Sunday, December 30, 2012

Of Children and Parents

A couple of more paragraphs from ``Mating in Captivity'':

... Children are indeed a source of nurturance for adults. Their unconditional love and utter devotion infuse our lives with a heightened sense of meaning. The problem arises when we turn to them for what we no longer get from each other: a sense that we're special, that we matter, that we're not alone. When we transfer these adult emotional needs onto our children, we are placing too big a burden on them. In order to feel safe, kids need to know that there are limits to their power, and to what is surreptitiously asked of them. They need us to have our own loving relationships, in whatever form they take. When we are emotionally and sexually satisfied (at least reasonably so; let's not get carried away here), we allow our children to experience their own independence with freedom and support. ---p. 142
Another patient, Charlene, is being tutored by her children. ``My kids have taught me how to be greedy. My fifteen-month-old can suck on me for half and hour, walk off to play, and be back for more within minutes. He shakes his head no when I offer him milk in a cup or bottle, pulls up my shirt, and squeal until I unsnap my bra for him. When he sees my nipple he smiles, coos, and dives in. The three-year-old wants my lap, my time, my attention as often as he can steal it from his brother. He will tell me how to position my body on the floor, exactly how I should push the truck, and feels no guilt or shame in declaring which parent he wants to play with or put him to bed. Of course they don't get what they want, but I am impressed by their fluid transmission of desire between body and mind. They let themselves feel in a way I'd forgotten, or beeb trained away from; and watching them makes me more aware of my own body and reminds me of my own desire.'' --- p.146, Mating in Captivity

Ruthlessness and Intimacy

In April I started working on questions regarding sex and eroticism [see this post: Intimacy, Love, and sexual desire]. One of the books I started reading then was ``Mating in Captivity,'' by Esther Perel. A couple of days ago I picked it up again from where I left and I will probably finish it this time. Here are some interesting parts:

To my thinking, cultivating a sense of ruthlessness in our intimate relationship is an intriguing solution to the problems of desire. While it may appear at first glance to be detached and even uncaring, it is in fact rooted in the love and security of our connection. It is a rare experience of trust to be able to let go completely without guilt or fretfulness, knowing that our relationship is vast enough to withstand the whole of us. We reach a unique intimacy in the erotic encounter. It transcends the civility of the emotional connection and accommodates our unruly impulses and primal appetites. The flint of rubbing bodies gives off a heat not easily achieved through tamer expressions of love. Paradoxically, ruthlessness is a way to achieve closeness. Erotic intimacy invites us into a state of unboundedness where we experience a sweet freedom. We get a temporary break from ourselves---The legacies of our childhood, the habits of our relationship, and the constraints of our respective cultures.
Loving another without losing ourselves is the central dilemma of intimacy. Our ability to negotiate the dual needs for connection and autonomy stems from what we learned as children, and often takes a lifetime of practice. It affects not only how we love but also how we make love. Erotic intimacy holds the double promise of finding oneself and losing oneself. It is an experience of merging and of total self-absorption, of mutuality and selfishness. To be inside another and inside ourselves at the same time is a double stance that borders on the mystical. The momentary oneness we feel with our beloved grows out of our ability to acknowledge our indissoluble separateness. In order to be one, you must first be two. ---pp. 123-124, Mating in Captivity

Incidentally, this year a few good films related to sexual topics have come out:
- Shame:
- A Dangerous Method:
- Hope Springs:
- The Sessions:

Thursday, December 27, 2012


The music, Guitar Quintet G. 448, is by Boccherini and I like this Fundango part very much. I am not sure that the dance is ``Flamenco'' but I like the dancer, Nina Corti. She is a Flamenco dancer with unconventional taste/approach ( In this video, she appears very sensual, at ease with her sexuality, and in control. At the same time, she looks cheerful and appears to enjoy the whole thing. Also, I like the cello player: He is really into it :)

Another performance (only music):

Third (only music):

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Psychic Agency and Vulnerability!

I think there is great knowledge/wisdom hidden in the following words. Of course, I often get over-excited over what I read :)

The sense of psychic agency is related to personally felt responsibility for one's life, that is, to a sense of ``owning one's karma.'' As infants we must first believe that we have created our own personal world; then we claim or ``own'' (i.e., become the agent for) what we have created; finally, we allow for the external world's impact on us, the world of the separated ``Other.'' To put it succinctly, we as analysts must help patients distinguish between persecutors and enemies. Persecutors are always constituted from the patient's projective assignments to others and therefore always originate within the self. The enemy is never the self but may be clinically confused with the persecutor (which is a transformation of the patient's self). When that distinction is clear, the analysands can more sanguinely own what belongs to them, so to speak, and can effectively avoid pathological entanglement with others.
One must first believe that one has autochthonously ``created'' the world that one discovers or encounters, and then, epigenetically, one must become a self with a continuous ``history'' who then---and only then---becomes able to allow one's self to be vulnerable and varyingly helpless recipient of life's experiences. Blame and protest against the world of external objects is often justifiable in fact, but we each must epigenetically and ontologically ``earn'' our passport to such objectivity---by being sufficiently in touch with a sense of self-responsibility that we are separate from our provisional ``enemies'' and thus are able to hold them authentically responsible. --- pp. 56-57, Who is the Dreamer Who Dreams the Dream?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Short Report

Of how things have been lately. Finished the black book (Between Emotion and Cognition). I could not imagine reading this book even a year ago. But it was the right time and it changed my whole landscape. I have not yet finished the purple book (The Neuroscience of Psychotherapy) with only two chapters left. But I won't force myself to read it just to finish another book. I will finish it when I feel like reading it :)

Things have changed gradually and from the outside I am not sure how much of the change is apparent. But from the inside I can feel the difference.

I have started reading the following books:
-- ``Who is the dreamer who dreams the dream?: a study of psychic presences,'' by James S. Grostein, 2000
Found the author in the last chapter of the black book. The book is somewhere between serious psycho-analysis and mysticism! Very intriguing and related to a question of mine that has been bugged me frequently: Is there wisdom in our unconscious?
-- "After Lacan: clinical practice and the subject of the unconscious," by Willy Apollon, Danielle Bergeron, and Lucie Cantin, 2002
I became interested in Jacaues Lacan and D.W. Winnicott while reading the black book and the result is this and the next two books.
-- "Playing and Reality," by D. W. Winnicott, 1971
The writing of this book is amazing, simple and poetic, and it is full of insights.
-- "The Four fundamental concepts of psycho-analysis,'' by Jacques Lacan, translated from the French by Alan Sheridan, 1978
This is a difficult book, a complicated poem, almost. I am not sure if I am actually going to read it like a text, or just browse through it randomly like a poem collection!
-- "Creative readings: essays on seminal analytic works,'' by Thomas Ogden, 2012
I like this guy, Ogden, very much. I would not mind becoming his student/apprentice :)

Well, that's about it. For the last three months I saw my therapist almost every week. It was an intense period, but in the middle of it, he started telling me that he is beginning to see some changes and my true self! Which is quite amazing and frightening! Because once you unleash the true self, who knows where it is going to take you!?!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

More on Unconscious

What is unconscious? Can the thought processes that do not reach the level of consciousness be useful? Can we make better decisions by integrating both conscious and unconscious part of our mind?

This view of the unconscious as the repository of historical, pathological, irrational, interpersonal, or relational schemas has encouraged the development in contemporary psychoanalysis of a view of the unconscious simply as meanings outside of awareness rather than as a structure of the mind that is a source of energy and encompass the irrational as an important counterforce to the rational. ...
This view of the unconscious as unarticulated relational patterns and the treatment corollary of the patient's learning a more realistic or functionally accurate view of self in relation to others, of differentiating the repetitive, self-destructive relationship patterns through a current relationship with the analyst, is the central theme in many contemporary psychoanalytic approaches. ...
Levenson (2001) critiques our preference for a narrow band of rational conscious thought, which we view as the center of awareness. ...
We are shifting to a more holistic concept of brain functioning. The unconscious, many of us now believe, is where most everything happens. Consciousness becomes an epiphenomenon, a bubble of awareness. 
Hanna Segal (1994) ... describes the unconscious as having the characteristics of either deadness, when its contents are evacuated into external reality, or aliveness, creativity, and joy, when experienced as internal symbolic fantasies. She describes the universal struggle to resolve the ``inner conflict between creativity and the anti-creative forces'' (p. 612) in the development of the unconscious through the integration of love and hate, and the evolving capacity to use symbols.
... Eigel (1981) ... describes the unconscious as the capacity to make a passionate commitment to life, which he calls ``faith,'' defined as a ``way of experiencing which is undertaken with one's whole being, all out, with all one's heart, with all one's soul, and with all one's might'' (p. 413). He contrasts this passionate dimension of the unconscious with theories that emphasize ego mastery, interjection, and successful adaptations to the external world.
... The Kleinian and Winnicottian view of the unconscious suggests that more important than the patient's internalized childhood relational patterns in the development of the capacity to integrate internal experience in an intense, committed, alive, creative, and symbolic form. This developmental dimension of the unconscious, implicit in Klein's and Winnicott's two-person perspective, is reflected in the person's evolving capacity for pleasure, joy, a passionate commitment to life, and the capacity to create symbolic and transitional experiences that are an expanding source of power and energy. ---pp. 168--173, Between Emotion and Cognition

