Monday, December 26, 2016

by request, some clinical examples for the previous post

One patient, Sarah, brings up how she missed her midterm because her son was sick and the professor wouldn’t let her take the exam at a different time. He also wouldn’t let her other assignments soak up what the exam was worth for her grade. She had taken this class twice before and failed it, this would be the third time. I ask her if she could get a note from the hospital and she said yes. I tell her that she wasn’t being treated fairly and she could either ask the professor about this in person or go to the dean. Sarah isn’t sure at first. She brings up worries about coming across as “rude” to the professor. Next session she begins by talking about how her boss scheduled a training for her during time she needs to study for her finals. She reports that she tried to tell her that she needed to study but she says her boss told her that work needed to be her priority and that she, herself, had been in college and worked at the same time, and did just fine. Sarah says she agreed to work, but as she talks about it, she shows frustration and angrily scoffs that school was her priority and not the “stupid job.” I ask her about talking to her boss and letting her know school is her priority and that she needs to study and not waste a lot of time and money on a failed class (or one with a low grade). Sarah again expresses that this seems “rude” and that she feels a resistance to saying something, but knows that she should. She then reports that she didn’t talk to the professor yet either.

Instead of “coaching” her, I ask her what would happen if she failed the course for a third time, and got a bad grade in the other course because of the training for her job. Sarah imagines that she gets frustrated with things and then drops out of college and doesn’t go on to become a nurse (as she wants to do). I ask her what kind of life she would have. She says she would have just a “normal, bum life” at a job she doesn’t like that doesn’t pay well. I ask for clarification about what “bum life” means and she says she’ll be “miserable, not have any money, not have a nice home, and no cool stuff” (she didn’t say this all at once. I constructed this list from all the things she said). I ask her to turn these into you-statements, about someone else from her past, and who comes to her mind (i.e. “you are miserable, you have a bum life, you have no money or cool stuff”). She reports that her mother comes to mind and talks about how her mother has been an addict and hasn’t really had a comfortable or stable life. I ask, “how does it feel if you say, I don’t deserve to have a better life than my mom?” Sarah says it doesn’t feel true, but makes a face as she says it. I clarify that people are made up of many different feelings and asks her if it feels true for a part of her. She agrees that it does and says “a little part of me feels bad for my mom.” She discusses how she’s “looked down on her” for a long time. She talks about how she would have liked her mother to have a good life so she could have been her “idol” and shown her how to have one too. She complains about her grandmother who raised her and how she “never proved anything” to client and was never her idol. She says that she doesn’t look up to anyone. She returns to talking about her mother, and as she does I notice that she often starts and then has to restart her sentences and that she’s making slips that show she is talking as if she is her mother or saying something about her mother that is really about her. She catches herself and corrects herself, but I use this as an opportunity to say that client sometimes feels like she should be the idol for others and like she’s become her own idol and taken the place of her mother. Sarah acknowledges this and brings up her desire to have a relationship with a “real man” and gets into some issues with her boyfriend.

In a future session, I ask her to return to her mother and talk more about her ‘bum life.” Sarah recounts how her mother would show up at her grandmother’s make promises and leave. She dwells on a particular memory of how she got to live with her mother for a few months and her mother brought home a man and she walked in on them having sex, and yelled at her mother, and how her mother got angry with her and locked her in her room. Sarah gets in touch with strong anger. I encourage her to say what she would have liked to say to her mother and she swears at her profusely. After this Sarah begins to feel some remorse. She begins to bring up how her mother had been really hurt by her father cheating on her and leaving her, and how she began to deal with this by drinking and sleeping with men. She begins to reprocess her mother as being more human and weak, and how by sending her to live with her grandmother, her mother was doing what was best for Sarah. In the session that follows, she reports that she called her mother for the first time in years and apologized to her. She establishes a relationship with her mother and also becomes more focused on her school work. She also reports that she has a cleaner house and feels more productive there and at work.  

Another patient, Glen, gets into his second motorcycle accident. He inherited a decent amount of money, bought a house, and several motorcycles. I ask him if he’s thinking about selling the bikes and he strangely responds that he told himself he’d learn to love motorcycles or “die trying.” I ask him to imagine he dies and to tell me who he thinks will be at his funeral. Glen mentions some family members and some others, and I ask him how people in his family might feel. He says they would feel regret, and specifically his mother. He says “she would beat herself up so bad. It would break her, tear her to pieces.” I ask “Does it feel true for a part of you if you say "I want to see my mom broken to pieces"? He answers in the affirmative and says she hasn't been the best mom. I ask for examples and he recounts the time she sent him away when he was 12 to live with his father out of state. He brings up another time when he called her to tell her the first time he shot up meth. He said that she initially seemed concerned but then she asked him if he had any more, because she wanted to get high. He also brings up when he was in jail and she never visited him (and adds that no one else in his family came either).

