Enactment: Problem AND Solution?

Posted January 6, 2020 by chuck bender
Categories: Author, Conscious Enactment, Learning to Think and Work Symbolically, Transference and Countertransference

Tags: , , , ,

Author comments on re-posting this: I am moving this to the top of the posts as I think it is one comprehensive way into this symbol system. The work is in the details. My seemingly endless emphasis on the importance of recognizing the blur – because healing only occurs in the blur – reflects how difficult this concept is, until you can see it. Philip Bromberg’s reflections on subsymbolic and symbolic modes of being and the role of enactments in bringing lost parts of ourselves into consciousness, is not to be missed. In terms of my contribution, it seems, limited as it may be, it is important to recognize these dynamics for their profound implications. Translation: we need to stop blaming each other for our core unhappiness. If psyche chose well, and I am always working to track how that is so, our partner is bringing exactly what we need to surface our deeper awareness and resources (see the Exteriorization of the Inner Antagonist post).

If you can accept the premise that the only way split off trauma complexes can come into consciousness is through driving enactments, then you can begin to focus on dropping into all the attendant feelings, sensations, levels and layers of experience, that give a chance for the blur to guide the encounter. What is trying to show up through the repetition compulsion or re-enactment of the wounding, is a time transport. In my post on metamorphosis I postulated the teleology of a complex was to preserve access to the original episodic memory triggered by something in this moment. Effectively encapsulated split off trauma complexes are doomed to remain unintegrated until such time when the resources have been developed to give effective aid to those present at the time of the wounding. What this mean, here, now, is when you find yourself exasperated and overwhelmed by what seems to be the endless repetition of your couple’s mistake, you embrace the possibility it is indeed a co-created system; together you have activated or constellated the blur, and, taking each other by the hand, you dodge the presenting death threat, and prepare to bear witness together. Shifting from the familiar power struggle, you may be rewarded with the surfacing of an original wound. Embrace all the vulnerabilty rushing in with this recognition!

I’ve referenced this as the Jumanji finesse. We accept life threw the dice and now something emergent is trying to kill (as in fall overboard and drown) us! Can we work together to access the the true symbolic death? While more and more having the presence of mind to keep breathing and experience more of this origin story? l have related to this from Freud’s manifest dream versus latent dream formulation. We tend to be distracted by what we can think about – which – will be defensive. We really need each others full support to connect with the deeper threat, fear, meaning. So on with becoming advocates for finding language for our co-created enactments…

The inspiration for this post comes from my recent review of Philip Bromberg’s chapter section on enactment and self-revelation. (see Bromberg, Philip M., Awakening the Dreamer, p. 135). I have recently been very excited to explore the origins of the concept of enactment from Freud’s early work forward. More recent wonderful papers are tying in enactment with all the neuro-biological research, and my sense is we are at a crossroads in understanding how all this comes together.

In short, historically, it seems enactment is a term which attempts to describe an event or episode in the therapy process wherein some degree of unconsciousness drives some degree of acting out; in the moment, either the patient, the therapist, or both could find themselves embodying the transference-counter-transference projections and introjections constellated by the working relationship. They find themselves in the soup, together. The quality of this felt experience reflects what Jung called the participation mystique. In relationship to my mission and contributions here, I am advocating we consider opening the concept to include the unconscious in everyday life, eg: you, me, all of us; think microfractures in communication.

Back to Bromberg: What got my attention was his referencing Wilma Bucci’s work that further seemed to simplify the complexity of what I am calling the blur. For me, the radical idea is captured in the recognition of the importance of getting triggered. Our vulnerability to getting triggered informs us about our priority, or what-is-approaching-readiness-for-emergence, unfinished emotional business. Something in the present moment has evoked a response informed by an invarient organizing principle.

Bromberg opens with the observation: “Enactment is a phenomenon that is not about denial or avoidance of internal conflict; it is a part of the natural functioning of the mind that is simply doing what evolution has adapted it to do in two discrete modes of information processing.”

“One mode, the ‘subsymbolic‘ (Bucci, 1997a), is organized at the level of body experience as ‘emotion schemas‘ that make their presence known affectively, through a person’s ‘ways of being‘; the second mode, the ‘symbolic,’ is organized at the level of cognitive awareness and is communicated through verbal language.”