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Andras Schiff on J.S. Bach

Tonight on my way back home I was listening to the "performance today" when I heard a part of Fred Child's interview with Andras Schiff regarding his new recording of the "Well-Tempered Clavier" and at some points I became so emotional that I was about to cry.
Here are some links:

2013-03-09: His performance of Bach's English Suites:

And Preludes and Fugues:

Sunday, November 25, 2012


It is difficult to talk about sex. It is more difficult to find useful information on sex. It is most difficult to have a meaningful, personal conversation about sex.
Anyway, here is an interesting quote:

It is therefore only when a person is able consciously to bear all his or her primal scene identifications that greater liberated sexuality is made possible. We are not the first to appreciate the reversibility of self- and object relationships. For example, Argentieri (cited in Amati-Mehler, 1992) states:
I think that for a man to be capable of penetrating he must be able to have a mental image and the emotion of what it means to be penetrated and penetrable. Vice versa, to accept penetration, a woman should have the emotional knowledge of what the experience of penetrating is like. ... interpretation, the reciprocal containing and holding, the capacity to enter the other without fear [p.476]
An important aim of treatment, in our view, involves helping patients understand and accept all the characters in their primal scene configurations. --- p.53, Unconscious Fantasies and the Relational World

[2014-08-10] A short piece that I found today on penetration and is fine: 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

True and False Self?

When I first read the Winnicott's concept of true and false self, I was fascinated by it [see this post: False Self]. But gradually, I found it too romantic. Here is a better discussion of the idea, in a less romantic and more believable fashion:

A second theme in Winnicott's work is of a dialectical relationship between two internal organizations of experience, one that is adaptive to external reality and in pathology molds the individual around the impact or demands [of] impingements from the external world, and one that reflects a personal, authentic, true, or subjective self. In his earlier conceptualizations he thought of this dialectic as that between a true and false self, which suggested a hierarchical relationship and one that seemed to privilege the development of the true self. As this concept evolved, it became clear that the false self was not simply a pathological structure but was necessary to mediate the external world, which led to the development of the concept of the person as both subject and object. Winnicott's work suggests that we spend much of our life being objects and that the development of subjectivity is an achievement. ... Winnicott's theory suggests that relationships can be organized within one of four categories, reflecting whether each person is experiencing himself and other as an object or as a subject. .... Winnicott's conception of analysis [psychotherapy] was as a developmental process in which the patient progressively become more able to organize experience in each of the four intersubjective modes, ... ---pp. 147-148, Between Emotion and Cognition

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Unconscious Fantasies

I have become interested in fantasies and their role in creating meaning in life. I have started a new book, ``Unconscious Fantasies and the Relational World,'' by Danielle Knafo and Kenneth Feiner. The book provides a detailed examination of three important fantasies (from psychoanalytic perspective): Primal scene, family romance, and castration, but the authors push beyond the classical interpretations. Here is a quote on ``Fantasy as Absence''.

In our view, all fantasy derives from an absence---a gap or a lack---that is filled with imaginative mental processes. It is important to note that absence due to separation or loss need not be distinguished from the absence of wish gratification.
Indeed, fantasizing is a built-in, spontaneous function of our brains that reflects the continuous activity (psychic work) of the mind. Early studies conducted by Gestalt psychologists of cognitive and perceptual processes shed light on the mind's tendency toward completion and closure. ..... We understand these findings as demonstrations of the way our minds continue to work out problems and complete unfinished business in the absence of conscious effort. This activity does on during sleep as well as in waking life. ---- pp. 24,25, Unconscious Fantasies and the Relational World

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Cruel and Sterile Links

In a series of papers, Bion (1959,1962) developed a theory of thinking and symbol formation that made explicit the role of the other in the development of the process of symbolization. ... In this model the infant or patient, through projective identification, puts unacceptable, concrete experiences in the other [parent or analyst]. If the other is reasonably well balanced and able to tolerate the projected unconscious fantasy, he or she can symbolize the patient's or infant's experience through processes of reverie, which in time allows the patient of infant to re-introject the unconscious fantasy in a symbolic form. ... Bion suggests that this relationship between the container and the contained can be disrupted through the analyst's or parent's incapacity for reverie, by an inability to contain, identify, and effectively elaborate the projective identification, or because of the patient's or infant's experiences of intense envy and inability to tolerate the other's capacity to provide a nurturing constructive experience. ... in situations in which the child's projective identification cannot be tolerated and are evacuated by the parent,
the development of an apparatus for thinking is disturbed ... The end result is that all thoughts are treated as if they are indistinguishable from bad internal objects ... The dominance of projective identification confuses the distinction between the self and the external object. ....
Bion's evacuative model of the mind reflects both the individual's failure to develop the capacity for symbolic thought and the importance of the patient's active, moment-to-moment attempts to disrupt processes of symbol formation and the development of links between patient and analyst and self and other, and in the internal process of linking emotions with thoughts. These attacks on the processes of linking are seen as a function of envy and the inability to tolerate the experience of the good breast: the sense of being cared for, responded to, and identified with by the analyst. ... ``the attacks on the linking function of emotion lead to an overprominence ... of links which appear to be logical, almost mathematical but never emotionally reasonably. Consequently the links surviving are perverse, cruel and sterile'' --- pp. 132-133, Between Emotion and Cognition

Monday, November 19, 2012

Being in Touch

How can we get in touch with ourselves? A simple question with no easy answer. Here is an interesting idea: By developing symbolic thought processes!

Segal (1979) notes that the symbolic thought is necessary for communication both with others in the external world and with one's own unconscious fantasies. ...
[For] people who are `well in touch with themselves' there is a constant free symbol-formation, whereby they can be consciously aware and in control of symbolic expressions of the underlying primitive fantasies. The difficulty in dealing with schizophrenic and schizoid patients lies not only in that they cannot communicate with us, but even more in that they cannot communicate with themselves. Any part of their ego may be split off from any other part with no communication available between them. [p. 169]
... the person is able to return to earlier unresolved conflicts symbolizing both the repaired whole objects of the depressive position and the persecutory and idealized objects of the paranoid-schizoid position. ... This oscillation between the concrete experience of the paranoid-schizoid position and symbolic experience of the depressive position allows the individual to find enrichment in the reservoir of unconscious fantasies and to re-experience the terrors of the past. --- pp.131,132, Between Emotion and Cognition

2013-03-05: Interesting idea. I really like the opening sentence of the quote from Segal (1979), "[For] people who are `well in touch with themselves' there is a constant free symbol-formation, whereby they can be consciously aware and in control of symbolic expressions of the underlying primitive fantasies." Very intriguing idea!
Because being in touch with ourselves, is the first step to knowing ourselves and then realizing our true self, I added "Authenticity" to the labels of the post :)

Sunday, November 18, 2012


I define addiction as a repetitive behavior that is aimed at providing pleasure (or subduing pain) but does not quite work. So the person keeps doing it but at the same time feels that something is missing from the whole picture. One of my first revelations, on this blog, says that, "Addiction is the ultimate real abstraction.'' I wrote this and I never quite understood what it meant. Today, I read a couple of pages from the Newirth book over and over and I had a feeling that something really important was in those paragraphs. Something related to addiction and abstraction. Here are some quotes. They are very difficult to read.

