Torment and Atonement?

Posted April 14, 2021 by chuck bender
Categories: Connecting the Dots Series, Individuation

Tags: , , ,

We have so much going on right now in the world, and, we are all vulnerable to getting triggered, or from a trauma complex perspective, activated. I wanted to bring forward a couple of paragraphs from a source quote which may answer some questions we have not consciously formulated. My source quotes collection, see bottom right of page, are simply some of my favorite quotes, without anything from me. Enjoy!

From Images of the Journey in Dante’s Divine Comedy, Charles H. Taylor & Patricia Finley, 1997

“On Torment and Atonement – Two kinds of suffering: (pp. 158-160)

“There is profound psychological meaning in the sometimes excruciating pain of purgatorial suffering: the crushing stones borne by the proud, the choking smoke enveloping the wrathful, the fire hotter than molten glass searing the lustful. Those who are saved are not sinless – far from it. Rather, they are those who have come in time to know and take responsibility for the shadow qualities that split their personalities and cause them to act destructively toward themselves and others.

The secret of salvation in Dante’s world … is insight into the nature of who one is, how one injures, what it feels like to be oneself the victim and to make others the targets of one’s desirousness, rage, pride, and deceits. Those who make it to Purgatory are not less shadow-driven, narcissistic, obsessed, or pathological than others, but they have not refused to make conscious what they are, to bear the burden of themselves, and to come in time to take full responsibility for their own natures. By coming to know what operates in us behind appearances, whether driven by unconscious instinct and aggression or by more deliberate betrayals we can choose to take a stand against whatever in our personal character moves us to wound others and our larger selves.

Atonement, the poet says in many ways takes time; the passage of time is central to the work of purgation. … It is psychologically true that a new level of self-awareness can be achieved only with sustained effort over an extended time, but how much time depends in part… on the attitude of those who are central in our lives. Taken objectively, this expresses the reality that the caring concern of those who love us can accelerate our growth and act as a catalyst for inner healing. Taken subjectively – in terms of what we can do for ourselves – prayerful engagement by the ego with the inner figures of parent, beloved, or child, as a means of reaching out to the larger powers that seek our development, often moves the process more swiftly.”

Waking Reflections on the Great Fish, Loss of Identity, and Meeting the Father of the River Dream

Posted March 23, 2021 by chuck bender
Categories: Author, Communications from the Dream Time, Dream, Images of the Self, Initiation, Learning to Think and Work Symbolically, Soul, Waking Reflections

Comment: Here are my waking reflections (WR) recorded when I woke up after the dream posted just below (see Close Encounters of the Dream Kind: Battling the Leviathan and Meeting the Father of the River). My practice in recording dreams when I wake up with one is to find a low light space and just begin writing as fast as I can in order to capture as much of the detail, energy and flow as possible. I care about being able to read what I’ve written later(!), but try not to worry about punctuation or spelling at all; I just keep writing and try to record everything that comes into my head, in the timing it comes. I am recalling I believe Jeffrey Raff’s description of Jung recommending this fast writing as a way to support greater access to these communications from the dream time. This is as if a spontaneous active imagination experience, as the ego is involved in sorting and making sense of this somewhat altered state.

Waking Reflections: when I first sat down to write, I was struck with the question of what happened beneath the surface! Popping back up naked and and in a state, in a public place, was uncomfortable, but strangely secondary to the real action. I had a vague sense of apprehensiveness about the possibility this dream be alerting me to the fact the I wasn’t able to land an important fish in my life, and, I lost my identity in the process to boot… and, and, a part of me has been dazed and confused since? Questions about who was the fisher person, in the world versus anima or an inner lover figure drifted through my head. How was it that I was in the position I was in, as if perched on the little craggy island between the channels, and, alert to possibility of diving in after the rod and reel instantaneously? feeling … when it came to describing the scene with the elder who seemed to live on the riverbank, looking after the cache, the name that popped vividly directly into my head was Father of the River, He who has his station of ancient order along the banks of the wildly abundant river, where the fish are mythological Leviathans. The opposites of order and wildness felt very important. Who is this Father of the River in relationship to me, my work. My strong sense being he was/is the deep guide to all my work, the elder, the wise old man, the Father of the River, in psyche, guiding me, Chuck, in relationship to the river of life, emotion, life flow, and all the abundance in psyche, nature, and the work of becoming conscious. He understands being a part of nature and the ways that as humans we cannot control or dominant elemental energies through force.