So here we are invited to recognize subsymbolic and symbolic as two distinct experiences of being present in relationship (both self-with-parts-of-self, self-with-parts-of-other). It seems conceptually the blur is what you get when you combine one’s ‘ways of being’ with an attitude. In line with the blur, something internal is trying to move from the subsymbolic world into the symbolic world. The trouble, no matter how troubling, is meaningful. (See my Couple Experiential State Complex as Activated Threshold discussion.)

He goes on to tie in the role of trauma in setting up the core defenses associated with the subsymbolic world: “When emotional experience is traumatic (more than the mind can bear), it remains unsymbolized cognitively, and the mind recruits the normal mental function of dissociation as a means of controlling both the triggering of unprocessed emotion schemas that were created by trauma and the release of ungovernable affect of hyperarousal that could threaten to destabilize its function.” After trying to paraphrase this sound bite, I decided just to bold it as it is a very important frame on this work.

He then states the importance of this in terms of how psychoanalysis works with enactment: “Enactment in psychoanalysis is a dyadic dissociative process through which the patient’s trauma–derived emotion schemas make themselves known and potentially available to consciousness. When enacted dissociative experience is processed relationally, internal conflict and its potential resolution increasingly become possible.” (Chuck’s bold)

From this we recognize the traumas that required splitting defenses to manage/survive at the time of the injury will have their subsymbolic component, and it is just this not yet fully conscious or integrated layer, level, or trauma complex within that sets up, or manifests in one’s ‘ways of being‘.

First, Ways of being? This is quite a descriptor. Kids being kids comes to mind. I am thinking this captures something about how we move through the world when we’re not entirely conscious. Like, when we have identified a best practice, but are happily not remembering it on the way to the coffee shop for an afternoon shot and a cookie! Or, we get triggered and upset, say things that don’t ring true, can’t not get defensive…in short, we get complexed. (Just to bring back in the distinctly Jungian!)

And second, in suggesting “When enacted dissociative experience is processed relationally, internal conflict and its potential resolution increasingly become possible,” Bromberg is inviting us to reflect on how important it is for us to establish a symbolic relationship with the subsymbolic layer. This necessitates we embrace our own subsymbolic layer, in the service of being experientially available to the patient’s subsymbolic self. This shared, co-created experience directly enables us, together, to find language to symbolize that which has been subsymbolic for important psychodynamic reasons. Working through this blur moment, consciously struggling and finding meaning and words together, helps bring it all into the symbolic mode.

Self-regulation of dissociated, and thus potentially out of control, affective experience can take place only by activating and cognitively symbolizing in the session itself what Bucci (1997a) calls subsymbolic experience that formerly could only be enacted.” Note, the self-regulation can take place only by activating and cognitively symbolizing the subsymbolic layer in the session itself. For me, this must be the origin of the observation healing only occurs in the blur.

Bromberg suggests “During the analytic process, a main part of the analyst’s job is to find words to get his own experience of enacted communication out on the table in a manner that facilitates the patient’s ability to do the same.” This is direct support for both parties, patient and therapist for focusing attentions on the rumblings of our mutually activated-activating subsymbolic felt experience, and finding words of welcome for their symbolic expression.

Here in some different language is a lengthy observation from Donald Sandner and John Beebe on this work: “…Working through any split requires not only disidentification by the ego from the more familiar pole of the complex, but also affective recognition of the contrary pole. Such recognition requires immersion in the side that has been unconscious. There is an unconscious tendency toward wholeness and relief of tension that fosters the emergence, under accepting conditions such as analysis, of the repressed pole. The consequence is that least temporary possession by unfamiliar contents is a regular part of the life and of the analytic process, an inevitable prelude to the integration of unconscious portions of the Self.”

temporary possession by unfamiliar contents seems like another way to describe the experience of subsymbolic material finding it’s way into one’s in-the-moment experience; while it may feel like being possessed by something unfamiliar, yet, so familiar, we want to bear witness together.

If I think about what is it precisely that I am most interested in getting across to you, it is that when we encounter the blur we want to understand the adaptive, evolutionary meaning, or point: counter intuitive as it may be for many, it is in this blur – feeling real threat – that we have the potential – within and only within – the good enough holding relationship – to access and transform the formerly subsymbolic, trauma complex experience.

