Tag Archives: psychoanalysis

Psychology einhundertein

Wonders of Your Head

Why Freud Still Matters, When He Was Wrong About Almost Everything io9

George Dvorsky does a good job in his short article aiming to review Freud’s contribution to psychology. Some of the comments are interesting too.

Sigmund Freud Speaks: The Only Known Recording of His Voice, 1938

I lean more toward the structuralism of C.G. Jung than that of Freud, yet, personally, because Freud is the necessary precedent to the ongoing provocations of the post-Freudians, Freud’s contribution remains lively. Also, I’m always reminded the introspective field of the proto-depth ‘psychologies’ suppose such intuitions, elaborations and formulations to be typically phenomenological; and this in turn, has given ordinary folk psychologists–everybody to lesser or greater extent–a vocabulary for talking about our development. Face it, to simulate other minds or intuit other mind’s models, seems yo require something like a set of normative behavioral categories, right?

Is psychoanalysis psychology or poetics?

I came to the article by way of 9 Quarks Daily, and in the comments there was a link to Freudian and Post-Freudian Psychology: A Bibliography Patrick S. O’Donnell. From his excellent essay:

Introduction & Apologia

A New York Times piece by Patricia Cohen, “Freud Is Widely Taught at Universities, Except in the Psychology Department,” summarizes a recent study in The Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association:

“Psychoanalysis and its ideas about the unconscious mind have spread to every nook and cranny of the culture from Salinger to ‘South Park,’ from Fellini to foreign policy. Yet if you want to learn about psychoanalysis at the nation’s top universities, one of the last places to look may be the psychology department. A new report by the American Psychoanalytic Association has found that while psychoanalysis—or what purports to be psychoanalysis—is alive and well in literature, film, history and just about every other subject in the humanities, psychology departments and textbooks treat it as ‘desiccated and dead,’ a historical artifact instead of ‘an ongoing movement and a living, evolving process.’”

One reason that looms large in accounting for this state of affairs is the extent to which academic psychology in this country conceives itself as a “scientific” enterprise. And inasmuch as this putative psychological science is linked to an experimental and clinical science of health care, it fancies itself grounded in “empirical rigor and testing,” beholden, that is, to what falls under the allegedly rigorous rubric of “evidence-based medicine” (EBM). This conception strives to place psychology on par with other natural sciences and further explains the recent overweening infatuation with neuroscience and the extravagant claims often made on behalf of evolutionary psychology.[1] An ancillary reason involves sceptical disenchantment with the so-called folk theory of mind or folk psychology from not a few quarters in the philosophy of mind (e.g., eliminative materialism).[2]

This is not to insinuate that this folk theory is immune to philosophical revision or extension, but only that any plausible psychological model has compelling reasons for assuming at least some of the key premises that animate this model. Nor is this to imply that psychology can or should ignore science, rather, it may be the case that psychology, insofar as it deals with (a narrative sense of) “the self” and with the nature of mental life, may be better construed as a “science of subjectivity,” wherein science is best understood in an analogical or metaphorical sense, or used simply to refer to a systematic and thus coherent system of inquiry and knowledge (cf. the ‘Islamic sciences’) rather than simply or solely as an objectivist and naturalistic—and frequently positivist—endeavor. Freudian psychology in general and psychoanalysis in particular resist the post-positivist (hence scientistic) “penchant for quantities” and the “fetish for measurement” that infect the natural and social sciences, symptomatic evidence for which is seen in the inordinate fondness for and explanatory and normative privilege accorded to, game theory, cost-benefit calculations, and Bayesian probability estimates (its paradigm of statistical inference serving as the epitome of empirical argument), for example (in saying this, I am not being dismissive of such tools).

In other words, and in the end, Freudian psychology shares with Pragmatism broadly conceived what Hilary Putnam calls the “revolt against formalism:” “This revolt against formalism is not a denial of the utility of formal models in certain contexts; but it manifests itself in a sustained critique of the idea that formal models, in particular, systems of symbolic logic, rule books of inductive logic, formalizations of scientific theories, etc.—describe a condition to which rational thought can or should aspire.” In this case, a condition to which our psychology can or should aspire. To paraphrase and quote again from Putnam, our conceptions of rationality cast a net far wider than all that can be scientized, logicized, mathematized, in short, formalized: “The horror of what cannot be methodized is nothing but method fetishism.”

