152 Slices
Medium 9781855753969

10. Soft and Hard Qualities

Michael Eigen Karnac Books ePub

Soft” and “hard” are universal expressive qualities that inform all our experience. We sense their interplay in the margin of our awareness throughout our lifetime. Their varying dissociations and interpenetrations color and texture our thoughts, feelings, sensations, and actions. They permeate objects of concern at every level of our existence and-are subtly woven into the atmosphere of subjectivity as such. Without them our psychophysical existence would be more bland and dimensionless.

This theme is given a distilled representation in the Taoist yin-yang symbol, the Tai-chi-tu. But even this most coherent symbol of polarity-in-unity is too geometric to do justice to the subtle, interpenetrating flow of these qualities in moment-to-moment living. To be sure, hard and soft often do set each other off. They may oppose or complement each other in rather clearly distinguishable ways: for example, the erect penis and adaptable vagina, hard-headedness/soft-heartedness (or vice versa), and the like. But even (especially?) in sexual intercourse it becomes most difficult to know clearly where the softness and where the hardness, as they melt into and permeate one another, ineffably fluid. The rock gradually dissolves in the water, but the water can no longer be described simply as soft.

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Medium 9781782201540

Chapter Five - What is Evil?

Michael Eigen Karnac Books ePub

What is evil? It is a little like Pontius Pilate saying, “What is truth?” Where does one go to find a definition that would set what is truly evil off from bad things that happen? Much destruction goes on in life. Two great wishes of humankind are that there should be no evil or death.

No evil or death. We are partly defined by a capacity to wish the impossible. To wish the impossible and somewhere feel it might be possible. When Freud claimed there is no “no” in the unconscious, he might have meant we are the kind of creatures that believe the impossible is possible. More, that it is real. The impossible is real now—and this sense informs the feel of reality. And when reality does not conform to our vision of bliss, we may call it evil.

What does reality want of us? One answer is absolutely nothing. A terrifying answer. Shakespeare suggested we live a masquerade within which is nothing. A relief? Does nothing free us from evil spectres? Or clear a way for them?

When I was a child, I saw the opening of the concentration camps in film newsreels. People who looked like death, whose eyes glared in ways that only eyes that have seen evil can. The scene switches to mass graves, naked bodies piled upon one another, macabre sandwiches in dirt. Horrific death scenes that added meat to my already burgeoning terrors of witches, devils, and the night. Yet, when I was older, I could not stop myself from picturing what it must be like to be inside Hitler. Past the psychopath, the killer, the madman, the calculus of hate and power and revenge, into pain, the torment of the human. Blistering wounds that sought healing in inhuman madness, nests of megalomanic hate. What pain and torment must have festered there. Pain made visible by horror inflicted on others. From the outside, evil, yet, further inside, deeper seas of pain.

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Medium 9781782200383

Chapter 2: Defining Moments in Les's Therapy

Michael Eigen Karnac Books ePub

Chapter Two

Defining Moments in Les's Therapy

Big Man

Les announced when he began therapy that he wanted help because he was a successful coordinator of sales for a big business firm and was afraid of flying. His fear of flying prevented him from pursuing higher positions in his company and made his present position painful. He flew when he had to, but the personal cost in coping with panic was high. He went through elaborate machinations to find ways of avoiding trips or to invent excuses for going by car.

My inclination was to point out the ambiguous note sounded in his presenting complaint. “Are you saying you want help because you are the successful coordinator of sales for a big business firm or because you are afraid of flying or both?”

Les bragged about his success: he had come so far; he could go further. After he felt he had painted a successful enough picture, he owned that he loved sales and business but hated the fear and kowtowing that seemed to be part of dealing with bosses and competitors. He hated the corporate structure.

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Medium 9781855758193


Michael Eigen Karnac Books ePub


Day 1

Madness in psychoanalysis: Freud and Klein

First let me get the feel of the microphone. Is the sound OK? I was told that there are some twenty art therapists here. My wife is an art therapist in addition to being a more general child and adult therapist. So I’m happy to welcome art therapists and everyone else.

I was saying earlier today that I’m happy if in a meeting one sentence or one phrase that I manage to utter is significant to one person. If that happens I will be happy and if more than that happens even better. Meaning is very hard to transmit. Meaning is very hard to communicate and there is so much noise in our psychic systems, in our heads, in our souls, that it is very hard to understand each other, certainly even to understand ourselves, but we’ll give it a try. I welcome the chance to communicate with you, or try to, and for you to communicate with me.

I’m going to speak about madness in psychoanalysis. There will be time for questions, for responses, for your thoughts and feelings. I like interruptions so feel free to interrupt me anytime about anything as the spirit moves you. Nothing I’m saying is so important that it can’t be interrupted. Maybe the interruption will be much more important. We don’t know. So I will talk but if you don’t interrupt me, I’ll just keep on talking.

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13. Breaking the Frame: Stopping the World

Michael Eigen Karnac Books ePub


Paradigmatic interventions, by modeling aspects of the patient’s implicit assumptions, may help the subject get outside himself and the narrow world he is addicted to. They can dramatize in emotionally meaningful ways unconscious imperatives the patient lives or fails to live by. This might take the form of gross caricature on occasion, but, I believe, is most effective when subtly varied, sensitive to modulations of the subject’s quality of awareness. These responses, at their best, often are ambiguously overdetermined, “a sort of cryptogram, an encoded message which touches upon but does not make manifest the meaning of the patient’s productions” (M. C. Nelson 1966, p. 188). From Don Juan’s perspective, “the worst thing one can do is confront human beings bluntly” (Castaneda 1973b, p. 10; quoted by M. C. Nelson 1976, p. 351). Such a tactic is easily assimilable by the subject’s defenses. One would need to generate situations that stimulate the subject’s reach and lead him toward the gap that makes approach possible (Eigen 1973, 1977, Nelson et al. 1968),

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