I co-led a day long Continuing Education Training with that title last month in Oakland. Almost 100 people attended this first ever in the United States, taxpayer funded CEU training that explored the spiritual dimensions of psychosis.
But it wasn’t preaching to the choir of those who are true believers in that possibility, because the majority in attendance were front line professional county mental health staff!
Beloved consumer/survivor and my friend of 35 years, Jay Mahler, was the force behind getting Alameda County Behavioral Health to co-sponsor such a training-along with the California Mental Health and Spirituality Initiative.
The Oakland training also grew out of an Esalen Institute workshop I put together that Jay and I, David Lukoff and Laura Mancuso did last year called- “An Integrative Approach to Psychosis and Other Transformative Spiritual Experiences.”
The statewide Spirituality and Mental Health Initiative led by Oakland co-leaders Laura Mancuso, David Lukoff and Jay, received the support of 52 county mental health directors who signed off on language that said that psychosis inherently has a spiritual dimension! That is pretty amazing.
We plan on taking this very enthusiastically received Oakland training on the road to some of those other receptive counties soon! Folks in Oregon have shown interest in us doing it there.
Those of you who may have read some of my blogs, may remember that I often ask – “If madness isn’t what psychiatry says it is, then what is it?”
Since I don’t believe in the pathologizing of my own or anyone’s human emotional suffering and madness that gets labeled mental illness, it seems that coming up with a clear understanding of, and succinct definition of our own, about what may land us in psych emergency- is vitally necessary.
If you listen to the Mental Health and Wellness Radio podcast interview of me after the Oakland workshop, I also say that believing that psychosis is only a spiritual crisis or emergency would be a similar mistake to believing what the DSM tells us.
Believing psychosis is only a spiritual experience would be an over
simplification that leaves out the dimensions of trauma, family history, dog eat dog cultural social Darwinism, issues of class, poverty, gender, race and our abiding tendency to foster shame, guilt and fear as our children’s daily bread.
So for me, as a neo-Jungian heretic, all madness has all of the above factors involved, is also a sacred mystery and by definition, whether in it’s first dramatic form or long term manifestations, is always also an archetypal, mythic inner powerful seizing of our ego and an immersion in depths of soul and spirit. Because those inner engines of emotion and soul/spirit are alive in us until our last breath, it is never too late, our emotional suffering and madness are always an opportunity for healing and growth.
In other words, like our lives themselves on this strange and wonderful planet- madness is complicated.
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.
How great to infuse the system with this perspective and information, Michael! Congrats and great luck with this. I’m hitting up the system with the issue of disenfranchisement as the core wound–first from family, then from society. Healing this spiritually is a uniquely transformative experience. The path of following the yearning and desires of the heart and spirit is rich and expansive. For those with issues of social betrayal, it can be hard to trust the process. I think there is good healing to be found here.
Thank you Alex and great luck with your important work on disenfranchisement!
Thank you! It’s a bugger, that’s for sure. It will heal as we ingegrate our duality.
I mean, ‘integrate.’
This is great news, and hopefully evidence of a turn towards discerning the nature psychosis, away from an “object” defining and mechanistic view which has lost touch with the primary process nature of the body and e-motive being. Which as you say; “is also a sacred mystery and by definition, whether in it’s first dramatic form or long term manifestations, is always also an archetypal, mythic inner powerful seizing of our ego and an immersion in depths of soul and spirit. Because those inner engines of emotion and soul/spirit are alive in us until our last breath, it is never too late, our emotional suffering and madness are always an opportunity for healing and growth.”
