Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

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.

A Conversation…

May 30, 2018

Every now and again I’m reminded that somehow this “blog“ adventure needs to move into a conversation. Granted, it starts with my wanting to engage with community around stuff that comes to mind for me out of my sitting with patients. I have these, to me, juicy thoughts about stuff that I want to write about and I’m not at a point where I can take the time to research it well enough to I call it an opinion paper or essay. I want to practice being more spontaneous about it, posting it, and letting it go without obsessing about what it could be with more effort and editing. That’s it for this brief entry!

Confronting Personal and Spiritual Grandiosity (Robert Moore)

January 30, 2018

I recently came across a couple of Robert Moore audio presentations entitled: The Dragon of Grandiosity and Facing the Dragon.

This link will take you to the Minnesota Men’s Conferences website.

His insights, offered to a men’s gathering, are previews of his book Facing the Dragon: Confronting Personal and Spiritual Grandiosity.


Differentiating Feeling from Emotion

December 13, 2017

Below is a copy of my page with the same title. I wanted to bring this forward to highlight the last couple of paragraphs exploring the meaning of Perry’s quote: “From the fire of the passionate life grows the light of awareness, but the activeness of the ego’s attitude decides the gains or losses. If the ego is passive and allows the contents to remain habitually ensconced in their emotional form, there may be only gain on the side of the unconscious. In their emotional form the images remain merely intimations of meaning; one can speak of true understanding only when the meaning is recognized by an active ego-consciousness and adopted into its structure of values and meanings. Instead of passively allowing an affect-ego to relate to the affect-object, without the effort of understanding, the active ego intervenes, insisting upon an assimilation of the meaning over a period of time.” (My italics)

Page: In light of the idea that the presence of emotion may be the most accessible and reliable indicator the unconscious is activating, learning to differentiate feeling from emotion or affect becomes a first order priority.

Recall, on the differentiation of feeling from emotion, Perry, with help from Jung, observes:

“. . . feeling is of a different order from that of emotion; feeling is a function of consciousness, and – to the degree to which it is differentiated – has the quality of choice and intentionality in judgments of value.” J W Perry p.2

“. . . emotions are the activity of the unconscious, the non-ego” (Jung, 1907)

“. . . emotions are autonomous and happen to the ego without its bidding, and the ego is the recipient of the impact of the emotions” (Jung, 1939, 1943).

“. . . we think of the unconscious as being the autonomous psyche, and it can as well be called the emotional psyche.”

Before moving into thinking about the problem of emotion and importance of discerning feeling from emotion, consider the following quote that captures emotion in its fullness:

(Jung) “…conflict engenders fire, the fire of affects and emotions, and like every other fire, it has two aspects, that of combustion and that of creating light…for emotion is the chief source of consciousness. There is no change from darkness to light or from inertia to movement without emotion…” (Perry paper)

For me the observation “there is no change from darkness to light or from inertia to movement without emotion” supports directly the importance of developing one’s capacity to work within the blur. In recognizing emotion as an essential element to this process, we might imagine encountering the blur as something like this: the fire of the emotion generates light; the light in turn, when we can bear to look into it deeply, guides us to the discovery of the missing component of development. For this to be revealed requires we bring a witnessing consciousness to the scene of emotion; this allows the activation to be suffered directly; this in turn reveals the original scene, and thereby the suffering becomes meaningful. In this moment, if/when we can pay attention to the depth of the self-other experience in its fullness, what needs to happen can happen. This time, after all this time, it is as if the help that saves the day shows up in the nick of time. Now, all is understood. It all makes sense in this happy moment.

And now back to the difficulty at hand. A trial acceptance of this premise – emotion = activation – equates with making a personal commitment to withdrawing one’s energy from an escalating power struggle. This means choosing to surrender the ego’s position of needing to make a point, and doing everything possible to acknowledge the presence of an unconscious driver. This is in the service of activating the power of witnessing consciousness. Let’s try that descriptor on for this function.

In terms of understanding what generates the emotion, Perry observes:

“. . . I find the occurrence of any emotion to consist of the interplay between two complexes. . . The subject experiences the affect that belongs to the complex with which the ego aligns itself, and assigns the other pole to the object. During the emotion the energetic value of the ego is lessened, and that of the complex heightened, and in this situation one should speak of an interrelation of an affect-ego and an affect-object.”

When you sense the presence of a feeling tone, what Perry is calling an interrelation of an affect-ego and an affect-object, perhaps having noticed clear evidence of someone’s  ego powering down, including your own, you may still have a choice to try not to surrender your own consciousness. While a melt down in process may be very obvious, it is surprising how often all of us seem willing to abandon ship and jump in, contributing our material to strengthen the power of the complex. As if a perfect storm will help the situation. (see Emotion and Invulnerability to Fire page)

The couple complex image as symbol puts the experiential state complex graphic back into the bodies of the two who find themselves engaged at the level of the participation mystique. The experiential state complex image in the center of the two then represents the interplay of two complexes, in the moment. For me this suggests the blur exits both in self and other, with the central image standing in for both parties complexes.


The Persona Submitting to Emotion plate views this scene  from the perspective of an individual Experiential State Complex.

If/when one is unable to stay conscious enough to contain an activation, the complex splits and is at risk for moving out into the room. When one pole hijacks the originator’s ego, the other pole is projected onto the object or environment. If the other unwittingly introjects the projected content, the “offering,” it is likely the re-enactment of the wounding will take place. I have positioned the symbol for the complex between the two parties, indicating the scene is under the spell of the originator’s complex image and affect.