When we get to the affect, Glen initially reports feeling anger, but under this he gets to sadness and aloneness. He describes feeling “truly alone in the world,” and talks about how much his mother’s indifference hurt him. Then, after this, he gets to remorse, and feeling like he was “a brat” and always said he wanted to go to his father’s and that she probably didn’t know how to handle him. He then reports that he feels ‘peaceful and calm” like he never has, and not only did he not report any self-sabotage behavior for months after, but he also became more productive the week after the session and wasn’t procrastinating anymore.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The economics of punishment and apathy in psychic bisexuality

We’ve now seen that the unconscious need for punishment shows up in two ways. In the first group, the death of the client is a punishment to uncaring parents, on one hand. On the other, it is an introjection of the absence of parental care or love-- an economics of apathy. It’s as if it’s easier for them to treat themselves with indifference than to recognize the parental apathy. In the second group, the loss of a good life and children is a punishment the client feels they deserve because they tried to do this to a boyfriend who himself represented the earlier relationship with their mother. At the same time, there is a noticeable longing for a strong parental figure who would in turn show them how to be strong or give them power.

I think this pattern is best understood in the binary of passive-aggression and what I call active-affection. We are all familiar with passive-aggression. In the examples, causing one’s death to make one’s parent feel remorse is surely an example. Also some echoistic patients forget to do things in a passive-aggressive way, but one that, is unconscious. In contrast, the passive-aggressive mother who tells her kids to go out and have fun while she sits at home all alone, is often a more self-conscious version that I see with (object) egoists.

A more general example of this trend in the personality is in misanthropic echoists. They defend against wanting approval or to depend on others and will come into groups and tell others that people are rotten and untrustworthy. I would call this passive-egoism. There are many narcissists who don’t trust others either, but they are much more covert about it and don’t have to convince others about it, in order to believe it themselves. 

In contrast, active-affection is seen in the personality when you have narcissists who are generous to people in their family (and sometimes someone outside of it) in order to keep the beneficiaries in their power. If they act against the narcissist’s desire, they can be quickly cut off, or become recipients of his or her vindictiveness. However, there are (object) echoists who can be vivacious, charming, and fun with someone so long as they think the person is popular, cool, or has some prestige. But they can quickly lose this affection when the person isn’t deemed as important or special. Again, the first group isn't conscious of their active-affection and will say they love their children.  

In a more general example, there are active-altruists who identify with certain bosses, educators, leaders, or ideologies which they can do work for, above their own self-interest. However, in distinction from echoistic devotion, these egoists often are bothered by people having other leaders or ideologies that they don’t have. Their way of doing things or understanding things is “the way” and they may sacrifice and serve, but it is as much a No to other ways, as it is a yes to their way.

Just as passive-aggression must be indirect because the idealized parent can’t be directly confronted, active-affection as we see in one of the examples above, means that idealized self in the narcissist must be longed for and thus the parental-substitute is indirectly longed for as a source of greater strength.     

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Time and Sleep: Being loved and failed.

Another patient missed his previous session and had missed a session before. Instead of just treating this as transference, I tried to determine if this was a way of Being for him. Usually it's not difficult to tell if the patient is regressed, and living day to day— hour to hour is usually more precise— because he doesn't have a job, and usually strikes one as manic or depressed. This client had a job, was in a long-term relationship, and was more functional. However, he did admit to part of him feeling like he lives day to day and was just “going through the motions” in his life. He reported that he often misses appointments or plans and simply forgets and doesn't have any apparatus in place for scheduling things out of the normal daily routine. I began to build a metaphor with him. I told the patient that he has an interesting relationship to Time and that outside of the daily routine, it was like he expected Time to take care of him, and remind him of any special occasions that he might forget. I compared it to how I let my mother wake me up for school without setting an alarm for myself. He accepted the metaphor and I asked him to tell me his thoughts about how Time sometimes fails him and doesn't remind him of special events. He said that it's like Time "dropped the ball," “was forgetful herself," and that he can feel "disappointed" when she "fails" him. I took up the words that he affirmed in the co-construction and asked him to put them together as object-statements: "you dropped the ball, you are forgetful, you disappointed me, you failed me." He said them and said his mother came to mind. He said his grandmother was more of a mom than his mother was. His mother "hadn't been a mother" and "didn’t do her job". He got into particular moments of her selling drugs and using them. We analyzed them and he got in touch with strong disappointment with her but and feelings "that she's better than how she was acting." After he processed the feelings, he got in touch with new feelings of being "more proud of her now" and that "she's back to what she should be." He even expressed, spontaneously, that if he would share these thoughts with her "she'd probably cry". I investigated any resistance for client to act on this impulse but he didn't feel any and declared that he was going to say something to her.