In my own exploration of psychosis experience, I define the process as an existential crisis first and foremost, although as a manifest form of the Cosmos itself, I do believe our existential nature is innately spiritual. Trying to interpret the experience on a subjective level though has been fraught with projections from my past learning about being human, spirituality, existential meaning, and God. As such, I keep reading, learning and trying to enable a process of sensing being me, beneath my Western mind’s egoic tendency to be judgmentally “objective.” Example:
“Forms of God:
What has occluded the recognition of the body’s primary intelligence (the logics embedded in systems such as the DNA code, as distinct from the embedded affects that intensify disorder) are the affects. They do this through the stumbling blocks they place in the way of reasoning and through a foundational fantasy understanding of form as something distinct and imposed from above, which has its effects on intellectual work. When the idea of a supersensible God was deconstructed for the fiction that it is, the deconstruction accepted terms which resulted from the splitting of mind and body, individual and environment, and codes of living logic.
Deconstruction’s poststructuralist position accepts these terms, and denies the embodied logic of the flesh. Deny it, whenever it is claimed–however tacitly–that humans are nonetheless more intelligent than that which interweaves nature’s living logic. Here, intellect is bowed down by the affects, which cut’s intellect off from the feeling, discerning mechanisms which otherwise would link language with sensations. Here, is a trend to objectification in Western psychology, which has proceeded on the basis that it is best to make people as much like objects as possible, in order to be able to study them in controlled and replicable ways. We know more about human capacities at their most mechanistic, than we do at their most subtle and refined. (p, 158.)
The fact that we ingest so much of what is not good for us as bodies, suggests that the body has been mistakenly cast as the enemy in the received understanding of Christian ascetic thought, even though mystics of Christian and other faiths discern that the opposite is true. Through sustaining living attention by concentration, the mystic enters into a timeless state which eventually yields an experience which is evidently sensual and spiritual. It seems in this experience that the soul attains its desire of union with the body, and does so through the regulation of its passions, thoughts and feelings. Yet the descriptions of such union can be read as forms of hysteria.
Descriptions of the souls union are attempts at putting such extraordinary experience–capturing some part of the union of spirit and sensuality which was lost to us with the fall into a divided mind and body–into our feeble form of inadequate words. If we have not experienced such a union of sense and soul, we will tend to read the descriptions of it as somewhat hysterical, when in fact the descriptions are of a state yet to come to us, or be found by us. Mistaken interpretation is made easily in a worldview where psyches (or souls) are seen as self-contained entities, rather than known as expressions of life’s intentions, which struggle within them. (p, 159.)
Extending attention into the flesh is simultaneously an exploration of the affects which have captured individual souls as well as crowds of souls. In such an exploration we begin to come to terms with what our age of reason and individualism has excluded from consciousness. The few deep breaths taken by Kant’s angry man represent the beginning of a vastly more extensive and conscious knowledge of bodily processes.
It is known that interference with parasympathetic regulation by anxiety or other negative affects (anger, or the inverted anger and anxiety of depression) can be lessened by attempting the conscious regulation involved in attentive breathing. The most advanced practitioners of some forms of yoga are capable of regulating areas under the control of the autonomic nervous system, such as heart rate. As these practices of pathways into bodily awareness are brought into alignment with their simultaneous intellectual exploration, we may yet come to understand what Spinoza meant by knowledge as the pathway to becoming one again with God. (p, 161.)”
Excerpts from “The Transmission of Affect” by Teresa Brennan, PhD.
You seem to be aging like fine wine Michael? Or as Bette Midler sings, “you know oak trees just grow stronger, and old rivers grow wilder every day. – Because those inner engines of emotion and soul/spirit are alive in us until our last breath.”
Yhank you again David for contributing another wonderfully rich comment to our on-going exploration.
Hi Michael– Any chance this training will make it to the east coast? Would love to attend.
Hi Vanessa, yes that is possible next year. Thank you for your encouragement! I’m exploring a webinar training too.
It is great to see your very valuable blogging on MIA on media, popular culture and the market for mental illness.
Hi Michael – Thanks so much for the mental image of state-funded mental health workers considering the possibility that “psychosis” may be something much more intrinsically meaningful and purposeful than allowed for by the medical model. The fact that these experiences are often seen as little more than the disordered detritus of broken and diseased brains is probably one of the most invalidating,inhumane, and damaging perspectives to ever have been applied to the human condition.