When recording this dream, Behemoth first came to mind; in researching a bit, it seemed Leviathan would be more appropriate. For now, it seems most accurate to say it was a very large, salmon like fish. In the dream action, I was decidedly pulled under by it and experienced complete amnesia for what happened beneath the surface. *In posting this today, with regards to these initial associations, I would like to do some research about the Leviathan, to see what the spiritual and historical record can contribute; it’s always a question of time and priority.

Before sharing one more vivid association to the last scene, being invited into talk to the keeper of the cache, I want to say my next post here will be my active imagination process in search of answers to the question what happened when I was pulled under?

One more complicated association towards the end of my recording this dream was a dream and the timing of meeting Doug Von Koss while attending a week long men’s mythopoetic gathering in the Mendocino Woodlands. After waking up about 4:30 AM with a powerful Eye fetish dream, spending an hour outside in the moon light in a round of very powerful waking dream embodiment, I had just finished a pen, ink, and watercolor picture capturing the vividness of the image, when I heard someone singing, slowly working their way down the path leading up to the lodge where I was sitting, alone, with my painting. Doug, on a mission to get a cup of tea, walked right up to me. He took one long look at me, my freshly painted image, and said “something’s happened.” He then invited me to find a time laterto tell him all about it. And, to my surprise, suggested if I would like him to paint it on my forehead on the day of the planned major ritual, this was something he could do for me. This was very much like the river elder inviting me into his realm to hear my story.He then also invited me to join his small group of men who would be offering the morning wake up chant for each of the cabins. This ritual became an important part of my waking to world each. How lovely…

Close Encounters of the Dream Kind: Battling the Leviathan and Meeting the Father of the River

Posted March 19, 2021 by chuck bender
Categories: Active Imagination, Author, Communications from the Dream Time, Dream, Images of the Self, Initiation, Learning to Think and Work Symbolically, Soul

Author note: Keeping a dream journal is a wonderful major step to beginning to pay attention to our depth. I have been pondering posting more dreams with their active imagination (AI) dialogue transcripts for some time. In my excitement to be diving into Jung’s Black Books, see post below, and witnessing his process, and his courage, I feel compelled to post more of my own close encounters of the dream kind. While one could make the case that dreams without specific personal life context can only be lacking, the burden of connecting the dots with one’s intimate life and work is great. In the spirit of all creative processes, and embodiment, it seems dream offerings and active imagination dialogues, from/with psyche, can stand alone. Might we give them that respect? I am deeply curious about what could come out of such an (limited) engagement with you, fellow dreamers. May we experiment with bearing embodied witness together in celebration of psyche? Let the images and affects, the energies and the mysteries speak for themselves!

Dream: Encountering the Leviathan and Meeting the Father of the River

April 10, 2020 4 AM: awakened with a big dream: Bank side of powerful river within a developed almost city like park, I recognize a medical staff person, like a hospital nurse I know; she/we are comfortable and collegial, and chat briefly; I see she has a very long fishing rod and reel set up and is ready to cast out into the water upstream; I am, have been, standing on what seems to be a rocky island like outcropping, with just enough height to block one’s view of the right bank, just off the left bank where she is; I am looking upstream from my rocky perch, which is running parallel to the current, with the larger flow and deeper channel to my right. I see her hook a huge 12-16 foot long fish! It strikes and jerks her off the bank and into the water flowing through the left channel of the outcropping, and I see that she can’t hold onto the rod and reel, and in an instant, I realize if I just dive into the water from my rocky observation point I might be able to snag the rod and hold onto the fish; I do and sure enough I am just able to grab it as it goes banging, and flying by; I am now being pulled into the deep water in the channel on the right side of the island. I can’t think about how I’m going to hold onto the fish, only that I have a chance to save the gear and the catch …

For a brief moment, I am being pulled under towards the opposite shore; I feel strong and hopeful, not worried about drowning, but really, just totally engaged, and then … poof, it’s over and I am crawling out of the river, naked, somewhat disoriented, and I have no idea what happened to the fish, the gear, my clothes. I am looking around trying to orient myself to the bank, others, only slightly distracted by the fact of my nakedness; I see her, stunned, and throw up my arms as if to say “wow!” Then I became aware of the loss of my wallet and everything else usually in my pockets, ID, credit cards, phone, and begin to want to find something to put it on and find out what happened to my clothes. Did anyone see the action? See what happened? I seem to be amazing or a problem for some who are just trying to do there usual daily business. I see what seems to be a group of wait staff setting up a buffet honoring dinner with well-dressed people being seated in a riverside hall like garden area. I am/feel way out way out of sync with this group!