As for modern scientific psychology, it isn’t very capacious given the total ecology of mental functioning, intentionality, and agency. Nor is it likely ever to be so with respect to being able to, for example, predict everyday behavior. What will Subject A put in their shopping cart?

Elsewhere our groping for understanding remains informed by the remaining, roughly accurate, categories and concepts of depth psychology. These conceptions, etc.. are also revisable.


Leave a Comment

Filed under history, social psychology, organizational development

A Knotty Issue of Development

men and women iconized into bias

If you were asked, ‘How do you reduce prejudice, prejudicial behavior, bias?’ how would you respond?

Just the other day I was asked this same question by a good friend who has been charged with teaching college sophomores something useful about how to, as she put it, think, feel and behave, in a diverse social environment.

It strikes me as a difficult and complex problem, and, also, one that is itself prone to being addressed in unreasonable and biased folk-psychological estimations of how, in effect, prejudice and bias can be said to operate.

Is the mitigation of prejudice against the opposite gender simply a matter of unlearning a pattern of response, or simply a matter of replacing this same pattern with a new behavior? My friend and I discussed empathy in terms of being the kind of ‘simulation’ that could serve this simple ‘replacement’ formula.


We moved onto consider bias being partly a consequence of inaccurate evaluation; with this possibly being a crucial aspect of a biased learned response. This seems, to me, closer to the developmental knot of bias, in that inaccuracies of evaluation often are straight-forward threads of such a knot.

This also allows for experiential approaches to revealing the evaluative aspects of how people experience different, other persons.

The following formula summarizes our intuition.

presence + ignorance + humility
= (more accurate evaluation)
increased potential to reduce biases in evaluation



presence: intentional focusing of external (object) awareness, while also being reflective and introspectively sensitive to emergent internal content (Note-Presence constitutes an active, vigilant behavior with respect to sub-conscious and automatic, or otherwise habitual, upwellings of inaccurate evaluation.)

ignorance: knowing ahead of time what you don’t know (Note-Ignorance contextualized by: knowing how one might both choicelessly and choicefully fill in the blanks with: prior knowledge; stereotypical knowledge; ad hoc knowledge; sub-conscious intuitions: prejudicial knowledge

humility: willing submission to being attentive without prior knowledge (Note-Submission is equivalent to also being willing and able to entertain an experiment through which one closely observes the nature of their own participation in their own experience of instantiating inaccurate evaluation.)



Leave a Comment

Filed under adult learning, experiential learning, folk psychology

Mitt And the Muddle

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Mitt Romney

There’s so much I could blather on about the delicious presidential battle shaping up between old school neo-liberal plutocrats of the centerist left vs “personal responsibility” Ayn Randian tea party plutocrats. Once again, as I mostly rediscover every four years, I find myself leaning on Melanie Klein, and so I very much prefer the mature depressive as against the volatile dynamics of the paranoid schizoid.

Which is to say: Obama’s Quixotic aspiration to realize a bi-partisan governing muddle is far superior than Mitt’s hope to galvanize the hating shards of resentful anti-cosmopolitan aging boys, and, crony ‘paper economy’ capitalists.

I do grant that Mitt Romney is a fascinating political figure as a matter of his elevated, nubby peculiarities. He is the oddest major party nominee in my adult political experience of forty years. But, I’ll save arm chair amateur psychoanalysis for a later presentation. Nevertheless, that Republican have nominated an actual plutocrat four years after the speculators, rent seekers and Randian nihilistas brought down the economy is both impressive and precious–all at once.

I Am A Corporation

Leave a Comment

Filed under current events

The Spark of the Opposites II.

Carl Jung

How to hold the tension of the opposites?

Following from the everyday experience of conflict, or dissonance, or intense ambivalence, Carl Jung doesn’t treat experiential matters like this often. The basic reason is a little bit below the surface of this typical statement from Aion,

“Most people do not have sufficient range of consciousness to become aware of the opposites inherent in human nature. The tensions they generate remain for the most part unconscious, but can appear in dreams.”

With this statement, we’re no longer in the realm of the everyday sundry betwixt and betweens.

The core opposition in Analytic Psychcology is consciousness/unconsciousness. To ask ‘how to hold the tension of opposites’ strikes me as a modern request for a “self-helpful” instrumental technique, as against the energetic, (what for me is a libido or hydraulic,) model given in the classical version, and in Jung’s understanding, of the psyche. In this latter model, the problem is extant in an energized intrapsychic field of energy. This field is the territorial locus for the complex compression given in the intrapsychic confrontation between the known, nascent self-knowledge, and, the unknowable.

