Sunday, February 24, 2013

Relatedness: Expression or Essence

One of the books I finished recently was ``Playing and Reality,'' by D.W. Winnicott. I am sure that I quoted parts of the book on this blog, but I cannot find them! Anyway, Winnicott was among the pioneers of the idea of ``relatedness''. He has famously said that ``there is no such a thing as an infant,'' meaning that an infant exists in the nexus of his/her relationship with the caregiver(s). Here is a more extreme version of the idea: that our relations are not simply ``expressions'' of our mind; rather, our mind is distributed among our relationships. That is, we are our ``relatedness''. 
This hypothesis, I feel, has far reaching consequences. For one thing, it completes the circle of my experiences in the past year. I started this new round of experiences (in April 2012) with the goal of understanding sexuality and eroticism [see Another Chapter ... and Fusion!?] and one of the books that I started my journey with was David Schnarch's, ``Passionate Marriage: Keeping Love & Intimacy Alive in Committed Relationships,'' and in the next couple of months I quoted from the book repeatedly. An idea started to emerge that one way of learning who we are, or in fact, creating who we are, is through our close relationships [see Reflected Sense of Self and Finding Your True Self Through Relationships]. Now this statement has a whole new level of meaning: we literally create who we are via our relationships. A couple of nights ago, at a Persian fund-raiser at "Deljou" gallery, I was reading the ``Partners in Thought" (see the following quotes) and reached a moment of clarity.

... For those who depend on the concept of unconscious fantasy {traditional/mainstream/Freudian psychoanalysis} clinical relatedness is like the image projected on a movie screen: it contain what you want to know, but if you want to affect the image in any permanent way you had better ignore the screen and go find the film.
I believe, on the other hand, that the possibilities that, if actualized, open experience in just the way intended in psychoanalytic treatment, are quite literally the possibilities of clinical relatedness. ... The possibilities between them are not contributed by a separate source of meaning---i.e., fantasy---that shapes and influences relatedness to conform to its image. The possibilities between analyst and patient are instead the unformulated possibilities of relatedness itself.
This is what I mean when I claim that meaning, at least the most psychoanalytically relevant meaning, is embodied in relatedness. ... relatedness is not merely an expression of mind---relatedness is part of mind. This is one of the most important areas in which it makes sense not to conceive mind as unitary, not to conceive it as contained in the brain or the head, or even as located somewhere inside the person, but as distributed. The future of meaning is embodied in relatedness. ...
Enactment is a kind of extreme selective attention, a set of perceptions of the other, and of oneself in relation to other, that are so rigid that no other possibility can be imagined, at least temporarily. ... Need stifles curiosity by shining light only into certain corners; it requires continuous effort, and the kind of intentionality that I have claimed goes beyond consciousness, not to succumb to this selectivity, to stay open to our capacity to allow alternative perceptions to form in our minds. ...
Because both the analyst and the patient are involved in the relatedness that grows between them, offering help of this kind requires that not only the patient, but the analyst, find a way to accept a greater freedom to experience. ... We work toward a wider range of affects, thoughts, and perceptions that allows us to feel and sometimes formulate meanings that have remained outside our capacity to live. --- pp. 22-24, Partners in Thought

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