Sunday, November 30, 2014

The ego is first a body ego vs. the first object is the body

I've shared in several posts that working with specific id impulses of aggression or loneliness (affection) has been central to much of my clinical work.

A patient follows dreams or associations to a post childhood event that caused narcissistic or echoistic injuries and they re-live the feeling and I get them to discharge through physical expression.

It's easy enough to figure out what to do when they say they feel anger in their legs, jaw, arms, eyes, etc. They either hit out, bite, or make their face monstrous and eyes into daggers or lasers that can sear a whole in someone. However, many of these patients have referenced feeling anger in their chest and I haven't known what to do with it.

I figured out a solution now though. Because some patients have had an antagonistic relationship with their bodies and put inferiority feelings into it, or have had phantasies of leaving it in astral travel, I asked a patient who referenced this aggression to hold her breath and imagine she was hurting her body as a separate thing from her (she herself had referenced her own mind-body split in many previous sessions and abhorred the somatic therapy because it made her too connected to her body). She did this and after she let herself breath she immediately referenced how her anger switched to a sibling and she detailed the recent anger for the sibling.

I've mentioned before that Freud's claim isn't that the auto-erotic and early stages have no relation between child and external objects. Instead the claim is that the drives that are formed from those relations first take the body as an object and the drives for power or belonging don't exist in a constantly related way until the anal stage in which social hierarchy is a reference that remains constant. In the volar stage the ego ideal references others but they are outside of social hierarchy and the tensions disappear when engagement with them ends.

I have begun thinking about Freud's claim that the death drive is first primary masochism because of my patients aggression towards her body... but I need to confirm this works with other patients in a similar way and I don't necessarily think that the mechanistic desire to not breath and quiet the body would be the same as death or a pull to inorganicity. As I've argued in a much earlier post, Freud conflates the repetition of an event that has been experienced with the return to a previous state that hadn't been experienced by consciousness.  

Still, Freud may have been on to something...

Sunday, November 23, 2014

John Wick

I saw the movie John Wick yesterday. I'm working on what I hope is the last round of edits for the book and I wanted to see an action movie that would give me visceral aggressive feelings and fear and help take my mind off of how poorly written I still find my work.

It's a great example of the proto-phallic subject egoist. Phallic symbols in hot cars, guns, etc. abound and in his job as a hitman it is clear that he has a high ego ideal to be the best at his work.

There have been many movies like this in the last 7 years or so. A former CIA agent, hitman, or super tough and intelligent individual who worked secretly in the anal level of Being to impact world events gives it up to have a normal life. However, something happens to his wife, daughter, or something to disturb that life and he's drawn back into having to kill again.

In John Wick the titular's character's wife dies and she ends up sending him a dog to help him learn to love again. The beginning is comprised of mundane scenes of him living with his dog and getting attached. However, one day some Russian mobsters admire his car and decide to break into his house beat him, kill the dog, and steal the car. This is enough to send John Wick back into assassin mode and seek to kill the mobsters (one of which happens to be the son of the top mob boss who he used to work for).

This seems to be an example of a loss of love at the phallic level for the subject egoist being defended against and leading to a regression to the anal level.

There is an interesting symptom reading involving a female assassin. When Wick goes to the big city to hunt down the mob boss' son he stays a hotel for assassins in which their is a rule that no killing can take place (it's a "safe zone"). The female assassin chooses not to follow the rule and attacks him. He fends her off and lets her go for some information. She escapes but returns later and appears as if she is going to kill him again. She is mysteriously called away before any engagement and is then killed herself for breaking the rules of the hotel by a group of assassins (seemingly under the direction of the owner of the hotel).

This reading seems to indicate that Wick killing the bosses' son transgresses his anal conscience. I would have to study the script more to be confident in the reading but I think what is suggested is that Wick lost something he loved and so now he wants the mob boss to lose something he loves and that this is more prominent in his motivation than some sense of justice. To take the loved or precious thing from the father would imply expected retribution that would turn into a need for punishment in the individual (a substitutive milder punishment rather than constant anxiety regarding the father coming for you). Thus, even though Wick survives in the end and gets another dog there is a moment in which he appears to die from wounds in the fight with the mob boss. In this reading, this is what his need for punishment demands. He could have killed the mob boss with a gun but throws it away to fight "like men" with him. This mirrors how the female assassin seemed posed to get the drop on Wick before she is called away to her death.

There is definitely a more involved reading possible but I have enough work for now.    

Thursday, November 20, 2014

auto-erotic object relation

I've previously mentioned volar stage relations in which their is complete possession of the altruist. He or she can't have any friends or not even any pets. The egoist in the sexual relationship with them demands that they alone exist and that they have unfettered access to them.

