Archive for the ‘Conscious Enactment’ category

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.

Enactment: Problem AND Solution?

January 6, 2020

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!

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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.

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!

Making a Case for Trauma Complexes: Mending the Tear that Always shows…

June 12, 2019

I just decided to open this with a Neal Young lyric from Round and Round.

“Round and round and round we spin,
To weave a wall to hem us in,
It won’t be long, it won’t be long
How slow and slow and slow it goes,
To mend the tear that always shows.
It won’t be long, it won’t be long.”

What is with mending the tear that always shows? I am thinking this tear that always shows captures symbolically the universal experience of the time we encountered something beyond our emotional breaking point. Then, something has to give; symbolically, a tear accommodates this unbearable strain. Stein and Stein, in their discussion of Psychotherapy, Initiation and the Midlife Transition, suggest that these days, in the absence of formal rights of passage rituals for most westerners, the therapy setting can provide the container for transformative ritual processes. They reference the art and science of maieutics – midwifery – as an image for containing and supporting psyche in what is essentially a birthing process: the ego suffers a symbolic death in the process of getting more deeply connected to the guiding Self. The greater consciousness (Self) can not come through the lessor (ego) without a death.

I have suggested that in the absence of good enough ritual elders, traumas can be lived through, but remain essentially incomplete intitiatory 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.

Had an elder been present at the time of the original insult/injury, something like an episiotomy might have been indicated and offered, to mange the inevitability of the tear, in the service of enabling the birth of the greater awareness, while minimizing the scar tissue.

Here, below, I am trying on the idea that our universal challenge is each of us has suffered a tear somewhere along the way. For me, this tear points to the reality one has suffered through, survived, a core wound; this is a wound of disconnect. We then put in place all manner of workarounds.  Might we just accept and support, together, recognizing any and all lost and/or rejected parts of ourselves? (see not-me (Bromberg) For me the Bromberg frame recognizes all kinds of highly individualized modules of being,waiting to be invited back in; what I am talking about here is the idea that there is indeed a primary, ground zero tear that is the tear that always shows.

I believe Robert Johnson has describe this as the Fisher King wound; the wound which never heals, experienced/received at the time we first registered an emotional overwhelm which our consciousness at the time could not contain.

Walking it through:

You know, we’ve all had our troubles.

Something comes along, at some point, that you just can’t hold; consciousness is ruptured, overwhelmed; one becomes two.

Blessed psyche – blessed as in life saving – comes in and facilitates, manages, finesses this tear; we get split, disconnected, separated within our self. Symbolically, this psychological dismemberment is recorded as a death.

New defenses arise, support workarounds, adaptations. We get through, or not.

These wound-generated defenses form the basis of the partial cure. Partial in that it employs dissociation to cover up the reality of the now-buried-to-consciousness disconnect. Amnesia assists, amnesia for the amnesia enables. We go about our business.

For some, perhaps many or even most, this partial cure may be enough.

But, the fact is, until we can gain access, debride and bring healing into the primary wound, we will be characterologically challenged. Incapable of risking vulnerability, self-self and self-other communications will be burdened by an unseen constraint/constriction.

The partial cure at best functions as kind of governor on one’s ability to feel the feelings which inform emotional intimacy.

Healing this split requires we bridge this divide with consciousness.

Bridging the divide starts with bearing witness to the reality of the chasm.

Creating, embracing a mature consciousness which can priortize staying grounded enough, connected enough, safe enough, to hold the energies of the original split without splitting, is a big first step. This is the place of bearing witness. We recognize the importance of learning to open and hold steady, as we can, in the experience of an immersion into the images and affects which required the split at the time of the overwhelm. Rilke’s image of A Man Watching comes to mind here:

“I can tell by the way the trees beat, after
so many dull days, on my worried windowpanes
that a storm is coming,
and I hear the far-off fields say things
I can’t bear without a friend,
I can’t love without a sister.”

How can we hear, bear, love, in the face of such distress?

Our work is with the partial cure until such time as we can gain access to the hidden disconnect. I am thinking Jung and Donald Kalsched’s work with the divided self complex frame* is about this issue at a radical level. Perhaps it will be helpful to think about a hierarchical short list of events/episodes/scenes contributing to the composite divided self complex.

Accessing the split off trauma complex, suffering an affective immersion into the dissociated experience, heals the split. (See Sandner/Beebe on healing splits)

Understanding conceptually that increasing consciousness and well being puts one in the position to surface one’s inventory of split off episodes of trauma, one by one, sounds daunting. Really? Must I/we go there?

Gaining access to original, encapsulated scenes requires a shift in the defenses that have been deployed to maintain the encapsulation. In his discussions about the nature of Sacred Space, Robert Moore observed when sacred space is present, that which is a source of conflict for the individual or group will come in; sacred space pulls for the de-structuring of the ego, which in turn then allows for contact with that which is seeking to come into awareness. See Eliade.

With the piercing of the encapsulation, a direct, re-experiencing of the wounding becomes possible; the image and affect scene/picture of the whole-body-being-torn-in-two, the primary split, comes into view.

