Friday, May 31, 2013


In the space between words
sits patience
expectation stares and
the three temptations of
Buddha and Christ
walk together

I rearrange words
with painful determination
over and over
helplessly hoping
that the void
reveals its secrets

my life
my destiny
my self


This on HelloPoetry:

TED talk that inspired "three temptations":

Yesterday evening I had images/thoughts of space between words of great poems :)

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Lie Baby Lie

I cannot lie. It is frustrating. Forget about lying to a real audience, an action with a consequence. I cannot lie to my journal, that no one will read, probably not even myself :)

Lying without consequences. Does such a thing exist?

I lie under pressure, of course. When someone expects something from me and I cannot say no, not directly, in her face. Then, I say, `I "have to" go, sorry I "cannot" stay ...' and so on, when in fact, I want to go, I can stay but I do not like to stay, and so on. Lying is a necessary defense mechanism. Fine.

But the lying I am concerned with here, in this post, is creative thinking, imagination, constructing and fabricating something out of nothing. No wonder I could not do research, I have completely blocked the main source of original and creative work.

Since I was a teenager, every time I started writing a journal, I documented daily events in great length and details. I would call that "event accounting''. The main purpose of accounting is to record things with outmost fidelity to the truth!

Last May (2012), my friend Ali gave me a black Moleskine notebook, a birthday present. The first few months I did the usual event accounting. After a while, out of boredom, I decided to add my thoughts and interpretations. Gradually, they replaced the "event accounting''. But this was a difficult process. It is much easier to do a faithful accounting of events than to ``think" originally and come up with your own words and expressions :)

A few days ago, I finally gave myself permission to fabricate things, in my journal notebook. I wrote a few stories that were completely made up, with little or no resemblance to truth. It felt really awesome! Last evening, I had a moment of understanding the magic of words. Why does anyone want to swear to words, or to the pen and what it bleeds.

However, I had to make it clear, somehow, that I was writing a story.

Today, as I started writing, I thought what if I mix truth and lies, my imaginations in my journal, without marking them as such and separating them? An amazing fear, terror, came over me. The source of the fear, as far as I can distinguish, is something like this: What if years later, I read this journal and think that my lies were actually true? What if I lose the sense of what is real and what is imaginary? What if I forget the story of my life and the sense of my "Self"?!?

I am not sure how well I can describe this. Yesterday, the same Ali came for a visit, and I tried to explain these new developments for him. As soon as I started speaking, I realized that I cannot describe things the way I wanted. He was looking at me with alternating expressions of, `This is trivial!' and `You are out of your mind!'. He was polite not to mention it though.

Anyway, imagine that you are writing events of your day in a journal and all of a sudden, without any warning or any marks, you infuse your imagination and mix truth and lies. Try it and let me know how it feels!

PS-1. I just discussed this with the barista, a high school girl (Lexi), and she said that she used to have the same fears when she started writing fiction. And her suggestion was to keep two journals, one for facts and one for fact-and-fiction-mixed.

PS-2. I just remembered that the sense of "self" in us, human beings, is closely related to the stories we tell ourselves. Our identity is essentially a long story of events!
Radiolab program: Who I am []
This is very exciting, because in order to know who you are, you want to examine the story of your life and maybe tell different versions of it, until you discover which one rings more true. Then, the outmost reality of our true self is inside a lie, a fiction, a story. Isn't it amazing?!?

PS-3. I just tried it. It reminded me of the few sessions of "free association'' that I did with my therapist. In free association, you are free to say whatever comes to your mind, truth or imagination or lie, does not matter. And yet, it is a terrifying process to be free, to let yourself be free, truly free.

PS-4. I have every reason to fear lying. I do not remember my parents lying to me. My mother's family have an obsession with being honest, truthful, and just. My father, too, being an engineer cares a lot about objectivity. When you deal with electricity, for example, you cannot ignore the facts or you will be damn electrocuted!
Therefore, I am so proud of my new adventures outside the realm of my upbringing :)

Have a short piece of music---Granados, Spanish Dances, No.3, Zarabanda

Friday, May 24, 2013

Spam Referring

I do not enjoy drinking, anymore, for a long time. If there is a "leg" for drinking, a drinking buddy I guess in English, then it is a little better. But not with Sima, not tonight. It just does not make sense.

I need attention and acceptance, in the shape of being read, being noticed, and being appreciated. I have always denied this need. I feel very uncomfortable dealing with this need for attention. Why? Because in my Kermani origin, asking for attention is the worst sin a person can commit, worse than ... anything! Because if you are worth something, people will notice you. If they don't, then it's because you are not worth anything. And the context, the given, is that you are not worth anything. In Kerman, the presumption is worthlessness, unless you are from Tehran, a genuine Tehrani. Then things may be a little different.

For the fuck's sake, I need attention. Because I need to be some body, worth the food and energy and all that is being spent on me, wasted on me.

The "attention-seeking" part of me is a dissociated part, a "not-me" even. When I come close to encounter this part, I usually panic. I have a bad feeling in my stomach, ready to throw up. And I react in fear, "how about closing this blog?'' kind of reaction.

Diving Bell and Butterfly

I am watching this French film, ``The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" [Wiki], after a few months of receiving it from Netflix.
Two things makes us as human beings, our memories and our imagination. It is funny, haha, that the two can be the source of our worst pains and our fullest joys.

Still watching!
It does not really matter if we remember an event correctly, or we are faithful to the truth or facts, what is important is that we create stories, different stories, and with each story we open a new possibility, a new meaning, and therefore, it is not the truth that sets us free, it's our imaginative stories.

The film is over. Amazing, a must watch, in my view.
Why is truth important? Because the reality ultimately forces itself upon us. Our imagination and memories combine to "make a prison into a house.'' The walls are still there, more tolerable nevertheless.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

My Lil Insecurities

When you lose your job, you lose part of your identity. This is specially true if an important part of your ego, the picture of your self in your mind, depends on how useful you feel you are. Am I doing something to deserve living on earth?