It’s exciting that Oregon may be open to discussing spiritually sensitive practice in responding to psychosis.
“…the deconstruction accepted terms which resulted from the splitting of mind and body, individual and environment, and codes of living logic.”
Ah, I knew there was a reason I waited to post my response to your fine essay ad inspiring reportback, Michael. I always appreciate David Bates’ contributions and, in my reading of the above comment, the point is made that the mechanisms of what is often interpreted and termed God may well likely operate in very real ways that are integral to our multisystemic universe, as well to our specied physioneurological nature.
It has been well established (by so many poems and verses, scientists and theologians)that human beings are deeply connected to the world, and to one another. I don’t think very many people could reasonably argue otherwise for very long. Nobody who has ever felt peace in nature or held a child could tell you that we (as a species) are not affected by our interactions with the world. (Similarly, nobody who has ever been harmed or seen harm being done walks away unaffected, autonomous to their experience – though some, under pressure, do compartmentalize, dissociate as a way to exist.)
In my thinking about psychosis, as a person who has done her fair share of existing in that headspace/heartspace/mindspace/worldspace/story,
it is fairly clear that there are a few different drivers involved and that there are a lot of variables in each individual’s unique experience.
I just spent some time reading Dan Fisher and Paris Williams’ relatively recent posts on the topic of “psychosis,” as well.
One thing that is very persistent in my mind as I consider these ideas is the fact that, while environment and social history are acknowledged as variables impacting one’s experience of “psychosis,” many of the theories posit “psychosis” as some form of reactionary intrapersonal process, a manifestation of a mind/heart conflicted and with profound wounds, unmet needs.
The approach of psychosis (when will we get a new word for the process? I have suggested “reckoning” and sometimes use it) as a self- transforming/preserving/destroying/clarifying
process does hold a lot of validity in my mind and this is reinforced not only by long-standing research (for example, the impressive bibliography provided by Williams), but also through my own qualitative experience and anecdotal evidence offered up by those who, in their way, have been there.
In my own writings from the-edge-of-the-midst-of-it-all, I maintained that what I was doing was indulging in an alternate way of thinking about/experiencing myself and the world, because my “real life” had become untenable and irreconcilable.
However, in my culminate experience and in the experiences of many people, the role of spirit came to be very central. The variable meanings associated with the word “spiritual” could run the proverbial gamut, from internal disequilibrium caused by value conflicts, to a perceived disconnection between self, world, and meaning to a full-blown crisis of hope/faith…to the profound sense that one is deeply and transcendently (in either direction, ascent or descent) communing with gods, the multiverse, and everything it may contain?
Given that you have yourself experienced a period of madness and have worked with many people in the throes of madness, I’m sure you’re well aware of the vulnerability that, in madness, some people have to finding themselves in a state of distinct Cosmic Oneness (to use David Bates’ term).
I don’t like the idea that my mind-blowingly illuminating, wrecking and delivering, deeply spiritual and largely reasonable, contextually-aware “psychosis” of recent years could be reduxed to the manifestations of a desperate mind in a fit of over-compensation, concilliatory imaginary salvation.
I definitely do think that protracted existential/emotional crisis can be a driving force in the development a full-blown reckoning with what, to some, feels very much like falling into the whole entire universe. However, I like to think that perhaps there is a greater rhyme and reason in the proclivity that some seem to have in finding themselves akin to reluctant demigods in a world written in synchronicity and signal, seemingly divine orchestration.
I suppose at this point, the bigger question comes tumbling out:
Are people who experience psychosis, or who are identified as being on “the psychotic spectrum,” somehow more sensitive to the mechanisms of universal world?
Here’s another question: Are the sometimes haphazard manifest fumblings of idea and purpose often associated with “psychosis” the result of our traumatized cultureminds trying to reconcile the enormous force of a sudden universal metaconsciousness impacting our minds/hearts, brains and bodies?