I've discussed sleep before as something important or missing that can be gone, and also as something being interfered with. I've also seen sleep work like the above example. The patient is working through difficult material and feels sleepy, sometimes to the point of "not being able to keep their eyes open." In this moment you can similarly build the relation that sleep wants to take care of them and help them to deal with the psychic tension and pain involved but at the same time, sleep is failing them because they can't do the work they need to get better or improve. I don't have my notes with me to give a clinical example here, but I think my point gets across. 

It's important for the patient to build co-construct this and use his or her language. 

Of course you shouldn't force this too soon either. Wait for a pattern, and don't jump on the first time!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

bits and pieces/ slimy ooze/ demon and primitive stages of development

EMDR has turned out to be such an interesting tool. I can heartily confirm that I've been able to reverse a few cases of PTSD without the labor involved in waiting for, and working through the transference. More than this, it has sped up a lot of the extra-transferential work I do with patients too. There is still a lot of important transferential work that can't be avoided for people with primitive narcissistic and echoistic issues-- not to mention the huge importance of working through the trito phase (father complex) in any good longer term therapy.

Still, I've been able to innovate some techniques for working with primitive issues that are extra-transferential.

It begins with asking for 'picture-thinking' associations. When some patients mention that they were "crushed," "destroyed," or use metaphors like" pawn," for example, one can ask them to take the words out of context and for the first image that comes to mind.

One patient said she thought of dropping an orange from a rooftop and that it exploded on the ground into pieces.

Another said she pictured a ballon popping into pieces.

Another associated an insect being stepped on and slimy ooze coming out.

Another associated pawn to solider, then soldier to war, and then pictured a sense of "chaos" with bullets, blood, and bodies everywhere.

Another said he pictures a great demon with four arms with claws, red beady eyes, a snout, etc...

By asking them to picture the bits and pieces, ooze, or the physiognomy of the demon and then try to map it into their felt sense of their body, they were able to get in touch and resolve their primitive anxiety state, or superego self-judgment (bad conscience, projective identification with denigrated parent, etc.).

The bits and pieces of the ballon reformed inside of one's chest and then it began to deflate until she felt a sense of calm and well-being.

Another, more precisely, located the bits and pieces as floating anxiety in her chest, it reformed as a ball, and then it too "deflated."

The ooze turned into a sense of being disgusting and hated that one patient felt she carried with her for most of her life.

The man felt the demons body mapped on to his in the feeling in his chest and the back of his head, and he got in touch with the externalized feeling of evil in him that would make "God sad, disappointed" if it was ever expressed.

The Kleinian phantasy of attacking the breast and tearing it to pieces seems very salient in the two examples I give with spherical objects. The ooze and breast milk/semen is another possibility... but I have to say that I'm glad I don't have to interpret such things. In the past I can say that I was often rewarded with the patient having an important thought about someone in their life after such interpretations, and that I've never had a patient tell me that I was being ridiculous or inappropriate for the interpretation, However, I've also never got the sense that the issue was cleared up by the interpretation alone. It still required working through the transference. With EMDR, it seems like the person gets past the anxiety and fusion is allowed to happen.

If it is only a temporary situation, and these anxiety situations still come up, I'll post and correct this. (The superego judgments still have to be worked through, but to have such things come out into the open is, of course, very important and useful)


Monday, November 21, 2016

Is repression sending a part of oneself to sleep?

After you have an experience a few times in therapy with different patients, you can start to talk about "isolating a mechanism of the mind."