I had a long talk with my mom this morning and we discussed this issue among many others. She told me about some events from my childhood for the first time. Later in the evening, I went to the Atlanta Coffee Roasters to write my analysis of the morning conversations. The coffee shop was closed earlier than usual and I sat outside. Bill, the owner, came out and went in, a few times, and I felt coldness in his behavior toward me. Suddenly, it hit me that I am no longer different from the bums who sit outside the coffee shop and use the free WiFi! It was a moment of feeling weak and rejected.

Once finished my analysis, I felt exuberant and had to talk to someone. So I called my brother in D.C. and caught him walking their dog. Before I can explain my thoughts, he was telling me about his job interviews and grants and more. I suddenly felt jealous. It was a moment of weakness and vulnerability.

Finally I got to the point of explaining my talk to our mother and I felt coldness in his response. He was done walking the dog and his family were waiting for him to join the dinner. Suddenly, I was confused and angry. I really wanted to tell the story, but couldn't. Again, a moment of weakness and confusion.

What is my point? I had a point, I promise.
I used to get really angry at myself when I saw such weaknesses in myself. For some reason, recently, I have been able to accept them. I think I am on the right path :)

Monday, May 20, 2013

Writing ... Living

I know that I am hiding, here, not writing from my soul. You may wonder if it actually matters. Write or not. Hide or not. What is the difference?
I don't know either. But I have been thinking today ... that I am holding on to something too tight. I have had that feeling for a long time now. But I thought it was my job. Maybe job was part of it. But not the whole thing.
Tonight I was watching the "Dancing with the Stars'' and the final performance of one of the couples were very touching. There was something in it that would get to your heart. And I felt that I lack that in my life.
I am not living from my soul. I am not writing from my soul either. My writing is a bunch of general statements. Nothing personal. Nothing from me, deep inside me.

Can I continue writing like this?


Mohammad Reza Shajarian live performance at the NPR station ---tiny desk concert:

It is an interesting performance. I liked it.


Back to "Dancing with the Stars", one of the performances that I really liked:

Kellie Pickler & Derek Hough - Viennese Waltz & Paso Doble Back-to-back - Week 8

If I find their performance tonight, for the finale program, I will add it here.

Here you go:

Kellie Pickler and Derek Hough Supersize Freestyle - Week 10 Finale

``You just bared your soul on the dance floor ..."

Recent Developments

Last Friday, May 17 of 2013, Sima and I became naturalized U.S. citizens. This opens new possibilities in our lives. On that same day, I returned my keys, parking card, library books, and finished the clearance process at the GSU. I have no ties to GSU anymore, and that too will create new opportunities. I fluctuate between feeling excited and nervous/anxious which is quite natural!

My first tendency, in response to the anxieties of my new situation, was to think of writing a long to-do list, a list of everything that has been postponed for weeks, months, or years. Yet, I had a deep feeling that writing the list was not a good idea. So I did not do it. Today, I began to understand my situation better, or as I prefer to say these days, I came up with an alternative story for what is happening to/around me.

When I feel like it, I will write my new thoughts/findings. I do not want to commit myself though :)

Here is a story on NPR that I read today and resonated with me:
Inspired by a TED talk, Winston Chen quit his software job and moved to a tiny Norwegian island ... 

The TED talk:

2013-7-19: After two months, today I felt ready to compose a list of different projects and tasks that I have had in mind. Today was a strange day. After a couple of days of dealing with depression, something became clear for me, and I am content and happy and energetic. We will see how things develop though :)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Gifted Child Part 4: Healthy Narcissism

I was talking with my sister a few days ago and she was complaining that some of the things she has done recently feel "selfish" to her. I mentioned that "selfishness" is not necessarily a bad thing and we definitely need a healthy level of selfishness. Today, I read part of the Alice Miller book that reminded me of that discussion.
We cathect an object narcissistically, according to Kohut (1971), when we experience it not as the center of its own activity but as part of ourselves. If the object does not behave as we expect or wish, we may at times be immeasurably disappointed or offended ... This sudden loss of control may also lead to an intense narcissistic rage.
... in the earlies stage of our life, this is the only attitude possible. Not only during the phase of primary narcissism (the symbiotic phase) but also after the gradual separation between self- and object-representation does the mother normally remain a narcissistically cathected object, a function of the developing individual.
Every child has a legitimate narcissistic need to be noticed, understood, taken seriously, and respected by his mother. ... This is beautifully illustrated in one of Winnicott's images: the mother gazes at the baby in her arms, and baby gazes at his mother's face and finds himself therein ... provided that the mother is really looking at the unique, small, helpless being and not projecting her own introjects onto the child, not her own expectations, fears, and plans for the child. In that case, the child would not find himself in the mother's face but rather the mother's own predicaments. This child would remain without a mirror, and for the rest of his life would be seeking this mirror in vain.
Healthy Narcissism
If a child is lucky enough to grow up with a mirroring mother, ... a mother who allows herself to be ``made use of'' as a function of the child's narcissistic development, ... then a healthy self-feeling can gradually develop in the growing child. ... But even a mother who is not especially warm-hearted can make this development possible, if she only refrains from preventing it. This enables the child to acquire from other people what the mother lacks. ...
I understand a healthy self-feeling to mean the unquestionable certainty that the feelings and wishes one experiences are a part of one's self. ...
This automatic, natural contact with his own emotions and wishes gives an individual strength and self-esteem. He may live out his feelings, be sad, despairing, or in need of help, without fear of making the introjected mother insecure. He can allow himself to be afraid when he is threatened, or angry when his wishes are not fulfilled. ---pp. 31--33, The Drama of the Gifted Child

As I was reading the above paragraphs, I had a bad feeling. I can remember that not long ago I was looking for approval from people around, but most importantly, from some place inside me that I could not even identify. I now understand that it was the internalized image of the criticizing/expectant people around me in the childhood. Sadly, most Iranian parents I can remember would fit in the same category:

What happens if the mother not only is unable to take over the narcissistic functions for the child but also, as very often happens, is herself in need of narcissistic supplies? Quite unconsciously, and despite her own good intentions, the mother then tries to assuage her own narcissistic needs through her child ... This does not rule out strong affection. On the contrary, the mother often loves her child as her self-object, passionately, but not in the way he needs to be loved. [Reza: Wow, this reminds me of the popular expression among Iranian mothers, ``I love you more than my self!'' Or, ``you are my body and soul!'' On the surface, these expression seem as pure love and affection, but are they really healthy? Should we love anyone, more than our own self? Can we?] Therefore, the continuity and constancy that would be so important for the child are missing, among other things, from this love. Yet, what is missing above all is the framework within which the child could experience his feelings and his emotions. Instead, he develops something the mother needs, and this certainly saves his life (the mother's or the father's love) at the time, but it nevertheless may prevent him, throughout his life, from being himself.
In such cases the natural narcissistic needs appropriate to the child's age that are here described cannot be integrated into the developing personality. They are split off, partially repressed, and retain their early, archaic form, which makes their later integration still more difficult. ---pp. 34--35, The Drama of the Gifted Child

I wish I could translate this book into Farsi and give it to people for free. This form of ``narcissistic disturbance'' is so common in Iran that it should be considered as the norm rather than the exception!!!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Gifted Child Part 3: Roots of Emptiness

What is the source of emptiness inside? The answer, unfortunately, appears to lie with the emotionally insecure mother (primary caregiver) of the child who conditioned her love on certain behavior of the child:

  • There was a mother---the person closer to the child during the first years of life---who at the core was emotionally insecure, and who depended for her narcissistic equilibrium on the child behaving, or acting, in a particular way. This mother was able to hide her insecurity from the child and from everyone else behind a hard, authoritarian, and even totalitarian facade.
  • This child had an amazing ability to perceive and respond intuitively, that is, unconsciously, to this need of the mother, or both parents, for him to take on the role that had unconsciously been assigned to him.
  • This role secured ``love'' for the child---that is, his parents narcissistic cathexis. He could sense that he was needed and this, he felt, guaranteed him a measure of existential security.
This ability is then extended and perfected. Later, these children .. eventually develop a special sensitivity to unconscious signals manifesting the needs of others. ---pp. 8--9, The Drama of Gifted Child
What are the results of this adaptation strategy? Like any defense/adaptation mechanism, this one has some benefits: it secures love and attention of mother/parents. But the main cost is losing an important sense of selfhood, an emptiness within, and an emotional void:

1. One serious consequence of this early adaptation is the impossibility of consciously experiencing certain feelings of his own (such as jealousy, envy, anger, loneliness, impotence, anxiety) either in childhood or later in adulthood. ...
... They have all developed the art of not experiencing feelings, for a child can only experience his feelings when there is somebody there who accepts him fully, understands and supports him. [Reza: At a more fundamental level, our understanding of our own feelings is based on a mirror process, as the new research on the mentalization has revealed, and is lacking for these children in some areas: Dissociation?] ...
Throughout their later life, these people unconsciously create situations in which these rudimentary feelings may awaken but without the original connection ever becoming clear. [Reza: We are getting close to a link to dissociation-enactment paradigm!]
2. Accommodation to parental needs often (but not always) leads to the ``as-if personality'' (Winnicott has described it as the ``false self''). This person develops in such a way that he reveals only what is expected of him, and fuses so completely with what he reveals that---until he comes to analysis---one could scarcely have guessed how much more is to him, ...
3. The difficulties inherent in experiencing and developing one's own emotions lead to bond permanence, which prevents individuation ... The parents have found in their child's ``false self'' the confirmation they were looking for, a substitute for their own missing structures; the child, who has been unable to build up his own structures, is first consciously and then unconsciously (through the introject [Reza: that is, the created internal image of parent(s)]) dependent on his parents. He cannot rely on his own emotions, has not come to experience them through trial and error, has no sense of his real needs, and is alienated from himself to the highest degree. Under these circumstances he cannot separate himself from his parents, and even as an adult he is still dependent on affirmation from his partner, from groups, or especially from his own children. --- pp. 9--14, The Drama of Gifted Child
Point 3 above is particularly important because it establishes a connection between this idea (false self) and some of previous discussions. We clearly see that the form of dependence between child and his parents is detrimental to the individuation process and therefore leads to emotional instability and addictive behaviors as discussed in the previous post [Individuation Process and Optimal Distance]. Moreover, we can see how this process of creating a false self propagates itself across generations as we also saw in a previous post [Conflicts & Mental Rigidities Part 7: Generational Transmission]. More generally, the link to the ideas of dissociation and enactment is not far fetched.

Individuation Process and Optimal Distance

I was about to return this book, ``Inner Torment: Living between Conflict and Fragmentation,'' by Salman Akhtar, to the library when I opened the book and read a passage that caught my attention. So I kept the book for the day because I remembered that I wanted to write some quotes from the book in the past but I never did.

Anyway, I found the book's discussion of the ideas of object constancy, separation anxiety, and individuation (differentiation) quite interesting. It also has two chapters on ``love'' and ``hatred'' that I liked. The chapter that caught my attention this morning is about ``optimal distance''.