For one last reflection, I encourage you to check out Bromberg’s description of the contemporary view of the goal of psychoanalysis being not the discovery of the egg, symbolizing unconscious fantasy which can be pieced together, but rather:

“… it is increasingly recognized that the “egg” can manifestly be brought into palpable existence by accepting that the “egg” is not buried content but the symbolization of a dissociated relational process that is not unearthed, but mutually co-created through enactment.” (my italics)

We want to notice what is palpably in the room. And, we want to respect our own contributions to the energetic field formation. Note the co-created aspect… The patient brings in their inner figures, and we lend our bodies, minds, hearts and souls to the enactment and discovery process. How amazing it is!

.

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.”

 


“That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief”

Posted April 11, 2020 by chuck bender
Categories: Connecting the Dots Series, Grief

Tags: ,

This is the title of an article being circulated by Scott Berinato, an editor from the Harvard Business Review, which captures an interview with grief expert David Kessler. The interview is excellent; I have posted just his last summary comment. Granting our feeling life sovereignty is the teaching at the core of the Hags and Heroes story. I appreciate his observation on “one unfortunate byproduct of the self-help movement…”

(Berinato) What do you say to someone who’s read all this and is still feeling overwhelmed with grief?

(David Kessler) “Keep trying. There is something powerful about naming this as grief. It helps us feel what’s inside of us. So many have told me in the past week, “I’m telling my coworkers I’m having a hard time,” or “I cried last night.” When you name it, you feel it and it moves through you. Emotions need motion. It’s important we acknowledge what we go through. One unfortunate byproduct of the self-help movement is we’re the first generation to have feelings about our feelings. We tell ourselves things like, I feel sad, but I shouldn’t feel that; other people have it worse. We can — we should — stop at the first feeling. I feel sad. Let me go for five minutes to feel sad. Your work is to feel your sadness and fear and anger whether or not someone else is feeling something. Fighting it doesn’t help because your body is producing the feeling. If we allow the feelings to happen, they’ll happen in an orderly way, and it empowers us. Then we’re not victims.”

“For it is important that awake people be awake…”

Posted April 4, 2020 by chuck bender
Categories: blur, Conscious Enactment, Poems

Tags:

These days, with most of us striving to keep up with best practices in containing and mitigating the pandemic, a powerful line from William Stafford’s poem A Ritual to Read to Each Other has been coming to mind:

“For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep…”

I’ve always appreciated this observation as a quite gentle reminder that human beings are always at risk for losing track of important realities. Just try not to touch your face.

I did ponder for about twenty years the meaning of the image of the breaking line. What could Stafford be talking about? I found myself settling on the idea perhaps it is as obvious as moving from a conscious state into a dissociative experience/enactment.

If you are not familiar with the poem, check it out. It is quite an orientation for all who talk.

And the people stayed home…

Posted March 25, 2020 by chuck bender
Categories: Uncategorized

I found this poem to be a lovely meditation, a transport if you will:

“And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still.

And listened more deeply.

Some meditated, some prayed, some danced.

Some met their shadows.

And the people began to think differently.

And the people healed.

And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.

And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.”

by Kitty O’Meara

Googling Kitty O’Meara pulls up an interesting story about Kitty and how the poem came into being. Sounds like she is an elder who has worked in palliative care. This offering came to me via my niece, a biologist, who has been called to an eco-chaplaincy training program. Gratitude…

Co-Created, Dissociation Enabled Enactments

Posted February 7, 2020 by chuck bender
Categories: Author, blur, Complexes and More, Connecting the Dots Series, Conscious Enactment, Learning to Think and Work Symbolically, Uncategorized

Tags: , , ,

I’ve been translating from psychoanalytic theory and clinical practice into this symbol system, the heart of which is captured in the observation: healing only occurs within the blur.

