Archive for the ‘Connecting the Dots Series’ category

Co-Created, Dissociation Enabled Enactments

February 7, 2020

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

January 11, 2020

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.

Imaging the Experiential State, Complex Nucleus, and Ego-Self Axis

December 11, 2019

Note from Chuck: I first published this page in 2012. Note for me, my pages – see guide to pages at the top of right hand column – are the fixed building blocks of the symbol system. Posts, archived below the pages, are explorations on a theme.

Taking a look this morning, I decided to bring this page forward for a refresh. My conceptual framework does feel a bit like five ball juggling. I am shooting for identifying the various components, which, taken individually can be grasped quite directly. The challenge is to get them all in the air at once. The heart of this exploration for me continues to be the bridge between the life we live, starting out as infants, coming from an ancestral womb, and the archetypal world, our shared/collective, hard wired resource bank. Seems to me this is the key. As an earlier offering I did not build in hyper links to related plates. This link: Complexes as Bridge to the Symbolic World pulls up an extensive description of this plate’s illustration. Please feel encouraged to search for the core components. Enjoy…and let me know if this seems helpful.

From the experiential state to the complex: developmental failings or traumas severe enough to trigger primary survival defenses, that is, disconnection through splitting, evoke archetypal, hardwired resources in the form of complexes. These are as if image and affect templates activated via a match with the emotional resonance of the here and now scene.

Here I am suggesting we start with picturing the developmental wounding, symbolized by the Experiential State in the mother/father other approaching from the right, as the activating object, caught in the act. Imagine how this episode, one of countless interactions averaged and generalized over time, contributes to the composite Experiential State.

In addition, the complex nucleus, with its image and energy, reflects the fact of the scene’s corresponding evoked archetypal node. This activation contributes it’s ancient pattern recognition and resources in providing spontaneous help to insure survival in the face of a seemingly impossible experience. This plate illustrates the shared elements and places the ego-Self axis in the center, in recognizing the continuum with regards to the degree of conscious access versus effective repression at any given time.

Source Quote: Von Franz on The Suffering God Osiris

November 11, 2019

I will be moving this post to a Source quote soon, but wanted to offer it now with comments pending. Enjoy! (note my italics)

In her orientation to the origins of alchemy, Marie-Louise von Franz discusses the middle of the old Egyptian empire and the rise and increasing dominance of the sun god Re:

“This phenomenon corresponds to a typical development of consciousness. It was the time when writing and recording, the measuring and mapping out of the fields, mathematics, and all such arts flourished. For the first time in the Egyptian empire records were kept. Here there is a coincidence: at the time when the sun god, who is the archetypal principle of consciousness, becomes dominant in a civilization, there is a sudden increase in rational consciousness. But naturally through this also arises a split from which we still suffer: namely, that certain aspects of the psychic life of the individual, certain moods and impulses that do not conform to collective rules, have to be repressed.”

She then moves into describing what gets pushed into the background, the shadow, with the dominance of the sun god Re:

“You could therefore say that part of the primitive individuality of the Egyptian went into the unconscious at that time, and with it went a certain aspect of affect in the feeling life. This aspect of the Egyptian’s communal life was concentrated in the archetypal image of the god Osiris. Osiris, in contrast to the ordering, ruling sun god, was the suffering god. He represented the passive, suffering aspect of nature and of the psyche. Histories of religion always depict him as the god of vegetation; however that does not mean concrete vegetation, but vegetation as a symbol of his being: it is that which does not move, which does not have its own volition, which is the greatest suffering thing on this earth. Osiris represents the underground part of the Egyptian communal life. In the Osiris part of his nature was also hidden the Egyptian’s true consciousness of his own individuality, in contrast to the collective ruling principle of consciousness.”

Then she brings in the idea of the Ba-soul.

“So the body was associated with Osiris and the idea of the Ba-soul. … The true pre-conscious individuality and individual human consciousness was at that time still projected into the Ba-soul. Normally in Egypt the Ba was either represented by a star or a bird… a man was not aware of his Ba-soul during his lifetime, since as an individual he lived according to Egyptian regulations, even to the extent that during the judgment after death he had to swear to a list of things he had not done. That is the famous negative confession: “I have not stolen, I have not broken the law, I have not sacrificed to the god..,” and so on. … clearly a nice list of lies, because they did all these things like everybody else, but the idea of lying like that to the gods after death was considered not a lie but an assertion: “I would not dare to impinge on the collective rule.” Because to dare to say, “Yes, I have done this,” would imply individuality; it would mean standing up to the fact that one had broken the rule, and that was forbidden. Egyptians were so closely identified with the collective ruling body of morale and ideas they could not admit their individual sinful impulses even to themselves and to the gods. 