Here is a quote with the most basic concepts:

While the ``basic core'' (Weil 1970) of the infant awakens in a state of enmeshment with the mother's self in the symbiotic phase, it is only during the differentiation subphase (from about 4--5 to 8--9 months), which is the first subphase of separation-individuation, that the child, inwardly propelled by autonomy strivings, starts to discern his psychic separateness through rudimentary exploration of the self, the mother, and the environment. ... Alongside the seeking of distance from mother is also a greater awareness of her as a special person.
The differentiation subphase is followed by the practicing subphase (from 9 to 16--18 months) in which the crawling child, and later, the walking toddler, elatedly asserts his newfound psychic autonomy and motoric freedom. ... Although the child often looks back at the mother for ``emotional refueling'' ... his main preoccupation is to exercise his ego apparatuses and widen the orbit of his exploration.
Next is the rapprochement subphase (from about 16 to about 24 months), in which the child senses that his autonomy and psycho-motor freedom have their limits and that the external world is more complex than he at first imagined. Narcissistically wounded, the child regresses in the hope of refinding the symbiotic oneness with the mother. The return, however, is an ambivalent one since the drive of individuation is at work with great force and the child has become familiar with the ego pleasure of autonomous functioning. ... the child poutingly clings to mother for reassurance, safety, even fusion at one moment, and valiantly distances himself from her for asserting autonomy, control, and separateness the next moment. If this vacillations are resiliently responded to by the mother and if loving feelings between them predominate over hostile ones, new regulatory structures begin to emerge. ...

The last subphase of separation-individuation is termed on the way to object constancy (from about 24 months to about 36 months) and associated self constancy. ... The attainment of object constancy assures the mother's lasting presence in the child's mental structure. The attainment of self constancy establishes a coherent, single self representation ... Capacity for tolerating ambivalence now emerges on the horizon. ... Inner presence of a ``good-enough mother'' (Winnicott 1962) diminishes the need for her external presence. Clinging and darting away from her give way to the capacity to maintain ``optimal distance'' (Bouvet 1968, Mahler 1974), that is, ``a psychic position that permits intimacy without loss of autonomy and separateness without painful aloneness'' (Akhtar 1992a, p.30).
The achievement of self and object constancy, however, is not a once-and-for-all step but an ongoing process. ... the separation-individuation process continues to evolve and stabilize through subsequent development, even during adult life. ---pp. 7--9, Inner Torment
What happens when the process is not completed, or later on, some events/pressures (such as trauma) push one back?

The failure to achieve object constancy leads to a continued propensity to rely excessively on external objects for self regulation. Aggression toward them mobilizes fears of having internally destroyed them, and this, in turn, fuels the need to closely monitor them in reality. Libidinal attachment and anaclitic longings, in contrast, stir up fears of enslavement by external objects, necessitating withdrawal from them. All this results in a profound difficulty in maintaining optimal distance (for more details, see Chapter 8). Severe personality disorders constitute a cardinal example of such psychopathology. ---p. 13, Inner Torment
Here comes an important observation. If I cannot regulate my internal, psychic conflicts (lack of self-object constancy) then I use my external relationships to regulate myself. In a way, this becomes the most fundamental source of relationship problems including addictive behaviors. Now some quotes from Chapter 8:

... at the beginning of life and for the first four to five months (the symbiotic stage) the mother and infant constitute a dual unity. ... Gradually, however, there develops ``the space between mother and child. ... During this, the differentiation subphase of separation-individuation (from 4 to 10 months), the infant attempts to break away, in a bodily sense, from the hitherto passive lap-babyhood. ...

It is during the practicing subphase (from 10 to 18 months), however, that the child shows greater ability to move away from the mother, ...
Gradually, the cognitive strides made by the child make him all too aware of his smallness, of his separateness, and of the fact that he cannot coerce his mother to gratify his very need. His previously enjoyed fantasies of shared omnipotence collapse. The child is now in the rapprochement subphase (from 18 to 24 months). Ambivalence and ambitendency prevail. Much intrapsychic conflict is produced by the coexisting progressive desires for self-assertion, separation, and autonomy on the one hand , and regressive wishes for closeness, even symbiotic merger with his mother, on the other hand. ... If the mother remains emotionally available despite such oscillations on the part of the child, then there occurs a gradual mending of contradictory object (the mother of symbiosis and the mother of separation) and self  (``lap baby'' of symbiosis and the ``conqueror'' of practicing) representations. Capacity for self and object constancy develops, along with a capacity for maintaining optimal distance. However, if the mother is not optimally available during the rapprochement subphase, these developmental achievements do not result (see also Chapter 1). The contradictory self and object representations remain split, infantile omnipotence is not renunciated, and capacity for optimal distance fails to develop. This leads to a lifelong tendency toward oscillation between passionate intimacy and hateful withdrawal from objects.
In light of this, optimal distance is best viewed as a psychic position that permits intimacy without loss of autonomy and separateness without painful aloneness. ---pp 243--245, Inner Torment
In a way, this is a complementary view of the developmental process to what is described in the previous book, ``The Drama of Gifted Child.'' When I find time I make this link clear. Also, when the two are put together, they complete the picture: How internal conflicts, external conflicts, mental structures, and self-discovery are all related. Again, exploring that intuition is for a future post. I want to return this book today, lol.

Gifted Child Part 2: Symptoms (of a Lost Self)

Here I want to provide some quotes from the book, ``The Drama of Gifted Child,'' by Alice Miller, that I introduced in my previous post [Trauma of Gifted Child]. I start with the following quote that describes the symptoms:

... there are large numbers of people who suffer from narcissistic disorders, who often had sensitive and caring parents from whom they received much encouragement; yet, these people are suffering from severe depression. ...
... According to prevailing, general attitudes, these people---the pride of their parents---should have had a strong and stable sense of self-assurance. But exactly the opposite is the case. In everything they undertake they do well and often excellently; they are admired and envied; they are successful whenever they care to be---but all to no avail. Behind all this lurks depression, the feeling of emptiness and self-alienation, and a sense that their life has no meaning. These dark feelings will come to the fore as soon as the drug of grandiosity fails, as soon as they are not ``on top,'' not definitely the ``superstar,'' or whenever they suddenly get the feeling they failed to live up to some idea image and measure they feel they must adhere to. Then they are plagued by anxiety or deep feelings of guilt and shame. [Reza: In my view, and as I explained before on this blog, there is a difference between ``guilt'' and ``shame'' that I wish the author would have taken into consideration for this discussion.] ...
... They recount their earliest memories without any sympathy for the child they once were, and this is more striking since these patients not only have a pronounced introspective ability, but are also able to empathize well with other people. Their relationship to their own childhood's emotional world, however, is characterized by lack of respect, compulsion to control, manipulation, and a demand for achievement. In general, there is a complete absence of real emotional understanding or serious appreciation of their own childhood vicissitudes, and no conception of their true needs---beyond the need for achievement. ---pp. 6-7, The Drama of Gifted Child

Monday, May 13, 2013

Trauma of Gifted Child

I am checking all the books that I borrowed from the library and returning them, a few items at the time, so that I can do the clearing process with the GSU in a few days. One of the books that re-caught my attention is ``The Drama of the Gifted Child: The Search for the True Self,'' by Alice Miller. (Originally published as Prisoners of Childhood.)