Basch-Kahre (1985) presents an interesting discussion of the hidden aspects of concrete thinking and of the difficulty in progressing past these early representational and organizational processes in patients who have psychosomatic and borderline problems. She conceptualizes these archaic thought processes as operational thinking, which is concrete and logical, with no room for feelings, metaphors, or symbols. ... She underscores the important point that logic and the capacity to think abstractly are qualities that are independent of the patient's capacity to use symbolic thought, and that individuals may have the capacity for high levels of abstraction in their ability to understand and solve objective, mathematical, and technical problems while continuing to function concretely n their personal and subjective experience. ... She focuses on the difference between the patient's ability to use logical and abstract processes in reference to external or objective events (material reality) and the ability to use symbolic process in relation to intimate relationships and the development of the internal world of fantasy and emotion (psychic reality). ....
Winnicott (1971) addresses a similar concept ... in which experience can be located either in the external objective world or in the internal subjective worlds. Winnicott presents a carefully reasoned argument about the subtle difference between the concrete thought processes of the false or objective self organization and the capacity for symbolic thought in the patient who is a subject, a true self. Winnicott illustrates symbolic thought processes as located internally in the psychic reality through the analysis of a patient's dream, which involves the mutual development of meaning through the implicit and explicit discourse with the other. He describes a concrete or literal experience located outside of the person in material or external reality, citing a patient's daydreaming as concrete, ruminative, and not differentiated from the experience in itself, resulting in paralysis rather than self-directed action in the world. ... Winnicott states, ''Fantasying was about a certain subject and it was about a dead end. It had no poetic value. The corresponding dream, however, had poetry in it, that is to say, layer upon layer of meaning related to past, present, and future, and to inner and outer, and always fundamentally about herself.'' ---pp. 129,130, Between Emotion and Cognition

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Our Deepest Fears

The development and connectivity of the amygdala have many implications for both early child development and psychotherapy. Without the inhibitory impact of the later-developing hippocampal-cortical networks, early fear experiences are unregulated, overwhelming full-body experiences. Because the amygdala is operational at birth, the experience of fear may be the strongest early emotion. Part of the power of early emotional learning may be the intensity of these unregulated negative affects in shaping early neural infrastructure. The infant is very dependent on caretakers to moderate these powerful experiences. Amygdala- and hippocampus-mediated memory systems are dissociable from one another, which means that early and traumatic memories can be stored without conscious awareness or cortical control. They will not be consciously remembered, but instead will emerge as sensory, motor, and emotional memories like traumatic flashbacks. --- pp.247-248, The Neuroscience of Psychotherapy

2014-10-24: Today, I came across this post from two years ago by accident (it was viewed 5 times in the past week). It's a curious incident because I have been thinking about the role of "fears" in our lives recently, a lot, and came to this realization that one of the most important elements/functions of religion and spirituality has to do with the tension between fear and security.  

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Art of Letting Go

Let it go!
Pull my finger!

I have gained a better, and more personal, understanding of the concept of "letting go" as it applies to thoughts and memories, specially those recurring thoughts that have some emotional weights and burden. Here are a few observations:

  1. "Letting go" is not an event, it is a process
  2. It involves reviewing the memory without fear of being hurt by it
  3. It requires practicing a simple, and yet very profound and deep, rule: Emotions are only emotions, and thoughts are merely thoughts.
  4. The memory/thought is actively reviewed and in fact is re-constructed, and each time, we tell a new story of the same memory. Each time we try to be more playful and open to possibilities.
  5. At some point, we feel that the thought or memory is loosing its emotional grip on us and we are able to move away from it, naturally.
  6. In this sense, letting go is a peaceful non-violent process because we do not deprive our selves from anything. Deprivation is the source of violence.
PS. When we say something over and over, without any change or improvement, or when a thought keeps coming back to us, in the same form and style, all these indicate that we are afraid of something that lies in the middle of the circle, the circle of those recurring talks and thoughts, and we want to ignore that scary thing right in front of us.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Projective Identification

``Projective identification'' is a new concept for me that I am beginning to understand and appreciate. I can observe myself using it a lot, and I can use it, therefore, to explain some mysterious behaviors and emotions of mine :)

... Joseph (1988) includes the following among the aims of projective identification: ``Splitting off and getting rid of unwanted parts of the self that cause anxiety and pain, projecting the self or parts of the self into an object to take over its capacities and make them its own, invading in order to damage or destroy the object. Thus the infant, or adult who goes on using such mechanisms extensively, can avoid any awareness of separateness, dependence, admiration, or its concomitant sense of loss, anger, phobic panics and the like'' (p. 138). Ogden (1982) defines projective identification as a ``psychological process that is at once a type of defense, a mode of communication, a primitive form of object relations, and a pathway to psychological change'' (p. 21).
The experience of projective identification is an inevitable aspect of intimate relationships and can be both an intensely uncomfortable and anxiety-filled experience that thrusts the individual into a paranoid world of persecution and grandiosity, or it can be a creative experience of mutuality and playfulness, creating the symbolic experiences of the depressive position. [``Depressive position'' is a technical terminology from Kleinian school and is more related to mentallization than depression.] The critical issues in understanding projective identification ... is that the other (the therapist, parent, lover, friend) becomes deeply affected by the split-off parts of the individual as they become involved in the dialectical process of projective identification.
In focusing on the transformation of projective identification from concrete to symbolic organizations, interpretation becomes a complex process ... Joseph (1988) ... elaborates on the difficulty of the interpretive process:
Sometimes it [projective identification] is used so massively that we get the impression that the patient is, in fantasy, projecting his whole self into his object and may feel trapped or claustrophobic ... bearing in mind that projective identification is only one aspect of ... balance established by each individual in his own way, an interpretive attempt on the part of the analyst to locate and give back to the patient missing parts of the self must of necessity be resisted by the total personality, since it is felt to threaten the whole balance and lead to more disturbance. [p. 140]
Joseph is suggesting a critical idea that the patient's resistance and phobic dread of interpretation are a result of experiencing the analyst's words as concretely destructive attacks that are premature attempts to force a reinternalization of projected aspects of the self before the patient has developed the capacity to symbolize ... ---pp. 80, 82, 86-87

Monday, November 12, 2012

Of Mice and Men :)

In essence, rats who receive more maternal attention have brains that are more robust, resilient, and nurturing of others. They are able to learn faster and maintain memories longer. They are less reactive to stress and are thus able to use their abilities to learn at higher levels of arousal and across more difficult situations. They will also suffer less from the damaging effects of cortisol by down-regulating it sooner after a stress response. and finally, females growing up with more attentive mothers pass these positive features on to their children.

In an exciting twist, it has been found that biological interventions and enriched social and physical environments can reverse the effects of low levels of maternal attention and early deprivation on both HPA activation and behavior (Bredy et al. 2004; Francis et al. 2002; Hood, Dreschel & Granger 2003; Szyf et al. 2005; Weaver et al. 2005). Unfortunately chronic stress or trauma in adolescence and adulthood can also reverse the positive effects of higher levels of attention earlier in life, shaping a brain that resembles one that was deprived of early maternal attention (Ladd, Thrivikraman, Hout & Plotsky, et al. 2005). These studies all support the notion that our brains are capable of continual adaptation in both positive and negative directions and that successful psychotherapy, one that establishes a nurturing relationship, may well be capable of triggering genetic expression in ways that can decrease stress, improve learning, and establish a bridge to new and healthier relationships.
Keep in mind that the amount of attention that a mother rat shows her pups exists in a broad adaptational context. Highly stressed mothers demonstrate lower rates of licking and grooming, which prepare her pup's brains for living in a stressful environment. In other words, under adverse conditions, maternal behavior decreases, which programs her offspring for enhanced reactivity to stress. This likely increases the probability of survival while simultaneously elevating the risk of physical and emotional pathology later in life (Diorio & Meaney, 2007). --- pp. 218-223, The Neuroscience of Psychotherapy

Sunday, November 11, 2012


Radiolab ( has some interesting programs. I listen to it Sunday evenings at 8 while I am driving back from the Athletic Club Northeast (and usually stop at Whole Foods to pick up a few items). This week program was on ``Memory and Forgetting'' and some parts were very informative. Especially the fact that memory is not really about remembering but it's about "re-creating" an event! The most accurate memory is the one that is not remembered. That is probably why it is important to remember memories and work on their contents and shape them the best they serve us.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Grandiosity and Omnipotence

Greenberg (1990) focuses on Freud's incorporation of Ferenczi's original concept of primary narcissism, which is described as a state
of pleasure and the absence of desire in which the subject and object are merged. This pleasurable unity is split apart when the infant discovers the external object and begins to experience painful separation. ... [The infant's] attempt to re-establish unity would necessarily take on a two-fold, contradictory form. On the one hand, the infant could attempt to unite with external objects that would represent the life instincts and sexuality. On the other hand, the infant could attempt to eliminate objects altogether representing the death instinct and aggression. ... In either case the result would be the same: a psychological state of existence devoid of external objects, a state which the unconscious equates with absolute pleasure, primary narcissism. [p. 278]
... Freud's antipathy to concepts of merger between self and other, between subject and object, arises from his view that merger represents a regressive, maternal, or religious organization of experience in contrast to a scientific perspective that demands a separation of subject and object. ...

