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:
http://performancetoday.publicradio.org/display/web/2012/11/26/wtc-andras-schiff/
http://performancetoday.publicradio.org/display/web/2012/11/26/schiff-wtc-newalbum/

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

http://youtu.be/4h3pOHveFGg


And Preludes and Fugues:

http://youtu.be/oFqyAAj7WoU

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Penetration

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:
http://www.elephantjournal.com/2010/10/penetration/ 

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

Addiction

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

Memory

Radiolab (http://www.radiolab.org) 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.

http://www.radiolab.org/2007/jun/07/

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

Fantasy

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

Body Intelligence

As Lucy reflected on her outrageous behavior of the night before, the memory only served to draw her upward, like a flower toward the sun...