I consider myself a gifted child, smart and intelligent, and a hard worker. I was successful in many aspects of my life and I never felt truly happy. I felt a big emptiness inside, could barely feel anything, had difficult making simplest decisions, was very prone to addictive behaviors, sometimes very depressed and even suicidal. Many of my relatives and friends are gifted too and suffer from similar conditions. I remember so many times I heard the expression that smart people are destined to live a more difficult life.

This book provides good insight into this situation. The basic idea is that these children pick up the psychological problems and deficiencies of people (mostly grown-ups) around them. They "buy" the love and support of their parents by sacrificing their own true self and end up empty and depressed. The solution that the books offers ultimately is intensive therapy though. However, I think the insights from the book will be useful.

If I have time I will write some quotes from the book here. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Conflicts and Mental Constraints, Part 8: Story Telling

I am going to tell you a secret, a deep profound one, that can change your life, lol. It's about the magical, transformative power of story telling. We are all fascinated by magic. Magic is true, you know. The magical power of being the God, the creator, is truly manifested in the act of story telling. But you should ask, why?

Remember that I keep telling you that to find our true self, we need to look into the transitional space between harshest realities of life and our imaginations? What is the harshest, most concrete reality of life? Think about it ...

Did you find the answer yet?
I would say, "time". Whatever is in the past, is over. We cannot do anything to change a traumatic event. That is why trauma has such a powerful grip on our lives: because we cannot change it! What has happened "to us," is done and over .We are completely powerless "in front of" past events, ...  or are we?

Here comes the magic of story telling. When we tell a story, of something that has happened to us in the past, if we give ourselves the freedom and imagination to change the story the way we want it, we leave our position as "the object of the past event", as someone to whom the event has happened, and we become the author, the creator, the God of our own life! Isn't this magical?

The key element is that we "let ourselves to be imaginative." A striking observation from my own past, and many others like me, is that we think we have to be faithful to the "truth." Guess what, there is no "truth"! We create/narrate the truth of our life and through that act we become our God!

TED playlist: How to tell a story:

Have some music:

BEETHOVEN - The Triple Concerto in C Major, Op. 56 - Oistrakh/Rostropovich/Richter/Von Karajan

Beethoven Triple Concerto C major Anne Sophie Mutter, Andre Previn, Lynn Harrell, Kurt Masur LPO 

Triple Concerto Choral Fantasy - Beethoven (Daniel Barenboin; Yo Yo Man; Itzhak Perlman)

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Conflicts & Mental Rigidities, Part 7: Generational Transmission

What is the original source of our dissociations/mental rigidities? In part 5 [Back to Constraints] I suggested that the source is in the feeling of safety. But why is that we associate safety with dissociation? Intuitively, it should be something that we have learned in our childhood:

Children, we know, develop their capacity to digest experience slowly, over time. It takes many years of continuous, loving care for a child to develop a sophisticated enough capacity for experiencing that he is no longer continuously vulnerable to being overwhelmed by events of everyday life that will eventually become routine. [Reza: Let me add a remark here. In my observations of young males, even sometimes up to their 30s and specially Iranian men, I have noticed a great fear of "events of everyday life that will eventually become routine.'' I clearly remember the weight of the fear in my teenage years and well into my 20s and 30s. I only conquered it to some extent after I cam to the US and had to manage my life---with Sima, independently.] Prior to the development of that degree of resilience, and especially in infancy, the child is dependent on his caretakers to con taint and symbolize experience for him (Fonagy et al., 2002). In those early years, experience is traumatic to the precise extent that the child's caretaker cannot bear it, cannot let themselves consciously and fully experience it. The child is vulnerable to trauma, that is, whenever the parent is forced to confront not-me. When the parent cannot stand to feel the experience, the child, who only knows what his own experience is if the caretake is capable of bearing it (feeling it, knowing it), is deprived of what he needs if he is to create his own mind; and so, over time, this kind of experience becomes as dissociated for the child as it has been for the caregiver. This is not the kind of dissociation that comes and goes, life the temporary and relatively mild dissociations between good-me and bad -me; this is a stable, foundational kind of dissociation around which the personality comes to be shaped. This is the transmission of psychic pain and damage across generations. ---p. 153, Partners in Thought

For definition of  ``not-me'' and its connection to "dissociation" and ``enactment'' see these two post from February: [Not-Me, Dissociation, and Enactment] and [Not-me and Trauma].

A related quote from (Fonagy et al., 2002) from an October 2012 post : [False Self]

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Dove Real Beauty Sketches

This is a fascinating video clip. I was impressed, hugely, and it goes so well with the content of this blog and what I am working on these days:

PS. Here is a song that I like and is a bit strange:


Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Of Monkeys and Men

Two Robins have made a nest close to our house's front door. We mostly use the garage door to get in and out of the house. Things were peaceful between us, until a couple of days ago that I took a picture of their chicks for Sima, and one of the bigger chicks flew out of the nest. The parent Robins have become very aggressive since and a couple of times attacked me to keep me away from their chick(s). Last night, I got angry at them. But in reality, I was sick of myself being afraid of the little birds and even thought of destroying their nest and killing their chicks. Sima responded in horror to these thoughts; understandably :)

Done brushing my teeth, and deep in thought about my career choices and future, I looked up in the mirror. I saw something different in my eyes; someone new. I have been amused by the expression in/around my eyes recently. When I am sad, they are ugly, and as soon as I feel happy, they start shining and become beautiful. I want to get rid of my glasses, because I love my face when I'm smiling :) But last night I saw some intensity and power in my eyes that I had never seen before. There is a powerful person inside me who is waiting to get out, lol

I had a strange and interesting dream last night. I remember three scenes. The third scene is the most fascinating and has a strangely deep wisdom in it.