Normally, you would meet your Ba-soul only after death and be completely unaware of its existence before. It emerged, so to speak, at death and during the mummification process. But in this specific paper, “The World-Weary Man,” there appears a man whose Ba-soul suddenly speaks to him during his lifetime, at the moment when he is about to commit suicide. This results in a very famous and touching conversation between the two. Such a meeting with the nucleus of one’s own individuality was believed to take place only after death, the Ba-soul being immortal and individual, the eternal aspect of the human being. Becoming one with the Ba-soul meant, therefore, being deified and becoming one with the oneness of the universe.”

von Franz, Marie-Louise, alchemical active imagination, Shambhala Publications, Inc, 1979. 1997, pp. 4-6.

Initiation Dream Series: Healing Splits, Flying, Swimming, & Singing Dawn Songs

September 28, 2019

The following dream is the first of three I want to interpret as a series at some point. The second in the series, the Three Crones Receive the Knife dream posted below, jumped into getting posted first because I was discussing the issue of how/why encapsulated trauma requires special handling, eg: piercing prior to working through. I will be posting the third and writing about how dreams can anticipate or foreshadow future developments.

This one opens with a seminar discussion in which I am concerned with how best to describe the conditions conducive to healing splits. I then have this experience which I would describe as reflective of Borderland Consciousness as formulated by Jerome Bernstein.

11-23-12 Friday AM (after Thanksgiving Gathering): I’m at a conference/seminar/training of some kind, coastal, sprawled out hotel/campus like, with descending levels, when moving from north to south, along the beach to the immediate west. A woman presenter, analyst type, is discussing a case, and makes a conclusion. It is about a young man with a split problem of some kind; I want to carry the dialogue further, as in my mind I picture asking the group to reflect on what each person senses is the essence of what will help heal this state/condition? What would each of us say about our way into this scenario? After weighing the possibility of engaging the presenter and suggesting such an exercise, I decided not to break into the real time possibility, rather I spontaneously pictured asking the group and then, in my turn, offering the vivid, clear guidance which came to me, something like: all that is required is that one who has the experience of both (parts of the split), to be the split, to be in the split, and to be whole, also; that one, that one, in simply being present, creates the container, the energetic field, for the other, the split one, to begin to orient to what is all around, inner/outer, and the wholeness begins to flow in, and where there was/were split(s), the tension goes out, dissipates, and there is first then the bridge between all facets, and then the filling in, and now oneness in diversity. Something like that.

Then, I was separate from the group, making my way from one end of the campus to the other, mostly inside, as if long multi-level hotel, and working down, south, with the ocean to my right, and I started to realize I could fly/lift off/hover my way in negotiating a narrow staircase, and that I like to do this; this took the form of a certain feeling I get when trying this in dreams; I concentrate, and sort of begin by intentionally, when I can feel it, slowly lifting my feet off the ground, and find, yes, I can hang, free from gravity, suspended for a moment, and establishing my feeling of connection to the air and my ability to float/fly, I can then begin to slowly, in this instance, steer/guide myself, through arm gesturing, guiding up, over, back and forth, around and down. I begin to do this with awareness of others possibly taking notice – it is very striking in its quietness and impossibility – but let that go, the issue of calling attention to myself with risk for distracting my process, as I was primarily concentrating intensely on the descent through the narrow staircase, a bit spirally, and was noticing how I thought I should be falling, but instead, I had to work at dropping; pulling with my arms, twisting my body a bit, slowly, quite slowly, with patience and total focus, winding my way down the channel; after this I decided to continue with the flying/hovering, and move up and over a wall, which was open at the top, to the next room/hall over; I was concentrating intensely; effort-full but relaxed, until finally, I was outside, standing on the street at the end of the complex, and I saw a man, one of the event organizers, watching me approach. He said “Chuck?” I said ”You are Patrick?” “Yes, yes.” He said the others had already moved through, and we will join them now for the closing; first we stop and sit at the banquet table (it seems), with evidence of the others having been there. Patrick is to my right, and another man sits down to my left, and introduces himself as “Endrick.” I say I am Chuck. I see the remains of the feast; in front of me are my servings, a number of tasty looking morsels, including a miniature hamburger like roll/ food bite, with a purple berry like “patty” filling. We look at each other; and I say to them “This is a little like the wizard of Oz, when we’re back, and I recognize the two of you from our long journey….” I woke up feeling very amazed and thinking “Endrick?”.

