Medium 9781782201373

Traumatised and Non-Traumatised States of the Personality

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This book offers an original conception of trauma and of the working mind that has not been previously presented. It is mostly based on essentials taken from Bion's contributions. All human beings are fatalistically marked by the presence and eventual disappearance of primary part-objects. Many of these 'presence-absences' are temporary events, but others will overcome Freud's "protective shield" and become permanent, amounting to an enduring distress or "pre-conceptual trauma". Like the Mad Hatter's teatime in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, pre-conceptual traumas become an eternal 'now' that are continuously projected everywhere. They structure the specific idiosyncrasy of every human and split the mind in two opposite states, the traumatized and the non-traumatized. Tentatively, the spirit and fundamental nature of the absolute ubiquity and meaning of pre-conceptual traumas could be forumulated as being diachronically structured in terms of a narrative of conjoined presences of absences, ones which stand for highly toxic and emotionally organised 'parasites' that inhabit the unconscious mind from very early, and which feed on time and space, inhibit processes of symbolization, are projected everywhere, and reproduce themselves incessantly. They thereby determine not only all forms of psychopathology, but also the idiosyncrasy of every existing individual.

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CHAPTER ONE “Evicted from life”: time distortion between pre-conceptual and conceptual traumas

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CHAPTER ONE

“Evicted from life”: time distortion between pre-conceptual and conceptual traumas*

You were not even able to see life, how can you see death? Death is more subtle.

—Osho

Tao: The Pathless Path (p. 27)

We live a rented life from which we will be eventually evicted, all that we can hope for is that the eviction won’t be too tormenting.

—Emilia

“Trauma entanglement”

Is it the present that provides meaning to the past or is it the other way around? Laplanche and Pontalis (1967) stated:

It is not lived experiences in general that undergoes a deferred revision but, specifically, whatever it has been impossible in the

* The content of this chapter has been previously published in The Psychoanalytic

Review, Vol. 100, No. 2, pp. 289–310, and it is now reproduced with permission from the publisher.

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first instance to incorporate fully into a meaningful context. The traumatic event is the epitome of such unassimilated experience.

 

CHAPTER TWO The mark of Cain: ego and superego narcissistic identifications with pre-conceptual traumas

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CHAPTER TWO

The mark of Cain: ego and superego narcissistic identifications with preconceptual traumas*

… I had become convinced that the distinction between body and mind is only verbal and not essential, that body and mind are one unit, that they contain an It, a force which lives us while we believe we are living.

—Groddeck (1977, pp. 32–33)

The classic psycho-analytic view supposed the mind or personality to be identical with the physical identity of a person. The object of my proposal is to do away with such a limitation and to regard the relationship between body and mind (or personality, or psyche) as one that is subject to investigation.

—Bion (1992, p. 314)

* Read at the Canadian 35th Annual Congress of Psychoanalysis, Quebec, June 2009 and at the English branch of the Psychoanalytic Society, Montreal, March, 2010.

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Introduction

Cain was the older son who dedicated himself to cultivating the land, while Abel looked after the flock of sheep. The Lord, suspiciously tainted with human unfairness, privileged Abel’s offerings over those of Cain, inducing jealousy and envy which eventually led to murder. If we know something about sibling rivalry, we can conjecture that the envy, which was already there from the very beginning, from the older Cain toward the younger Abel, had set up a predisposition that exploded under the effect of the Lord’s inequitable way of dealing with each of them. God then set a punishment that Cain considered too unforgiving and Cain feared to be recognised and put to death. The Lord responded by setting a “protective” mark that would allow others to recognise Cain so as not to harm him.

 

CHAPTER THREE The conceptualisation of pre-conceptual traumas

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CHAPTER THREE

The conceptualisation of pre-conceptual traumas

True freedom consists in aligning ones Goal with Nature’s will.

—López-Corvo

He [Jesus] complained when his disciples were not stupid enough to be simple.

—Wilfred Bion,

A Memoir of the Future

Short history of trauma

I once said to a patient that he was “kidnapped by childhood emotions”, referring to compulsive transference reverberations from his own infantile trauma. He then wittily responded: “You mean adultnapped?”

Psychic trauma is at the centre of all forms of psychopathology, something therapists should, as a rule, keep in mind in order to research the profile of the trauma as soon as circumstances might allow. It is through such discovery that meaningful interpretations capable of maintaining the patient’s interest, will hinge.

Bion (1967) suggested that Freud’s comparison between psychoanalysis and an archaeological investigation

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CHAPTER FOUR The unconscious: the messenger of truth from Bion’s perspective of container–contained interaction

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CHAPTER FOUR

The unconscious: the messenger of truth from Bion’s perspective of container–contained interaction*

A dream which is not interpreted is like a letter which is not read.