Scene 1. I am in a retreat, or a work-related picnic, with my students or co-workers, country-side, somewhere in Iran. There is another group of people who stay in a better place than us. As I pass by their group, I realize that they have a mosque there and a public restroom/washroom in their area. I hear people talking about washing hands and face (VOZOU) and getting ready for prayers. They say things about the washroom and my impression is that it is a dirty. disgusting place like most public washrooms that I remember from Iran. As I get closer to our station, I begin skating at higher and higher speed and I become frightened because I am not sure how I can stop.
Interpretation. The first scene captures my outermost fears that are related to my career and job situation. I have always felt that I'm in the second-tier in my job and secretly envied and hated people in the first tier. The dream echos the same feelings. The mosque and washroom associations are rather strange. My unconscious gives me some reasons for why I am not in the first tier. The high speed skating scene also shows that I have some reservations about excelling in my job: the fear of speeding too much and getting out of control?

Scene 2. I am having sexual intercourse in public, some place that reminds me of narrow alleys of Tehran-Pars. It's evening/night and nobody is around. I feel a bit nervous. The location changes to inside our old house in Tehran-Pars, in the big dining/formal room on the first floor. I realize that my mom is in the main hall and feel ashamed and nervous (of her hearing our voice) and ask Sima to be quiet. She suddenly turns away from me and turns on a TV. I feel abandoned and hurt and extremely angry. I go to the yard screaming and shouting in anger.
Interpretation. I am one step closer to the inner layers/roots of my fears. What is sexual intercourse? It is the interaction between two entities that creates pleasure. The difference between intercourse and masturbation [HELLO PRIMATES!!!] is the tension between two person engaging in sexual intercourse which is not present in masturbation. Intercourse symbolizes tensions inside us that create pleasure. The first fear is the public evaluation/judgement that is the extension from the first scene. The deeper fear is from being seen and judged by the parts of my psyche that identify with my parents, especially my mother (mom next door). The deepest fear is the fear of rejection, and abandonment by the part in me that I love and value (Sima turning away to TV).

Scene 3.We are sleeping outside on a traditional Iranian bed-table. The neighbor's small dog keeps climbing the bed and wants to sleep on the bed with us. I do not like this and want to get rid of it. I start petting the dog's belly and it gradually turns into a small monkey. I keep petting and touching the monkey until he starts talking (in English) and tells me that he likes me and as a gift he will leave his wealth for me after he dies so that I will feel safe.
Interpretation. Interesting to link the monkey here to those in my previous dream [HELLO PRIMATES!!!]. Therefore, I think of monkey as the symbol of my internal audience or my innermost source of judgement. The transformation of "dog" to "monkey" offers a deep wisdom. What is the source of our inner critic? Dog is the symbol of protection. Our inner critic starts by being our protector from things that may hurt us in the future, such as the critical judgements of others. Therefore, in order to avoid harsh judgements, we internalize them and the monkey is born from the dog! When the monkey dies (that is, if we are able to silence the judgmental voice of our inner critic) then we are left with a gift. What remains is a protector and not a harsh critic that would drive us into hopelessness and depression!

In the morning, I was completely puzzled by the dog-monkey transformation and the talking monkey. As I was thinking and developing the interpretation, looking back at the events of the last night and bird's attack, I also remembered two memories from my early childhood in our first house in Tehran (located close to Foozieh-Emam Hosein square). The first was my dad chasing and killing a mouse and in the other he was spraying and killing hundreds of cockroaches that one night came out of the (outside) toilet. In both memories, my dad did not show any fear, but for some reason I sensed that he was not comfortable, as if he was hiding his fear.  More importantly, I vaguely remember my mom criticizing and belittling him because of his fears (not of animals, but of his brothers and other people, more in the context of social interactions). When you put the two pieces together, you see a father who is afraid of admitting to his fears and a mother who criticizes him constantly. I have internalized both of them. Anytime that I see a shortcoming in myself (fear, anger, ...), I get mad at myself for being weak.

The only way to escape this cycle of fear and condemnation is to have both sides present and start a conversation between them.

Of Monsters and Men: Little Talk
They played at SNL last Saturday and I liked them very much ... plus the band name :)

Monday, May 06, 2013

Conflicts and Mental Constraints, Part 6: Choice and Agency

This morning, I was cutting my nails using a Hello-Kitty nail clipper that my dad brought me from his trip to Japan 35 years ago. It reminded me of my dad. I "saw" that he has been alone most of his life because he has not been used to sharing his emotions with anyone. I missed him very much, so I called him in the afternoon and we talked for a while. As I was listening to him, I was saddened by the realization that, most of his life, he did not imagine choices. I am exaggerating, of course, but there was something sad there in our talk.

We have to create the ``transitional'' space for making choices. That is the space between harsh realities/constraints of life and our imagination, where we can choose if we let ourselves to do so. Creating that space also gives us a sense of agency: I make choices, good or bad, hence I am. That sense of agency is the exact opposite of depression. Depression is less about being sad: Sadness is a natural feeling. Depression is more related to the sense of desperation, not having choice, being hopeless and helpless.