Side note: Remember projection and introjection by definition refer to the unconscious aspects/layers of our process.  In that sense, intojection is always unwitting, as we don’t recognize we have just absorbed a projected content. We are always becoming aware of this, as intuition senses this. Really tuning in to this level can be hazardness, perhaps along the lines of the difficulty captured by William Stafford in his observation: “I call it cruel, and perhaps the root of all cruelty, to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.”

The teaching moment here is to support developing a sensitivity to picking up on this early enough to intervene with awareness. When we are conscious enough to see it coming our way, we have many options. If one misses reading the signals, and one’s own unfinished emotional business provides a hook for the projection to catch on, the stage is set for the enactment.

This is the mechanism of projective identification. While I understand there are severe forms of this defense, which is very difficult when fully activated, I find it helpful and useful to consider something of this gets constellated, at a less intense level, more frequently than we might think. Here, an intolerably painful self assessment, unable to be thought about directly, gets projected onto you, and then my experience of you is you are looking at me as if I were x, y, or z, in perfect alignment with the projected critical judgement. I feel hurt, upset, misunderstood by you, and you are going to hear about it! This dynamic also could be understood as an exteriorization of the inner antagonist.

The Couple Experiential State Complex suggests another layer of complexity, reflecting an established co-created complex. This recognizes the fact of the couple’s shared history of activations; over time these have contributed significant material to the original individual complexes (see Stein on Complexes page.) While life partners have time to notice the ritualistic, repetition compulsion aspects to their communication breakdowns, it seems activations with strangers can be every bit as problematic, if not devastating. In fact, it is quite common to get lined up on your complex at home, bringing enough consciousness to it to recognize the blur, only to then have it activated somewhere on the road. We want to try to contain this deeper work within our personal and couple’s process. When these activations occur “out there”, the goal is to recognize the “exteriorized inner antagonist” and bring him/her home.

Here is another lengthy but exquisite observation from Perry on the difficulty and importance of striving to stay conscious:

“From the fire of the passionate life grows the light of awareness, but the activeness of the ego’s attitude decides the gains or losses. If the ego is passive and allows the contents to remain habitually ensconced in their emotional form, there may be only gain on the side of the unconscious. In their emotional form the images remain merely intimations of meaning; one can speak of true understanding only when the meaning is recognized by an active ego-consciousness and adopted into its structure of values and meanings. Instead of passively allowing an affect-ego to relate to the affect-object, without the effort of understanding, the active ego intervenes, insisting upon an assimilation of the meaning over a period of time.” (Chuck’s italics)

If images in their emotional form are in fact mere intimations of meaning, the presence of emotion, when viewed from the position of an active ego consciousness, represents a bridge to true understanding. The emotional activation is an opportunity to deepen consciousness, moving from an intimation of meaning to the direct experience of the meaning. This how we come to self-knowledge. Might this be the most direct pathway to finding the mythological gift believed to be at the center of wound?



Embracing the Hag

November 9, 2017

Here is an interesting frame offered in the discussion following the story of Sir Gawain and the Lady Ragnell: What Do Woman Really Want. “‘Embracing the hag’ initially entails coming to terms with what is dark and frightening in oneself so that one can release the partner from the burden of carrying one’s resentment, frustration and despair. Each person needs to recognize and sort through resistance and fear of change, her or his own repressions, and the dominance of particular aspects of one’s own self.” (page 21, The Challenge to Change)

(My italics)

Young-Eisendrath, Polly, Hags and Heroes: A Feminist Approach to Jungian Psychotherapy with Couples, 1984

Archaic Human Longing in Everyday Life

August 14, 2017

I want to talk about some key concepts offered by Robert Moore years ago in a men’s workshop concerning the importance of recognizing archaic human longing. When men get together with an expectation for achieving a depth of intimacy, this ancient longing is activated. Of course this also applies to all humans.

Robert said this archaic human longing is – simply put – a longing for enthusiastic response. The notion is none of us got enough enthusiastic response growing up. (see Bly on the shadow) It seems to me you know you’re in it when you notice the intensity of your desire too be seen or known feels curiously, painfully humiliating.

In order to survive the pain of the recognition of what this must mean about us, we all develop a grandiose exhibitionistic self. We find a way to pump ourselves up, say we don’t need the enthusiastic love and acceptance of the one who would withhold this. What do you know about your grandiosity? Note this would be a compensatory grandiosity rather than a connection with true grandiosity via ego-Self reunion.

Because that defense takes so much energy, we then develop a defense against the grandiosity, dedicated to facilitating radical grounding. These two reflect something of a bipolar experience, mania followed by depression if you will.

Until we’re able to work into the core wound about not being seen and celebrated, allowing us to connect with, embody, and embrace our split off hurt feelings, confusion, and vulnerability, we are set up to rely on addiction defenses. Here, one gives up on approaching the longed for human connection, and instead substitutes an enthusiasm for X, Y, or Z. The addiction cycle keeps us busy with longing, longing satisfied, loss of satisfaction, and the inevitable crash. After some recovery time, we’re back at it.

We might say all the X, Y, and Z’s are but “counterfeits of goodness“. (Beatrice to Dante in the Divine Comedy)

Application: it’s helpful to think of these in a vertical column and always try to move up towards your longing. This means approaching as directly as you can that which is painful, most vulnerable and likely humiliating. If you find yourself in your grandiosity, ask where is my longing and go there directly.

If you find yourself in radical grounding/depression, ask where is my grandiosity as the grounding/depression experience is likely a defense against your grandiosity.

If you catch yourself in a little or big addiction cycle, think about who really matters to you and approach them directly about the enthusiasm problem.


Donald Kalsched on Early Trauma and Dreams, Part 1

June 20, 2017

Youtube offers this audio tape of Dr. Kalsched presenting on his findings. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of his formulation on psyche’s self care system archetypal protector complex. Check it out.