In my thinking, if those on the so-called psychotic spectrum are more sensitive (perhaps in ways involving the autonomic nervous system, perhaps in ways involving cognitive processing and sensory attenuation?*) to universal forces and consciousness
(a sensitivity that, alone, could create severance from a sense of cohesive consensus reality, e.g. many people do report that they’ve “always felt different,” etc. etc.)…well, then how precisely is that a “disease” or even a problem?
(Insert entire canon of literature on social control, subjectivity, market-driven fascism, etc.)
Here’s a question: Because we are a species and many species carry traits that correspond with elements in the environment, is it possible that some people are more sensitive to universal forces for a reason?
If that may be the case, isn’t the pathologizing and forceful repression of seeking/experiencing grace in one’s own way a really deep and wounding insult to humanity?
(Note: I always appreciate that you acknowledge that it’s not all hallelujah and sunshine, that “the elevator goes both ways” and that some aspects of spiritual crisis can be hellish.)
I think Anonymous’ point about human rights and spirituality is a good one. I have often been aware that my thinking and my writing about things of a spiritual nature could be easily pathologized (and has been pathologized) as being “psychotic.” There is some cruel (il)logical mechanism at play that changes the meaning of our experience, actually strips the meaning of our experience, and makes it into something that must be erased, medicated, resolved and not spoken of.
Does pathologizing clumsy, unbridled, exploratory human spirituality change our understanding of what it is to be human?
Anyway, glad I got a chance to check out this post. Thanks for all you do, Michael.
(and thanks, David, for opening the door to questions re: the objective/subjective bigger picture and the role of madness in it.)
Since my former comment was referenced in the above comment, I’ll leave one more…
“Thanks so much for the mental image of state-funded mental health workers considering the possibility that “psychosis” may be something much more intrinsically meaningful and purposeful than allowed for by the medical model. The fact that these experiences are often seen as little more than the disordered detritus of broken and diseased brains is probably one of the most invalidating,inhumane, and damaging perspectives to ever have been applied to the human condition.”
A good comment. And very important to note that this article is about an interaction with the state funded/state run, psychiatry system.
I apologize to Michael Cornwall for being too harsh, and for being mistaken about some aspects of the nature of the government psychiatry personnel audience and 52 county mental health directors mentioned in his article.
I do think it is very important to remember that it is government workers, government systems, who do spiritual violence to an extraordinary degree to people labeled “psychotic”.
What I said in specifics, was going too far. And I accept the redacting of the comments.
And with that, I re-enter retirement from commenting on this site.
I admire anyone with the patience, to set foot in the world of government psychiatry, and try and rehumanize the approach somewhat.
For people with the patience to do it, it is surely a worthwhile thing to do.
Thank you Anonymous. My anger and outrage at what is wrongly done in the name of medicine often reaches the boiling point too. I always look forward to your comments because you are true to your convictions and have great insight into our human need to not be harmed by those we turn to in our hours of greatest need. I hope your retirement is brief if possible. With respect and gratitude, Michael
“And with that, I re-enter retirement from commenting on this site.”
Self correction? Self “punishment”? The editors have you supported, Anonymous. I’m not the only one who has expressed an appreciation of your presence here on MIA. In fact when I saw that you were back, I cried (again) because I was so happy to see you. *smiles*
It’s a work in progress. Refinement is part of the growth process. These ARE very deep and serious issues that are disgust (oops, I mean discussed) here and you bring the REALITY to the table. I hope you take the time away when you need it, and I also hope that you always stay on board. You mean SO MUCH to me. Not many people can make me cry, Anonymous. I love how you make me FEEL. You’re more important than you know. IMPORT. Please don’t export yourself without my explicit approval, which you’ll never get. lol just kidding.
I can only second what you’ve said here about Anonymous’ return.
> And with that, I re-enter retirement from commenting on this site. I admire anyone with the patience, to set foot in the world of government psychiatry, and try and rehumanize the approach somewhat.
Like others who’ve commented on your decision, I hope you’ll change it.