Here is D.B. Stern's approach to the question of choice and agency:
... The repetition compulsion, in other words, is not necessarily maintained by a rigidly enacted conflict between conscious and unconscious aims, but by the absence of the conflict we need to be able to experience if we are to sense the availability of choice. ....
Conscious internal conflict is necessary because, if we are to back away from what is happening with the other to create the opportunity for reflection, for "seeing'' the events in question, we need more than one perspective. ... Without an alternative perspective to set against one's previous single-mindedness, a new perception is simply impossible to accomplish. ....
The creation of internal conflict is also the creation of a sense of initiative. Desire in the absence of a conflicting alternative is nothing more than compulsion, and compulsion negates the feeling that one is choosing one's own life. In deconstructing enactment one therefore escapes a certain kind of psychic slavery. ...
The most important outcome of a successful analysis is the firm and unthinking conviction that one's life is one's own, that oneself and no one else is living it. Frequently this feeling that one's life is the creation of one's own mind---which in dryer terminology we can describe as the sense of agency---arises from our access to the experience of conflict, because when we are able to face the necessity for choosing the perspective we will take on the problems that face use, we are able to feel our own hand on the tiller [Footnote 1: It bears repeating, though, that the perspective from which we choose are not constructed on a merely conscious basis. The availability of perspectives is a matter of internationality far deeper than conscious decision making. The range of interpretations (experiences) we allow ourselves is a function of a curiosity that goes beyond what we can decide to be interested in. I want to avoid any implication that agency is only a matter of the growth in our capacity to make conscious choices. Our sense of agency arises from our perception of our freedom to experience, a perception that is often created, ironically enough, by our surprise at what comes to us unbidden ...] ---pp. 101-102, Partners in Thought
I love this phrase ``... a matter of intentionality far deeper than conscious decision making.'' Wow! The footnote part above has a poetic quality that moves me deeply. Incidentally, I was sitting outside the coffee shop I frequent, Atlanta Coffee Roasters, when I was reading this part first. After a few days of raining, sky cleared and there was this amazing mixture of colors, blue and white and gray, and I realized that my therapy has been successful!

Mumford & Sons: I will wait ...
I want to add a random song here that I like.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Conflicts and Mental Constraints, Part 5: Back to Constraints

Where do our constraints come from? To me, they are related to "safety". Think of a child who closes her eye when she is in a car and they are in a dangerous road. Typically we adopt ways of doing things, they feel comfortable and safe, and we continue using them even after the circumstances have changed. If the child continues closing his eyes when he grows up and becomes the driver of the car then he gets himself into big trouble :)

Here is D.B. Stern's take on the origin of mental constraints and their relationship to ``dissociation'':

From a constructivist position the primary defense is the unconsciously motivated refusal to create or formulate experience, a turning away from the possibilities ... When one does not deploy curiosity, experience goes ``unmade'' and is therefore literally absent. ... Dissociated self-states, therefore, are potential experience ...
Because the next moment is unformulated, it may be shaped in many different ways---but not in just any way at all. There are significant constraints, ranging from tight to loose, on the experience we can construct without lying or succumbing to madness ...
Dissociation, then, is the unconscious refusal to consider a certain range of the possibilities that might be articulated or formulated in explicit experience (i.e., the possibilities within the constraints), a shutting down of the curiosity that might have revealed them. ... ---pp. 95-96, Partners in Thought

Saturday, May 04, 2013

HELLO PRIMATES!!! [Explicit Content]

Please be advised that this post contains explicit sexual contents.

Last night after some grading I went to the Athletic Club Northeast (ACN) for a swim. After swim, in the whirlpool, a big white middle-age guy with a very short haircut (who turned out to be a flight attendant later and is probably gay) started a conversation. I told him about quitting my job at GSU and then, as if someone was pushing me to explain my plans, I added that I am going to write. He asked,  ``fiction or nonfiction?'' and  I answered that I have been working on decision-making and people's contradictory decisions. I surprised myself by talking about my future plans as if I knew then exactly! I think this is the type of pressure that I have always felt from people, as if I have to explain myself to everyone!

Part of my dream last night:
I am in an open field, almost like a sea shore, but in front of me is a zoo, or a place with animals (like a nature park). I am asked to masturbate so that my semen is used to fertilize a bunch of monkeys and primates (gorillas and chimps). A stand alone shower appears front of me, again like showers that you sometimes find in beaches, but in front of me is tiled and reminds me of a scene that a bunch of young boys sit in a large bathroom around a porn magazine and masturbate. Even though I am in public, I do not mind the situation and start to masturbate. As I get busy, a question comes to my mind, ``how will my semen be used to fertilize non-humans?'' I get distracted. When I come back to the present and look at myself, I realize that instead of touching/rubbing my penis, I am masturbating by touching/rubbing my big toe (right foot)! Surprisingly, I realize that I am still feeling pleasure and am about to reach orgasm.

Body products (urine, feces, semen) are all related to creativity, because they are the most basic things a body produces. Dreaming of producing them in public captures our fears of being authentic and creative, the fear of being judged and dismissed by others. The type of shame and discomfort is different across different body products, and this may depend on upbringing and social/cultural norms too. I imagine, however, that for most people "feces" are the most disgusting, whereas semen is not as disgusting and has an element of hidden pleasure. Why? Because most people, I guess, are to some extent intrigued/aroused by the idea of being seen while masturbating (sexual excitement) and not so much while defecating (there is a very foul, uncomfortable feeling attached to it). In any case, the interpretation of the first part is that I am feeling more comfortable with being myself and being creative in public. In a way, this confirms my recent sense of ease in explaining myself to strangers, including the event of last night that I described in the beginning of the post.

There are two major twists in the dream: (1) The semen is meant to be used for the "wrong" purpose, to fertilize something that is not supposed to. This indicates that I am not satisfied my plans for applying my creativity. Maybe writing a book (and explaining my ideas in a structured format on this blog) are not good ideas! More interestingly, we can think of the primates as the audience. The dream conveys my doubts and anxieties about the suitability of my creations for the audience, in the sense that human semen cannot fertilize primates. It also reveals my well-hidden feeling of superiority toward my audience!
(2) The masturbation is not done right and yet it produces pleasure. This may indicate a flaw in my approach to authenticity/creativity. Even though I am obtaining pleasure (these days I am happier than ever before) but I am not doing something right and I may not get the end result. At the same time, if I get enough pleasure from touching/rubbing my big toe, I may ultimately reach climax (in a strange, unusual way) and produce semen (the final product).