To the extent this is true, we want to prepare ourselves to take advantage of emotional activations, as they signal opportunities for spontaneous healing entering or erupting into the everyday space. In my Couple Experiential State Complex as Activated Threshold post I make the case getting triggered pulls us, in the here and now, into an altered and altering state. Our shared blur experience, enabled by our co-created, dissociative defenses, facilitates a re-enactment of a wounding. We want to wake up in this moment together, and see if we can identify the elements of the self/other original experiential state scenes which are behind us getting triggered. Recall as long as they remain split off from and not fully inventoried by consciousness, these highly charged episodic memory based scenes are not diminished by time and space. These wounds of overwhelm experiences inform our invariant organizing principles and are stored in psyche’s black box so to speak, in their image and affect formats.

From the Bromberg/Bucci teachings, we want to begin to identify our ways of being. It seems the essential try on here is to be on the look out for enactments: emotional states and actions which, when examined, can be seen as manifestations of the subsymbolic mode of being. The critical point of this detail is what is stored in our bodies, split off from consciousness with the help of encapsulation defenses, can only find it’s way back into consciousness via unconscious, compulsive, emotionally laden actions. Such actions, however habitual and familiar to both parties, reflect, in the words of Alice Miller, our bodies presenting their bill: “The truth about our childhood is stored up in our body, and although we can repress it, we can never alter it. Out intellect can be deceived, our feelings manipulated, our perceptions confused, and our bodies tricked with medication. But some day the body will present its bill, for it is as incorruptible as a child who, still whole in spirit, will accept no compromises or excuses, and it will not stop tormenting us until we stop evading the truth.” Note this is a different sound bite on Bessel van der Kolk’s The Body Keeps the Score offering.

Enactments are typically organized at the level of body experience and make their presence known affectively. These are actions which are not entirely conscious at best; when observed and noted over time, one can see the core emotional patterns. For me, these are the experiential state complexes driving our co-created, dissociation enabled blur experiences. My image for this sphere of engagement is:

Co-created Tangle of Complexes: Yours and Mine

I believe Bomberg is clear about our need to engage with the subsymbolic mode, as the way to help bring it’s teachings, needs, into the symbolic mode, enabling conscious connection and reflection; finding words together for those experiences for which we had no words.

The concept of blur states recognizes our natural tendencies to want to put our best foot forward. It’s just that something gets triggered, putting us on a slippery slope, and we’re left with figuring out what just happened, is happening.

Jung used the concept of participation mystique to describe those experiences in a relationship experience reflecting a mutual level of unconsciousness.

For more on what psyche may be hoping to accomplish through blur enactments, see Observation: Healing Only Occurs within the Blur.

Enactments: Setting the table…together

Posted January 11, 2020 by chuck bender
Categories: Author, blur, Complexes and More, Connecting the Dots Series, Conscious Enactment, Learning to Think and Work Symbolically, Transference and Countertransference

Tags: , ,

In the post below, Enactments: Problem AND Solution? I brought forward some of Philip Bromberg’s observations on the meaning and role of enactments in work with trauma survivors. My Setting the table…together title is shorthand for the importance of our efforts to get our own enactment experiences out on the table, in a manner that is useful to the patient. When a rupture occurs, how we struggle together with the hidden meaning (recognizing the subsymbolic mode of being for the gift that it is, and working directly too bring it into the symbolic mode through our shared discovery process) is the work; yours and mine. When something disrupts/disallows our working this rupture/enactment through together, we will be unsettled as hell. How about them apples!

A part of this that I find so helpful, and so resonant with my interest in the meaning and implication/application of healing only occurs in the blur, is the emphasis on focusing on the emergence, via enactments, of the subsymbolic world.

Again and again Bromberg brings us back to the idea of one dissociative process conditions for another; the work is in our engagement with what shows up, palpably, in co-created dissociative enactments. For this to be fruitful, he suggests:

“During the analytic process, a main part of the analyst’s job is to find words to get his own experience of enacted communication out on the table in a manner that facilitates the patient’s ability to do the same….”

Furthermore, citing Levenson, Bromberg illustrates “…how the analyst’s being pulled into an enactment is not a technical error but an inevitability. (and) … how working one’s way out of the mess of an enactment is a core ingredient of therapeutic action, and how neither patient nor analyst can free himself from the grip of a “mess” without the others help.

Pause on that one: being pulled into an enactment is not a technical error but an inevitability. And: neither patient nor analyst can free himself from the grip of a “mess” without the others help.

Here we have direct support for privileging (my choice of words) the analyst’s efforts to find words for his/her/they own experience of enacted communication.