An interesting clinical discussion of grandiosity as action reflects the patient's need to eliminate and destroy all objects in the world (Symington 1985)  as part of an early survival function. Symington develop's Bick's (1968) hypothesis that is infant does not experience a secure parental holding environment, he has to hold himself together
He is driven to act in order to survive. His catastrophic fear is of a state of unintegration and spilling out into space and of never being found and held again. ... The baby holds himself together in a variety of ways. He may focus his attention on a sensory stimulus ... He may engage in constant bodily movements .... A third method consists of muscular tightening, a clinging together of particular muscle groups, and maintaining them in this rigid position. This is an attempt physically to hold everything sp tightly together that there can be no gap through which spilling can occur [p. 481]
These actions, which reflect the patient's need to hold himself together, are often experienced by the analyst as rejection by a grandiose individual who must act as if there is no other person in the world in order to maintain a sense of safety from feelings of unintegration and of the inhuman, inorganic experience of death and nonbeing.
Esther Bick describes the experience and necessity of grandiose action and the destruction of the awareness of the other in a session with a 6-year-old boy (Symington 1985). ....
.... The child could not risk trusting her [the mother] until he felt held, but he couldn't feel held through his armor of ``I must do it myself.'' This statement ... captures a fundamental problem in working with a grandiose patient: the patient need to deny the analyst's existence. We may think about grandiosity as an attempt to maintain an experience of being an individual while struggling against the overwhelming tide of nonbeing .... Analytic work with these patients involves the development of omnipotence, the capacity to reach a state of pleasurable unity through internal processes of symbolic and metaphorical merger of self and other in place of the destruction of the world of object and the experience of death and emptiness.
... we may think of grandiosity and despair as a disintegration product of omnipotence and merger, which the individual has needed to adopt in order to survive by doing everything by himself. ... in adopting this grandiose strategy it becomes necessary to kill off, to destroy, the other, the external objects, simultaneously destroying the possibilities of becoming a subject and being trapped as an object without hope, immersed in an experience of psychological death. --- pp. 60-65, Between Emotion and Cognition

Thursday, November 08, 2012

More on Magic

It was a fortunate coincidence that as I have been gaining more insight into the (unconscious) role of magic in my life, I happened to see the following:

... The traditional psychoanalytic view has emphasized the negative aspects of grandiosity and omnipotence, seeing them in terms of the gratification of infantile and regressive wishes. From this perspective, grandiose states are seen as manic defenses, magical denials of anxiety and aggression, and as an avoidance of reality. Self psychologists and some object relations theorists have presented a more positive view of grandiosity. Kohut (1977) suggests that if the child does not find an admiring other for his early grandiose and exhibitionist performances, then he/she will develop an extremely fragile self structure focused on action that attempts to maintain cohesiveness through archaic self-object relations. Balint (1968), Klein (1975b), Kohut (1984), Winnicott (1971), and others view grandiose, omnipotent, and magical behavior as crucial aspects in the development of positive and hopeful aspects of psychic reality, without which intimate relationships and the development of subjectivity would be impossible. ... Winnicott believes that the development of omnipotence, which grows out of the child being joined in illusory, magical, and surreal transitional experience, is the precursor to the development of the true or subjective self and the capacity for creativity and for artistic, religious, and intimate experiences.

... Freud's highly critical view of grandiosity is clear in the following comment:
 ... our observations and views on the mental life of children and primitive peoples. In the latter we find characteristics which if they occurred singly, might be put down to megalomania: an overestimation of the power of their wishes and mental acts, ``the omnipotence of thoughts,'' a belief in the thaumaturge (that is, miraculous) force of words, and a technique for dealing with the external world---magic---which appears to be a logical application of these grandiose premises. [p.75]
From Freud's psychoanalytic perspective, my patient's grandiose state and his subsequent sense of despair would be seen as the inevitable failure of his grandiose defense, of his primitive, childlike belief in the omnipotence of his thoughts and words with which he tried to avoid awareness of his limitations as well as the importance of the reality principle. His intense feelings of despair, emptiness, and deadness would not be seen as an independent psychological event, but rather as the result of the failure of his grandiose defenses and the emergence of recognition that he cannot be the oedipal victor. His experience of himself as an empty suit, a haircut, would represent his difficult in feeling that he can fill an adult role as well as an intense castration anxiety in relation to social authority. ---pp. 58-60, Between Emotion and Cognition

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Interpersonal Psychoanalysis

This is such a different view of psychoanalysis that is more like a description of how our significant relationships can change our lives:

Stern (1996) addresses the contradiction that arises in interpersonal and relational psychoanalysis as a result of defining the analytic situation as a two-person relationship in which the analyst is no longer in the privileged position of authority:
While analysts are still experts in the room, it is no longer because they know exactly how to relate or exactly what to look for in the patient's experience---or in their own. Rather, they know how to look. They know to expect to be entangled and to expect to have trouble seeing the tangle and digging out of it. They are often unsuccessful, or rather they may be unsuccessful for long periods. But when they are successful, disembodying themselves helps their patients do the same. Experience that had never been formulated enters the realm of language and can finally be reflected upon by both participants. ... Once the analyst finds his way to kicking over the traces, the same old unwitting kind of relatedness becomes impractical and unnatural, even unpleasant, or the patient as well. [p. 283]
Stern describes the interpersonal treatment as beginning with an inevitable, albeit unconscious, enmeshment in the transference-countertransference relationship, a repetitive experience that is modeled on the patient's childhood experience. Both analyst and patient feel entangled in a relationship that feels problematic and that is difficult to formulate into language that is rational and understandable. The analyst's work and the therapeutic process involve formulating, understanding, and verbalizing in consensual or secondary-process language the previously unformulated experience, which then leads to growth and change. ---p. 24, Between Emotion and Cognition


Yesterday, around noon, I was anxious and angry. I had a feeling that soon I would have an understanding of my internal conflicts and then things would be back to normal, very similar to what they were 3-4 years ago. And I felt betrayed.

I had to make a difficult choice in the afternoon, an emotional situation that pushed me far into the dark side of my psyche. At one point on my way home I parked in front of a store and was about to buy a pack of cigarettes and end a six week period of quitting. But I did not.

Last night, before I wrote the previous post, I had a deep understanding of myself and how my mind works. I came to peace with my own tendency to talk and conceptualize and intellectualize things! I realized how important, and beneficial, these activities are for me.

This morning, while doing my morning meditation, I saw one of my deepest fantasies. It combines "magic" and "independence". I saw how my unconscious drive to "magically transform" has guided me in the past few years and shaped my decisions. I also saw that an important part of this fantasy of magical transformation, is to become strong and independent of others, because of my unconscious tendency to think of "dependence" as "weakness".

Monday, November 05, 2012

Narrative Co-construction

Parent-child talk, in the context of emotional attunement, provides the ground for the co-construction of narratives. ... When verbal interactions include references to sensations, feelings, behaviors, and knowledge, they provide a medium through which the child's brain is able to integrate the various aspects of its experience in a coherent manner. ... This integrative process is what psychotherapy attempts to establish when it is absent.

When caretakers are unable to tolerate certain emotions, they will be excluded from their narratives or shaped into distorted but more acceptable forms. ... At the extreme, parents can be so overwhelmed by the emotions related to unresolved trauma that their narratives become disjointed and incoherent. On the other hand, narratives that struggle to integrate frightening experiences with words can serve as the context for healing by simultaneously creating cortical activation and increasing descending control over subcortically triggered emotions. ---pp. 207-208, The Neuroscience of Psychotherapy

The critical question for me is that what differentiates healing narrative co-construction from regular conversations with little healing consequences ... or is there a difference?

Neuroscience suggests that an important aspect of love is the absence of fear. If therapists and adoptive parents can create an environment that minimizes fear and maximizes the positive neurochemistry of attachment through human compassion, attachment circuitry can be stimulated to grow in ways which are not only healing, but that allow victims of abuse and neglect to risk forming a bond with another.
Because the process of attachment is, at heart, a way in which social animals initially regulate fear, and later their affective lives, modifying insecure attachment, first and foremost, requires the establishment of a safe and secure relationship. Therapists work diligently to establish this type of relationship for each client .... ---p. 211, The Neuroscience of Psychotherapy

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Earned Autonomy: Reshaping the Past

We now have some evidence that parents' capabilities for attachment to an infant begin to take shape in their own childhoods. ... The empathy and care each parent received as well as the assistance they experienced in articulating and understanding their inner worlds will influence future parenting abilities. ...
Because attachment schemas are part of implicit memory, this level of care taking occurs automatically and connects our unconscious childhood experiences across the generations. ... Interestingly, negative events in the childhood are not necessarily predictive of an insecure or disorganized attachment schema or future parenting style. Working through, processing, and integrating early experiences, and constructing coherent narratives, are more accurate predictors of a parent's ability to be a safe haven for his or her children. This earned autonomy, through the healing of childhood wounds, appears to interrupt the transmission of negative attachment patterns from one generation to the next.
... [Autonomous parents] are able to access and connect cognitive and emotional functioning in a constructive and useful manner. They do not appear to be suffering the effects of unresolved trauma or dissociative defenses and have attained a high degree of affect regulation ... They are able to remember and make sense of their own childhoods and are available to their children both verbally and emotionally. ... ---pp.204-205, The Neuroscience of Psychotherapy

Reading the chapter that contains the above quote, I am beginning to see that one way therapy works, or one way of us reshaping our pasts, is to develop a coherent narrative of our past.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Generative Unconscious

I am still in the middle of the book, ``The Neuroscience of Psychotherapy,'' and I am learning quite a bit from it. I have started reading a new book at the same time, but after finishing the first chapter I have mixed feeling about the book and whether to continue or not.
``Between Emotion and Cognition: The Generative Unconscious,'' by Joseph Newirth, 2003
For one thing the style of writing is far from my ``simplicity'' principle. It is difficult to read both because of its content and the writing style. Yet, there are some interesting points in it that fit well into my current situation and that keeps me reading.
Matte Blanco (1975,1988), a Chilean analyst who studied with Klein, developed a theory of conscious and unconscious mental processes as parallel modes of organizing experiences based on different systems of logic rather than on the Freudian biological, hierarchical concept of the unconscious. Matte Blanco describes consciousness as organized through Aristotelian or asymmetrical logic (our usual concept of logic), which functions to differentiate experience within the dimension of person, place, time, and causality ... Unconscious experience is organized through symmetrical logic, which creates similarities and effaces differences ... Asymmetrical and symmetrical logic can be exemplified through comparing newspaper articles ... with poetry or dreams ... [respectively]. ---p.13, Between Emotion and Cognition

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Faces ...