I've lately encountered an auto-erotic object relation in which the egoist in the sexual relation gets to have even more control. An altruistic female has to endure a husband who she cooks for, cleans for, who can ask her to find the remote, find something for him, and can generally interrupt her at any time of the day. They even had a discussion about what she should be doing at night after he goes to sleep. For every activity she does, from washing the dishes to driving, he can criticize her or find something wrong. She asks permission to leave the house and any time she will not be at his beck and call. Even routine visits she makes to friends is up for discussion every Tuesday .

What is this kind of intimacy except him being a part of her very mind?

I've mentioned a psychotic patient who attributed thoughts she had about her unattractiveness, thoughts about traumatic moments in the past, etc.  to "the enemy". She would say that you have to be careful because people "can put a statement on you". She also externalized her superego in a function that remained self-critical but didn't find an actual external person. Instead it resembles Freud's example of delusions of being watched in which the watcher isn't a concrete person.

A baby at the auto-erotic stage doesn't have any language, but I guess that we have to imagine that it already has a sense for good and bad and a feeling of away and towards satisfaction is present and in the process of primary identification with the parents the ur self-judgment is formed that is comprised of these simple good and bad feelings... Being hungry or cold, eating bad food, etc. and having consciousness of this sense of badness above the id instincts that drive these basic properties is the hallmark of the auto-erotic.

The strange thing to me is to imagine the egoist who chooses this almost complete control of the object even though it renders him so patently infantile. He is functionally a baby who is constantly angry and whining that the world isn't perfectly ordered so that his whims are satisfied before he experiences them...

I of course use choose in the sense that it is surprising that he doesn't experience any shame at the idea of himself as acting like this. His regression must be very strong.

There is, of course, more going on in the relationship and the altruist finds ways to trick the egoist and go around him on some things, but the sub-volar level of interaction is still very apparent.  

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Volar Ontology

"I want to be with those who know secret things
or else alone."
— Rainer Maria Rilke

Symbols in physiognomy: bat eyebrows

I've had a few patients whose eyebrows remind me of a bat

The thinness of the upper lip has usually accompanied it and Lowen claimed that the schizoid mouth is never full and sensuous.

Symbols in physiognomy: the owl of Minerva

I'm not sure if I can link this up with the reference to birds in the Heracles myth. However, I've had several patients that have struck me as having an owl-like face.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Symbols in physiognomy: Stealing the Mares of Diomedes.

I've shared some examples of the representation of parental imagos that show up in physiognomy.

The lion at the phallic triangular, the boar or pig at the anal, the bull at the volar stage, and earlier in the volar stage I should add the horse. It feels a little coarse to say it but it has definitely been apparent in some patients who are altruists:

Additionally, in some, but I can't say all there is also the condition of having a gummy smile which, other than the long face, might be the other reference point.

I'm going to have to do another post on eyebrows that remind one of bats. Although, for the moment that means I lose the reference to ontology and the regression showcased through the Heracles myth.

I also need to add here that physiognomy doesn't fully cover the parent imago. I've mentioned before that after the proto-phallic encounter of Perseus with the Medusa that Pegasus and Chrysaor spring from her severed head. The horse, especially with its mane, also appears as a phallic symbol and shows up with the centaur and Heracles' death as well as with Ixion.

Lowen and the auto-erotic and volar

In Lowen's bioenergetics the schizoid and then the oral character roughly approximate the triangular complexes of the auto-erotic and volar stages. He characterizes their central problem as "the right to exist" and then "the right to need" (respectively).

With social ontology this becomes established not as a complex intellectual idea but in relation to the encounter with Space and Time. The right to exist in physical space, which is in dialectical unity within the mind (i.e. interacting with mnemic traces, memories, in reveries, etc.), seems like the problem of the altruist. Conversely, the right for others to exist and matter at all to one seems to be the issue of the egoist.

In the volar stage the right to need is a good example of Fairbairn's characterization of the schizoid whose love is hungry, also the idea of others who reference fear of merger with the other and losing one's identity as a problem, but I need more clinical material here first before I'll come up with a verdict... It's also important to know the proto, deutero, and trito differences, of course.

However, the altruist's fear of needing and depending on others I have seen contrasted to the most possessive co-dependent relationships in which the egoist doesn't allow the sexual object to have anyone but him (not friends, and not even pets). The right to need becomes the right of others to need others (if you'll forgive the awkward phrasing).

auto-erotic and the Daimon, computer, or shadow

Socrates famously had a Daimon that warned him against mistakes (It didn't tell him what to do, which is important for me to note because I've worked with several patients who hear a voice that tells them what to do). Nietzsche often waxed poetic about the wanderer and his shadow and being in dialogues with himself.