The idea of privileging the detail finding words to get his own experience of enacted communication out on the table is interesting from the legal sense of the word. It seems to point to an exemption. An exemption from best practices? We do take seriously our responsibility to maintain a conscious observing presence throughout our work with patients; at the same time, this direct support for acknowledging the presence of the subsymbolic layer, as manifested in tracking our enactments, yours and mine, seems to suggest having an active relationship with one’s own unconsciousness, in the service of meeting the patient in their subsymbolic experience, is a most critical component.

Given that, we could ask, would we be comfortable saying getting activated and submitting to a dissociation enabled co-created enactment is a component of best practice? The question is a bit of a puzzle. Perhaps the answer is: “by degrees.” If the therapist, or trainer, or organizational leader, or intimate partner, and so forth, slips into an intense moment of unconsciousness with an acting out component, for all who could see, to see, then what? My advocacy for thinking in blur terms conceptually, is the recognition the violation, as a betrayal of trust, is initiatory for the one on the receiving end of the enactment.

Recall I have suggested that in the absence of good enough ritual elders, traumas can be lived through, but remain essentially incomplete initiatory experiences. At some point, in the midlife or later, we need to open up this encapsulated, episodic memory centered trauma complex in order to re-integrate the split off material and thereby gain conscious wisdom in the ways of the world.

Importantly, perhaps more so if the originator of the wounding is in a leadership position, if the enactment is met with enough consciousness to help the originator get his own experience of enacted communication out on the table, this episode can be deeply initiatory for both/all participants. Given the relative primitiveness of these defenses, offending parties may not be able to use the resources available to surrender to the transformative opening, as John Perry observes in some happy moment. Clinically speaking, for the originator to resist direct participation in the working through is not a conscious choice. We bear witness, and contain the enactment as consciously as we can.

I prefer coding these episodes as re-enactments of the wounding in that the scene, when formulated into an experiential state image, points back to the entire relationship histories of both parties present in the action. That the trusted other presents not as her/they/his known self, but in a possessed state, can be shocking, stunning, deeply upsetting, infuriating, but, really, when I am triggered by anothers submitting to an enactment, pulling me in to add my fuel to the fire, I do want to look primarily at my vulnerability to being confused about what is really going on. This is what co-created means. If I can only focus on what the other did, in this real time moment, I will be stuck feeding the complex, and continue to suffer the re-traumatization of the wound that informed my trigger. Together we have reinforced enough intensity in the conflict between us to disallow either the opportunity to breathe and drop into the core. When one can see the core driving the enactment, one can begin to consider what type of conscious enactment, or portrayal, might enable a transformative shift.

Citing Levenson and Sullivan’s work, Bromberg suggests … “working in the moment with transference and counter-transference experience provides the most powerful context for therapeutic growth.”

“… The process of consensually finding the ‘right words,’ language that symbolizes a new shared reality, is the basis for the development of intersubjectivity where it did not exist... When patient and analyst can each access and openly share their dissociated experience that has been too dangerous to their relationship to be formulated cognitively, the process through which this takes place begins to enlarge the domain and fluency of the dialogue and leads to increasingly integrated and complex content that becomes symbolized linguistically and thus available to self-reflection and conflict resolution…”

“I thus argue that what has been labeled the analyst’s self revelation, if used as a negotiable element in the ongoing relationship, is not only permissible but also necessary: a part of the developmental process that Fonagy … calls mentalization, through which subsymbolic experience is allowed to become a part of the relational self rather than being interminably enacted. …”

“…the Boston group’s findings support the view that “process leads content, so that no particular content needs to be pursued; rather the enlarging of the domain and fluency of the dialogue is primary and will lead to increasingly integrated and complex content…”

On a side note, Christopher Bollas has written beautifully on the image of countertransference readiness. There are always two patients in the the consultation room: “… the other source of the analysand’s free association is the psychoanalyst’s countertransference, so much so that in order to find the patient we must look for him within ourselves. This process inevitably points to the fact that there are two ‘patients’ within the session and therefore two complementary sources of free association.”

These combination of observations, or what sound like core clinical truths, all point to the importance of finding a way to be present in the therapy in one’s own depth process, including what I am calling the blur.