—R. Hisda

Babylonian Talmud:

Tractate Berakoth 55a

3rd century BC

The unconscious: the voice of the truth as a structuring agent

“We infer the unconscious from its effects, but of its true nature we know nothing”, said Freud as late as 1933 (1933a, p. 70), a statement relevant to the present time, as the unconscious still remains reluctant to unlock its natural mysteries. Following Bion we could establish a correlation between consciousness and unconscious, or more precisely, between conscious and the unconscious alpha functions: not so much in the sense of being opposite to each other, but as a regulator that

* Read at the Canadian 34th Annual Congress of Psychoanalysis, Vancouver, June 2008.

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CHAPTER FIVE Transformation of pre-conceptual traumas: heteromorphic or homeomorphic symbolisations

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CHAPTER FIVE

Transformation of pre-conceptual traumas: heteromorphic or homeomorphic symbolisations

All forms are similar, and none is like the others. So that their chorus points the way to a hidden law.

—Goethe1

Introduction

I remember as a child reading a story about a closed door standing in the middle of a field. If walked around, it was an ordinary closed door with nothing attached to it, but if opened and its threshold crossed, one entered a completely different and unknown world. This door is a good metaphor for what the aptitude to symbolise has bestowed on human beings; this is why Langer referred to symbolism as a “new key” to philosophy:

Its cleavages cut across the old lines, and suddenly bring out new motifs that were not felt to be implicit in the premises of the schools at all; for it changes the questions of philosophy. (Langer, 1942, Preface, original italics)

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CHAPTER SIX “Deferred action” (“après coup”) and the emotional interaction between pre-conceptual and conceptual traumas

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CHAPTER SIX

“Deferred action” (“après coup”) and the emotional interaction between pre-conceptual and conceptual traumas

“And ever since that,” the Hatter went on in a mournful tone, “he won’t do a thing I ask! It’s always six o’clock now!”

—Lewis Carroll

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter VII

Introduction

Time and space are different when considered either in the

“traumatised” or in the “non-traumatised” part of the personality, although they are always running simultaneously parallel to each other. When the child’s rudimentary ego fails to contain a temporary loss due to low frustration tolerance that loss can become a traumatic or a permanent fact. This means that time changes from a linear and diachronic succession of different facts—as existing in the non-traumatised part—to a circular synchronic repetition of the same, as observed in the traumatised domain. Bion (1965) said:

The problem does not exist in one dimension only; tolerance of frustration involves awareness of the presence of absence of

 

CHAPTER SEVEN Pre-conceptual traumas as the tyrannical presence of absences

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CHAPTER SEVEN

Pre-conceptual traumas as the tyrannical presence of absences

What may the bloody noise do to the silence in which it lies imprisoned?

—Wilfred Bion

A Memoir of the Future (1991, p. 50)

The tyrannising presence of absences1

There is an implicit tendency in humans to “idealise absences” by providing inanimate things with qualities of aliveness and depriving human beings of their true sense of life. Inanimate objects often become a site of projected “superpowers”, as can be observed in objects of worship, divination, or idealisation of dead persons. The main reason behind this propensity seems to be the consequence of the terror induced by the human presence of inner feelings of dependency, and moreover, a strong narcissistic need to attack the process of separation and individuation. Alive objects transmuted into inanimate, or the opposite, inanimate objects made alive, represent a schizoid-paranoid interaction that attempts to exercise possessiveness and a complete ruling of the object. It is a conflict usually related to early childhood omnipotent

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CHAPTER EIGHT Negative and positive links as a form of communication in the traumatised and non-traumatised states (TS <-> TS)

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CHAPTER EIGHT

Negative and positive links as a form of communication in the traumatised and non-traumatised states (TS

N-TS)

Communication in traumatised and non-traumatised states using negative links

Bion (1992) described the existence of three different “mental spaces”: the “beta” (β), the “alpha” (α), and the “sigma” (∑) space. The first is made up of beta elements representing “unthought thoughts” or “wild thoughts”, which remain in waiting for a mind capable of providing a meaning. The “alpha space” refers to reality, as it is perceived by the senses, with its spectrum of ultra-real and infra-real. “Sigma” represents the space of intuition that Bion (1992) has referred to as follows:

I am supposing that there is a psycho-analytic domain with its own reality—unquestionable, constant, subject to change only in accordance with its own rules even if those rules are not known.

These realities are “intuitable” if the proper apparatus is available in the condition proper to its functioning. Equally, there are certain minimum conditions necessary for its exercise … The conditions in which the intuition operates (intuits) are pellucid and opaque.

