Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Going Beyond Fragmentation 9 - Healing the split between Self and the World

Brief Overview:

Walking dog in the snow, Santry Wood, 28/11/2010
I will begin tonight's post with a brief overview or summary of my conclusions from the last post.   What is reality?  Well, I concluded that reality is not something definable once and for all out there in space - no, rather it is something we define together when we communicate or when we allow our imaginations to overlap in a common or shared space of mutual understanding.  Communication, then, is essentially imaginal and because it is co-created by the individuals involved in the communication, it is very much the essence of what we mean by reality.

Insight into Psychopathy:

Winnicott's notion of the in-between character of mental life (for which, see the last post) is especially interesting for the light which it sheds upon psychopathology.  For Winnicott, then, suffering results from the split or dichotomy between a self lost in its own world and the shared world of common experience or common imagination.  This to my mind is an excellent and interesting understanding of psychopathology which is commonly defined as the study of the origin, development, and manifestations of mental or behavioural disorders or simply the manifestation of such mental or behavioural disorders.

Oftentimes if a child is rejected by significant others he or she will present a false compliant self to others while protecting the "true" self by keeping it hidden within.  Keeping the true self hidden within is literally "soul-destroyoing" for the individual as evidenced in a routinized, boring and compliant existence.  Thus, these individuals show a false self to the world, and keep their true self hidden, or they might even withdraw completely into a world of fantasy.

The implication here is that the subject-object split which underlies traditional psychoanalytic thinking is itself pathological.  One way to heal the psyche or make it whole then is to use the various creative arts therapies which tap into the creative powers of the healing imagination, all of which means essentially that the split between the psyche and the world will be bridged.  In other words, the psyche lost to the world will be firmly connected with the real commonly shared world of reality.  Apologies to my readers here for any confusion or lack of clarity as I am struggling to express myself clearly.

The Subject-Object Split

The subject-object split which began in earlier philosophy and which was crystallized as it were, to use a very bad metaphor, in the "cogito ergo sum" of Descartes where the human being was conceived of as essentially a mind contained in a container called the body, and where the interaction of both was seen to be essentially mechanical, ended up causing a multitude of philosophical and psychological, not to mention many subsequent social problems.

Much light can be thrown on the nature of human existence, Levine argues, by turning to philosophy, especially that of Heidegger.  This latter philosopher maintains that the human being is by nature  "Dasein" or simply "being-there."  This means the human being is always in-the-world and is never a detached observer (subject) of a real world out there (object).  In our everyday existence, in our "Dasein,"  Heidegger argues that we are in-the-world, part and parcel of it, in that in-between space talked about by Winnicott.  It is only when we are frustrated in our actions, when we are prevented from doing something, that we stand back  and attempt to understand what has happened.  It is only then that we enter the subject/object style thinking.  For Heidegger the ordinary being-in-the-world is primary to all thought and all thinking about it.  Everyday existence is thus very mundane and often mind-numbingly boring.

To be continued.

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