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14. Trauma

Neville Symington Karnac Books ePub

The night is darkening round me
The wild winds coldly blow
But a tyrant spell has bound me
And I cannot cannot go
The giant trees are bending
Their bare boughs weighed with snow
And the storm is fast descending
And yet I cannot go
Clouds beyond clouds above me
Wastes beyond wastes below
But nothing drear can move me
I will not cannot go

Emily Bronte (1996)

So far we have spoken of the liquifiers in the gelatinous substance, without any reference to the outer environment. Is there any reason for the presence of the liquifiers? My observation is that the liquifiers are always intensely active in people who have suffered severe traumata. Because the liquifiers are experienced outwardly as greed, envy, and jealousy, people are frequently unsympathetic to those who have suffered traumas in childhood. Their experience of the person is someone who is being hostile and resentful towards them. The extent to which people react to this hostility depends on the extent to which they are themselves under the sway of a “narcissistic constellation”. As we saw in Chapter 9, these people continue to be punished by society throughout their lives. The punitive god is embodied in the society of people surrounding the traumatized individual. It is well known, for instance, that many criminals have had severely traumatized childhoods. A retributive theory of justice demands that revenge be taken against the criminal; a utilitarian theory of justice requires that society be protected against the dangers of criminal attack without demanding retribution. The latter theory and, indeed, policy of justice is in tune with our understanding of the origins of criniinality.

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Medium 9781855752658

MEDITATION TWO. Freedom and survival

Symington, Neville Karnac Books ePub

It’s always a bit complicated to know where to start. There are points on the circumference of a circle and so it’s a dilemma to know where to start. This is entitled “Freedom and Survival”. Now, of course, in the inanimate world there is no freedom. I’m not going into the area of microphysics, but in the ordinary inanimate world there’s no freedom. A stone rolls down a hill because it was pushed by something. The defining element in living things is that there is a source of action from within, and quite how that can be is again mysterious, but it is so. There is a source of action from within, more so in what I’ll refer to as motile organisms like animals and so on than in what biologists refer to as sessile organisms like trees and plant life.

It’s a basic conflict that human beings do desire freedom, and I think everyone who comes to a consulting-room desires freedom, but there is also a strong fear of it—this is what one might call “the spiritual” in the individual. Bion said in many different ways that the psychotic part of the personality was much more active in the culture than is generally realized. My understanding of that is that what one might call the spiritual element was something that is hated. I reformulated Bion’s classic paper about the psychotic side of the personality that attacks the sane side as the psychotic side attacking the spiritual. It seems to me that the spiritual is inextricably linked to the capacity to make decisions; by decisions I don’t mean choosing this path rather than another, I mean decision in that type of rather deep realization type of sense.

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Medium 9781780490694

Chapter Nine: That which Crushes the Personal

Symington, Neville Karnac Books ePub

Organisations, systems, ideologies crush the person if their purpose is forgotten. This is so if they are viewed as idols to be worshipped. When this happens individuals are treated as units within the system that can be sacrificed for it. The cardinal error is that the organisation is made absolute. The organisation whose role is to serve a purpose becomes instead an end in itself. The health of the organisation will be dependent upon whether that is a noble purpose or a base one and, most importantly, whether it serves that purpose which is beyond its own perimeter or makes its own structure an end in itself.

There is an inference here that the worship is being misdirected—it is being directed to the system rather than to a purpose for which it was founded. But what is this purpose? There are noble, ignoble, and impartial purposes. Let me deal first with the ignoble. A drug cartel has an ignoble purpose: it is to make money by ruining the lives of people, especially young persons. An organisation whose goal is to plant cash crops and thereby sacrifice the food supply of the local inhabitants is an ignoble purpose because the service of others is not the goal but profit. Profit is a happy consequence but an organisation whose goal is profit then does not care what it is that brings the profit. There is something though that underlies the profit. When Hitler delegated Himmler to set up an organisation known as the Final Solution to destroy all the Jews within Germany and all territories that he had conquered its purpose was ignoble. When Mao Tse-tung ordered the making of steel to export to Russia in order to curry favour and make money, sacrificing the lives of thirty million people, the organisation set up to implement this had an ignoble purpose. Any organisation whose goal is to make money irrespective of the means serves an ignoble purpose. Examples could be multiplied. Let me turn to an organisation which has a noble purpose but loses sight of its purpose and is served as an end rather than itself serving the purpose for which it was founded.

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6. The case of pseudo-maturity

Neville Symington Karnac Books ePub

The question: How is it that someone who has a problem is able to resolve it through conversation with another?

“The pinnacle of human development is attained when the inwardness of the individual guides and shapes his perceptions and controls his actions at every moment.”

Wilhelm Dilthey [1989, pp. 287–288]

We have, I believe, tied up everything very neatly. Through conversation with another, the one who is suffering and creates suffering for others is able to form images through which she is able actively to embrace the hated elements within. When these have been embraced, they change their nature. Through communication with another, these elements pass through the transforming dynamo within. This is, as it were, given a charge, enabling it to do its job. So there we have it. I am full of distress, and in that state I go to visit my psychotherapist. Through intimate communication, my power of generating transforming images is renewed and enhanced. So I leave my psychotherapist and now all is well—or is it?

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Medium 9781855750470

2. The composite self

Symington, Neville Karnac Books ePub

Every piece of reality stands in relation to some other piece of reality: whenever we define something, we define it in its relation to something else. The only way to think of reality as relationless is to think of the whole of reality—the universe in its entirety, with nothing outside it. Every theory that we devise describes some aspect of reality relating to some other aspect. For instance, if I am standing on a beach looking at some seagulls at the edge of the surf and notice over time that they are slowly moving higher up the beach, in order to explain the scene satisfactorily to myself I have to invoke several scientific concepts. I need to understand that the seagulls are moving up the beach because the tide is coming in, and in order to understand the tide coming in, I have to have recourse to the law of gravity and the moon’s gravitational pull upon the earth, which creates the tides. I also have to understand the earth’s gravitational pull on the moon, which keeps the moon in orbit around the earth. And in order to explain that, I have to have an understanding of the earth’s mass and the moon’s mass and the relationship between the two. All this partly explains why the seagulls are moving up the beach, but it does not explain the why of seagulls. To grasp that, I have to know that seagulls are organisms that have evolved to fit a particular ecological niche—that of scavengers that feed on decaying living matter. To understand that, I need to have some knowledge of evolutionary theory. So just to explain that fairly simple scene in front of me, I need to have a grasp of several scientific concepts. In order to explain anything that is in front of us, we need some appreciation of the complex interplay of relationships between one thing and another.

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