I was reading the following today and I had a strange feeling, some sort of excitement. Tonight, I remembered that a lot of times, seeing a sad face makes me smile! (I have seen this in some other people too.) I have always been ashamed of this reaction, until now, but I am beginning to think about the implications of this simple observation for my childhood interactions with my caregivers (including my mom). Does this mean that she (they) used to smile and show a happy face when I was sad? Or, did she become sad when I was happy?
Our temporal lobes contain neurons dedicated to faces that are essential to our ability to relate to others. ... Both [autism and Asperger syndrome] are characterized by profound deficits in the ability to relate to others. ... reseach has demonstrated that individuals with autism process faces in an area of the right temporal lobe normally used to process objects (Schultz et al., 2000) --- p. 187, The Neuroscience of Psychotherapy

... mirror neurons ... fire both in response to an observation of a highly specific relationship between an actor and some object and when the action is performed by the observer. ...
... facial expressions, gestures, and posture of anoher will activate circuits in the observer similar to those which underlie empathy. Seeing a sad child cry makes us reflexively frown, tilt ou heads, say ``aawwhhhh,'' and feel sad too. ... mirror neurons may bridge the gap between sender and receiver, helping us understand one another and enhance the possibility of empathic attunement (Wolf, Gales, Shane, & Shane, 2000). The internal emotional associations linked to mirror circuitry are activated via ouwardly expressed gestures, posture, tone, ... Thus, our internal emotional state---generated via automatic mirroring process---can become our intuitive ``theory'' of the internal state of the other. ... ---pp. 188-189, The Neuroscience of Psychotherapy


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Quiet Internal World

Creating a quiet internal world allows for private thought, self-reflection, and traveling through time via episodic memory. Quiet moments can then serve as the grounds for mentalization, creativity, and consolidating the self (Winnicott, 1958).  ...
Winnicott (1962) suggested that the ego and one's sense of self consolidate during the periods of quiescence when children feel safe and calm in the presence of their parents. Good-enough parenting scaffolds the child, allowing him or her to go ``inside'' and rest in imagination and the experience of self (Stern, 1985). ---pp. 145-146, The Neuroscience of Psycholtherapy

French Suites

J.S. Bach's French suites, BWV 812--817, are six suites which Johann Sebastian Bach wrote for the clavier (harpsichord or clavichord) between the years of 1722 and 1725. Performed on Piano by Andras Schiff

I really like the third one, it is my favorite as of now :)
Suite No. 3 in B minor, BWV 814
From 25'36'' to 39'12''

Richter: Italian Concerto, French Overture, English Suites 3, 4 & 6 & French Suites 2, 4 & 6

Here is Glen Gould's take on French suites:
Part 1:
Part 2:

For some reason his performance sounds more emotional to me. I mean, I am listening to "Part 2" and at different points I started crying without any particular reason. Just the beauty of the music and performance brought tears to my eyes!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Child's Brain

A few paragraphs from The Neuroscience of Psychotherapy:

Cortical inhibition and descending control are also central to affect regulation. The rapidly changing and overwhelming emotions displayed by every young children reflect this lack of control. As the middle portions of the frontal cortex expand and extend their fibers down into the limbic system and brainstem, children gradually gain increasing capacity to regulate their emotions and find ways to gain soothing, first through others, and eventually by themselves. ...

Although both the left and right cerebral hemispheres are developing at very high rate during the early years of life, the right hemisphere appears to have a relatively higher rate of activity and growth during the earliest years (Chiron et al., 1997). During this time, vital learning in the areas of attachment, emotional regulation, and self-esteem are organized in neural networks biased toward the right hemisphere. Somewhere around age 3, this pattern of asymmetrical growth shifts to the left hemisphere.

The maturation and sculpting of so much of the cortex after birth allows for highly specific environmental adaptations. The caretaker relationship is the primary means by which physical and cultural environments are translated to infants. It is within the context of these close relationships that networks dedicated to feelings of safety and danger, attachment, and the core sense of self are shaped. The first few years of life appear to be a particularly sensitive period for the formation of these networks. It may be precisely because there is so much neural growth and organization during sensitive periods that early interpersonal experiences may be far more influential than are those occurring later. The fact that they are preconscious and nonverbal makes them difficult to discover and more resistant to change. Because these neural networks are sculpted during early interactions, we emerge into self-awareness preprogrammed by unconsciously organized hidden layers of neural processing. The structure of these neural networks organizes core structures of our experience of self. --- pp. 70-72, The Neuroscience of Psychotherapy

Interactions: A True Story

A quote from ``The Neuroscience of Psychotherapy: Healing the Social Brain,'' by Louis Cozolino
Being human means communicating with others. ... Through our interactions we have the power to impact one another at every level. One of my most powerful experiences of the truth of this fact ... [took place] at the home of a friend. I had volunteered to watch his two young children for a few hours ... I had known Jessica and Sam, 4 and 6 years old, all their lives. ... The minute their father left they shifted from low to medium to high gear and I found myself in the midst of a frenzy of excitement.
Toys began flying out of closets and storage containers; games were begun and tossed aside; videos were started, stopped, and replaced ... I kept trying to refocus Sam and Jessica's activity, to no avail. ...
... My suggestion that we sit and talk for a while passed unnoticed. After a few seconds, Sam looked at his sister and yelled, ``Show Lou how you burp your dolly!'' Both let out a scream and Jessica soon returned with an adorable squishy doll. ... Jessica threw the doll on the floor face first and drove her fists into its back. As Jessica and Sam took turns crushing the doll into the carpet, I watched in horror, completely identifying with the doll. ....
I quickly reminded myself that I was feeling sorry for a ball of cotton and that I should turn my attention  back to the children. ... I struggled to make sense of what was happening and asked myself if there might be some symbolic message in the way they were treating this doll. Jessica and Sam had experienced a great deal of stress in their brief lives ... The frantic activity that I was witnessing may have reflected the accumulated anxiety from all they had gone through, mixed with normal child exuberance. ...
... Perhaps Sam and Jessica were showing me that when they needed to be comforted, they were met with more pain, or, at the very least, insufficient understanding and warmth. ... Was their behavior a form of communication?
... I felt my anxiety growing when finally, they turned to me and cried in unison: ``Your turn!'' I hesitated. The chant of ``Burp the baby, burp the baby'' began to rise. I looked at both of them and said, ``I know another way to burp a baby. Here is how my mom burped me.'' A cheer went up. ...
I gently picked up the doll and brought it to my left shoulder. Rubbing its back in a circular motion using my right hand, looking down at it with tenderness, I quietly said, ``This will make you feel better, little one.'' A silence fell on the hallway. I looked up to find Jessica and Sam transfixed, as if hypnotized. Their eyes followed the low circles of my hands, heads tilted like puppies. Their bodies relaxed, their hands limp at their sides, calm for the first time.
After following the movement of my hand for about 30 seconds, Jessica looked up at me and softly asked, ``Can I have a turn?'' ... then carefully, almost respectfully, she took the doll from me and placed it on the floor with its back against the wall. She stepped over to me, climbed over my crossed legs and put her head on my shoulder where the doll's head had been. She turned to me and almost inaudibly said, ``I'm ready now.'' As I rubbed Jessica's back, I felt her growing more and more limp as she melted into my shoulder and chest. ... When I looked over to [Sam], I could see that he was in the same posture and state of mind he had been in watching me burp the doll. He eventually looked up at me and asked, ``Can I have a turn?'' Before I could answer, Jessica lifted her head slightly and told him, ``In a minute.''
After a while, she gave up her spot on my shoulder and Sam had his turn being ``burped.'' --- pp.48-50, The Neuroscience of Psychotherapy 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Some Clips (Traditional Iranian Music)