Although Dr. Jung does not use the term tension of the opposites much, and does not offer any ‘self-help’ on the ‘how,’ there are several detailed treatments scattered in his writings.

First, Two Essays In Analytic Psychology, (CW 7; 4th ed. 1966) is much about the opposites.

This example clearly shows that it does not lie in our power to transfer “disposable” energy at will to a rationally chosen ob­ject. The same is true in general of the apparently disposable energy which is disengaged when we have destroyed its unser­viceable forms through the corrosive of reductive analysis. This energy, as we have said, can at best be applied voluntarily for only a short time. But in most cases it refuses to seize hold, for any length of time, of the possibilities rationally presented to it. Psychic energy is a very fastidious thing which insists on fulfil­ment of its own conditions. However much energy may be present, we cannot make it serviceable until we have succeeded in finding the right gradient.

This question of the gradient is an eminently practical problem which crops up in most analyses. For instance, when in a favourable case the disposable energy, the so-called libido, does seize hold of a rational object, we think we have brought about the transformation through conscious exertion of the will. But in that we are deluded, because even the most strenuous exer­tions would not have sufficed had there not been present at the same time a gradient in that direction. How important the gra­dient is can be seen in cases when, despite the most desperate exertions, and despite the fact that the object chosen or the form desired impresses everybody with its reasonableness, the trans­formation still refuses to take place, and all that happens is a new repression.

It has become abundantly clear to me that life can flow forward only along the path of the gradient. But there is no energy unless there is a tension of opposites; hence it is necessary to discover the opposite to the attitude of the conscious mind. It is interesting to see how this compensation by opposites also plays its part in the historical theories of neurosis: Freud’s theory es­poused Eros, Adler’s the will to power. Logically, the opposite of love is hate, and of Eros, Phobos (fear); but psychologically it is the will to power. Where love reigns, there is no will to power; and where the will to power is paramount, love is lacking. The one is but the shadow of the other: the man who adopts the standpoint of Eros finds his compensatory opposite in the will to power, and that of the man who puts the accent on power is Eros. Seen from the one-sided point of view of the conscious attitude, the shadow is an inferior component of the personality and is consequently repressed through intensive resistance. But the re­pressed content must be made conscious so as to produce a ten­sion of opposites, without which no forward movement is possible. The conscious mind is on top, the shadow underneath, and just as high always longs for low and hot for cold, so all consciousness, perhaps without being aware of it, seeks its un­conscious opposite, lacking which it is doomed to stagnation, congestion, and ossification. Life is born only of the spark of opposites. (L76-78)

The tension of the opposites, in being sparked, is unbidden. In the classical view, it is not subject to the ‘how’ given by our modern self-help view. Thus, to be in the psychological problem so sparked is to be in a situation for which a fruitful appeal may be made to an analytic relationship–through which the working creatively or waiting creatively through the (variously) phantasy/symbolic/dream/actively imagined material, is the means of holding material energized in the ineluctable terms of this gradient.

The problem of opposites, as an inherent principle of hu­man nature, forms a further stage in our process of realization. As a rule it is one of the problems of maturity. The practical treatment of a patient will hardly ever begin with this problem, especially not in the case of young people. The neuroses of the young generally come from a collision between the forces of re­ality and an inadequate, infantile attitude, which from the causal point of view is characterized by an abnormal dependence on the real or imaginary parents, and from the teleological point of view by unrealizable fictions, plans, and aspirations.

Elsewhere Jung states “the opposites condition each other.” The youthful conditioning movement (or energetics, libido,) settles out the persona, distills the egoic first person, and, next may confront the repression of the Shadow.

Here the reductive methods of Freud and Adler are entirely in place. But there are many neuroses which either appear only at maturity or else deteriorate to such a degree that the patients become incapable of work. Naturally one can point out in these cases that an unusual dependence on the parents existed even in youth, and that all kinds of infantile illusions were present; but all that did not prevent them from taking up a profession, from practicing it successfully, from keeping up a marriage of sorts until that moment in riper years when the previous attitude suddenly failed. In such cases it is of little help to make them conscious of their childhood fantasies, dependence on the parents, etc., although this is a necessary part of the procedure and often has a not unfavourable result. But the real therapy only begins when the patient sees that it is no longer father and mother who are standing in his way, but himself-i.e., an unconscious part of his personality which carries on the role of father and mother. Even this realization, helpful as it is, is still negative; it simply says, “I realize that it is not father and mother who are against me, but I myself.” But who is it/in him that is against him? What is this mysterious part of his personality that hides under the father and mother-imagos, making him believe for years that the cause of his trouble must somehow have got into him from outside? This part is the counterpart of his conscious attitude, and it will leave him no peace and will continue to plague him until it has been accepted.


