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). 

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