I wish I could convey to you what your comments would have meant to me many years ago when I was desperate for some sign that others might be having the same kind of experience I was having. You would have been a lifesaving oasis in a vast empty desert. And I think you still are, for lonely travelers who have stumbled on this Mad in America website.
Please, all of you, don’t stop reaching out to others and sharing your insights that are cool lifegiving water to parched pilgrims. “Government psychiatry” will change only if enough of us survive and thrive and change it ourselves. Robert Whitaker, Michael Cornwall, and others like them, are giving us the tools and techniques for change – this website, for example. Let’s not waste it with silence and neglect!
Oh, Mary, what a lovely response. I wish I’d read yours before I posted. You already said it all!
I agree, I think it can be so hugely exhausting, frustrating, heartbreaking and often seemingly HOPELESS to try to impact public mental health. I am specifically referring to your statement,
I admire anyone with the patience, to set foot in the world of government psychiatry, and try and rehumanize the approach somewhat.
While I never set out to attempt to impact the system, and in fact, initially wanted to stay as far away as I could from it, I’ve now spent over fifteen years, quietly and patiently (okay sometimes HUGELY IMPATIENTLY), working toward systems change. Real, sustainable change.
I’ve learned so much, as all of us do who hold this vision and do this work.
Two things I wanted to mention here are 1) I learned that so very many of the people working in the system are also frustrated, saddened and really HURTING as a result of the system, and they want to see change as well, or perhaps they no longer envision change, and they are simply surviving, rather than thriving (as people so often “served” by the system are, and they need hope and vision and vehicles for change, as well! I believe we will best be served by seeking to harness everyone’s desire and ability and vision and expertise, rather than building walls as to what stakeholder group we find ourselves. And 2) I believe we so desperately need a multitude of forums, opportunities and the sheer desire and willingness to disagree, discuss respectfully highly differing opinions and viewpoints…… and still keep talking, engaging and sharing.
I am new to Mad in America, and so deeply appreciate that Robert Whitaker, and all of the rest of have created such a place.
Just reading through the little bits and pieces that I have, I am appreciative of you all.
I apologize that this comment is so late, I just joined today! And also for my mini-rant. I used your lovely statement for a springboard. 🙂
I welcome and am engaged by your words as always Faith. Why is that?
I believe it is because your emotionally vulnerable and heart wide open messages come from that inner sense of numionous reckoning that you have entered into- It comes from all of you, and seems very much deepened through your experiences of the mystery we are calling madness or psychosis.
So many people had such a strong response to your recovery story here on MIA. Again, I believe they were effected beccause you speak from that inner place of soul depth reckoning.
I love the word reckoning because as you say, there is a wholesale engagement in depth of every layer of our existence that can happen through that numinous and soul making process.
But an individual going through it, or bearing post reckoning gifts to the broader culture is so often misunderstood and even persecuted in our culture.
That is a commentary on our often heartless and spirit and soul devoid culture, not on those who have visionary and shamanic gifts to bear that are often tragically shunned.
I’m glad David’s and Anonymous’s comments sparked you to add your catalytic ingredients to the brewing alchemical conversation!
Keep up the good work, Michael :-). I like your way of asking the question: “If madness isn’t what psychiatry says it is, then what is it?”.
Even on MIA, it would probably be hard to find two persons in full agreement regarding the answer to that question, but that’s consistent with you saying “madness is complicated”. In any case, since a consensus answer won’t happen any time soon, we are left with a more pressing question: what are we doing about it? And to answer that one, I’ll just hope I end up in your hands rather than in the hands of standard clinical practice if I get mad in the future.
Thank you Stanley, It’s nice to hear from you again. Yes, we need a whole spectrum of supportive alternatives to the medical model.
If I end up on the dark side of the moon again in the future, I hope people like you are there to help me.
I was just re-reading:
…and thinking about how these considerations fit into paradigms that, ultimately, need to honor an individual’s right to make their own meaning of their experiences, while acknowledging that sometimes the crisis is in the meaning making process and that people sometimes need (whatever comforting and helpful support they may determine they need) in figuring out what exactly is going on with their minds/hearts/world.