Then I find myself on the opposite side of the river, along the deep channel, walking downstream, south along the east river bank and I discover a hidden from view storage area, with closets, clothes rods, and a cache of well preserved, boiled wool and other heavy duty fishing/fishing boat, navy surplus type gear and I feel hopeful “this is where my stuff will show up, in salvage.” I am taking a close look when a ruggedly dressed-for-the-elements, ancient mariner type man confronts me with what am I doing here? While initially stern and guarded/protective, I get his attention and he directs me to step into a nearby place to talk; I start with pouring out my recounting of what happened, how I found myself, there, just now… about the amazing fish, like the ones known to be in this river… I remembered having seen others this big; I sense he knows everything about this river, this station along the banks of this river; he will be the key… I woke up. It was 4 AM.

Waking reflections: In honoring the dream itself, I am holding back on my reflections for this post for now.

I will follow this dream up with my active imagination process dedicated to trying to find out what did happen when I was pulled under?

Jung on Active Imagination

Posted March 16, 2021 by chuck bender
Categories: Active Imagination, Communications from the Dream Time, Connecting the Dots Series, Conscious Enactment, Learning to Think and Work Symbolically, Soul

Tags:

I am enjoying a seminar with THE SALOME INSTITUTE of JUNGIAN STUDIES on Jung’s newly published Black Books (BB). The course is guided by the institute’s director, Satya Doyle Byock, and astrologist Carol Ferris. Seems we’re off to a great start!

Working in depth to understand Jung’s process of self experimentation, as it informed his birthing of analytical psychology, offers an up close look at our own journeys. I hope to be bringing forward key concepts in support of all who dare to consciously deepen in relationship to the unconscious.

Here is Sonu Shamdasani, the primary editor, commenting on Jung’s approach to active imagination: “In December 1913, (Jung) referred to this first Black Book as the ‘book of my most difficult experiments.’ In retrospect, he recalled,

‘my scientific question went: what would happen if I switched off consciousness? I noticed from dreams that something stood in the background, and I wanted to give this a fair chance to come forward. One submits to the necessary conditions – as is in a mescaline experience – so that it emerges.’ (BB, Volume I, p. 24)

“Jung described his technique for inducing spontaneous fantasies: ‘The training consists first of all in systematic exercises for eliminating critical attention, thus producing a vacuum in consciousness.’ One commenced by concentrating on a particular mood and attempting to become as conscious as possible of all fantasies and associations that came up in connection with it. The aim was to allow fantasy free play, but without departing from the initial affect in a free-associative process. This led to a concrete or symbolic expression of the mood, which had the result of bringing the affect nearer to consciousness, hence making it more understandable. Merely doing this could have a vitalizing effect. Individuals could draw, paint, or sculpt, depending on their propensities:

‘Visual types should concentrate on the expectation that an inner image will be produced. As a rule such a fantasy-image will actually appear – perhaps hypnagogically – and should be carefully noted down in writing. Audio- verbal types usually hear inner words, perhaps mere fragments or apparently meaningless sentences to begin with…. Others at such times simply hear their “other” voices…. still rarer, but equally valuable, is automatic writing, direct or with the planchette.’

Once these fantasies had been produced and embodied, two approaches were possible: creative formulation and understanding. Each needed the other, and both were necessary to produce the transcendent function, which arose out of the union of conscious and unconscious contents. 

For some people, Jung noted, it was simply to note the “other” voice in writing and to answer it from the standpoint of the I: ‘It is exactly as if a dialogue we’re taking place between two human beings…’ Dialogue led to the creation of the transcendent function, which resulted in a widening of consciousness. His descriptions of the use of inner dialogues and the means of evoking fantasies in a waking state match his own undertaking in the The Black Books…” (C.G. Jung, BB, Notebooks of Transformation, Volume I, Edited by Sonu Shamdasani, 2020, pp. 54-55)

Edward F. Edinger: On Mortificatio

Posted February 8, 2021 by chuck bender
Categories: Uncategorized

I have updated this source quote after reviewing the concepts and the amazing poem imagery support in an earlier hour this morning. Mortificatio is not an easy concept for our culture. As a companion quote, Jung’s observations concerning Rebirth and Natural Transformations offer further guidance. Enjoy!

