Emotion as Merely “Intimation of Meaning”?

Posted March 27, 2017 by chuckbenderms
Categories: Uncategorized

Here is an exquisite observation from Perry on the difficulty and importance of striving to stay conscious particularly when feeling pressure from emotion generated by the blur:

“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 is 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?

A Little Shadow Talk: “Trailing Clouds of Glory”

Posted February 2, 2017 by chuckbenderms
Categories: Uncategorized

In A Little Book On The Human Shadow (1988), Robert Bly opens with a few images capturing our energetic beginnings. The shadow, from a Jungian perspective, may be simply all that is unconscious in us. Bly references Alice Miller’s work The Drama of the Gifted Child. (See “the truth about our childhood is stored in our bodies…

“Let’s talk about the personal shadow first. When we were one or two years old we had what we might visualize as a 360° personality. Energy radiated out from all parts of our body and all parts of our psyche. A child running is a living globe of energy. We had a ball of energy, alright; but one day we noticed that our parents didn’t like certain parts of that ball. They said things like: ‘Can’t you be still?’ Or ‘It isn’t nice to try and kill your brother.’ Behind us we have an invisible bag, and the part of us our parents don’t like, we, to keep her parents’ love, put in the bag. By the time we go to school our bag is quite large. Then our teachers have their say: ‘Good children don’t get angry over such little things.’ By the time my brother and I were twelve in Madison, Minnesota we were known as ‘the nice Bly boys.’ Our bags were already a mile long.”

“The drama is this. We came as infants ‘trailing clouds of glory,’ arriving from the farthest reaches of the universe, bringing with us appetites well preserved from our mammal inheritance, spontaneities wonderfully preserved from our 150,000 years of tree life, angers well preserved from our 5,000 years of tribal life – in short, with our 360° radiance – and we offered this gift to our parents. They didn’t want it. They wanted a nice girl or a nice boy. That’s the first act of the drama. It doesn’t mean our parents were wicked: they needed us for something. My mother, as a second-generation immigrant, needed my brother and me to help the family look more classy. We do the same thing to our children; it’s a part of life on this planet. Our parents rejected who we were before we could talk, so the pain of the rejection is probably stored in some pre–verbal place.”

Comment: Rediscovering and saying YES to our “living globes of energy” experience can be one of the best parts of the recovery journey. Can we dedicate ourselves to celebrate the emergence of these energies today, with each other?

The Partial Cure Problem (revisited)

Posted February 1, 2017 by chuckbenderms
Categories: Connecting the Dots Series, Uncategorized

I am bringing this February 2016 post forward in preparation for exploring in a future post the dynamics associated with dueling partial cures. It is as if we marry with the belief the beloved will be able to bring out our best, and then, each can’t help but resist at all costs.

In his essay on working with trauma in analysis, Donald Kalsched touches on the importance of recognizing the partial cure problem: “However we visualize it, the self care system accomplishes a partial cure of trauma, enough so that life continues, despite dissociation and its effects in limiting a person’s full potential. When people come for psychoanalysis they often don’t know that this partial cure is in place, nor do they expect that their identities, informed for many years by ‘interpretation’ from the self care system, will have to be ‘deconstructed’ in the course of therapy.” (my italics)

In reality, most people will not be afforded the option of analysis. Still, we all will struggle with the price of psyche’s solution enabling us to survive unbearable trauma: until we are able to rewire the disconnect we will be unable to truly be vulnerable again. This opening to re-connection process necessitates a level of conscious remembering and suffering through the original wound(s).

The partial cure is very useful place to start in framing up the problem:

  1. Consider the core defense system constructed to bring us through and into adult life is informed by interpretations from psyche’s self care system;
  2. This defense is the mechanism by which we maintain the original(s) split;
  3. This split, or what we can think of as a core disconnect, is the evidence of continued existence of trauma contained in encapsulated episodic memories;
  4. These encapsulated episodic memories – by definition hidden from conscious view – inform/contaminate our emotional responses to here and now moments in the emergence of the blur;
  5. By design, to the degree they are well encapsulated, we cannot directly access the original wound;
  6. If we think in terms of image and affect, the scene of the original wound, as an overwhelming emotional experience, swallowed whole, is the episodic memory in need of effective encapsulation.
  7. Perhaps psyche’s encapsulation function has its equivalency in nature in the oyster’s ability to create a (see) pearl: “A natural pearl begins its life inside an oyster’s shell when an intruder, such as a grain of sand or bit of floating food, slips in between one of the two shells of the oyster … and the protective layer that covers the … organs, called the mantle. In order to protect itself from irritation, the oyster will quickly begin covering the uninvited visitor with layers of nacre — the mineral substance that fashions the mollusk’s shells. Layer upon layer of nacre, also known as mother-of-pearl, coat the grain of sand until the iridescent gem is formed.”
  8. In this respect, the partial cure could be imaged as a complex set of defenses which, layer upon layer over time, serve to maintain the disconnect with the help of the encapsulation. What this means is we can function, in spite of the fact the intruding/invasive irritant is still present.
  9. The inability to remember significant traumatic experiences suggests to me the partial cure facilitated disconnect is still being employed to protect us from the historically overwhelming original wound(s).
  10. Until we can find a way to reconnect, it is as if one’s most sensitive, loving, vulnerable little kid, in essence the human embodiment of the divine child, remains lost, kidnapped, somehow locked out of the present moment.