There is, in my mind, a lot of danger in ideas that seek to define other people’s experiences. So, while it eases conceptual isolation for me to think, “Hey! Maybe what happened to me is something that happens to lots of people!” and to consider the hows and whys of it, it doesn’t sit quite well with me to think about generalizing my understood cause for my experiences to the deeply personal experiences of other people.
There is no clear answer, but it does seem that there are some definite factors and themes. The ways that they may play out in individual experience and meaning-making is as infinite as the universe itself.
Most days, I actually wish that I could forget this whole issue of metauniversal spiritual mechanics and subjective experiences of psychosis, because the implications are so vast and troubling.
However, in my own situation, it proves to be a persistent belief, logically sound in many ways if considered in light of physical science, myth, and time-honored archetypal phenomena.
It seems like the rhetoric of spirituality has shifted to mean a conceptual peace/acceptance/okayness with the world and one’s place in it. My thinking about spirituality is more oriented toward thinking about the ways that we are actually connected to the world (nature, people, symbol, signal, etc.), the meaning we make of these connections and how that meaning impacts our participation in our lives.
Thanks, always, Michael, for appreciating my wide-open earnestness. I hope you have a beautiful day out in California.
Thank you again Faith.
I agree that we should be able to ascribe our own meaning to our emotional tuths and life experiences. That is allot easier to do about madness after we have stopped being very actively psychotic.
My mantra question-
“If madness isn’t what psychiatry says it is, then what is it?”-
comes from knowing that if we or our loved ones don’t have a very viable alternative explanation for what is going on with us and a plan too, when we are in madness, when we don’t know who we are, where we are, are a danger to our selves and/or others- or can’t feed or clothe ourselves, then we are at the total mercy of the medical model to define and treat us.
We will be put on a legal hold, diagnosed and forcibly drugged, based on psychiatry’s power to define and explain what brought us to the hospital in crisis.
The wonderful somatic teacher Stanley Kelleman, who for decades has helped people find their unique physical based bodily identities, summed up his work this way- “Form yourself or you will be formed by others!”
My challnege to the consumer/survivor/peer movement for decades, that has largely fallen on deaf ears, has been very similar-
“Be able to explain what gets us sent to psych emergency or it will be explained for us- be able to define what our own madness is all about- or it will be defined for us in about 3 minutes by any first year psychiatry resident or psychiatric nurse.”
Alternative programs being developed depend on such alternative explanations being formulated. The fact thet there is only one small med free front end madness sanctuary in the United States, is in large part due to the consumer/survivor/peer movement having not formulated a coherant, alternative explanation for what psychosis really is.
Without such a competitive, comprehensive understanding and explanation of the causes and needs of those in madness, the medical model meat grinder will continue to be the only game in town when we are in madness.
“Form yourself or you will be formed by others!”
To what degree is our sense-of-self formed by “affect,” and does affect lie at the root of a psychotic experience? I think Faith hits the nail on head with the question of “sensitivity” and psychosis, with sensitive soul’s affected unconsciously from both within and without. IMO, the question of affect and what affect actually is, goes to the heart of our mind-body split and our consensus equilibrium of “objective” awareness, maintained through the active suppression of the body’s exquisite sensory capacities.
Coming to terms with my own madness has required a deepening appreciation of just how easily my sensitive nature is affected, and unwinding degrees of internal constriction (largely respiratory and muscular) defenses against my own experience of being. Mania, seems to be a spontaneous attempt by the organism labeled David Bates to unravel experience conditioned constriction, and give birth to a new sense-of-self.
Past confusion leading to re-birth failures and depressive collapse came from not appreciating the primary process reality of affect, as profoundly physiological, upon which my secondary awareness of subjective interpretation is built. Acceptance that my cognitive processes are built on core physiological foundations, which can be maintained, amplified, or diminished has been key to growing self-awareness-understanding.
