152 Slices
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CHAPTER ONE: Distinction–union structure

Michael Eigen Karnac Books ePub

Over twenty years ago (1986, Chapter Four; see also 1992, 1993, 1995) I posited a distinction–union structure as a kind of DNA–RNA of experience. Every micro-moment or “cell” of experience is made of distinction–union tendencies. More, that distinction–union tendencies are parts of one structure or event, always mixed and working, although either may be more dominant or obvious at any moment.

It might help living one’s way into this by supposing distinction–union tendencies as branches of a single trunk, or roots in a complex root system. At some unobservable level, my hunch is that they are one, indistinguishable, but our representational cognitive language discriminates coincidence as two or more, often as binaries, opposites or complements.

What would it mean to posit them as indistinguishable and unobservable? Would this mean they are beyond knowing? I suspect there are vast “domains” we do not, and possibly cannot, know, yet they work and influence us, even structure us. Bion’s (1965, 1970; Eigen, 1998) nameless, wordless Transformations in O point to this, as do countless wordless Buddha-lands beyond conscious categories pointed to in many sutras (e.g., Goddard, 1932, p. 46).

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Michael Eigen Karnac Books ePub


Day 2

Winnicott and Bion

Morning session: Screaming and singing: The dream scream

I’m glad some people came back. Any questions or thoughts or things you thought about overnight? We can start out with those, anything more from yesterday? Everything!

Question 1

You said yesterday that ‘We have to stay real.’ What state is this ‘real’ and is it what Winnicott calls the true self? I would like to know about this ‘real.’

Response 1

You’re thinking too hard. We don’t know. We can’t answer it in discursive terms. We will never know. It is beyond our capabilities. It’s just a way of speaking, of touching what we imagine to be a continuum. Winnicott’s false self, true self is really a continuum, a fusion, a mixture. It’s not a dichotomy. It’s not as dichotomous as he makes it. It’s all mixed up. It’s indistinguishable. We can’t tell one from the other a lot of the time. Sometimes we think we can. But we often turn out to be wrong. What we thought was true turns out to be an illusion, what we thought was false turns out to be the best thing in us. But we try, we try to be true. We try to be real. But everything here is real, we are all real. Everything is real, a lie is real. I wish I had brought with me a little quote from Winnicott. He says, something like the mature person is one who can compromise, one who can lie and one who can be flexible and not too hard on oneself for one’s failings. The psychotic is inflexible, the psychotic can’t lie. The psychotic can’t compromise. It’s interesting too that Winnicott remarked about Van Gogh, too much true self.

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CHAPTER FIVE: Ring–hang up, start–stop, on–off

Michael Eigen Karnac Books ePub

Acolleague tells me her patient rings the phone and hangs up over and over. Ring–hang up, ring–hang up. This happens at unexpected times, often at night, not too late as to break into sleep, but almost.

My colleague (C) is, needless to say, exasperated. She has almost lost her sense of wonder. She has no idea what this is about or has many ideas, but they are only ideas, so amount to no idea at all. From a point of frustration, she imagines the patient is hostile or is being prurient, interrupting late night activity (how many little children would like to join their parents in late night play?).

It did not occur to her that the ring–hang rhythm was a rhythm, a kind of start–stop, towards–away rhythm, perhaps part of a deeper rhythm that characterized her patient’s life. Frustration saturates imagination.

The word hang (as in hanging up) is a bit ominous and teasing: to leave one hanging, swinging on a rope or hanging by a thread (threat?). What is it P wanted C to get the hang of or what did P want to get the hang of? I think of people who from an early age had their feelings aroused and dropped. One scenario is a parent who needs to get the baby or child into an excited state, only to turn off. A pattern of heightened arousal is followed by dropping off a cliff. Emotionally, one is not even left hanging. Cold water is poured on hot emotion and the flame is put out. Start–stop, on–off. It is a scenario that occurs in therapy, too. A therapist may cultivate a patient’s dependency, then emotionally disappear. Therapy often reconstitutes family trauma, hopefully with the ability to go through it with some gain.

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Chapter 7: Primary Process and the Wound that Never Heals

Michael Eigen Karnac Books ePub

Chapter Seven

Primary Process and the Wound That Never Heals

Different schools of depth psychology develop different languages for the wound that never heals. We are wounded beings and much depends not only on the severity of our wounds but on how we process or fail to process them.

There are many ways of relating to wounds. One may turn them into blessings. One may wrestle with them. One may go into wounds, explore them, try to go through them, heal them, learn about them. One may get lost in wounds or drown in wounds. Wounds can be traps or springboards, challenges or simply tragedies. One may fly above them. I have a patient currently who has spent his life flying, looking for a bit of unwounded territory to land on. He does not remember the last time he touched earth.

All wounds are part of one great wound. I think we have a sense of being wounded on which all wounds feed. We grow around our wounds. What we call character may be ways of organizing our selves around and beyond wounds in characteristic ways. A sense of bitterness, loss, or self-pity signals a background wound we take for granted, live with, and transcend in ordinary daily living.

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9. Tinkering

Michael Eigen Karnac Books ePub

Does it make sense to make sense of a life? One constructs frames of reference, ways of thinking about a life that include social, political, psychological aspects of history. One finds ways to understand. Still, life sifts through one’s fingers, like sand, and one wonders at the fleeting nature of time. One wonders at capacities we discover, our makeup, our use and misuse of all we are given, its use and misuse of us.

Sam tells me that he is brilliant then spills out his story of damage. He depicts his mother as seductive, father as rageful, both as depressed. His father’s depression is lifelong and powerful, his mother’s was more serious when he was a child, lessening as he grew up. Sam felt that he saved himself by being super-smart and great at everything. He was athletic, social, a terrific student. He got into top schools, flew through graduate school, got an amazing job making lots of money, terrific girlfriends, wonderful friends.

Why does he seek me?

He is very lonely. He likes having girlfriends and lots of money but wants to build a life with a special someone and have a family. He wants a substantial life, someone to love who loves him and work he really loves. He is good at creating a terrific but loveless life. Love, like time, is elusive.

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