Waking reflections and dreaming the dream onward: When I woke up the owls were calling; I thought about the long sequence and realized it was an interesting and important dream to record right then. I got up, put on my robe and slippers and headed downstairs to I grab my journal; I decided to pass on turning on any lights and keep going down to the daylight basement level and use my newly installed Walter Pelton Bender memorial bathroom to move my bowels. I liked the idea I could turn on the wall heater and relax with the images. I turned on the overhead light on super low and listened to the owls; thought about the fun yesterday, and how much I enjoyed the family, my grand kids, and everyone; as my attention turned to the dream “flying” sequence, I was struck with how those sensations mimicked a salmon negotiating a narrow stream passage; the way I was as if floating, seemed practically identical with swimming, pulling my self through the waters in my descent on the stairway, a carefully negotiated hard work effort, almost in slow motion, that worked. It took the time and concentration it took. I thought about the salmon dream last week; and all the others, and thought about all of this as from view of recognizing a deep initiation into connecting with the salmon peoples, and this dream as contributing to my understanding of this ancient connection, awareness now accomplished at some breakthrough level, and wept with gratitude and wonderful feeling of more wholeness; then I walked outside and approached the trail in the direction of the owls.

They sounded right overhead, with one to my left, one ahead, and one a bit away to my right. I stood quietly, listening, and then moved slowly ahead; I crouched down, doing what I could to get into an owl-like position; the owl to my left flew ahead, above the tree tops, and landed on the very top of a tree within my direct line of site. I thought “this is their dawn song.” I quietly began to call back, joining into their call/response song. The other close in owl flew ahead, and landed in a nearby treetop, also now revealed to me from where I was crouching. I could see both moving as they called back and forth, we, with the third calling from a bit farther south, out of my view. I guess I made the fourth. This went on for a few minutes before the two closest, one and then the other, flew back towards what I imagined to be their nest at the back of our acreage in a very large Douglas Fir tree. By now it was about 7 AM. I recognized this was their dawn song, and I was blessed too be able to sing with them this morning. I slowly walked in the direction of the back acreage and found myself in a spontaneous prayer: thank you brothers…thank you sisters…from nature, to nature, in nature…thank you.

Curiously, along with several other associations to Endrick, when I tried Googling the name Endrick, I found references to Endrick Water, or the River Endrick, a river which flows into the eastern end of Loch Lomond, Scotland. I enjoyed the association I was connecting with an ancient salmon run. On this note, “Magic Words“, a Netsilik Eskimo Poem comes to mind.

Comment on Three Crones Dream Below

September 19, 2019

In a comment from below, Anarkali offered: “As an archetypal astrologer, I see you have noted the date and time of this dream. Be interesting to study the transit chart to see what was caught in your dream.”

I find this suggestion fascinating, as it seems the option of checking the stars on that now remote time and space would be a wonderful way to think about the collective influences, as reflected in/through the dreamer’s (me) consciousness. In the interest of this being a dialogue, I have reached out via email to Anarkali about a consultation.

The opening dream setting and imagery suggests the archetypal layer of consciousness: three crones in a space that is both ancient and contemporary in some parts of the world, the curved knives indicating iron age or more recent. The consciousness reflected in “we understand we are dead, or have died, and its not a problem for us” is an other worldly, dream time consciousness. The ritual with intention aspect offered during this current time of such global turmoil, with sacrifices being suffered in so many unconscious ways, pull for some witnessing consciousness. What are we to make of the onslaught of violence against others and all of nature? The initiated choose to suffer these symbolic deaths with consciousness and meaning. What might the stars tell us? I am open.

Recent Comment and (Un)Ease of Dialogue

September 16, 2019

I received an interesting comment/reflection from ES recently in response to my Complexes page, and while I generated my own reflection on his issue, it took me a while to find the origin post/page, in order to see our exchange. What comes to mind is how I would like to have a more accessible “general” comments flow, perhaps visible on the top page above the latest post. I will be working on how to accomplish this with the WordPress Happiness Engineers. Note my pages, found to the right, are fixed. Below them are my posts from most recent on back, and below them are my source quotes, close to alphabetized by author or topic.

Thank you for your patience!