Yet what exactly is “affect,” please consider further explanations?
“Brian Massumi: Affect is a visceral, raw pre-feeling. Feelings are socially constructed distortions of affect. Affect is the manifestation of the body’s internalization of an intensity. It cannot be rendered by language or any other kind of transmittable information. Affect is perpetually undulating and reforming. It is more bodily than cognitive. The body is integral to the understanding of affect. Massumi describes the “walls” of the body as sensory receptors which allow for the intensity of an experience to be transmitted and internalized. The transmission of affect is not the exchange of affect from thing to body or body to body, it is the infolding and unfolding of intensities between the two bodies, which can be virtual or flesh. These intensities resonate apart from intended meaning of context.
Theresa Brennan: Teresa Brennan defines affect partially as, “any evaluative (positive or negative) orientation towards an object.” This idea identifies affect as a judgement rather than an emotion or an expression of an emotion. The parts of affect that can evaluate and judge will distinguish the physiological responses it evokes from those associated with influxes of passion or emotion. Brennan surmises that this is the important distinction between affect and emotion, as what one feels with and what one feels are two separate phenomena. She affirms that emotions correlate to pre-existing affective connections. However, she maintains that affects are physiological things.
Emotions are forceful projections which are deposited or “dumped” after they are expressed, whereas affects can move more freely. Affects have the ability to intensify or weaken. Brennan defines the transmission of affect as the idea that our energies are not exclusively ours and that there is no distinction between the individual and their surroundings. Affects are continuously flowing in and out of both.”
And from ““The Transmission of Affect” by Teresa Brennan, PhD.
“We think that the ideas or thoughts of a given subject has, are socially constructed, dependant on cultures, times, and social groups within them. Indeed, after Karl Marx, Karl Mannheim, Michel Foucault, and any social thinker worthy of the epithet “social,” it is difficult to think anything else. But if we accept that our thoughts are not entirely independent, we are peculiarly resistant to the idea that our emotions are not altogether our own. The taken-for-grantedness of the emotionally self-contained subject is a bastion of Eurocentrism in critical thinking, the belief in the superiority of one’s own worldview over that of other cultures. The idea that progress is a modernist and Western myth are nonetheless blind to the way that non-Western as well as premodern, preindustrial cultures assume that the person is not “affectively” contained.
Notions of the transmission of affect are suspect as non-white and colonial cultures are suspect. (p, 2.)
But the denial is not reasonable. The denial of transmission leads to inconsistencies in theories and therapies of the subjective state. All reputable schools of psychological theory assume that the subject is energetically and affectively self-contained. At the same time, psychologists working in clinics experience affective transmission. There are many psychological clinicians ( especially the followers of Melanie Klein) who believe they experience the affects of their clients directly.
The Limits of Language:
At present we only have a rudimentary language for connecting sensations, affects, and words, for connecting bodily processes and a conceptual understanding of them. The further development of such language requires an attention to the pathways of sensation in the body. We need to formulate bodily knowledge more accurately and increase the rapidity of human understanding.
Extending knowledge in this way is the reverse of gathering it by “objectification,” or studying bodily processes disconnected from living sensory attention. (p, 153.)
Extending knowledge of sensation, following it further along its pathways, means extending consciousness into the body, infusing it with the conscious understanding from which it has been split, by a subject/object orientation. That split has hardened with the sealing of the heart as an organ of sensory reception and transmission, yet it has also come under examination in all the practices and knowledge’s that, taken together, presage the resurrection of the body.
Some of these systems of knowledge already nestle in the arms of objective science, especially those focused on the complex systems of both body and brain, while others are found in more ancient, holistic health systems. What these systems of healing have in common with the study of the body and its complexity, is the notion of systems–of language and communication, insofar as a biochemical chain or a DNA sequence can be structured like a language in another medium. (p, 154.)