Shajarian and Zolfonoon - BAYAT TORK

Shajarian - Lotfi - Mousavi - Mahour

Shajarian - Kasaei (Mousavi?) - Nava/AbooAtta

I have not smoked for more than three weeks now. I have not worked on my research for me than two months now. I finished the book I was reading yesterday (`Affect Regulation, Mentalization, and the Development of the Self,'' by Peter Fonagy, Gyorgy Gergely, Elliot L Jurist, Mary Target, 2002), all 400+ pages, lol. I am working on living in my emotions and not running away from them. I am starting to realize that emotions are very lucid, and also that thoughts are merely thoughts, emotions are merely emotions.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Children Playing

When adults think about children playing, they often think of it using their own, rather than the child's, perspective on psychic reality. ... The small child playing can think about thoughts as thoughts because these are clearly and deliberately stripped of their connection to the real world of people and even things. It is also easy to overlook the fact that the child may only be able to reflect on thoughts and feelings about real-life events during play if an adult is there to provide a necessary frame and insulate him from the compelling character of external reality. Winnicott recognized the vital mediating role children need from adults in order to play. He pointed out that our attitude toward play ``must include recognition that playing is always liable to become frightening. Games and their organization must be looked at as part of an attempt to forestall the frightening aspect of playing. The precariousness of play belongs to the fact that it is always on the theoretical line between the subjective and that which is objectively perceived.'' (1971, pp. 58-59) The very young child's understanding of minds may be developmentally advanced in play because of the segregation of this from external reality, and the avoidance of the sense of encroachment of reality on thought, which the child could otherwise experience. ---p. 263, [ARMDS:FGJT2002]

Saturday, October 06, 2012

False Self

Very intriguing ideas that feels very true and close to me:

... According to Winnicott (1960a), impingements from the environment may arise out of caregiver's difficulty in understanding the infant's thoughts or feelings, substituting her gestures instead of representing his [baby's] own intentional state to the baby, invalidating the gestures, and obstructing his [baby's] illusion of omnipotence. When this continues despite persistence by the infant, Winnicott suggests that a number of reactions can arise: the self may be overwhelmed, it may become anxious anticipating further impingement, it may come to experience itself only when it acts in opposition to impingements, and, finally, it can acquiesce and hide its own gestures, undermining its own ability. In this latter case, Winnicott assumed, the self ends up mimicking its care taking environment, resigned to deficiency, setting aside creative gestures, and perhaps even forgetting they ever existed. Winnicott suggested that the infant compliantly relates to the caregiver's gestures as if they were his own, and this compliant stance lie at the root of the false-self-structure. It follows from Winnicott's view of the hallmarks of the true self that the false self is revealed by a lack of spontaneity or originality. ... such individuals [with false-self-structure] later seek out external impingements to create the experience of compliant relating and, with it, a sense of realness about their own existence. Winnicott also identified the kind of self that appears to be real but is built on identification with early objects and thus lacks something uniquely its own.
Winnicott described how the false self may sometimes set itself up as real and generally convery this impression to others, but it does so mechanically, lacking genuine links between internal states and actions. A self whose own constitutional state has not been recognized is an empty self. ... Emotional experience will be meaningless, and the individual may look for powerful others to merge with or extraneously caused (drug-induced) physical experiences of arousal to fill the vacuum with borrowed strength or ideals. Only when the person is challenged by the need to act spontaneously as a whole person, particularly in intense relationships, will the limitations become evident.
The false self is thought to serve to hide, and thus protect, the true self. The true self is the constitutional state that was largely unrepresented by parental mirroring. Thus it may emerge only in the course of extreme states of emotional arousal, when the internalized but non referential expression can no longer serve to mask emotional upheaval---for example, in the course of physical or psychological illness. Symptom formation may express the true self because historically this was how the emerging self found it could exist without being overwhelmed by the environment, having creative gestures replaced or ignored. ...
... the child who fails to develop a representation of an intentional self is likely to incorporate in his image of himself the representation of the other, sometimes mental, sometimes physical. The picture of the self will then be ``false'': distorted, as the child experience of himself is overtly influenced by his early perceptions of what others think and feel, and strangely out of touch with what he himself or others are currently experiencing. This may be why many neglected or maltreated children show apparent failures of object permanence, leading to primitive separation anxiety or feelings of merger with the object.In reality, they continue existentially to depend on the physical presence of the other, both for self-sustaining auxiliary reflective function---continuing to seek and find their intentionality in the mind of the other---and, more subtly, as a vehicle for the externalization of parts of the self-representation that are experienced as alien and incongruent with the self. ...
This state of affairs places a massive burden on those with severe personality disorder. In order for the self to be coherent, the alien and unassimilable parts require externalization: that is, they need to be seen as part of the other where they can be hated, denigrated, and often destroyed. The physical other who performs this function must remain present for this complex process to operate. ...
The alien self is present in all of us, because transient neglect is part of ordinary caregiving: it is pernicious when later experiences of trauma in the family or the peer group force the child to dissociate from pain by using the alien self to identify with the aggressor. Hence the vacuous self comes to be colonized by the image of the aggressor, and the child comes to experience himself as evil and monstrous. ... A further twist to this sequence can be added when later brutalization within an attachment relationship generates intense shame. Coupled with a history of neglect in infancy and a consequent weakness in the capacity for metallization, this become a potent trigger for violence because of the intensity of the humiliation experienced when trauma cannot be attenuated via mentalization. Unmentalized shame is then experienced as the destruction of the self---we have called it ``ego-estructive shame.'' ... ---pp. 195-198, [ARMDS:FGJT2002]
Related Links:
True self and false self --- Wiki
According to this source, in the Winnicott theory of true/false self, ``Where the motherer is not responsive to the baby's spontaneity, where instead 'a mother's expectations are too insistent, they can eventually result in compliant behaviour and an impaired autonomy', as the baby has 'to manage a prematurely important object....The False Self enacts a kind of dissociated regard or recognition of the object; the object is taken seriously, is shown concern, but not by a person'.''

I am curious if there is an alternative mechanism for the construction of the false self: when an infant is too smart, in the sense of receiving and interpreting the mother's signals, for his own good!

Here is an interesting criticism of the "true self" concept, by Foucalt, based on the fact that "self" is more of a construction than a given: ``Foucault, a philosopher, took issue with the concept of a “true self” on the grounds that the self was a construct, not (as in the Romantic paradigm) an essential to be uncovered: anti-essentialism. Foucault snarled that "In the Californian cult of the self, one is supposed to discover one's true self, to separate it from what might obscure or alienate it"[55] - whereas for him what was in question was a process of subjectification, an aesthetics of self-formation.
Foucault maintained that because "the self is not given to us....there is only one practical consequence: we have to create ourselves as a work of art".[56] ''

Sense of Self and Borderline Personality Disorder --- Psychology Today 

Friday, October 05, 2012

Resolving Indecision

Indecision has been a major source of problems throughout my life, and hence, an interesting subject for me:
Another early form of instrumental self-regulation of affective behavior is indicated by the emergence of social referencing by the end of the first year .... At this time infants who find themselves in an ambiguous situation and cannot decide among several behavioral alternatives---such as whether or not to crawl across a visual cliff to their mothers---tend to examine their parent's facial emotion display and use the emotional information expressed to modulate their own behavior. The exact mechanism underlying social referencing is as yet unclear. ... It seems also possible that the infant, who is by now well-trained in emotion-regulative mirroring interactions, is actively seeking out a clarifying affect-mirroring cue from the parent that will strengthen and bring one of his current conflicting emotion states  to dominance, thereby resolving his indecision. ---p.158, [ARMDS:FGJT2002]

