.... Although I can say this: in order to really treat a patient on a deep level, you must allow yourself to be temporarily “haunted” by them--I hate to say “literally,” but I do mean literally.

You see, when someone comes in for treatment, they are obviously in pain. But they are unable to bear all of their pain. Rather, they have various defense mechanisms in place that shield them from it. However, the defense mechanisms are not entirely effective. The pain “leaks out” and can be picked up by those around them. As a psychologist, you are trained to pick up on the pain which the patient is unable to bear. Oddly enough, you will often be aware of the pain before the patient is. This is known as "counter-transference." Through it, you are able to give words to otherwise unglishable feelings that are beyond the patient's horizon of articulation.

I do not wish to engage in mystagogy--at least not at the moment. Perhaps tomorrow. But this capacity for detecting pain in another is not something one learns in graduate school. Rather, it is something possessed by most humans in varying degrees. For example, one of the things that makes a severely autistic person autistic is a compromised ability to “read” other minds.

This is actually referred to in the literature as our “mind reading” module, although it is not the sort of mind reading one sees on the Larry King show. Then again, who knows? I have no philosophical objection to the idea that consciousness is a field into which we tap. For example, imagine a lampshade with hundreds of pinprick holes. From the outside it will look as if there are many individual sources of light, when in reality, there is only the one bulb--the one source of light.

Come to think of it, I don’t think there’s any question that our minds are connected in ways that we do not understand. This is the whole basis of synchronicity, which allegedly reveals the nonlocal interconnectedness of the cosmos through meaningful coincidence.

Here again, I have no philosophical bobjection to this concept. For example, whatever else the cosmos is, it is ultimately One. Therefore, even though it appears from our vantage point that the cosmos has an “exterior” (matter) and “interior” (subjectivity), somehow these categories must resolve into a higher unity. I have always imagined it as a klein bottle (well, not always--starting in 1973, when I tried one of those herbal jazz cigarettes), which is a geometrical object that has only one surface, but still has an inside and an outside.

I have experienced many strange synchronicities in my life, but one of the weirdest occurred when I was sitting up in bed, thinking about this and that, while my wife was falling asleep. My mind was dwelling on nothing in particular, and I was thinking to myself about how a certain acquaintance sometimes called me “Bob,” other times “Robert.” Mrs. G.--who was sound asleep--then says, “Do you mind if I call you Bob?” Wo! (Feel free to share your synchronicity stories in this thread.)

I’m sure you married folks are aware of the nonlocal connectedness of you and your spouse. I can always tell if Mrs. G. is in a... is in... is in anything less than her typically cheerful and sunny mood even before she is. In other words, I can sense a disturbance in the force even before anybody is talking about some conversation with the flying plates.

So yes, in order to really get to know someone, we must allow ourselves to become haunted by them. Not only that, but in life in general we must decide what we are going to allow to haunt us. For I can assure you, a person is partly defined by what haunts them. Kos, Cindy Sheehan, and the Vanity Fair Comic Book Guy are haunted by some things, while you and I and other normal people are haunted by other things entirely. You, I assume, are not haunted by the prospect of a fascist-Christian theocracy in the United States. But in order to understand such a person, you must dwell in their emotional pain--which is real, if misconscrewed--and trace it back to its actual source. It is a transformation of some other pain that is haunting their house and making them belief the unbelievable--even fervently so.

But the fervor is a measure of the desperation, and ultimately ineffectiveness, of the defense mechanism. When dealing with emotions, there is both form and substance, and the outward form is often a second-hand smokescreen that conceals the actual source of the pain.

Let’s take The Comic Book Guy, for example. I haven’t read much by him, but it is as if everything he writes is in the same musical key--even the same note played over and over. What is this note? Contempt, pomposity, superiority, devaluation, envy. It would be a mistake to analyze his writing for its content---of which there is little--instead of the much more vivid unconscious message that always comes through. Through my studies with Milt Jung, the great chiropractor and second cousin of Melanie Klein, I learned that contempt--especially if it is dominant in the personality--is always a defense mechanism. It is always in the service of primordial envy, a topic I have discussed in the past. If someone is particularly insecure, they can unconsciously manage this insecurity, ward off depression, and elevate themselves through the constant operation of contempt. It is not voluntary, but compulsive.

There is certainly a place for righteous indignation and contempt--for example, toward an Arafat, toward Nasrallah, toward CAIR or the New York Times editorial board... no, wait, the Times is beneath contempt. But the habitually contemptuous person is almost always contemptible--in his own unconscious assessment. The object for whom he expresses contempt is simply a sacrificial victim that allows him to live another day under very difficult circumstances. You wouldn’t want to be that person, their petty little daily contemptuous triumphs notwithstanding. It can't be easy living in that body.


Alan said...

OT - Here is how religion, specifically Christianity, is discussed in the world of the horizontal....
David Byrne on Jesus Camp movie

Note: I can't speak to the movie itself but I can see the writer putting words in the mouths of Christians.

Sal said...

Bob- today's sermon was on the Transfiguration, b/c it's the Feast of, but it was interesting that you mentioned it yesterday.

My husband and I are not allowed to play Trivial Pursuit as a pair.

The instances of synch between my daughters and myself are too numerous to mention. My favorites are when one of them answers a question before I even ask it.
This ability lessens if we're separated for a long time, though.

Alan - thanks for the link. What is their obsession with mega-churches? Don't they realize that the vast majority of Christians don't belong to them? Big target, maybe?

'To the pure in heart, all things are pure.' The reverse is true, too, re: contempt, etc.