 

CHAPTER NINE The traumatised ego and the traumatising superego

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CHAPTER NINE

The traumatised ego and the traumatising superego

Taking this sequence, anxiety-danger-helplessness (trauma), we can now summarize what has been said. A danger situation is a recognized, remembered, expected situation of helplessness.

Anxiety is the original reaction to helplessness in the trauma and is reproduced later on in the danger-situation as a signal for help.

—Freud (1926, pp. 166–167)

There is not a more threatening scream than the silent whisper of the cruel superego.

—López-Corvo

I am well aware that when referring to dynamics related to the mutual interaction between ego and superego, we are in a territory of the mind frequently travelled since the time of Freud. Using a Bionian approach,

I believe that the continuous accumulation of identifications resulting from “tyrannical presence of absences” structures the superego; while identifications with the struggle to re-establish the presence of that absence, structures the ego. However, it is not solely this identification,

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CHAPTER TEN Acting out pre-conceptual traumas: interruption of therapy and “catastrophic change”

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CHAPTER TEN

Acting out pre-conceptual traumas: interruption of therapy and “catastrophic change”

Catastrophic change

Bion (1965) referred to two forms of catastrophic change, one whose consequences involved persons outside the consulting room, the other remaining as a “controlled breakdown” within the analytic dyad (p. 8).

I believe the difference between these two forms will hinge on the seriousness of the psychopathology involved. I will be referring to the second kind of catastrophic change, the one taking place inside the analytic setting.

Bion borrowed Thom’s concept of catastrophe theory to develop his own dissertation about catastrophic changes.1 Following this model, we can infer that interpretation—introducing integration by changing bivalent part objects into univalent total objects, as well as changing different kinds of equilibration2 (from symmetrical to asymmetrical)— could result in a discontinuity of the mental system and, sometimes, in a catastrophic change. In other words, catastrophe could be induced by the introduction of time, space, and symbolisation into a currently steady or levelled state of equilibrium, which is assembled and sustained by the repetition compulsion of childhood traumas. In Chapter

 

CHAPTER ELEVEN Pre-conceptual traumas: inflicted by chance and repeated by compulsion

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CHAPTER ELEVEN

Pre-conceptual traumas: inflicted by chance and repeated by compulsion

Zeus ordered Thanatos, god of death, to chain King Sisyphus down in the Underworld. King Sisyphus slyly asked Thanatos to demonstrate how the chains worked. As Thanatos was granting his wish, Sisyphus then seized the advantage and trapped the god of death instead. No human could then die with Thanatos out of commission, something that exasperated the God of war, annoyed because his battles had lost their fun since his opponents would not die. He freed Thanatos and turned King Sisyphus over to the god of death as well. As a punishment, Sisyphus was made to roll a huge boulder up a steep hill that would always roll back down, forcing him to begin again forever.

—Homer

B

ion has produced a dual conception of the mind integrated by a psychotic (traumatised) and a non-psychotic (non-traumatised) part of the personality, as a possible extension of Klein’s metapsychology of affects or paranoid-schizoid and depressive positions, respectively. Bion, however, using the metaphor of the digestive apparatus, filled the missing hiatus between cognition and affect with notions

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CHAPTER TWELVE The world of sigma (Σ)

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CHAPTER TWELVE

The world of sigma (Σ)

Intuitions without concepts are blind,

Concepts without intuitions are empty

—I. Kant

Such freedom from opacity cannot be achieved during the psychoanalysis if the intuition has already been damaged by indiscipline at any time … What has not been recognized is the ephemeral nature of such psycho-analytic achievements and the need for the establishment of freedom from memory, desire and understanding as a permanent, durable and continuous discipline.

—Bion

Cogitations, 1992, (p. 315)

The prevailing significance of the very small

The difference between consciousness and unconsciousness is similar to the relationship between the exactness present in physics of large bodies or Newtonian physics and the imprecision observed in quantum mechanics. It follows an isomorphic correspondence with

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the difference in performance as well as with the structure observed between the body and the mind.

 

CHAPTER THIRTEEN The triangle’s entrapment: pre-conceptual traumas and the oedipal condition

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CHAPTER THIRTEEN

The triangle’s entrapment: pre-conceptual traumas and the oedipal condition

To “occupy” the place of the father, or the mother, without having access to a suitable and substantial source of discontinuous symbolism,1 could be, if not hazardous, sometimes fatal.

