Friday, October 18, 2013

Dark Side: Who Cares?

I am in a vulnerable position these days, constantly questioning my decisions and also indecision. I want to review some of my history and facts and conjectures using quotes from the Joseph Newirth book, ``Between Emotion and Cognition: The Generative Unconscious.'' I read the book last year and I finally bought it a few days ago and received it in the mail today.

One of the main questions that were the force behind my journey a few years ago was this: What is the source of our vital energy? Why do I feel such a low level of energy and enthusiasm for life? I asked people around me these questions and I did not receive satisfactory responses. My intuition was that the energy was related to our relationships, and I was right as I discussed in a previous post [A Trip and More ...]. But there is another aspect to the answer that I want to discuss here. Our source of energy is intimately related to our dark side!

Why does anyone want to know his/her dark side. This is a dangerous endeavor:
Feud cautioned in 1905, ``No one who, like me, conjures up the most evil of those half-tamed demons that inhabit the human breast, and seeks to wrestle with them, can expect to come through the struggle unscathed.'' --- p. xiii, Between Emotion and Cognition
And here is Newirth's answer:
... the goal of treatment is not simply an expansion of the patient's capacity for decision making and consciousness, but the symbolization and integration of previously externalized unconscious fantasies that then become a source of creativity and energy: the generative unconscious.
... symbolizing unconscious fantasy is particularly important for patients who present the modern dilemma of being successful in their activities in the external world while simultaneously feeling deadened and disconnected, and that their choices are not meaningful, subjective validating, or emotionally enriching. --- p. xv, Between Emotion and Cognition
The last part is an exact description of my life only a few years ago! But what is the objective, the goal, of therapy as a tool for transformation and growth?
A patient's ability to symbolize unconscious experience is a critical aspect of the development of subjectivity, the experience of being emotionally alive, of a sense of control or agency, and the capacity to maintain intimate relationships with others. --- p.xvii, Between Emotion and Cognition
And a final note, back to discovering our own demons and dark side:
In my own work I have often thought about reversing the common view of psychoanalytic cure as `making the unconscious conscious' to `making the conscious unconscious', through helping our patients to integrate and symbolize their terrifying and unacceptable fantasies, which would allow them to enjoy and benefit from their own experience of ``wrestling with the demons of the unconscious.'' --- p. xvii, Between Emotion and Cognition
I have an amazing talent in psychoanalysis; and not just understanding its theories but practicing therapy in my day to day relationships!

I am not quite sure what ``symbolization'' means in practice. And yet, tonight I made an attempt at interpreting one of my strongest and most potent recent fantasies. I may later write it here, or not, but it was quite an interesting endeavor. I enjoyed it and felt empowered by being able to move from being the object of a fantasy, a follower, to the subject or the interpreter of the fantasy.

There was a discussion in the FB comments on this post around the question of, ``what is unconscious anyway.'' First, here is an article that I came across today and seems relevant:
``The Unconscious Mind,'' by John A. Bargh and Ezequiel Morsella

There is a fine distinction to be made here, using quotes from the ``Between Emotion and Cognition.'' In traditional psychoanalysis literature, ``conscious and unconscious experience are defined by the presence or absence of awareness. ... The unconscious mind is thought of as containing either pathological or infantile wishes, drives or relational patterns, and not as a developing structure of mind that makes important positive contributions to the individual development.'' An alternative (post-modern?) model is based ``on a view of the unconscious as a developing structure that allows the individual to create personal meaning, which leads to a dynamic sense of subjectivity.'' (p. 7)

And here is a terrifying observation. The essence of our humanity, the creative, god-like aspect of our being, is captured by the "freedom" that we give ourselves when we interpret the symbolic contents of our unconscious!
This distinction between presentational symbols that function as iconic, poetic, evocative images or actions that generate experience and meaning, and discursive symbols that represent information is critical ... Most traditional and contemporary psychoanalytic approaches view symbols primarily as discursive symbols, which suggests that the unconscious is a container of disguised, immature, and hidden meanings. Those approaches influenced by Klein, Winnicott, and Matte Blanco tend to view symbols as presentational symbols in contrast to discursive symbols, and view the unconscious as a generative organization creating meaning and evoking new experiences. ... discursive symbols represent a report function of language in which information is exchanged, while presentational symbols represent a command function through which an individual organizes his/her relationships and specifies how a particular message should be experienced and received. --- pp. 8-9, Between Emotion and Cognition
And finally, the first two minutes of this performance when Mitsuko Uchida talks about the piece and performance is so beautiful. When she says how "being present" is so amazing and scary at the same time:

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