I've had the experience of working on a "trauma" with people using EMDR, in which they begin to start "shutting down" their feelings. During this time I've noticed a counter-transference in which I get sleepy and want to lose consciousness, and that when their feelings are gone, I don't feel tired any more.

Of course it's important to talk about the economics of libido and how these patients are altruists, but it's also possible that this is a primitive egoistic part at work in them.

... it's surprising to me that I've never heard the combination of repression with sleep before. It seems very intuitive because sleep involves the loss of regular consciousness.

Thursday, November 17, 2016


I'm surprised it never struck me before to consider fantasies/dreams of flying in relation to social ontology. Of course, with these things, it comes down to listening to patients closely to discern that there is an important relation.

One patient mentioned a flying dream. Of course it was replete with dual sense of being "high" because he is an addict, but when he mentioned "not being limited by gravity" and "defying gravity," my ears pricked up.

I asked him to anthropomorphize gravity (in plainer English, I asked him to pretend that gravity was controlled by a person, and what that person might think about him). He said that he might feel
"bedazzled, curious, angry, embarrassed"  
I ask him to explain the reactions and he said, the man would probably think: "how is he doing this?" "I've never got to do this (get away with this as a kid)", "He can't get away with this." We discuss potential envy feelings as well as the awe in bedazzled adjective. The embarrassment adjective was interesting but we didn't get a chance to go there.

He related these feelings to cops and  judges, but the relation went further and back to his mother who didn't like client riding motorcycles and dirt bikes when he was young...

Even when we get to abstractions like Time, Space, the "Law of Nature," sleep, etc. we are still dealing with relations that ultimately defused from higher interpersonal (i.e. oedipal) relations. Of course, a natural disaster, having one's city/home bombed, and other interactions with these entities can be traumatic itself and cause a defusion (as can chemically induced feelings). However, most have an interpersonal origin. 

Monday, November 14, 2016

Gradiva Award

Surprisingly, my book, The Economics of Libido, won at the Gradiva Awards.

I've been working in psychoanalysis, for some time now, with the idea that I wouldn't have much recognition in the field for a while.

I joked with some people that the win makes me like Trump, an outsider without any credentials, rivaling the (relational) establishment. I'm also sure that there are many who are unhappy with the idea that someone who is asking for a return to structural theory and Freud (outside of the Lacanian tradition) is gaining an ear.

People are hungry for change. This is the important takeaway.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

dead mother to good father

I've posted a few times about Lacan's concept of foreclosure, or the idea that the transcription of power from the maternal imago to the paternal imago can be reversed.

A patient seemed to reprocess foreclosure in the form of a relationship with a borderline partner who had lied, cheated, was able to have her question reality, etc. at an incredibly deep level. Following the idea of codependency, his borderline traits must have matched up to something borderline in her, even if he was the much more conspicuous one.

She had a very harsh father who she felt to be angry with her and critical but he was "honorable" or at least she felt him to be so, and there was a hope to win some approval from such a figure. She was able to differentiate her partner from him because he wasn't honorable and there was a "blackhole" in him that threatened to both "suck you in" and "ooze." He "wasn't a person really."

The transference she had towards her father had gone to her partner and she registered the two in a similar way, but to see him as 'not a whole person' is part of the imago of Death which she left behind for the paternal.

Interestingly, Klein had the 'good (internal) object' in contrast with the 'bad (internal) object' and doesn't register foreclosure formally. She has examples of restoring a dead object, but never connects it formally to the good object.

Dead object > good object

I'm still struggling to name the same operation in the egoist. It could be simple, and the bad object identified with perfection could, in transcription, become a good object too. However, I want to keep the phenomenology distinct. The goodness of the altruist isn't the same as the goodness of the egoist. Maybe it's better to say

perfect/bad object > "the fair object"    

... or maybe it's too early for me to be trying to think through this...

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Dr. Strange, the pugneus, the part-ego, and the auto-erotic stages.

I saw Dr. Strange this weekend and I was very intrigued by the link of his hands, as a superhuman surgeon, and Time. Watches (time pieces) figure prominently in the movie. In an early scene, Dr. Strange is attempting to remove a bullet from a patient's brain, and another, denigrated doctor is watching, and Strange tells him to cover his ticking watch.