Counter Mag said...

im enjoying your rants
thats what they are
some of it touches me
some of it turns me off
you are a neo-conservative
i am a neo-nothing
your politics you wear on your sleeve
mine i do not pretend to be rigid
for man and his surroundings will shift forever like the sands
born again
once but every hour
you seem lost in a world that you have created for yourself
overly confusing and complex
you attack the whole of things without enjoying the subtleties
today i am your doctor
and you are my neurotic patient
i'm glad you've come to my couch bed
we both know you'll never leave
and this we both shall cherish

Petey said...

Thank you for that extremely sincere poem... then again, all bad poetry is sincere.

Counter Mag said...

i love neoconservatives
when your pseudo-intellectual, merry-go-round political discourse is decoded, what truths you speak of so absolutely start to shift, crack and open beneath your feet
what then bubbles up from the black depths of pomposity is nothing more than a totalitarian lust that can only be satiated with hate

Gagdad Bob said...

Did I say that I had never been haunted by a mental patient?

Gagdad Bob said...

Oh, and my totalitarian lust can't be satiated by anything. Don't you get it? That's the whole point.

PSGInfinity said...

[Picks up a random catalog, rolls it, then whacks Petey upside the 'ed']

"There. That's better."

But anyway, where was I? Oh, yeah, congratulating counter mag on one the the better trollish rants I've seen in quite a while. It'd be interesting to hoist a beer with you if you could ever stable your ego.

I once told a coworkers that people need a psychologist's ear because there's a pain their running from. A pain they can neither face nor endure. And then I told them of my mother, who committed suicide when I was four...

Counter Mag said...

now that i've got your attention...

Petey said...

Yes, after all, attention is what every troll craves. But in this case I think you got our inattention. You're just the last to know.

PSGInfinity said...

Of course, counter mag had to descend to a troll's normal level. Sad. You've got some talent, kid, but I guess I'll put the catalog down now, and let Petey say something really snarky.

If you'd like to expound on your points in a rational way, go ahead and post on your blog, then let us know your post is up...

...Assuming Petey or Bob hasn't become quite irritated with you, which I can't promise.

Anonymous said...

i like you petey
you're funny

christians that justify the american war machine

your quest to find god has led you to a clash of civilizations?


gumshoe1 said...

i'll confess to not being the world's best listener.
but i am rather a much better listener than i was in the past.

two ears,one mouth.

your description of the contemptuous person as a one-note-Harry reminded me that few of us can *hear* what we sound like...
what song we continually sing.

others,by contrast,can hear it

we are all *musical* in that sense.

Petey said...

Yes, I do enjoy apocalyptic war pre-enactment in my spare timelessness. But it's not a clash of civilizations. Rather, a clash of civilization and its barbarous alternative.

Counter Mag said...

Ishmael with his troops of wild retainers and
half-savage allies, in all the state of a Bedouin prince, gathered before the
cave of Machpelah, in the midst of the men of Heth, to pay the last duties to
the 'father of the faithful'

gumshoe1 said...

counter mag
doing a dAvId ByRne?

how does your cursing bob
incline him to gentleness,
counter mag?

your mock his righteousness
but can't see
your own pride in doing so.

will said...

Hmm, well, I can think of a recent jaw-dropping synchronicity involving a certain E. Collie website and a blogger with whom I am acquainted.

But my question - how do you deal with your vampiric patients? (actually, I assume that they are all vampiric to some degree, but some much more than others) That is, how do you avoid the energy pull?

I've observed that with spiritual advancement, the more vulnerable one becomes to the energy vampires - the spiritual "force field" one develops becomes ripe pickings for those who are constantly in need of a fresh energy burst.

Another prob can arise. Spiritual energy as it arises in the body can often have an adverse affect on others who have no way of integrating it in a safe manner. They can, in effect, become "irradiated" by another's spiritual energy, and not always to good ends. Genuine spiritual teachers have enough problems dealing with non-neurotic "normals" in this respect. Dealing with people who have serious mental/emotional probs - how do you negotiate this? Large topic, I know.

There is always, of course, Dion Fortune's Psychic Self-Defense, an invaluable manual.

Counter Mag said...

we're losing focus with all the personal attacks

bob, i dig your site, i think you stimulate raw discussion
but i don't like the anti-islam atmosphere in here
its scary coming from americans who say they love jesus

i would hoist a beer with all of you
but i'd be afraid my politics might get me killed

Van said...

To Counter Mag,
Hint, that big key, usually 2nd up on the left of the keyboard that says "Shift", can help you to make Capital letters. Most people enjoy putting them at least at the beginning of a sentence, or as the first letter in each line of a poem.
Just a thought.

will said...

Counter-mag, please, nobody here is "anti-Islam" per se. We're anti-those who use Islam as a context to purvey a medieval intolerance, we're anti-those who bear a hatred for and desire to obliterate everything that does not subscribe to their regressive thinking.

It's the same difference between those who were anti-Nazi and those who were anti-German. We would be in the former camp, please understand.

will said...

And counter-mag, if you;re politics get you killed, it won't be by our hands. That would be death by spiritual suicide.

gumshoe1 said...

you sound attached to your politics,mag.

why would any "kill you"
online,no less,
for your politics???

there *are* people who'd like to social engineer a world like that for you.

it's just my opinion,
but i don't believe you'll find many of those types on bob's blog.


Anonymous said...

Bob, just a thought, but perhaps you're getting steered into the 25 mph turn lane by these "people." I sense a real different tone here the past few days, but it could just be me.

Sometimes visiting this site is like watching the contrails overhead. It would be nice to be flying up there, but... maybe someday.


Gagdad Bob said...

I hear you. Don't worry, these past two posts have been all in fun. I certainly don't take these critics seriously.