What youth found and must find outside, the man of life’s afternoon must find within himself. Here we face new problems which often cause the doctor no light headache.

The transition from morning to afternoon means a revaluation of the earlier values. There comes the urgent need to appreciate the value of the opposite of our former ideals, to per­ceive the error in our former convictions, to recognize the un­truth in our former truth, and to feel how much antagonism and even hatred lay in what, until now, had passed for love. Not a few of those who are drawn into the conflict of opposites jettison everything that had previously seemed to them good and worth striving for; they try to live in complete opposition to their for­mer ego. Changes of profession, divorces, religious convulsions, apostasies of every description, are the symptoms of this swing over to the opposite. The snag about a radical conversion into one’s opposite is that one’s former life suffers repression and thus produces just as unbalanced a state as existed before, when the counterparts of the conscious virtues and values were still repressed and unconscious. Just as before, perhaps, neurotic dis­orders arose because the opposing fantasies were unconscious, so now other disorders arise through the repression of former idols. It is of course a fundamental mistake to imagine that when we see the non-value in a value or the untruth in a truth, the value or the truth ceases to exist. It has only become relative. Every­thing human is relative, because everything rests on an inner polarity; for everything is a phenomenon of energy. Energy nec­essarily depends on a pre-existing polarity, without which there could be no energy. There must always be high and low, hot and cold, ete., so that the equilibrating process–which is energy–can take place. Therefore the tendency to deny all previous val­ues in favour of their opposites is just as much of an exaggera­tion as the earlier one-sidedness. And in so far as it is a question of rejecting universally accepted and indubitable values, the re­sult is a fatal loss. One who acts in this way empties himself out with his values, as Nietzsche has already said. (214-215)

Acceptance and recognition, and, in that order. Again, there is not in the classic perspective any explicit ‘self-help’ advice. Holding is how, and this may mean allowing for the problem to stay, for it to be sticky and to be stuck to it. The underlying energetic circumstance demands the ego with its charge, or libido, to appropriate more than enough consciousness to enter into relation/relatedness with the charged opposite, accept, recognize, and, equilibrate at a higher key.

Because the classic and ensuing revisions of the model of the psyche of Analytic Psychology is problematic in light of modern psychology, in backing away in the direction of common situations of psychological conflict, be these the stuckedness given by conflicts of emotion, cognition, aspiration, it is easy enough for me, grounded in models of adult learning, to comprehend the similarity to how change comes about in experiential learning, where the phase of resolution describes our effectiveness in either adapting our self to the circumstance, or, altering the external circumstance to our self.


Numerous teaching stories, the koan, and aphorisms that drill right to the tense middle. My favorite is an aphorism of Rumi.

What is essential is not important,
what is important is not essential.

There is no way to penetrate this aphorism’s value without feeling and experiencing the tension between essential and important.

When Shams, Rumi’s mentor and beloved, was killed, for Rumi, Shams was gone only in one respect. In the working through the opposite between lover and disappeared beloved, his mature mystic outlook was evoked; love in this case growing despite the profoundly frustrating loss of the beloved’s incarnate being. (And, so Rumi’s mysticism offers a yoga of the opposites, of loss and recognition.)

My own experience is that holding the tensions is an everyday opportunity. Anytime we sacrifice our weak or strong preference, we’re “there” holding for a moment the tension of the opposites. Sometimes it can be helpful to understand what the experience is like by working back from the one-sided beginning or ending. The answer, nevertheless, is given by feeling through the experience–or at least this is my suggestion here.

Putting acceptance before recognition is a subtle insight. This means that the first move in the direction of both greater consciousness and toward distant resolution is to accept the intense frustration, and do this for the sake of being able to then accept the weak formations one may apprehend at the very start. Later, when something like clarity is born in a process of creative working/waiting through the tension of the opposites, the hint of resolution comes to become persistent enough to recognize, and, this recognition comes to comprise a foundation for a new attitude.