“Mortificatio is experienced as defeat and failure. Needless to say, one rarely chooses such an experience. It is usually imposed by life, either from within or from without. To some extent it can be experienced vicariously through that great cultural instrument of mortificatio, the tragic drama. In some cases the drama can provide even more than a vicarious experience. If the time is right, it can have an inductive effect and initiate an authentic transformation process in the individual.” (p. 172)

King, sun, and lion refer to the ruling principle of the conscious ego and to the power instinct. At a certain point these must be mortified in order for a new center to emerge. As Jung says, “Egocentricity is a necessary attribute of consciousness and is also its specific sin.” (CW 14, par. 364.) On the archetypal level the mortificatio of the king or the sun will refer to the death and transformation of a collective dominant or ruling principle.” (p. 151)

Poetic expression of the mortificatio experience from “East Coker” by T.S. Elliot:

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love for the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.

In order to arrive at what you do not know
You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.
In order to possess what you do not possess
You must go by the way of dispossession.
In order to arrive at what you are not
You must go through the way in which you are not.
And what you do not know is the only thing you know
And what you own is what you do not own
And where you are is where you are not.

Out of the experience of darkness and emptiness can come the encounter with the inner companion. (p.174)

Edinger, Edward F., Anatomy of the Psyche: Alchemical Symbolism in Psychotherapy

Ichsucht (“ego addiction”) A Source Quote from Elie Humbert: On Ego, Self, and the Individuation Process

Posted September 10, 2020 by chuck bender
Categories: Connecting the Dots Series, Images of the Self, Individuation

Below is a lengthy and interesting formulation on narcissism from an ego problem in need of a solution perspective.

“Narcissus directly experienced an insatiable quest for the self and acute anguish in the face of everything that threatened his self-image. Jung took up Narcissus’ subjective experience and discovered the Ichhaftigkeit (“ego attachment”) within which the subject is caught. This internal force seeks the constitution of an ego complex around which it wants all of psychic life to revolve. Before the ego differentiates itself by relating to the unconscious, it is in a state of Ichsucht (“ego addiction”) (C.W. 14, par. 364), a turning of consciousness upon itself. The danger then is that the image of the world and the image of the ego risk becoming confused with one another.

Ichhaftigkeit (C.W. 11, par. 554) might well dominate the individual psyche if its own one-sidedness did not give birth to the shadow, which becomes in turn an independent complex opposed to the ego. The ascendancy of the shadow (of which the return of the repressed is but one aspect) overturns the organization of the ego. Jung analyzed the transformation process that then begins. Rather than focusing upon narcissism, he studied the conflicts, sacrifices, and mutations that mark the successive moments of the subject’s formation.

Jung insisted on the fact that becoming conscious puts the ego in jeopardy. A 1941 text reflects what he himself had lived through thirty years earlier:

The integration of the contents split off in the parental imagos has an activating effect on the unconscious, for these imagos are charged with all the energy they originally possessed in childhood, thanks to which they continued to exercise a fateful influence even on the adult. Isolation in pure ego-consciousness has the paradoxical consequence that there now appear in dreams and fantasies personal, collective contents which are the very material from which certain schizophrenic psychoses are constructed. (C.W. 16, par. 218)

Even while it endures such an ordeal, the ego cannot escape from an inflation, be it a negative or positive one. While relating to its own solitude and to the psychic elements it integrates, the ego either allows itself to become possessed by an upsurge of psychic energy or defends itself from this energy by identifying with its own conscious boundaries. Is there no way to avoid these two false solutions?

But at this point a healthful, compensatory operation comes into play which each time seems to me like a miracle. Struggling against that dangerous trend towards disintegration, there arises out of this same collective unconscious a counteraction, characterized by symbols which point unmistakably to a process of centering. This process creates nothing less than a new center of personality, which the symbols show from the first to be superordinate to the ego …The center cannot be classed with the ego, but must be accorded a higher value… for which reason I have called it the “self.” …the experience of the self has nothing to do with intellectualism; it is a vital happening which brings about a fundamental transformation of personality. I have called the process that leads to this experience the “process of individuation.” (C.W. 16, par. 219)

Thus by becoming conscious and by withdrawing projections, the ego is led into a state of either inflation or deflation. Neither of these states is resolved unless an unconscious center of the personality to which the ego can relate is brought to life.