Saturday, September 29, 2012

New Books

I have been reading quite a few books recently. Here is a list of the most important ones:
  • ``Affect Regulation, Mentalization, and the Development of the Self,'' by Peter Fonagy, Gyorgy Gergely, Elliot L Jurist, Mary Target, 2002 [ARMDS:FGJT2002]
  • This is a serious psychology  book that combines themes from psychoanalytic and child development literature. Fascinating but difficult to read.
  •  ``The Neuroscience of Psychotherapy: Healing the Social Brain,'' by Louis Cozolino, second edition, 2010
  • I started reading about psychoanalysis, mainly from the next reference, but I realized that there should be an intimate relationship between neuroscience and psychotherapy, and then I found this book that exactly elaborates on this point!
  • ``Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry/IV,'' edited by Harold I. Kaplan and Benjamin J. Sadock, fourth edition,  1985
  • What initially got me interested in the book was ``Chapter 10: Theories of Personality and Psychopathology: Schools Derived from Psychology and Philosophy,'' by William N. Thetford and Roger Walsh
  • Then, I started reading ``Chapter 8: Theories of Personality and Psychopathology: Classical Psychoanalysis,'' by William W. Meissner. In my view, this is a very thorough and deep treatment of the subject, a little technical and difficult, but an amazing read. Revived my interest in the subject.
  • ``Sanford Meisner on Acting,'' by Sanford Meisner and Dennis Longwell, 1987
  • Sanford Meisner schoold of acting is simply amazing. He has deep insights into this profession that in fact goes beyond the boundaries of acting into a knowledge of human psychology.
Here is an important insight from  [ARMDS:FGJT2002]:
``... In this sense attachment is a skill, one that is acquired in relation to a specific caregiver and encoded into a teleological model of behavior. In the London Parent-Child Study we investigated the question of how well the Adult Attachment Interview, administered before the birth of the first child to 100 predominantly middle-class primiparous parents, could predict the classification of infant's attachment at the age of 12 months to mother and at 18 months to father (Fonagy, Steele, and Steele 1991). There was only a marginally significant association between the attachment classification with mother and that with father. However, both test results were powerfully predicted by the attachment classification of the respective parent on the AAI (Steele et al. 1996). ... The results suggest that the infant develops independent models (self-other schemata) for its major attachment relations based on its past history of interactions with each of those individuals. There interaction experiences are, in turn, indexed by the caregiver's representation of their attachment history.

... If secure attachment is conceived of as the acquisition of procedures of goal-oriented rational action for the regulation of aversive states of arousal within an attachment context (Carlson and Sroufe 1995; Cassidy 1994; Sroufe 1996), we argue that these would be most consistently acquired and coherently represented when the child's acute affective state is accurately, but not overwhelmingly, reflected back to the child.

The child who looks for a way of managing his distress finds in the response of the caregiver a representation of his mental state that he may internalize and use as a part of a higher-order strategy of affect regulation. The secure caregiver soothes by combining mirroring with a display that is incompatible with child's affect (thus perhaps implying coping). ...

If secure attachment is the outcome of successful containment, insecure attachment may be seen as the infant's identification with the caregiver's defenesive behavior.'' pp 41-41, [ARMDS:FGJT2002]

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Night Practice

I have been looking for some practice to end my day with. Here is an idea.

Practice Nightly
The best time to exercise gratitude is just before bed. Take out your tablet (electronic or otherwise) and record the events of the day that created positive emotions, either in you or in those around you.
Did you help somebody solve a problem? Write it down. Did you connect with a colleague or friend? Write it down. Did you make somebody smile? Write it down.
What you're doing is "programming your brain" to view your day more positively. You're throwing mental focus on what worked well, and shrugging off what didn't. As a result, you'll sleep better, and you'll wake up more refreshed.
Reprogramming Your Brain
More important, you're also programming your brain to notice even more reasons to feel gratitude. You'll quickly discover that even a "bad day" is full of moments that are worthy of gratitude. Success becomes sweeter; failure, less sour.
The more regularly you practice this exercise, the stronger its effects.
Over time, your "gratitude muscle" will become so strong that you'll attract more success into your life, not to mention greater numbers of successful (i.e., grateful) people. You'll also find yourself thanking people more often. That's good for you and for them, too.
This method works. If you don't believe me, try it for at least a week. You'll be amazed at what a huge difference it makes.

PS. [2012-09-29] I did this nightly practice for close to two months and I did not feel any benefits, and I am not doing it anymore.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Mango and Mang

In 200,000 B.C., after the biblical storm was dead and dry, Noah's boat settled on the lands we now call Egypt. Noah was sick and tired of all that water, so he started a journey across African deserts and ended up in a land we call Spain now. Spanish were great soldiers at the time, and Noah was very confused and bored, so he made a great army and invaded all Europe and finally conquered England after a bloody battle. At the time, England was colonized by India (Hindoostan) and Indians had brought Mango plants into England and had tried to grow them. But the results were defected fruits that were smaller than original Mango and were called "Mang". So Noah took the name "mang" and used it to refer to two things: (1) Bastards, i.e., children without a properly known father, and (2) because "mang" was an "o" short of "Mango", and "o" is reminiscent of testicles, he used "mang" to refer to eutenized men, and then by extension to homosexuals. Therefore, Noah coined the term "mang" to refer to faggots and bastards at the same time.

Conclusion: When you want to grow a plant in a new environment you have to be careful about the possibility of being invaded by a foreign army headed by a crazy, bored prophet.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Poetry Night

How can you tell her,
``I love you!''
when you don't know
what love is?
How can you tell her,
``I want to see you!''
when you don't know
if you want to see her
or you are escaping
the frightening void within?

So you take the bottle
and empty all pills
on your palm.
It's the perfect time:
She won't be back any time soon
and you have enough time
to finish things clean
and you ask yourself,
``Do I want to do this?''
over and over
and hear no response
so you put the pills back
in the bottle
and think
``I do not even have the courage
to do this!''

And you decide to go to Java Monkey,
Sunday evening is the poetry night,
and you tell yourself
I am going to smoke
and finish every cigarette
on my skin.
Oh Lord!
How much I need the Lord
or anything
to that effect

They recite poems
and you float in your dreams
or rather nightmares
thousands of miles away
from anything
that can be characterized
as enjoyment.
Yeah, I am enjoying
my fucking life


A male that acts like a Fag, Faggot, Queer and/or Fairy.
Derived from the latin term Mangina.

Clean Pool

Sunday morning is cleaning time. The pool was green with algae from a heat wave while we were gone. It is much more beautiful and presentable now, lol.

Morning started okay with my routine morning practice. During breakfast, when I was telling Sima about my plan to go on a trip alone to clear my mind, a sense of agitation started happening inside me. When I was smoking my first cigarette outside, an extremely powerful feeling of nervousness, or an enormous energy, captured me. I felt it mostly in my neck and shoulders. It seemed impossible for me to do anything. I thought about contacting a friend and arranging a few hours in the afternoon or evening to be with her. (This thought was very powerful.) Then I considered calling my parents in Iran, or calling some out of state friends, then asking Sima to give me a massage. But I decided against all of them. I should calm down myself, I thought, I am abusing my relationships and exploiting them too much. I should get though this alone. I started cleaning the pool and after a while a calmness came over me.

There is a fine balance between "responsibility" (what we ought to do) and "desire" (what we want to do) that I have missed in my life. Not long ago, I had no idea about what I "wanted" to do in my life. Everything I did was out of responsibility. Then, I started to drop things that I did because I had to, to find out about what I want to do. Yet, doing things that I have to do, like using drugs, brings a sense of calmness to me. This calmness is necessary for life, and I am missing it now.

I went to a nearby coffee shop around noon and practice "not doing" for a couple of hours. I would like to think that this practice helps me to calm down by myself and clear my mind. I have some idea about what I am going to do today.

Days are stretches of void, pain, and torture. In the morning, I am facing the challenge of getting through another day. I am not sure how long I can go on like this. I am worried that what I am doing (that is, "not doing" practices, avoiding putting my weight on my relationships, and refraining from doing things out of responsibility) combined with my inability to focus on my job, drive me into total madness and despair. But I do not have a better plan. And in reality, a lot of things seems impossible to do right now.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Night Sky

We saw "Beasts of the Southern Wild" at the Tara Cinema. It is a different and fascinating film. In a strange way, it reminded me of "The Tree of Life" which I watched three or four times (at the Tara Cinema). Every time, I cried for 10-15 minutes over a sequence of shots from Galaxies and creation and child birth all combined together. I like the sky, specially the night sky when it is filled with stars. In Iran, I slept under the night sky (of Damavand near Tehran) once and I watched the sky for a couple of hours and cried every now and then. It was a fascinating night. I can't describe it. Tonight when we came out of the theater, around 9 p.m, the evening sky was mesmerizing. I took some pictures. But seeing it first-hand, the amazing combination of colors, was different. Yesterday, I had a few very difficult hours in the afternoon. I changed a plan to hang out with a dear friend (for complicated reasons that I do not fully understand yet), and suddenly, a black hole appeared in front of me. The emptiness that appeared before me was frightening.

The Three of Life - Trailer:

Sia - Cover of "Under the milky way"

Best night sky (in the US:
Death Valley National Park:
Bryce Canyon National Park:

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Wild Horse

What are the images that most people associate with love? A romantic dinner? Holding hands? Looking into a lover's eyes?
Today, I had the image of love as a wild horse! Most of us live our lives riding an old, obedient donkey, locking the wild horse in the stable, out of reach and out of sight. The wild horse is a source of energy, wild destructive energy.

The energy in love, or more generally in human contact, can be overwhelming, destructive, and even disgusting. Think of a father caressing his little child. Something happens, and now he feels sexual tension in his touch. Something churns his stomach. He is overpowered by an unspeakable desire, unthinkable desire, that can easily destroy his entire life!