Leave a Comment

Filed under analytic(al) psychology

The Spark of the Opposites I.

Holding the Spark of the Opposites

(First part of two; reworked from an response offered to Jung-Fire, an email discussion group mostly about Analytic Psychology and Carl Jung. These two parts are in response to the question, how do you hold the tension of the opposites?)

Your question is interesting to me because it points in the direction of a practical answer. After all, we know what it is to hold and experience tension. There are common experiences for which a person finds themselves between or betwixt two competing poles. There are also common ways to describe the genre of such situations.

For example, one wants something but can’t have it. One has a problem or challenge but doesn’t really want to meet it. One prefers an easy route and also knows the route is necessarily not easy.

What is meant by experiencing the opposites? A practical answer is rooted in the experiential, and by reflection on experience.

Holding the opposites is a common experience of being human. Yet, those experiences are mostly different than the experience implied by holding the tension of the opposites given in a situation of individuation; individuation being a conspecific of development in the framework of Analytic Psychology.

Let’s consider this first part to be concerned with the normal, common kinds of experiences.

There are many examples and the several I’ll pose address the question indirectly by implicitly asking what does the experience feel like? The “how” is an answer given by thoroughly sensing what the experience feels like.

Say, you’re driving and somebody else on the road makes an idiotic move, and you find yourself being angry. I might in fact mutter ‘you idiot!’ yet, after all, I’m driving, capable of such moves myself, and, my emotional reaction soon enough passes. There: in the middle, and this would be different from the one-sidedness of speeding up and coming next to the other driver and glaring or, umm, raising a digit in protest.

What does it feel like, for example, to estimate almost instantly, the pressures surrounding bursting through the end of the yellow light?

Another basic form of holding opposites is anytime we find our self having to do something we don’t want to do, but, going “through” our objection to then do it.

A ripe example of this is being on either the delivering or receiving end of a romantic break-up. Being on the receiving end is ripest of all because quite often the severing of attachment leaves one in the predicament–again in the middle as it were–between desiring to remain attached and, often suddenly, having this desire absolutely frustrated. This can be very concrete: wanting versus abruptly this desire no longer being able to be fulfilled.

What is this experience?

In reflecting upon what the experience of this kind of tension is, there are several basic descriptive categories. So, our report about our experience could note the experience feels like being pulled in two seemingly mutually exclusive directions. We might then be able to describe what the emotional or affective content of this experience is; we can name its features. Similarly, we can describe cognitively dissonant, or ideational, conflict. Such conflicts are inflected or otherwise weighted by energetic emotions.

Being in the middle is an energetic situation or position.

The psychological problem evoked by this being in the middle, and this middle having come upon us, constitutes resistance of some sort.

There can be resistance to fate, or denial of the actual situation. One can be in the middle–between the fate we’d prefer, and the fate we’re delivered to. The former fate in effect being the movie we’d like to sit through, the latter being the movie we can’t escape.

Asking again, what does this experience feel like? As we develop clues, and better, about this, we come to understand the various processes which take the general form: equilibrium/disruption/tensile conflict/resolution/equilibrium.

Leave a Comment

Filed under analytic(al) psychology

Self ‘Splanin’

“What does it matter how many lovers you have if none of them gives you the universe?” Lacan

I’m not qualified to be dog catcher, but if I ever threw my hat in the ring, I’d have a ton of explaining to do. As it is, I polish my pebbles, such as they are. Part of me can relate to the hapless Christine O’Donnell, erstwhile serial political candidate. She’s led a life of grand experimentation. Isn’t this time-honored?

I give her credit for making the journey from dionysian dalliances to arch catholic prudery in one incarnation. She’s offsetting all those who did it the other way around!

Yet, her’s is a lonely cry. I’d fit her appeal, (this–in both directions,) to the Gen-X paradox: fragile sense of new age entitlement born by the cultural contradictions given by desiccated capitalism.

This television ad, with it’s kiss of a tag, “I am you.” is delightful and reflexive and thoroughly post-modern. It’s political kitsch too. In the USA, as a matter of common and public practice, we don’t usually psychologize, let alone psychoanalyze, our politics. (This is something the French do, oui?) But, with even a minimum sensitivity to the inner contexts, it’s simple enough to see the political appeal resting hopes on collective urges and demiurges and wish and phantasy. Magical participation and projection tell almost the entire story of why we collectively tend to reward parental self-help and self-efficacy over complex experience and wisdom.

