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...

Friday, November 4, 2016

Sleep, self-statements, and details.

A colleague has shared a problem with generating self or other statements when a patient told him about a problem with sleep.

In a previous post I used sleep as an example of loss. One used to be able to sleep and so it's like sleep used to be there to embrace or take care of one and then left. If you ask the person to consider sleep as a person who used to be with them in the night and has since left, they can use their own vocabulary to express "you left me, I need you, I'm not the same since I left... etc."

This colleague told me that the patient came up with some adjectives, but that the patient never came up with anyone after making the other-statements. However, before getting into any of the many "resistances" a patient might have in this case (i.e. not trusting the therapist with the answer, a general inability to be spontaneous and allow surprises, etc.) I asked the therapist if he had got into the details of what didn't allow the patient to sleep. He said he hadn't asked!

I wrote this up for him about a patient who said he had problems sleeping, and who told me, only after I had asked, that it was his "damn dogs!" 


I ask him why he has the "damn dogs" sleep with him and he says that sometimes they are good and he wants them in the bed with him. He talks about having the “comfort” of the dogs in bed to feeling like they are “too much.” Thinking about it, he feels a “mild annoyance” towards them and says “they are great, but selfish.” I enquire about this last remark and he says that everyone is selfish.

I ask him to think about the general relation to his dogs in the good phase and then the bad phase. He says he wants to give the dogs love and warmth and for them to feel part of the family. He says they are like his kids.

At first the dogs are “pure love” and then they want too much, they are pushy, and selfish assholes.

I ask him how the dogs might see him. He says, as a "protector, friend but then as a betraying asshole". They think he “doesn’t want them anymore” and that he “abandons” them

He uses the description he gave of the dogs as self-statements and they felt true. He talked about how he has wanted “too much” and felt others “didn’t love him as much as he loved them”

I asked him to also use the thoughts he had about how the dogs might think about him (“you are a protector, friend, etc.”) and he creates a list of people (2 girlfriends in his 20s and one male friend in high school)

He also generally related it to his father (“Dad was never around as much as I wanted him to be”. “There were fleeting moments we were together… and then he’s gone or I’d leave.”)

He says that the women had been “threatening with their presence” and gave the impression that if they didn’t get their way then they would leave.

He says at some point he changed and said he won’t be the one to chase after someone. He says he felt like a “sucker” and “fool.” He remembers feeling weak and embarrassed when they would make a scene in front of his friends.


Don't go straight for sleep and the abstract relation--  no matter how interesting it is that people can have relations to Time, Space, sleep, their bodies, etc. that reference oedipal (i.e. interpersonal) relations with people in their lives. 

Stay close to the material your patient gives you.