Thursday, July 17, 2014

Separating Fantasy and Reality

I finished the previous post [Confessions of a Sociopath] by alluding to the mystical notion of removing the veil of fantasy and waking up from the dream that we call life. Incidentally, I was re-reading D. W. Winnicott's masterpiece ``Playing and Reality,'' [Amazon link], the 6th chapter, ``the use of an Object and relating through identification.'' It took me more than a year of studying psychoanalysis before I could start to understand this article (originally published in 1969 in the International Journal of Psycho-Analysis), and even now I am not sure I can explain it clearly. I'll try.

The basic question is that, from a child development point of view, when/how does a child distinguishes ``objective reality'' from ``subjective fantasy,'' realizes the separation between self and the other, and accept that the other (mom) lies beyond the control of his mind. The implications, though, are much more widespread because, surprisingly enough, many stages of (child) development will have to repeat themselves throughout the life over and over. Therefore, even for an adult, it frequently happens that s/he needs to separate objective reality from subjective fantasy. (Moreover, the most exciting aspects of growth and creativity happens in the transitional space between objective reality and subjective fantasy, the area of ``Playing''! But that's another fascinating topic.)

The answer is simple and provocative and I am beginning to develop a deeper sense of its meaning: Imaginary constructs (of our mind) cannot survive the destructive power of our minds and our destructive wishes. Reality must survive imaginary destruction! Anything that you can change by the power of your mind is -NOT- reality, it is a product of your mind in the first place.

But things get even more exciting. So far, I have described a ``thought experiment'': If you can destroy something/someone in your mind, that thing/person is not real. However, when people confuse objective and subjective (e.g. children) they tend to act out their thoughts and feelings, and we end up with acts of destruction (via speech or actual action). Therefore, ``survival'' becomes something more than simply existing after the attack: it becomes non-retaliation which is specially meaningful in the context of human relationships (as objects do not and cannot retaliates naturally!)

Here are my own wild conjectures. First, I think we can generalize the idea to understand the acts of violence in a much larger context, even by groups of people and societies. (I guess people must have worked on this before, but I am not aware of it.) Second, and this is more original and exciting, I think you can apply the  idea to examine your self, to find out what is real about your self and what's imaginary! And this brings me back to the starting point. One thing I liked a lot about the book, ``Confessions of a Sociopath,'' was the author's description of a lack of rigid self/identity. I think this absence of the sense of self is deeper, more pervasive, and ultimately more important than its manifestation in the forms of sociopath/psychopathy, severe depression, or different types of personality disorders.

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