Energy is not good or bad. Energy is overwhelming, dangerous, and mesmerizing. In order to deal with the wild horse, it has to be taken out of the safe stable.  And there will be a period of time, before the rider gains the confidence and trust to properly deal with the horse, that anything can happen. Who wants to take that risk? It is only rational that most of us live happily with the old, obedient donkey. Freeing the wild horse is crazy. And yet, some of us are captivated by the risk and the possible rewards of the endeavor.

Love is less romantic than we think.

While I was thinking all these, on my way to playing tennis, Franz Schubert's String Quintet in C major was being played on radio. I caught the middle of the second movement and as I continued listening to the end, something strange in the music and in my body happened, as if the composer's inner struggles with love and its frightening energy was projected on me. Quite amazing!

Franz Schubert String Quintet in C maj:
Wiki link (on )

PS. I am listening to it again :)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Festive Day

خرم آن روز کزین منزل ویران بروم         راحت جان طلبم، و ز پی‌ جانان بروم

Hafez says:
Such a festive day, that I leave these ruins
Seek peace of soul, and go after the beloved

No amount of coincidences, luck, or other powers can measure up to human beings power of grit, determination, focus, and perseverance.
`` ... I have told you already, only a crackpot would undertake the task of becoming a man of knowledge of his accord. A sober-headed man has to be tricked into doing it.''
``I'm sure there must be scores of people who would gladly undertake the task,'' I said.
``Yes, but they don't count. They are usually cracked . They are like gourds that look fine from the outside and yet they would leak the minute you put pressure on them, the minute you filled them with water. ...'' p. 28, A Separate Reality
A cracked gourd that would leak the minute you put pressure on it, how familiar!

I do not know anything. Don't know love, Hafez, or don Juan. It's easy to put words together, but it's much harder to live them.

I am a seeker of calm and peace, and those can only be found in drugs, temporarily, and in death, permanently.

Enough of this nonsense for today, I need to get some sleep. Tomorrow will be a better day.

Confusion and Revenge

I feel confused and lost, and angry. I want to take revenge. I want to take a knife and cut myself into pieces, and destroy every piece, annihilate myself. I feel betrayed by my mind and body.

I want to go swimming!

Autumn Leaf

Today, I went to a coffee shop and practiced a couple of hours of "doing nothing." I felt that a few thoughts/decisions became clear in my mind.
In the afternoon, after a series of talks with Sima the clarity was gone.
Later on, I talked to a friend for half an hour. Nothing special was said.
After the talk, I experienced a wide range of feelings that caught me completely off guard. The emotions were so volatile and overwhelming that I felt as if I am caught in the middle of a storm and have absolutely nothing to hold onto.
Later on, this Persian song came to my mind. I could not find the lyrics in English, but the title is "The Autumn Leaf" and it is the story of a leaf caught in the senseless and violent winds of autumn, stripped of life and purpose. I was surprised by how my subconscious had found the exact song for what I was feeling at the moment :)

I do not want to complain but the thoughts that capture my mind are so extremely opposite at times that I suspect that I am completely losing my mind!

As I meditated on the song, I realized that the underlying story is the story of a heart (soul) caught in the turbulent emotions of love. The autumn leaf is a heart broken by an overwhelming love. Then, a poem by Hafez came to my mind (see this post: Connections and the two versions of the song, Shajarian and Bastami). In that poem (Ala Ya Ayyoha Saghi), Hafez explains many different aspects of love. Hafez says, "Love appeared easy in the beginning, but then the hardships appeared." How true is that? Hafez says, "It's a dark night, frightening waives of storms around us, how do they know how we feel, those who are on the safe shores?" And this was the most depressing and frightening thought, the essence of our loneliness: How does anyone know what is happening to us, when we are alone in the dangerous, stormy sea of love? And finally, Hafez says, "All my affairs have turned me (from an honorable fellow) to an infamous person, how do one keeps a secret that is being told on every street corner?" Wow, did I not know this poem from so many years ago? Did I not know that love destroys everything that is valued in life, and replaces it with a broken heart, an autumn leaf caught in turbulent winds of destruction? What was I thinking? 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Good to be back ...

We arrived in our house a few hours ago. About 24 hours ago I was going through the painful process of saying goodbye to my family in Tehran. Now I am back in Atlanta and I even wrote that `` (It is) good to be back.'' Isn't it strange? The way we go through life and everything. That even the most painful experiences become memory and lose their power.

My brain is dead due to the lack of sleep. I have to get some sleep.

Monday, July 16, 2012


It has been raining, on and off, sometimes light and sometimes heavy, and the weather is pleasant. All this unusual for this time of the year in Tehran.

It's time to say goodbye. I do not want to go back to Atlanta, and do not want to stay here, either.

Everything will be okay at the end, and if things are not okay, then it is not the end! --- From a movie

The noon call to prayer (AZANE ZOHR) is being played on the old radio in the house. Something inside me is disintegrating slowly. I cannot focus. I am afraid of thinking about going back to Atlanta and face the same old challenges there. I cannot stay here either, I have no real ties and no way of living here.

In Kerman, I met one of my cousins who has schizophrenia. His father has the same illness and died from diabetes and its complications a few years ago. When I was leaving their house, he suddenly went back inside and came back with a novel. He gave me the English translation of  ``A Wild Sheep Chase'' by Haruki Murakami.

Things are not that bad. I started today very sad for leaving my family, friends, and country and also was confused and frightened of the prospects of going back to Atlanta and facing some difficult choices and situations. Sima came here from her parents' house. She was in a similar mood, more or less, and they (my parents and her)  tried to relieve their anxiety and sadness by helping me pack. That does not go well with me because I like to do my packing my own way and with my own pace. Instead of getting angry and starting a fight, I withdrew and did not talk to them for a while. She got angry and then cried a little and left.
I am sure she will calm herself down as I did. But it is important to me that we do not abuse each other to overcome our nervousness, sadness, etc.
 I am packing slowly and steadily.

Thursday, July 12, 2012


Suicide thoughts raid my mind.
Two opposing forces come to heads.
Neither one bends.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Events Without Order

Sima suggests that I see her uncle's wife. She reads my coffee cup. Turkish coffee. We talk. I leave her house. Quran is played on the speakers of a nearby mosque. I feel light.

My dad is remembering his old time friends. Many of them are dead. His eyes well up. Something in his face reminds me of the old man, Bill's father, in "Kill Bill" movie. His trembling eyes. I want to cry.

There are two paths, a difficult choice, but they both end in the same place, and there is an opening. You will succeed anyway.

We go hiking. We talk, a lot. I feel happy. I forget my problems for a few hours. But they rush back. And I break something. This is broken, can you repair it? Broken, repair. Repair, broken.

You are angry at someone and you have turned your face.

We talk about sex. We say things that are never said before.

High expectations, excitement. I go to Kerman for a few days. The day that I go to Mahan is fun. There are a lot of difficult  moments. I leave my uncles house before dinner. I cannot stay there anymore. I walk for a while, buy a sandwich.

You have helped someone with "N" in his/her name. S/he is grateful and prays for you. Something good will happen.

I can't sleep. I think over the events. I read cards. You do not have resources to end this relationship. I sleep. I have a dream. I wake up disoriented. I write an email. I am angry and frustrated.

We wake up in the middle of the night and make love, with our whole bodies and no mind. Making love. How do we make love? What is love made of? How do you break it?

You hear an unexpected new. You will be surprised.

We go to a mystic figure (SHAH NEMATOLLAH) place in Mahan. We sit inside. I look around and wait. We leave when it's the praying time.

I take my cousin to an event. He is on wheelchair because of M.S. When we are leaving, I drop him on the floor. Everyone is looking at me. I am angry, I am disappointed, I am frustrated. Responsibility. Anger. Resentment.

We go to Damavan, northeast of Tehran. Night is cool. We sleep outside. I want to sleep in the open one more time.

"Las Meninas" is an important painting in the art history. It is done by Diego Velazquez.

Holding hands. Touching and being touched. Trust. How do we trust? Is trust in the body or mind? How do you let someone inside you? Does it feel vulnerable?

High expectations bring frustration. Know your limits. Accept them and then push them a little.

I am out of cigarettes. Short Bahman is 500 Tomans (~ 25 cents) a pack. They are okay. I finish a pack in a couple of days. I buy "Camel Light" 3500 Tomans (~ $2) a pack. I finish it in a couple of days too.

I smoke outside. Sometimes in the basement suit. I used to bring prostitutes there back in the days, and a lot of other things would happen too. Now it is an empty place, with a lot of memories floating around.

IT'S NOT ...

.. ``It's not your spread, and it's not how strong you are, and it's not how fast you are, because you have all those thing...