I think this dream had interesting messages and metaphors. I am going to not force myself to explain myself and my plans to people, as much as I can, and do not prematurely commit myself to career plans. I do not have to explain myself to people, specially strangers! Is this what I do on this blog too? LOL

I will take this blog and writing my ideas less seriously. In fact, I would like to write with more humor and less pretentiously :) I do not need to discover new ideas and prove myself to be a genius in order to live happily.

PS. Ken Robinson's TED talk: How we kill creativity by learning to avoid/be afraid of being wrong:

Friday, May 03, 2013

Conflicts and Mental Constraints, Part 3: Healing

As I reading and think more about conflicts, my ideas about healing and recovering from conflicts is changing. My therapist have suggested to me, many times, that I may want to have different parts of my self present at the same time and start a conversation between them. Over time, I appreciated the depth of his suggestion. Now I realize that a good part of a healing process is to internalize our external conflicts: we want to be able to have different, sometimes contradictory, parts of our personality present at the same time.

Here is a quote from ``Partners in Thought'' that makes this point:
Though Racker [a psychoanalyst from the first half of 20th century] does not put it this way, we could say that the cure of the countertransference neurosis, and the transference neurosis as well, depends on the analyst's capacity to stretch his identification with the patient's objects and to encompass the patient's self as well. The analyst has to be able to tolerate both perspectives at once. Once we have said that, we have not only restated the thesis of the multiple self but also the idea that the self is healed by the creation of conflict, by bringing together the part that resides in the patient with the part that has been called into existence inside the analyst. ---pp. 89-90, Partners in Thought
 Here, once again, the importance of our relationships, including possibly one with a therapist, becomes important. A lot of our hidden/unconscious internal rigidities/conflicts surface in our close relationships as external conflicts (including enactments). At the same time, the same (seemingly pathological) relationships also provide us with the opportunity to work on these externalized conflicts. First, we need to become aware of the mental rigidities/constraints that correspond to the externalize conflicts and in this process internalize them. Second, we need to form a conversation around the conflicts, and relax some of the mental rigidities/constraints, so that we can hold the conflict in us without having to resort to different defense mechanisms.

Here is something interesting. More than two years ago, I wrote this post on learning from relationships: [Mirror Relationships]. At the time I had a very basic idea of psychoanalysis and could not understand a lot of things that I am discussing today. Those observations were mostly self-made! Nevertheless, a lot of them actually make even more sense now. Specifically, the idea of "mirror relationships'' seems quite novel and very useful to me.

Another quote that is relevant:
Perhaps the most radical tenet of interpersonal theory is that the interpersonal field is a primary influence on the contents of consciousness ... The field contributes both facilitations and limitations of experience, influencing which states of mind or self can be created and occupied ...
... In an enactment, conceived in constructivist terms ... meanings are split, but not between different parts of one mind. They are split, rather, between psyches of two people: The analyst experience one part of the meaning and enacts the other; and the patient experiences the part the analyst enacts and enacts the part the analyst experiences. The two minds are mirror images of each other; they fit together like the two halves of a broken plate. What we hope will eventually become one person's consciously experienced conflict is played out between two people. In the meantime, analyst and patient are each tempted to conclude that only she sees the truth of the situation; only she is badly treated by the other. --- pp. 94-95, Partners in Thought
I think this insight can be extended to other close relationships, even to our relationships with objects (as in addictions). 

Conflicts (Internal/External) and Mental Constraints, Part 2: Dissociation and Enactment

After I wrote the first part of this series [Internal Conflicts and Mental Constraints: Part 1], I realized the importance of external conflicts [External Conflicts] and then I picked up the D.B. Stern Book, Partners in Thought, again [Off the Wagon ... What?], almost accidentally. It was quite unsettling when I realized how close is the theme and discussions of the book to what I have been discovering almost independently!

Here are some quotes that are directly related to my chain of thoughts on internal and external conflicts as seen by the author:
  1. Enacted experience, and thus dissociated states as well, cannot be symbolized and therefore do not exist in any other explicit form than enactment itself. Enacted experience is unformulated experience.
  2. Dissociated states, because they are unsymbolized, do not and cannot bear a conflictual relationship to the states of mind safe enough for us to identify as ``me'' and inhabit in a consciously appreciable way.
  3. Enactment is the interpersonalization of dissociation: the conflict that cannot be experienced within one mind is experienced between two minds. The state dissociated by the patient is explicitly experienced by the analyst, and the state explicitly experienced by the patient is dissociated in the analyst's mind. Each participant therefore has only a partial appreciation of what is transpiring.
  4. Enactment, then, is not the expression of internal conflict. Enactment is the absence of internal conflict, though the external conflict, the conflict between the two people in enactment, may be intense.
  5. Enactment ends in the achievement of internal conflict, which occurs when the two dissociated states, one belonging to each participant in the enactment, can be formulated inside the consciousness of one or the other of the two psychoanalytic participants. --- p.86, Partners in Thought
If I want to incorporate these insights into my framework, I would say the following. Mental constraints, the unconscious/conscious structure that we impose on ourselves, is the deep source of conflicts. When the constraints are deep in the unconscious, specially when they form dissociated states, they appear mostly as external conflicts and most notably enactment.
We can use different practices (meditation. mindfulness, asking/following what we want, ...) and therapy to bring awareness of the mental constraints and dissociated states. As the result, the previously external conflicts become/appear more and more as internal conflicts.
At this point, we can use other practices (mostly aimed at promoting conversation between parts of psyche involved in the internal conflict?) to resolve the internal conflict or to make it less detrimental.

This is ... Fucking ... Awesome!

I look incredible!

I am gonna pop some tags :)


Freedom, Religion

A couple of days ago I read a discussion between some friends regarding religion, worship, freedom, and slavery. In Farsi and Arabic, the t...