The experience of the relaxing of the typically decades long defense against re-membering the reality of the wound already suffered, is usually accompanied by a profound sense of relief, as one finally gets to consciously know what one has always known. This coming home to one’s self is the felt experience of re-establishing the connection with one’s lost self.

It is the completion of the incomplete initiatory experience.

*This link connects to a short essay I wrote about my divided self complex and includes references to Kalsched’s work in Trauma and the Soul, Kalsched, D. (2013) London: Routledge.

The Importance of Getting Triggered

September 15, 2018

Thinking about my conceptual frame Couple Experiential State Complex as Activated Threshold, I have been struck this week by the importance of focusing on tracking when we, self and others, get emotionally triggered.

By using the word triggered, I am hoping to tap into our collective, universal sense of knowing we are getting hijacked by something intensely emotional. As in getting one’s button(s) pushed.

A classic extreme example referenced in the early diagnostic manual for PTSD is if you were raped in an elevator, just seeing an elevator can evoke or trigger intense emotional and physiological reactions.

I have been making the case a spike in emotional intensity is the simplest indication we are activating/activated, announcing to all who can perceive, the presence of the blur.

From this perspective, if/when a microfracture in communication pulls us into a blur state, how can we recognize the conflict as meaningful? Might this really be an unbidden, spontaneous opportunity for healing? What if there is no such thing as fighting over little stuff?

Fred Kaufman has a post on LinkedIn Every Emotion Is A Love Story. I find this to be a great opener. If we can trust the emotion is right, but our consciousness of context and setting may be confused, we can turn our energies towards trying to drop into the deeper story. As Rumi advises in A Night Full of Talking: Everything has to do with loving and not loving. If we try on making the case the emotion is correct, how can we access the trauma complex driving the blur? Under what circumstances is this present overwhelming emotion appropriate?

Preparing oneself to enter into such a healing moment includes learning to see the power struggle as a co-created complex. From this perspective, the ritualistic elements reflect what we think of as repetition compulsions or re-enactments of the wounding. In alignment with Bromberg’s description of co-created dissociative enactments, these serve to bring the essence of the original wounding, with it’s associated transference and countertransference dance, palpably into the present moment.

In his discussion of the complexes, in their favorable aspect, John Perry observes: “The repetition compulsion, as has been pointed out so often, provides the ego the occasion again and again to encounter these rejected components of development in order finally to assimilate them in some happy moments….” My sense of what he means by “rejected components of development” is simply the recognition the absence of an elder presence allowed the violation to overwhelm the vulnerable child or adult, necessitating the activation of archetypal layer defenses, ie: a trauma complex. What was needed at the time to understand and work through the emotional overwhelm is still needed. I have played with this in thinking about the function  complexes serve in my Musing on Metamorphosis: the Complex as Chrysalis post. I have to confess for me, teleology is a big word! But, I believe it works!

In closing, I have included the graphic above to highlight the Participation Mystique &/or Trauma Portal detail.  We are all involved all of the time with some deeper level of consciousness, a multiplicity of self-states if you will, which wants to inform us about what more is going on. Because I tend to think about getting hijacked into negative emotion enactments, I find the idea getting triggered serves the blur’s function in opening a portal into the associated trauma. The repetitive couple complex enactments do seem to provide a portal into our most painful relationship failings.

Clearly, we need each other to approach going there. What is needed may be as simple, and as difficult, as dropping into the original scene, so that we may feel all of it, within relationship, bear witness together, and get the story told. (See Sandner and Beebe for an articulation of what it takes to heal a split.) This reflects the conceptual notion traumas, until they can be suffered consciously in the service of re-integration, are incomplete initiatory experiences. Creating the conditions, essentially accessing a consciousness that can bear to suffer the wounding without splitting, is the work.

If we can only hold onto the here and now, this world enactment – what you/he/she/they did or did not do to uphold our loving – we are doomed to continue with our co-created dissociated enactments.

Why not make a dedicated effort to sit with our deeper selves? We have to find a way to get to what was my part in initiating or participating in the dissociation just now? Can we strive to bear to feel as vulnerable as we may be feeling? To be continued…

Psychoanalysis … Always looks for the egg … In a basket … That has been lost*

July 9, 2018

This aphorism referenced by Philip Bromberg on the last page of his book, The Shadow of the Tsunami, sets the stage for a paragraph discussion which I do find remarkable in it’s capturing of the process which I picture as the meaning behind the importance of waking up within the blur:

“For over 100 years, psychoanalysts were trained to talk to their patients about an inferred basket–an inferred unconscious–through associations and interpretations. Discovering the “egg,” which analysts have chosen to term unconscious fantasy, has been the endeavor said to demonstrate that even though what is unconscious is lost to direct observation its contents can be pieced together. At this point in the evolution of psychoanalysis, however, 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 cocreated through enactment.” (my italics)

I want to quote a bit more below, but right now, I am pondering the image “…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 cocreated through enactment.” I appreciate this frame in it’s suggestion that what needs our attention is palpably present in “the symbolization of a dissociated relational process … mutually cocreated through enactment.” From a cocreated system perspective, for me, this is the blur. It seems what’s needed is for us to work together to increase our tolerance of being in the dissociative soup together.