Source: J. Shedler On the Efficacy of Psychodynamic Psychotherapy

Posted December 18, 2016 by chuckbenderms
Categories: Uncategorized

Jonathan Shedler, Ph.D. has written an excellent review of psychotherapy outcomes. His description of essential elements characterizing a psychodynamic approach are accompanied by an in depth review of the psychotherapy outcome literature (see link above).

“Distinctive Features of Psychodynamic Technique

Psychodynamic or psychoanalytic psychotherapy refers to a range of treatments based on psychoanalytic concepts and methods that involve less frequent meetings and may be considerably briefer than psychoanalysis proper. Session frequency is typically once or twice per week, and the treatment may be either time limited or open ended. The essence of psychodynamic therapy is exploring those aspects of self that are not fully known, especially as they are manifested and potentially influenced in the therapy relationship…

…Seven features reliably distinguished psychodynamic therapy from other therapies, as determined by empirical examination of actual session recordings and transcripts (note that the features listed below concern process and technique only, not underlying principles that inform these techniques; for a discussion of concepts and principles, see Gabbard, 2004; McWilliams, 2004; Shedler, 2006a):

1. Focus on affect and expression of emotion. Psychodynamic therapy encourages exploration and discussion of the full range of a patient’s emotions. The therapist helps the patient describe and put words to feelings, including contradictory feelings, feelings that are troubling or threatening, and feelings that the patient may not initially be able to recognize or acknowledge (this stands in contrast to a cognitive focus, where the greater emphasis is on thoughts and beliefs; Blagys & Hilsenroth, 2002; Burum & Goldfried, 2007). There is also a recognition that intellectual insight is not the same as emotional insight, which resonates at a deep level and leads to change (this is one reason why many intelligent and psychologically minded people can explain the reasons for their difficulties, yet their understanding does not help them overcome those difficulties).

2. Exploration of attempts to avoid distressing thoughts and feelings. People do a great many things, knowingly and unknowingly, to avoid aspects of experience that are troubling. This avoidance (in theoretical terms, defense and resistance) may take coarse forms, such as missing sessions, arriving late, or being evasive. It may take subtle forms that are difficult to recognize in ordinary social discourse, such as subtle shifts of topic when certain ideas arise, focusing on incidental aspects of an experience rather than on what is psychologically meaningful, attending to facts and events to the exclusion of affect, focusing on external circumstances rather than one’s own role in shaping events, and so on. Psychodynamic therapists actively focus on and explore avoidances.

3. Identification of recurring themes and patterns. Psychodynamic therapists work to identify and explore recurring themes and patterns in patients’ thoughts, feelings, self-concept, relationships, and life ex-periences. In some cases, a patient may be acutely aware of recurring patterns that are painful or self-defeating but feel unable to escape them (e.g., a man who repeatedly finds himself drawn to romantic partners who are emotionally unavailable; a woman who regularly sabotages herself when success is at hand). In other cases, the patient may be unaware of the patterns until the therapist helps him or her recognize and understand them.

4. Discussion of past experience (developmental focus). Related to the identification of recurring themes and patterns is the recognition that past experience, especially early experiences of attachment figures, affects our relation to, and experience of, the present. Psychodynamic therapists explore early experiences, the relation between past and present, and the ways in which the past tends to “live on” in the present. The focus is not on the past for its own sake, but rather on how the past sheds light on current psychological difficulties. The goal is to help patients free themselves from the bonds of past experience in order to live more fully in the present.

5. Focus on interpersonal relations. Psychodynamic therapy places heavy emphasis on patients’ relationships and interpersonal experience (in theoretical terms, object relations and attachment). Both adaptive and nonadaptive aspects of personality and self-concept are forged in the context of attachment relationships, and psychological difficulties often arise when problematic interpersonal patterns interfere with a person’s ability to meet emotional needs.

