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CHAPTER FOUR Winnicott: an added note

Michael Eigen Karnac Books PDF

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Winnicott: an added note

here is so much to dip into and explore. With Winnicott, I get the feeling that, deep as we go, there is more awaiting us.

I am moved by a sense of “primary maternal preoccupation” as a thread of existence all life long. The older I get, the more important, rich, and full this capacity becomes, related as it is to devotion, sincerity, and care. I think, too, of variations of this capacity in Meltzer

(1994) and Bion’s (1994) concern with truth and life.

One thing one gets in psychoanalysis in general, and Winnicott in his own special way, is a sense of the interplay of psychic threads, always multiplicity. Bion speaks of sincerity as a “minimum necessary condition” (1994, p. 367) for “initiation” to a journey he values, while contrasting it with ways love becomes murderous, hate cruel, and the journey artificial. Even truth can become artificial. An echo of true–false reverberates through Winnicott’s and Bion’s writings.

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12. Primary Process and Shock

Michael Eigen Karnac Books ePub

Sam is a young, handsome man, a poet who looks like he lifts weights. He reminds me of certain actors who have fresh, well-packaged looks, faces composed as they wish, a sense of control running through facial as well as bodily muscles. He is in command of his functioning. He is affable and warm, altogether pleasant and engaging. He ought to be likable and actually is. Yet there is something uncomfortable and jittery about him, as if his muscles do not quite work as a shell, and the sensitive underside is exposed. His face seems very naked, yet nothing seems to be there except raw nervousness.

I am interested in Sam and glad he is seeing me. I am in my late fifties, he in his twenties. In some ways he is living the kind of life I might have liked to live in my twenties. He is a gifted writer enjoying affairs with numerous women. My relationships with women, especially in my twenties, were tormented, if also joyous. I went from hell to hell, as well as heaven to heaven. Sam aroused my envy with his great affairs with great women and the pleasures he got from writing (writing: one of my favorite torments). Everything Sam did was fun and pleasurable. He seemed to have a right to pleasure. Where was Sam’s hell?

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8. Empty and violent nourishment

Michael Eigen Karnac Books ePub

Coreen’s mother bathed her in wealth and the promise of more wealth: “When I die, you’ll have everything/’ Coreen had heard these words ever since she could remember. They mystified her. They made her feel that she ought to have everything, that everything was possible, and that one day she would have it all.

At the same time, Coreen was told she already had everything. She had every advantage material wealth could bring. She lived in a mansion with her own suite of rooms. She had housekeepers, tutors, activities, playmates. The message she received was that she had no lacks.

Someday she would have everything, and she had everything now. One conclusion Coreen drew was that her life was filled with everything, that she went from less of everything to more of everything, and someday she would find most of everything.

“I walked around, my head filled with everythings, lots of everythings, all animated. Animations of everythings. Lesser and greater everythings of all kinds. I would meet people and classify them as this or that everything. Likewise activities. This activity would be that kind of everything, that activity this kind. Everything was some type of everything. I couldn’t do or find anything that wouldn’t be one sort of everything or another/’

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7. Self-nulling

Michael Eigen Karnac Books ePub

A good deal of my adult life has been spent helping people who feel badly about themselves. This lack of self-worth may vary—from feeling irredeemably evil, to needing to be treated like shit or garbage, to doubt about one’s worth allied with vacillating self-esteem. Variations are myriad.

For some, the bad self is so consuming, there is little room for living. One spends one’s time staring at the badness that drags one down. Many find ways to rationalize the bad feeling, put it aside, push beyond it, emphasize “the winner within”. Many of these individuals live more-or-less full lives this way. Some land in my office when depression or anxiety or destructive behaviour breaks through. Such a person may not know what to make of this condition. “I’ve always been an active, confident person. Nothing like this has happened to me before. Everything frightens me. I can’t go out. I cry all the time: I’m afraid I’ll smash my children.”

Most of my patients know the bad self only too well. It is no surprise to them. It is more surprising when they feel good or do something good for themselves when there is some break in the black winter and sunlight warms and brightens them.

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CHAPTER THREE: I don’t know

Michael Eigen Karnac Books ePub

My purpose in writing this chapter is to dignify and celebrate the phrase, I don’t know. It has a long, rich cultural heritage. Yet, in political practice and everyday life, it often is denigrated, as if those who seek or hold power, whether in family, work, or politics, are phobic about not knowing. They fear that appearing not to know would compromise their position and precipitate a slide down the ladder of esteem.

We are urged, from school on, not to be ashamed of not knowing. We are told that not knowing makes learning possible, part of the process of getting to know. Yet, few of us escape childhood without being shamed for not knowing. I doubt many go through school without many kinds of humiliation, not least involving damage to fear of not knowing.

We learn early to cover up deficits. An illiterate delinquent may hide his incapacity with increased bravado and destructive acts. It is a funny kind of learning, making believe we know more or are better, stronger or more able than we know we are. I remember volunteering to tie someone’s shoelace in kindergarten, although I did not know how. The teacher treated me rather well, but the event stuck like glue in my mind. I wondered over many years why I had the need to do that. I knew I could not tie the shoe. Yet, I needed to seem as if I did, even though the result must be failure. I was caught between fantasy and reality, hung by my own mind.

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