…Influenced as he was by alchemy, Jung focused less upon images and more upon processes. The conjunction of opposites, with all that it implies of separation and differentiation, provides the schema with which one can understand the activity of the Self. Jung summarized this activity using three concepts: (1) becoming follows upon a compensatory movement; (2) wholeness consists of the relationship of consciousness with the unconscious; (3) psychic organization evolves according to the law of differentiation.

When referring to the concept of wholeness, which Jung used frequently, one must recall that the English word totality obscures the original German meaning. Jung rarely used die totalitat but almost always die Ganzheit (ganz, ganzwerden). Now the root prefix ganz does not signify “total” but “whole.” It would be better to translate Ganzheit by the English “wholeness.” Far from aiming to become, possess or experience everything, the Ganzheit is correlative to the experiences of dissociation and fragmentation. Jung specified that Ganzheit is not a Volkommenheit, not “a total achievement, perfection.” To individuals who feel the presence of two beings within themselves, Ganzheit appears as a possible unity. It is in the sense of a possible unity that the experience of the Self resolves the dissociation of consciousness from the unconscious and allows the subject to be whole.

…the Self is the true center of the personality from which the ego, by its goals and values, is alienated. Thus the ego must sacrifice its values and goals if it is to submit to the orientation of the Self. This sacrifice is brought about by the recognition of the shadow, and will have the characteristics of what some will later call a symbolic castration. Sacrifice differs from symbolic castration, however, because sacrifice does not culminate in the mere acceptance of human limitations and death but leads to a living relationship with the unconscious subject.

…What is at stake in the analytic process is not the death of the ego but the sacrifice of Ichhaftigkeit (“ego attachment”). Not only does the ego not disappear, but the conflicts that it goes through release it from imaginary states and allow it to come to its own reality.”

Excerpted from Humbert, Elie, C.G. Jung: The Fundamentals of Theory and Practice, Chiron Press, 1988, pp. 61-64.

Getting Started

Posted September 1, 2020 by chuck bender
Categories: Author, Connecting the Dots Series, Initiation, Learning to Think and Work Symbolically, Poems

How might we frame our depth work process approach?

Let’s open with an observation from Rumi:

“A night full of talking that hurts,
my worst held-back secrets. Everything
has to do with loving and not loving.
This night will pass.
Then we have work to do.”  Rumi poem translated by Coleman Barks

Orienting to my wordpress layout: In terms of how this blog offering works, note that if you click on an activated link, the link will take you either to the internet source, or quite often, to another one of my posts here. My pages are fixed and reserved for core components of the symbol system. The posts are listed below the pages, with the most recent on top. Below the posts are my selected Source quotes, which are simply posts consisting of direct quotes without much comment from me. When you click on any page, you go there; hit the back button to return to prior page, or, just return to the website to see the top page layout. The search function is helpful if you have a key word, such as “micro” as in micro-fracture, or partial as in partial cure; you can pull up a few postings on the theme and see which may be the best way into the conversation.

Back to Rumi: In this case, the observation from the Rumi poem is the opening of a post from me about this work. Please take a minute to go there and consider following up with the additional embedded links, to begin to orient to my processing focus.

Managing our power struggles: The immediate priority from my perspective is to consider that the ways we have been getting triggered and pulled into emotional conflicts are all part of our co-created system dedicated to enabling each other to try to maintain order and comfort when really something else is emerging. The concept of the blur, and the perspective healing only occurs in the blur is central to understanding the emotional charge in triggers here, and the importance of getting triggered.

We want to consider the possibility our hard work and dedication may be paying off, and as a reward, psyche is now offering an initiatory process which sets the ego up to be sacrificed. This is quite different from getting an unsolicited robo-call offering x-nights of free lodging at an exotic resort!

We are called to consider the meaning and impact of the possibility everything that has ever happened to us is entirely conscious now, but not to the ego

Jung’s concept of the ego-Self Axis is crucial to understanding the mid-life transition as an initiatory process. As Stein and Stein note in their excellent overview, what is needed is the art and science of maieutics – midwifery. It is a birth process: symbolically the ego must suffer a kind of death, in the service of a rebirth, enabling a new working relationship with what Jung called the Self, the deep center of conscious and unconscious life.

Really, what this is about, is a return to discovering and then re-connecting to our lost selves.