6. Focus on the therapy relationship. The relationship between therapist and patient is itself an important interpersonal relationship, one that can become deeply meaningful and emotionally charged. To the extent that there are repetitive themes in a person’s relationships and manner of interacting, these themes tend to emerge in some form in the therapy relationship. For example, a person prone to distrust others may view the therapist with suspicion; a person who fears disapproval, rejection, or abandonment may fear rejection by the therapist, whether knowingly or unknowingly; a person who struggles with anger and hostility may struggle with anger toward the therapist; and so on (these are relatively crude examples; the repetition of interpersonal themes in the therapy relationship is often more complex and subtle than these examples suggest). The recurrence of interpersonal themes in the therapy relationship (in theoretical terms, transference and countertransference) provides a unique opportunity to explore and rework them in vivo. The goal is greater flexibility in interpersonal relationships and an enhanced capacity to meet interpersonal needs.

7. Exploration of fantasy life. In contrast to other therapies in which the therapist may actively structure sessions or follow a predetermined agenda, psychodynamic therapy encourages patients to speak freely about whatever is on their minds. When patients do this (and most patients require considerable help from the therapist before they can truly speak freely), their thoughts naturally range over many areas of mental life, including desires, fears, fantasies, dreams, and daydreams (which in many cases the patient has not previously attempted to put into words). All of this material is a rich source of information about how the person views self and others, interprets and makes sense of experience, avoids aspects of experience, or interferes with a potential capacity to find greater enjoyment and meaning in life.

The last sentence hints at a larger goal that is implicit in all of the others: The goals of psychodynamic therapy include, but extend beyond, symptom remission. Successful treatment should not only relieve symptoms (i.e., get rid of something) but also foster the positive presence of psychological capacities and resources. Depending on the person and the circumstances, these might include the capacity to have more fulfilling relationships, make more effective use of one’s talents and abilities, maintain a realistically based sense of self-esteem, tolerate a wider range of affect, have more satisfying sexual experiences, understand self and others in more nuanced and sophisticated ways, and face life’s challenges with greater freedom and flexibility. Such ends are pursued through a process of self-reflection, self-exploration, and self-discovery that takes place in the context of a safe and deeply authentic relationship between therapist and patient. (For a jargon- free introduction to contemporary psychodynamic thought, see That Was Then, This Is Now: Psychoanalytic Psycho- therapy for the Rest of Us [Shedler, 2006a, which is freely available for download at http://psychsystems.net/shedler. html]).”

In My View, the Experiential State Complex Generates the Blur

Posted December 10, 2016 by chuckbenderms
Categories: Uncategorized

There, I’ve said it more simply than ever before. I am working on my essay on the importance of the observation healing only occurs in the blur.

This is why we need to learn to work with/in the blur. An expectation to become conscious enough to avoid the blur is doomed to fail. Very much like the movie The Sixth Sense, our unfinished emotional business will show up to haunt us at some point. In reality, it is always present if we can but perceive. Best to prepare for these encounters up front.

At some point psyche will make a move, or, as Alice Miller puts it, the body will present its bill:

“The truth about our childhood is stored up in our body, and although we can repress it, we can never alter it. Our 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.” (Miller, Alice, Thou Shalt Not Be Aware)

Recall the point of remembering is not to establish blame and then shame on “you.” Rather we want to embrace our full experience; call back into awareness lost parts of our deep emotional selves. As D.H. Lawrence phrased it in his poem Healing:

“I am not a mechanism, an assembly of various sections.

And it is not because the mechanism is working wrongly, that I am ill.

I am ill because of wounds to the soul, to the deep emotional self…”

The blur brings the core of the original wounding into the present.

Take Two: Conscious Enactment

Posted December 10, 2016 by chuckbenderms
Categories: Complexes and More, Connecting the Dots Series, Conscious Enactment, Uncategorized

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…

Sacred Space pulls for the De-structuring of the Ego

Posted December 6, 2016 by chuckbenderms
Categories: Uncategorized

We need language to frame the special conditions which allow us to access core emotional wounds, so that we may heal. For me, this is an ego-Self reunion state issue.

The “de-structuring” of the ego refers to a shift in consciousness which supports a dis-identification with the ego, the known, and an experience of the not-self, or non-ego.

In the Sandner/Beebe discussion about what it takes to heal a split, we can picture and imagine how painful it will be to suffer a direct reconnecting with original trauma episode(s). The wounds of overwhelm, intense enough to trigger a temporary amnesia, a petite symbolic death, are split off from consciousness. What is required to heal that split is the return into consciousness of the lost experience. Without enough consciousness to contain such a direct experience, this return will be re-traumatizing. With enough consciousness and containment, one may now suffer directly the re-membering of the original dismembering experience. Bearing witness and giving the experience it’s grief  is what allows the split to be healed. Jung’s discussion of abreaction as insufficient still holds true.