The ontic level or level of Being involved in the story shifts from the pugneus to the part-ego, from Strange being legendary for his skills in talents in relation to others in society, to the deeper level of magic. This shift occurs after he gets into an accident and his hands are damaged. There are initially scenes in which he tries to muster his will-power and ingenuity to restore his hands. As mentioned in previous posts, the omnipotence of wishes (like The Secret) in the pugneus stage are showcased here in his hope that his will can manifest a change in his hands. The will is taken to be able to have powerful effects, and "beat the odds" but it doesn't work for him. He goes into the part-ego stage and needs magic to help.

In the part-ego stage, he encounters both good magicians and bad ones that live outside of society. The former group protects society (and probably more generally nature) from more powerful supernatural beings which indicates the auto-erotic level, which I'll turn to later. The parental-substitute of the part-ego stage is The Ancient One who is "Sorcerer Supreme" and has lived many lifetimes and therefore holds the secrets to immortality. Despite learning magic, Dr. Strange is aware that he lacks immortality and this causes friction between him and The Ancient One. So, although Time is related to the pugenus stage, there is still a sense that the timelessness of the part-ego stage can't be taken for granted. I understand this to be related to the castration anxiety at every stage. Despite being at a lower level than Time, there is still a sense that one can be threatened. Take vampires or the immortals from Highlander, for example, they are immortal but are still threatened by non-existence by stakes, sunlight, having their heads chopped off, (etc.).

The bad magicians who enter into a deal with a demon-like being Dormammu, show this passage to the dark side in having blackness appear around their eyes. This likely points to the importance of the eyes as part object, erotogenic zone, at this stage (i.e. the ocular stage), but I'd still like to wait for more evidence before renaming the part-ego. (In regards to the pugneus stage, being swallowed or devoured whole is the zone of the proto phase, the hands are part of the deutero phase, and being bitten at the level of the skin is the trito phase zone. I used the Odyssey, Greek myth, and art examples to establish this, but before the encounter with Polyphemus in the Odyssey, the phases aren't as clear). It's likely that the eyes are part of the deutero phase in the part-ego stage, but I can't be sure.

With the auto-erotic stage, it seems relevant to talk about the trito phase. If God and the Devil are the good and bad parental-substitutes for the auto-erotic then having a demon illustrates the difference between the generations that is established in the Oedipus complex. Just as triangulation with a peer is possible, or incest desires for a sibling exist in some clinical work, the trito phase of the auto-erotic takes us from the stronger transference to the devil, to the offspring of the devil (a demon). Also important here are the (non-sexual) fetish objects. More precisely, 'fetish' has its much older meaning in relation to inanimate things related to god(s), and the sexual pervert's fetish came into parlance much later. What's important is that Dr. Strange got a fetish object that allows the user to turn back Time. Dormammu is subject to its power which shows that the fetish is part of the auto-erotic Oedipus complex and more powerful than the trito antagonist here. Similarly, the main foe for Dr. Strange is a former student of The Ancient One which seems to locate their antagonism at the part-ego trito phase. This may speak to why we don't see more of the non-human, humanoid, or mixture of human and animal that is part of the part-ego stages. Regression from the trito, to delusion at the deutero and proto phases hasn't occurred.

Another relevant issue at the auto-erotic stage is that Dormammu wants to take over the earth and bring it into his dark domain. This is different from annihilating the earth, and thus paranoia about the earth being annihilated must be earlier than the auto-erotic. I've mentioned that before Uranus, there is a stage in Greek myth in which Day and Night exist. I'm not sure if earth annihilation exists here either, or whether the previous stage in which Gaia exists along with Tartarus is the proper stage. Anyway, the paranoid object in the part-ego stage is a sense of war in which both other people (and non-human, supernatural, humanoids, animals too) along with environmental features are a threat. There are scenes in which collapsing buildings threaten one as well as people. (Several patients describe similar paranoid fantasies that they often compare to war). The paranoid object in the auto-erotic stage is better referenced to the idea of nature, instead of the entire planet. There are portals to other lands (deserts, ocean, forests, etc.) that exist in the magical buildings that house the fetish objects. Many patients have paranoid fantasies of storms that devastate the land (but again, don't destroy the earth) and this sense of the different places of nature and threats to them and their inhabitants is prominent. (In my analysis of Mad Max I mentioned such storms).      

These are my first offhand responses to the levels of Being and I'll write more if something else is still pulling at my ear.

ps. Buddha and his earlobes and the ear in relation to balance, proprioception, blind-sight, and other phenomena make me anticipate an aural stage/phase. I have a feeling that it might be in the auto-erotic and belong to the altruistic pole...