For this opening and true coming home to occur requires that we let down the very defenses that enabled us to survive our unique challenges. This means wrestling with our core character defenses. This is the partial cure problem. As children we find work arounds, but ultimately, these dissociation based defenses enable a core disconnect, which works against living life fully.

We can try to think about the idea that psyche, in psyche’s wisdom, has chosen a beloved who is sensitive and strong enough in just the right ways, to help us break down our defenses. Once we put them in place to help us become our true authentic selves, we fight like crazy to resist their best efforts. If we succeed in thwarting their sacred mission – which we unconsciously assigned them to take on in our behalf – there will be no wedding! The story reference here is we will not be able to achieve true self-other emotional intimacy until we recover our own.

For today, please take a close look at the partial cure link.

From Margret Atwood’s Surfacing: an image of the (radical) tear

Posted June 25, 2020 by chuck bender
Categories: Connecting the Dots Series, Learning to Think and Work Symbolically, Soul

Tags: , ,

After recently streaming a very compelling documentary on the life and work of Margaret Atwood – see Margaret Atwood: A Word after a Word after a Word is Power – I was moved to order a couple of her earliest books: Surfacing and The Edible Woman. Both have been very powerful reads. I was struck by her vivid description of having been cut in two:

“No hints of facts, I didn’t know when it had happened. I must have been alright then; but after that I’d allowed myself to be cut in two. Woman sawn apart in a wooden crate, wearing a bathing suit, smiling, a trick done with mirrors, I read it in a comic book; only with me there had been an accident and I came apart. The other half, the one locked away, was the only one that could live; I was the wrong half, detached, terminal. I was nothing but a head, or, no, something minor like a severed thumb; numb. At school they used to play a joke, they would bring little boxes with cotton wool in them and a hole cut in the bottom; they would poke their finger through the hole and pretend it was a dead finger.” (pp 108-109)

By the dates, Margaret published this when she was 42 or so. That seems about right in terms of psyche helping us realize we have experienced a significant disconnect which has required a partial cure work around. Seems like a lot of Donald Kalsched’s formulation on trauma, dismemberment, and re-memberment is present in this painful realization/reflection. I recently worked this from the perspective of recognizing the “tear that always shows.”

On that note, I have been pondering the relationship between tear (tare) and tear. ie: tear “…to rend (a solid material) by holding or restraining in two places and pulling apart, whether intentionally or not; to destroy or separate.” In contrast to: tear “…A drop of clear, salty liquid produced from the eyes by crying or irritation.”

Source: “…the important units of recall are the occasions of repeated interaction.”

Posted June 25, 2020 by chuck bender
Categories: Connecting the Dots Series, Learning to Think and Work Symbolically, Transference and Countertransference

Tags: , , , ,

The source quotes below are from The Journey of Child Development, Selected papers of Joseph D. Noshpitz. I appreciated his description of the layers of infant experiences which contribute to Daniel Stern’s conceptualization of representations of interactions that have been generalized (RIGs). The image of RIGS helps us understand the origins of what was presented to me as the nucleus of the experiential state: the composite scene/image of the episode(s), one’s self in relationship to the other, standing in for all the others, and the associated affect, as reflected in the totality of the expressions in the moment of impact.

Let’s hear now directly from Dr. Noshpitz:

“…let us turn our attention to actual details of the process of recall: what are the elements babies use to construct inner images? It is evident that one of the elements of experience that has particular valence for babies is the encounter with the significant other. For infants, this 3- to -9 month period is a time of extraordinary pressure toward socialization. Another way of saying that is to state flatly that during this interval all babies fall intensely, passionately, head over heals in love with their mommies. They cannot get enough of her; nothing means as much. They yearn for her when they do not have her at hand, light up when they see her, reach for her when she comes near, and crow when they touch her. Smiling has appeared, social smiling in response to other’s presence, with a special smile for the beloved mommy. Hence, in laying down memory traces, special emphasis should be given to these moments of intense interactive experience with the loved one as begetters of memories.

It is therefore not surprising that Stern suggests that the important units of recall are the occasions of repeated interaction. Thus, a feeding experience, a mother-infant play session, or some other such exchange between the two is the likeliest place to look for the groundwork of memory constructs. What happens then is that the interactions between the mother and infant become familiar; their quality is both anticipated and predictable. A feeding is a comparable sequence of positionings, holdings, lookings, sucklings, with a fairly standard pattern of overall conduct of self and other as the process continues. Babies lay down a memory trace of such an exchange, then add another of very similar character the next time, and then another, and yet another as time advances.

