111 Slices
Medium 9781855752658

MEDITATION ONE. An ontology for sanity

Symington, Neville Karnac Books ePub

The first thing that I would like to do is to thank Isca, who was the one who hatched this conference. She hatched it in dialogue with Cesare Sacerdoti; they had some conversations together, and so they have been like good parents giving birth to a child. I would also like to thank them for another reason—or, perhaps, thank the Tavistock for another reason: they have put huge faith in me when they don’t know what is going to come forth. I do think—and I refer to this in some of the talks—that a capacity to take an act of faith is one of the things that strengthens the personality. Another aspect of this that pleased me enormously was that they asked me for no abstract or summary of my talks in advance. I have been to many conferences over the years, and nearly always, about three or six months earlier, I have been asked for either the paper or an abstract, and this is a method of killing a conference. What I say today won’t be quite the same as I would have said three months ago. We develop all the time, and this has been true for me now. In the last few days I have been staying near to the National Gallery and have gone and looked at some paintings, and I got quite an understanding from looking at one of the paintings, which will come up in one of the lectures. If I had had to produce all the material for the conference six months ago, then this new insight would not have been present.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781855759848

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN: Failure of internalization in modern culture

Symington, Neville Karnac Books ePub

There are two ways in which an object can be present in the mind. I shall call these two the “photographic” and the “artistic”. Two people are facing the same scene. One has in his hands a camera, which he pulls up and points at the landscape and clicks. The other has an easel, a palette, and paints, and after three hours of industry she has a representation of the scene in front of her.1

This model is designed to highlight two different ways in which something is present in the mind. In the photographic mode the thing is “taken in” as a whole, and the mind of the individual is like a film upon which the scene is imprinted, like the impression of a seal upon wax. In the artist’s mode there is an active engagement with the object. The artist makes a selection; she decides which moment of light she will represent; she will decide what to leave out and what to include. The artist will know that scene better a year later than her friend, the photographer.

It is a common dictum that a person learns through teaching. It is something I can personally vouch for. When I have to explain the contents of a book to pupils in a classroom, I come to know and understand the book a good deal better than when I sit back and “drink it in” in my comfortable armchair. I remember Juliet Mitchell saying to me that any serious reading requires note-taking. In other words, there is active engagement with the object. George Orwell complains in “Politics and the English Language” (1971) that the language is being deadened because rather than constructing our own similes and metaphors, we reach for one from the supermarket shelf and put it indiscriminately into our basket.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781855751392

13. The origins of rage and aggression

Symington, Neville Karnac Books ePub

It is a mistake to think that psychoanalysis has one theory. Psychoanalysis is a clinical methodology that encompasses a wide range of theories, and nowhere is this more evident than when psychoanalysts start to discuss the cause of aggression. At its most simple, there are two theories.

The first states that aggression arises when a human being’s basic needs are frustrated. This theory is based upon the homeo-static theory of motivation, which states that the organism has a built-in tendency to equilibrium, to homeostasis—that when inner tension arises, the organism is programmed to reduce that tension through incorporating food or water or finding an object that will satisfy a sexual need. Aggression arises when one of these needs is frustrated; aggression is therefore a reaction to frustration. The second theory states that aggression is a basic instinct in man. In summary, then, those who support the second theory say that man is a savage creature by nature, whereas those who support the first theory believe that man is essentially benign and only becomes savage when frustrated of his basic biological needs. I believe that both theories are wrong.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781855752030

4. Religious Wisdom from the East

Symington, Neville Karnac Books ePub

At that moment, when the world around him melted away, when he stood alone like a star in the heavens, he was overwhelmed by a feeling of icy despair, but he was more firmly himself than ever. That was the last shudder of his awakening, the last pains of birth.

(Hesse, 1974)

It was in India during the Axial Era that spiritual wisdom reached its pinnacle in the Upanishads. There arose in the same Era in the Far East four giants of the spiritual life: Confucius, Lao-Tzu, Mahavira and the Buddha. We shall examine only the Upanishads and the teachings of the Buddha, as in them mature religion reached its highest expression.

Through intuitive wisdom the seers of the Upanishads pierced through the veil of sensuality to a knowledge of atman, a knowledge of the self which is at one with Brahma. The closest translation we can get to these two terms is the Self and Ultimate Reality respectively. This deep spirituality is embedded in the midst of a pantheon of gods, goddesses, rites, sacrifices and ceremonial of the most sensual kind. ‘Hinduism’ is a word coined by Europeans to refer to the religious practices of India and is therefore an umbrella word covering everything from the village cult of Ganesh to the Vedanta, the philosophy of the Upanishads. The outsider may feel lost in this disparate array but if its spiritual centre is grasped the rest falls into place with relative ease.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781855751392

9. The seductive psychotherapist

Symington, Neville Karnac Books ePub

I once came across the following situation. Let us call the psychotherapist, Joseph, the patient, Patrick, and the patient’s wife, Virginia.

Joseph had a reputation for being a kind and empathic psychotherapist. Patrick went to see him because he was suffering from severe obsessional symptoms. He had a fear of going blind which frequently reached panic proportions. In the initial interview, Joseph learned that Patrick was a librarian and was happily married with three children. In fact, his family seemed to be the happiest aspect of his life.

I will outline what began to take place, without going into the full details of this therapy. Patrick began to drop hints that he was not as happy with Virginia as he had made out in his initial interview. For instance, he let it drop that, when he came home at night from work, Virginia did not cook him a meal; that once, when they had planned to go out with the children and he arrived home a little late, Virginia had not waited for him but had just driven off; that when he got home and went to the fridge to get the beer that he was looking forward to, Virginia had already given it to a friend of hers. In addition to this, he began to hint that Virginia had homosexual leanings and wanted to spend more time with her friend, Fiona, than with himself. Every time that Patrick dropped one of these hints, Joseph was quickly on to it and got him to express the angry feelings he had towards his wife. Each time this happened, Joseph felt pleased that he was beginning to get Patrick to express his hostile feelings towards his wife. A situation developed where the marriage became more and more turbulent, and it also seemed that Virginia was spending more and more time with Fiona. As things worsened, Patrick’s distress deepened to the point that Joseph felt that it was necessary to give him more substantial support. He suggested that Patrick take a firmer line with Virginia, and he increased Patrick’s sessions from twice to three times a week. Eighteen months later, the marriage had broken up. Virginia had left to pursue her affair with Fiona, and an acrimonious legal case, which ended in divorce, soon followed.

See All Chapters

See All Slices