Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Talk and Quotes

Here is an interesting talk on TED by the New York Times columnist David Brooks based on his new book, ``The Social Animal,'' [Amazon Link]. I like the talk but ultimately he is emphasizing much more the positive aspects of emotions than their dark side, which can be misleading.


Working with emotions requires practice. As you open yourself to your hidden, suppressed emotions, they can initially overwhelm you, take over you like strong waives in a wild storm. Ironically, an important sign if being overpowered by emotions is a false sense of certainty! You may feel quite sure about future, or someone else's state of mind, or about a course of action. I have not seen anyone talking about this, and I feel this is a real danger.

Talking about our emotional life, I am reading a novel about bullfighting, ``Love Lies Bleeding,'' by Peter Viertel, and so far I like it a lot. Here is a quote:
``In Spain, every man dreams of being a torero,'' he continued, once the car was safely on the dirt road. ``Every uncle sitting up in the tendido, every waiter, every shoe salesman. That is the reason they howl and scream when we fall down in the ring. It is a little of their own disappointment that they are getting rid of. Fairy, pimp, coward, they yell, but they are yelling in part at their own failure. Which is why it is important for a torero never to listen.'' ---p. 35, Love Lies BleedingPeter Viertel,
Here is a piece of guitar music that about a year ago brought back memories of watching bullfighting on TV, when I was a kid. I think of this song as the bulls plea with the torero for his life:
Also, the quote above point to a general theme in watching sports. We use the games to project our own emotional life, often times hidden and forgotten, on the players. That is one reason why watching sports becomes such an important part of the modern individual who has abandoned a good part of his/her emotional life.

The last quote is from Arnold Modell's ``Imagination and the Meaningful Brain.'' I am reading this book very slowly and have one more chapter to finish.
There is a facet of one's self that is intrinsically personal and unknowable. Donald Winnicott wrote, ``Although healthy persons communicate and can enjoy communicating, the other factor is equally true,  that each individual is an isolate, permanently noncommunicating, permanently unknown, in fact unfound'' (1963). ---p. 195, Imagination and the Meaningful Brain, Arnold Modell
There is something mystical about D.W.Winnicott's approach to psychoanalysis, for sure, but this quotation is very puzzling and interesting. We are inherently unfound! Maybe, we have a core that is behind knowing. And maybe, that unknowable core is what drives us to know ourselves better, to offer ourselves to be known by others. If I have learned one thing in the past few years, it is a respect and acceptance for contradictions and puzzles :)

Which at the end brings us back to this little amazing clip:

I think our sense of beauty and wonder when we confront the world comes from the fact that we have that unknown and unknowable inside.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


``Surrender'' is a very basic concept in mysticism. To find who we are, we need an observer, someone who see us as we are, soul-naked and free from all our false pretenses. The process involves ``surrender'', as giving up our false self, and that requires``faith'', because surrender cannot be an intentional, conscious act. We just stay open, with the trust or ``faith'', that the surrender will happen.

I am reading an interesting article on the concept of surrender, from a psychoanalytic point of view:
Emmanuel Ghent (1990) ``Masochism, Submission, Surrender: Masochism as a Perversion of Surrender,'' Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 26:108-136
Link: http://www.wawhite.org/uploads/PDF/E1f_9%20Ghent_E_Masochism.pdf

Here are some quotes that caught my interest.
By way of circling around the meaning of surrender I would like first to draw upon a paper by Michael Eigen (1981), a remarkable analysis of the work of Winnicott, Lacan and Bion in which he locates a dimension of faith that underlies some of their most basic conceptions. "By the area of faith, " Eigen says, "I mean to point to a way of experiencing which is undertaken with one's whole being, all out, 'with one's heart, with one's soul, and with all one's might.'" Faith, surrender, the beginnings of creativity and symbol formation all intersect in the world of transitional experiencing "when the infant lives through a faith that is prior to a clear realization of self and other differences."