At this point, however, if Stern is correct, a remarkable thing happens. Babies begin to average out these experiences and to construct a model of how the experience should go. It were as though a generalized representation of the interaction emerged from the recurrent encounters, an image that can serve as a basis for predicting and judging the character of the next such encounter. Stern calls these representations of interactions that have been generalized RIGs). These RIGs are the building blocks of the core self, islands of consistency that form and coalesce out of the welter of infantile experience. They provide the basic material for constructing a sense of self as well as a sense of other.

It is my view that these early generalized representations are a unique and precious achievement to infants. In effect, each one is a work of art, a creation, their own rendering of a series of intense and valued experiences into a concentrated and succinct whole. There is a quality here of recording unifying it, distilling its essence and capturing its quality, and this, I believe, is central to the aesthetic encounter with a work of art, whether as creator or as viewer.

It is important to keep in mind the central role of these RIGs. They provide the bricks to build the mansion of the sense of self. They give infants the agency, the intensity, the coherence, and the continuity that together make for a continuing awareness of inner presence, inner integrity. They are dynamic presences, constantly undergoing small changes as each new experience is summed into the average, yet they are static in the sense of being repeats of the same kind of sequence over and over; this is what offers the sense of self the necessary stability and continuity and engenders the feeling of knowing one is there and who one is.” (pages 70-71)

As a conceptual tool, the experiential state gives us a way to think about our history as it contributes to our memory banks at the level of these RIGs. It seems our work in becoming conscious – recognizing enactments as blur moments – will involve connecting the dots between present day conflicts and our corresponding RIGs origin experiences.

To be continued.

 

 

 

Stern: “The experienced micro-world always enters awareness but only sometimes enters consciousness (verbalizable awareness).”

Posted June 10, 2020 by chuck bender
Categories: Connecting the Dots Series, Transference and Countertransference

Tags: , , ,

This source quote comes from a paper by Beatrice Beebe, Ph.D.,  Daniel Stern: Microanalysis and the Empirical Infant Research Foundations

I will be following this up with more descriptions of representations of interactions that have been generalized over time (RIGs). For me, this is the level of experience informing the experiential state images of self-other-affect. In opening to recognizing the blur we then have the opportunity to be with that which is trying to surface, via the enactment. By definition of the terms, we do not have language for the subsymbolic core. (See my Philip Bromberg post Enactment: Problem AND Solution?) We really want to try to get comfortable enough to simply be with the emerging experience, and try to find language together; this is the process for bringing the blur into conscious, symbolic awareness. The microfractures in communication quotes go well with this layer of material.

“The experienced micro-world always enters awareness but only sometimes enters consciousness (verbalizable awareness). [Stern, 2004, p. xiv]

Stern operated at the interface of the empirical analysis of mother-infant communication, systems theories, philosophy, neuroscience, and psychoanalysis. Dyadic face-to-face communication was the focus. Using the method of frame-by-frame microanalysis of film, moment-by-moment interaction sequences became the center of his thinking: miniplots of brief interaction scenarios. He described the reciprocal dyadic communication process across time: Each partner is changing with the other. Miniplots of the temporal-spatial-affective flow of each partner changing in relation to that of the other became his definition of procedural representations. Stern emphasized the primacy of time and temporal process over more static notions of psychological organization. Most fundamentally, Stern’s work in microanalysis has changed what one can see, and thus what one can know. His work fostered a dynamic, interactive model of the organization of experience. The foundation of experience, the origin of mind, and the key to change in psychotherapy are found in the moment-by- moment interactive process itself.

Dan’s fascination with the micro-momentary details of the present moment, which became the title of one of his books (Stern, 2004), was the core of his inspiration and talent. In the preface to that book he wrote,

In considering the micro-world of the present moment, I first thought of the working title, A world in a grain of sand from William Blake. … It captured the size of the small world revealed by micro-analysis. … One can often see the larger panorama of someone’s past and current life in the small behaviors and mental acts making up this micro-world. … Seeing the world at this scale of reality changes what can be seen [italics added] and thus changes our basic conceptions. [Stern, 2004, p. xiv]”

The Blake poem referenced by Stern above opens with:

“To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

And Eternity in an hour.”