—López-Corvo

Behind the bedroom door

The Oedipus complex, the main emotional pillar upon which the network of society rests, recreates fatalistically in the core of every family, a condition portraying the absurdity of a psychotic drama. A closed bedroom door marks the limit and the difference between two absolutely diverse forms of human interaction: on one side of the door, the parental couple requires complete freedom for the total enjoyment of their sexuality, a requirement utterly necessary for the couple’s procreation and feelings of well being. At the same time, on the other side of the closed door, any sign of sexual acting out with and among the rest of the family is completely abhorred and absolutely forbidden. However, since children always suspect something very “significant” taking place behind the parent’s bedroom door, from which they feel painfully and

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CHAPTER FOURTEEN All pregnancies are twins: one baby in the uterus and one baby in the mind — pre-conceptual traumas and infertility

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CHAPTER FOURTEEN

All pregnancies are twins: one baby in the uterus and one baby in the mind— pre-conceptual traumas and infertility*

Introduction

Phantasies related to pregnancy can usually be found, like several other mental issues, in the folklore and legends of different cultures. die Believing that men alone were responsible for procreation, Aristotle wrote in his fourth book, Generation of Animals, that, “Anyone who does not take after his parents is really in a way a monstrosity, since in these cases Nature has in a way strayed from the generic type. The first beginning of this deviation is when a female is formed instead of a male”, and as a consequence, “the female is as it were a deformed male”. Based on these theories, Empedocles is credited with believing that progeny would be influenced by the mother’s imagination, by images she might have gazed upon during her pregnancy. “Thus, following Empedocles’ theory”, writes Huet (1993), “it was long believed that monsters, inasmuch as they did not resemble their parents, could well be the result of a mother’s fevered and passionate consideration

 

CHAPTER FIFTEEN Children from the claustrum: pre-conceptual traumas and addiction

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CHAPTER FIFTEEN

Children from the claustrum: pre-conceptual traumas and addiction

The difference between womb and tomb is just one letter!

—López-Corvo

“Ubi nihil vales, ibi nihil velis”

(Where you are worth nothing, there you will wish for nothing).

—Arnold Geulincx

(Quoted by Beckett in Murphy)

A “freedom drive”

The fact that totalitarianism—or absence of freedom—and creativity are absolutely contradictory, can be deducted from the concept of “kitsch art”. Kitsch is a German word signifying an inferior and aesthetically poor form of talent. It was used to refer to the type of art produced during the communist totalitarian domination of the Soviet Union; interestingly, it can also be observed in the creativity of prison inmates.

At the beginning of Chapter Three I mentioned a comment made by a patient, who described himself has having been “adultnapped”,

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CHAPTER SIXTEEN Pre-conceptual traumas and somatic pathology: the body’s attempt to dream a repetitious undreamed dream

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CHAPTER SIXTEEN

Pre-conceptual traumas and somatic pathology: the body’s attempt to dream a repetitious undreamed dream

Her pure and eloquent blood Spoke in her cheeks, and so distinctly wrought that one might almost say, her body thought!

—John Donne

Hallucinosis, hypochondriasis and other mental “diseases” may have a logic, a grammar and a corresponding realization, none of which has so far been discovered.

—Bion (1991, p. xi)

The sorrow which has no vent in tears may make other organs weep.

—Henry Maudsley (1872)

Introduction

When dealing with psychosomatic disturbances, we could consider

Henry Maudsley’s famous maxim shown above, as a masterful summary of psychosomatic dynamics. It is not by chance that the French

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language chose the same root to designate the pleura, the membrane that covers the lungs, and pleurer, the verb meaning “to weep”; moreover, the association between clinical depression and respiratory ailments is well known. I have observed in the unconscious phantasies of certain patients, how some symbolism is linked to specific forms of psychosomatic ailments. For instance, the existing relationship between unresolved mourning and rheumatoid arthritis; between hyperthyroidism and a compulsive need to maintain control over feared murderous oedipal inclinations; or between relentless, hidden, murderous, envious, and retaliatory attacks on the object and the banishing of the spoils in ulcerative colitis. I agree with McDougal’s

 

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN Pre-conceptual traumas and totalitarianism

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CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

Pre-conceptual traumas and totalitarianism*

Anamilagros Pérez Morazzani† and

Rafael E. López-Corvo

Tyranny is a habit capable of being developed, and at last becomes a disease.

—Dostoyevsky

The House of the Dead, p. 165

Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the sharing of misery.

—Winston Churchill

Introduction

To our knowledge, a satisfactory and comprehensive psychoanalytic understanding of totalitarian or tyrannical regimes has yet to be achieved. Thus, we would like to take on the venture of creating

* Read at the Fepal Congress of Psychoanalysis, Lima, Peru, October 2006. It was published in Portuguese in Revista da Psicanalise, Sociedade Brasileira de Psicanálise de Porto

Alegre, Vol. 9, No 2, 2007.

Full member, International Psychoanalytical Association and Venezuela Psychoanalytic

Association.

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