In her book, On Not Being Able to Paint, Milner (1950) drew attention to another phenomenon that I would include under the umbrella of meaning provided by the word surrender. She speaks of "the blanking out of ordinary consciousness when one is able to break free from the familiar and allow a new unexpected entity to appear." One's ordinary sense of self seems temporarily to have disappeared. Composers often have the feeling that the musical idea comes from some source external to themselves; Mozart said he was not a composer, merely an amanuensis to God. This subjective "blanking out" as in the so-called oceanic feeling, or as "emptiness, " the beneficent state of being that is at the center of the Tao, have been likened by analysts to the state of blissful satisfaction at mother's breast. Milner goes on to ask if these may not also reflect an essential part of the creative process, not just of painting, but of living: 'May they not be moments in which there is a plunge into no-differentiation which results (if all goes well) in a re-emerging into a new division of the me-not-me …?"

The main hypothesis of this paper is that it is this passionate longing to surrender that comes into play in at least some instances of masochism. Submission, losing oneself in the power of the other, becoming enslaved in one or other way to the master, is the ever available lookalike to surrender. It holds out the promise, seduces, excites, enslaves, and in the end, cheats the seeker-turned-victim out of his cherished goal, offering in its place only the security of bondage and an ever amplified sense of futility. By substituting the appearance and trappings of surrender

Fantasies of being raped can have all manner of meanings, often superimposed. Among them, in my clinical experience, one will almost always find, sometimes deeply buried, a yearning for what I am calling surrender. Erotic fantasies in relation to the analyst (usually, but by no means only, in the case of a female patient with male analyst) or the wish to make love with the analyst so very often turns out to have as its root the intense longing to surrender in the sense of giving over, yielding the defensive superstructure, being known, found, penetrated, recognized. The closest most of us come to the experience of surrender is in the moment of orgasm with a loved one. Little surprise it should be then for the sexual scene to be the desired focus for such letting-go. It is not primarily the sex that is longed for except as the vehicle for the glimpse of surrendered bliss that we are speaking of. Sometimes the roles are reversed and the fantasy is of the analyst's total surrender with the patient. This turns out ultimately to be a half-way house on the way to the ultimate longed-for goal of self-surrender and being known in one's nakedness. Often the erotic fantasies have a distinctly masochistic flavor, as, for example, in being forced, tricked, seduced into lovemaking, or being overpowered by the sheer masterfulness of the other. The masochistic expression here is the disguise, or what I am calling the perversion of the wish for surrender. If by mischance the analyst should enter into the patient's real world in sexual response, the masochism of the patient soon flourishes, and all hope of what the patient had really longed for, genuine surrender, is lost. The fantasy of rape is a foil for the disguised expression of the longing for surrender. Real rape, be it by the penis, or the "ego" (psychological rape, no matter how subtle), violently forecloses and, by not recognizing or not caring about the genuine longing, has deeply betrayed it. It is important to emphasize that I am not trying to reduce the entirety of an erotic transference to this dynamic; many other layers are often involved and have to be dealt with.

The sexual arena is not the only area where passionate, even ecstatic intensity lends itself to being a masochistic substitute for surrender. The excitement of recklessness or dangerous, near-death activities is another, as is the pull to manifest infantilism and helpless demandingness. Both of these quasi-masochistic configurations—and there are others—can be very intense and can function as disguised expression of the longing for surrender.
``Faith'' has an important role in Bion's thinking. Here is an indirect quote from Bion (1977) “Attention and Interpretation” (in “Seven Servants”) that I have found in Shahid Najeeb's article, "Bion the Mystic" (in the Issue 11 of Psychoanalysis Downunder,  http://www.psychoanalysisdownunder.com.au/downunder/backissues/1138)
It may be wondered what state of mind is welcome if desires and memories are not. A term that would express approximately what I need to express is ‘faith’ - faith that there is an ultimate reality and truth - the unknown, unknowable, ‘formless infinite’. This must be believed of every object of which the personality can be aware: the evolution of ultimate reality (signified by O) ...

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