The more conscious we become of what we repress in our subject/object orientation (remembering that primary repression is the repression of unprocessed sensory information) or ignore, the less we think in projected and judgmental terms. But such conscious consciousness is only possible when we invent or reinvent the words to say it with. The transliteration into language from the minutia of sensory knowledge and its sifting, may be processes entirely unknown to present day consciousness.
Extending consciousness sensation, finding the words or images, means grasping the nuances of fleshy grammar and alphabets. It means describing and accounting for sensations, which entails translating them into the everyday currencies of speech and so extending the range of their visualization. What our subject/object ego orientation represses is not available to consciousness. This ego and its repressions, present themselves as disordered flesh, when in fact the ego and its repressions are the cause of such disorder. Disorder is not inherent in the body or the flesh, which loves natural regulation. The body thrives in health when its real needs are respected, as distinct from the ego’s imaginary anxieties. (p, 155.)”
In my own journey, a wide range of reading for self-education has been essential to free myself from innate dependence, and I suspect that in hindsight we will come to see this beginning of the 21st century very differently, as further “examination in all the practices and knowledge’s that, taken together, presage the resurrection of the body.”
On a premise that thought/word symbols are essentially metaphors of hidden processes, what do intuitive song lyrics hint at, when we dare to loosen an externally focused, “objective” stranglehold on our consensual norm’s of permissible perceptions?
“Living is easy with eyes closed
Misunderstanding all you see
It’s getting hard to be someone
But it all works out
It doesn’t matter much to me
Let me take you down
‘Cause I’m going to Strawberry Fields
Nothing is real
And nothing to get hung about
Strawberry Fields forever
No one I think is in my tree
I mean it must be high or low
That is you can’t, you know, tune in
But it’s all right
That is I think it’s not too bad
THE BEATLES – STRAWBERRY FIELDS FOREVER”
My first response to your comments here is “WOW”, my second response is “YES”. What a deep offering to contemplate. “Extending consciousness sensation, finding the words or images, means grasping the nuances of fleshy grammar and alphabets.” Beautiful! Are you familiar with Eugene Genlin and his work with ‘focusing’?
Thank you again David!
In my blog essay here on MIA called- “Our emotions- the sole creators of every word, voice, symbolic image, bodily movement and thought”- I wanted to share how much I believe that our emotions are the primary cause and creators of our second by second subjective worlds- and that we sre in constant intimate reaction to every dimension of that extremely complex and mystery laden matrix that surrounds us- we are immersed in it and move through it always as we live.
“My mantra question-
“If madness isn’t what psychiatry says it is, then what is it?”
I do believe this is the most fundamental question in the current mental illness debate and perhaps our current “historical” era, I hope you may consider posing it as a forum topic, here on MIA?
Brennan’s articulation of our subject/object orientation, and its taken for granted sign of emotional maturity in our current era, is crying out for re-interpretation now? Her notion of our subjective sense of objectivity, as hardening and sealing the heart, the organ of the body/brain which most profoundly immerses us within the matrix of all reality, is crying out for re-alignment in our ordering of what perceptive awareness means?
Does the trail of the visionary organism have a role to play in an era which is so obviously crying for a re-definition of what it means to be human, and just how our sensitive nature is immersed within a natural matrix? Perhaps the exploration of your potent question has found a natural home here, where its paradoxical view may lead to a creative breakthrough, beyond the fear and “ignore-it” consensus of our “normal,” objective sense of reality? As dear old Uncle Albert points out;
“The most beautiful and most profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the source of all true science. He/she to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms – this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of true religiousness.” _Albert Einstein.
Thank you again David!
The emotions of awe, ecstacy. bliss, reverence, euphoria, inspiration, serenity, adoration, humor, compassion and love are our birthright. For some of us, to claim them means journeying through the waking dream of madness which can open us to them as well as the exact opposite of every one of them.
Can we deeply embrace serenity if we haven’t embraced terror?- feel love if we can’t feel hate?
Does embracing the opposites cancel each other out, or create a midpoint where they co-exist- where we stand on a liminal threshold that we can inhabit moment by moment, no matter where else on earth we may appear to be?