Just as the auto-erotic came from masturbation and the idea that one can take something that seems made for two people and procreation and do it alone so too does sociality which seems made for a minimum of two seem bypassed here. (It's important to say that I've found ties to the importance of masturbation in the phallic stage and that the auto-erotic isn't its only determinant. It's likely that masturbation isn't the auto-erotic stage's best exemplar but it still makes sense to think of someone regressing back from object love to a place where they satisfy themselves and don't even try to be with someone real as a natural path to pathology).

There have been a couple movies: Jonze's Her and Interstellar where both an object drive and ego drive relationship with a robot or AI is involved. Normally I would have guessed that the interaction with a robot would be indicative of the egoistic pole but for me the importance of Plato and Nietzsche give to studying different types of people makes them clearly altruists and the relationship in Her is idealizing and altruistic (the symptom reading makes it a relationship he has with himself and his own creativity) and in Interstellar too it's a humorous and affable relationship.

At heart, the relationship in general seems to be one of play, which seems the complete parallel of masturbation in which one takes back all ego drives and object drives to act out those things whether with toys or through a story or capturing an event of the story in a drawing or song....

While play would have to be universally experienced the above philosophers and artists are no doubt illustrating an auto-erotic deutero stage in the altruist in which a perpetual attitude of play that is deepened to feeling like one is in dialogue with oneself... or in which one is constantly brought to think against oneself, or, as in Her, where the main character is playing games in public seemingly at the behest of his AI girlfriend but is really egging himself on.


Friday, November 7, 2014

personal unconscious and collective unconscious and the mind and body approach

The collective unconscious is another way of talking about character and the proto, deutero, and trito stages up to phallic stage. Social ontology and the encounter with Space, Time, the Superlative, and Prestige is achieved and this provides myth with a level of Being. Symbols are also generated here an often come from the influence of adaptation or fixation on the body as well as imago representations that are visible from projective identification (i.e. assumption of the parental imago and people looking like lions, bulls, deer, etc. in their face). The id impulses of aggression and affection are also very important and provide myth and stories with their idiosyncratic forms of aggression or affection (i.e. desire to behead, dismember, devour, etc. in aggression).

The personal unconscious, which is often accessed through dreams and getting association to certain idiosyncratic word choices in regular conversation will often lead people back to narcissistic/echoistic injuries and betrayals/disappointments in love. It will also lead to various defenses that show up in, for example, melancholic introjections in which the person has a poor self-image or in externalization of immoral motives to others. When defenses are in place then they must be worked through. I've shared before that taking melancholic self-statements and asking the patient to say them as 'you-statements' in relaxed conditions (and after they have been present for a little bit/descriptions of parents or other people who the statements fit begin to appear) will allow him or her to feel the anger they have.

When they note the anger or you can hear it in their voice then it's time to ask them where they feel it in their bodies. For some it appears in the mouth, or hands, or arms, or legs, etc. It's at this point when you can ask them to express the aggression by biting, strangling, hitting, kicking, etc. with some simple props like towels, pillows, etc.

You will see them express their aggression and be into it. If you ask them for aggression when it doesn't come from them internally nothing will happen and it will be a rote exercise bereft of benefits. It will be surprising to see them get into it and it's always important to ask them to "give it words". They will often swear and slander the person in an impressive way.

The personal unconscious will lead to the idiosyncratic id reactions of the collective unconscious and once it is expressed (sometimes it will take more than one time) the bodily "armor" that holds the impulses back will let go and they will often appear healthier physically along with psychological benefits of ending certain repetitions that involve the need for punishment, for example.

This is a much faster route than interpreting id impulses and waiting for transference upon oneself.

It's also much faster than working with the bodily armor and trying to get the suppressing muscles to let go so the impulses can be expressed that way.

This isn't all the work of therapy and trito instinctual renunciations (i.e. full internalization of the object) and work with bad conscience and other aspects are still very important to work with. However, it is the quickest route I have figured out for getting short-term therapy results.

These short-term results are important for me because of the nature of my job and the 3 month time limit I have with many patients. However, I do have doubts about whether this approach is conducive for the longer term work of trito maturation and other aspects.

Often patients who were badly off will enjoy the benefits of this approach but then a denial of how badly off they were before comes up. In enjoying more health they are pulled back out to live more and therapy can lose its lustre because, to these often impulsive characters, it is seen as work.

Going for a more traditional psychoanalytic route will allow for transference to fully be established instead of working extra-transferrentially.

Still, I enjoy the precision of working this way and want to enjoy my successes a little before my ego ideal once again makes me feel inadequacy for not being able to work in many different ways and know what way would be best for each patient.