Archive for the ‘Conscious Enactment’ category

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.

Philip Bromberg on Self – States

June 19, 2018

Source quote plus comment:

“If an analyst is listening carefully he will often be aware that a sudden change in ‘topic’ is accompanied by a change in self-presentation, including affect but by no means limited to it. From my frame of reference, what is taking place is defined neither by the change in topic nor the change in affect but a switch in self – states and in the respective realities that organize them. One’s clinical ear hears the voice of another part of self and has the opportunity to invite it into relationship by accepting it in its own terms rather than talking about it as though the part that has just emerged is simply a change in mood. For those who are not yet totally at home with how the concept of self – state is different from a shift in affect or mood, let me offer a one sentence clarification: Self – states are highly individualized modules of being, each configured by its own organization of cognitions, beliefs, dominant affect and mood, access to memory, skills, behaviors, values, actions, and regulatory physiology. (Chuck’s bold)

When all has gone well developmentally, each self – state is compatible enough with the modes of being that are held by other self – states, to allow overarching coherence across self – states, which in turn creates the capacity for sustaining the experience of internal conflict. In treatment, however, when proactively protective dissociation is operating, self – state shifts are most likely to reach the analyst’s perceptual awareness if he is able to freely engage his patient with the stance of participant – observer. Or so I contend. Why should this be the case? Because the shifts may be discerned initially not as something in the patient, but as a destabilization of the analyst’s own mental processes, an awareness of discomfort that he does not immediately recognize is a discomfort that is linking him to his patient through a dissociative enactment that is taking place while they are participating at a verbal level.” Page 72-73.

Comment: I will be creating a separate page for this source quote at some point. For now, I wanted to get it posted in anticipation of commenting on it from the perspective of more language and theory about others, entities, agents, archetypes, components making up experiential state scenes, figures populating the nuclei of complexes, and the images and affects associated with invarient organizing principles. My interest in the blur reflects my tracking of the importance of finding a way to embrace these less conscious beings that keep trying to show up in the service of winning back as much of our lost selves as humanly possible.

Reading that last line above and my choice in using the language “less conscious beings” I am struck with the need to clarify “from who’s perspective?” The challenge is recognizing that these beings have their own consciousness. It’s more of a question of how much awareness, on a continuum, might we have in a given moment of their presence or influence. Something like that. 

Philip Bromberg, The Shadow of the Tsunami and the Growth of the Relational Mind. 2011.

Prince Lindworm: A Robert Bly Story Telling and Interpretation

January 26, 2018

This is a 38 minute YouTube audio tape of Robert Bly working the story known as Prince Lindworm. The description provided notes this is: “a parable of your relationship with the hostile twin coiled inside you—who was cast away during childhood, who waits years before roaring back into your life and begins swallowing those around you.” The story is … “Followed by an in-depth discussion of the story’s meaning at the 1993 Minnesota Men’s Conference. http://www.minnesotamensconference.com

I will be adding a few comments at a later date .

Standing up to complexes is always very difficult.

Take Two: Conscious Enactment

December 10, 2016

Conscious Enactment: from the Blur to Healing and Wholeness

What do I mean by the concept of  conscious enactment?

Let’s start with what it isn’t. Take a moment to reflect on an encounter with the blur.

When the blur is working, we believe in the reality of the manifest content. This means what gets our attention is our here and now problem, and our best guidance is too call it out and commit to resolving it together through conscious action. Sounds good. But, from the dream time perspective, if either of us has a sense of there is more here, something about the tone and intensity of the problem or need, then we want to consider the blur aspect.

This means examining the difficulty from the perspective of microfractures in communication.

What is being shown through the blur is an out-picturing of an original wounding episode(s). Psyche’s shorthand is to reduce this to an experiential state scene: something has happened, self and composite other are captured with expressions reflecting the core primary affects associated with the scene, eg: shame, abandonment, fear, anxiety.

This is the layer of the latent content.

In short, I am proposing conscious enactment as the intention to revisit the blur for the purpose of  surfacing the underlying experiential state driver of the microfracture.

Hence, take two. We want to embrace as many takes as it takes(!) to satisfy the opening and experience the deeper affects and witnessing attendant to the recovery of split off emotional life.

One more important idea: from the co-created system perspective, it is helpful to consider each participant is contributing to the core material being evoked through the blur. When consciousness can not contain an activation, if the complex is allowed to expand and split, then the figures in the experiential state, eg: raging/abandoning parent and reactive terrified child, will each attempt to hijack the ego and command the bus. When this happens, with the split, the “other” is projected onto the environment. We are both at risk for being possessed by either of the complex entities. This dance is now in the service of the re-enactment of the wounding. When one can see the blur as a kind of threshold, the opportunity for deeper healing is at hand.

In calling for Conscious Enactment, I am proposing we turn our attention to identifying the experiential state component hypothesized to be driving any blur state.

How directly might we make the shift from wound/defense to opening to the opportunity to have the most longed for dialogue? Can we imagine what would be the most satisfying expression of connection for both parties? This is the guiding image take two: conscious enactment strives for through this consciously authentic encounter. We can’t will it to occur, but it seems we can create the conditions to support dropping into the depth of the wound and then/there, bring something to the moment which was unavailable at the time of the wounding. This is what heals the complex, in some happy moment.

The micro-fracture in communication again offers a simple template: ruptures are the way in, repair and reconciliation of both the present and original wound the way to wholeness and health. More to follow…