Ms. O’Donnell beckons here. Much more than Sarah Palin, she wants it both ways, to argue on behalf of the saintly main street commonsense, and against the pointy-headed, credentialed elites. Yet, her mendacious reconfiguring of her vitae reflects an almost lusty desire to be recognized and loved by those same elites.
Minor goddess Lamia
Lamia (‘Devourer’). A beautiful Libyan woman loved by ZEUS. Every time she gave birth to a child, it was murdered by Zeus’ jealous wife HERA, until at last Lamia went mad with grief. In despair, and deeply envying the happiness of every mother more fortunate than herself, she took to snatching and eating their children. She turned into a monster with a hideous face, which had the added peculiarity of removable eyes that she took out whenever she wanted to go to sleep. Lamia became a nursery bogey-woman, a child-eating ogress used by Greek mothers and nurses as a threat to encourage good behaviour in children. (Cassell’s Dictionary of Classical Mythology}

Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Is Bubba Really Gone?

I’ve been feeling my way around vampires because the Jung-Fire group has also been doing so.

Whilst descriptions of vampires varied widely, certain traits now accepted as universal were created by the film industry. Where did vampires originate? Well, nearly every culture has its own undead cretures which feed off of the life essence of the living but ancient Persian pottery shards specifically depict creatures drinking blood from the living in what may be the earliest representations of vampires. In the 1100s English historians and chroniclers Walter Map and William of Newburgh recorded accounts of various undead fauna. By the 1700s, an era often known as the Age of Enlightenment, fear of vampires reached it’s apex following a spate of vampire attacks in East Prussia in 1721 and the Hapsburg Monarchy from 1725 to 1734. Government positions were created for vampire hunters to once-and-for-all rid man of this unholy scourge.

Even Enlightenment writer Voltaire wrote about the vampire plague in his Philosophical Dictionary, “These vampires were corpses, who went out of their graves at night to suck the blood of the living, either at their throats or stomachs, after which they returned to their cemeteries. The persons so sucked waned, grew pale, and fell into consumption; while the sucking corpses grew fat, got rosy, and enjoyed an excellent appetite. It was in Poland, Hungary, Silesia, Moravia, Austria, and Lorraine, that the dead made this good cheer.” Movie Myths 101 – Vampires (Amoeblog)

Vampires occupy a class of folkloric beings termed revenant. In this class are all the varieties of beings believed to have returned from being dead. (Ghosts are revenants.) Revenants, as mythologem, have ancient origins. Their genealogy, (given by anthropology and literary history,) is woven in the folklore of almost every culture.


I was moved to do a little digging, in the phenomenological moonlight.

The vampire is one of the representatives of a phenomena part-and-parcel with any ‘folk’ skepticism a person would have when is believed the soul persists beyond bodily death. In Christian terms, a revenant is a work-around. The piper is paid, yet the rules are different than the normative rules for succession into the next life. Revenants are outliers in relation to the normal redemptive scheme. It’s important to understand the revenant is not a formalization, is not part of the strict cast of characters. The revenant–as work-around–is a strain of necessary superstition, is in a sense an archaic adjunct in the folk scheme of life and death.

A vampire lives forever under particular conditions, but our human night is their day. This inversion suggests also an inversion of the christological mythologem.

Yet, this can go beyond a Christian antithesis. It is possible, maybe likely, that wonderment over the finality of death. goes back beyond paganism, penetrates beyond proto-religion, goes back even before the organization of a spirit world. And, maybe even is among the most primitive of all social-existential phenomena; expressing as it does the base quandry, “Is Bubba really dead?”

I take this up in this way to highlight the archaic of a (kind of) archetype. Buried in this quasi-archetype is a very primitive, primeval layer.

From this, I wonder about the brute opposition in these same primal terms: here today, gone tomorrow, yet gone where? I can imagine how mysterious both would be if we, with modest imagination, consider how death was dealt with intrapsychically, long before the mystery was organized and concretized by proto-pagan artifice.

This development would suppose the development of a chain of being as a response to the mystery of mortality. Moreover, this would be a response given by skepticism: ‘is Bubba gone-where did Bubba go?’ This is all prior to the conceptions of salvation, purgatorial penance, damnation. Also, in supposing that the dead could manifest a near semblance of ‘the living,’ or otherwise manifest a phantasmal form, the particulars of types of revenants fit in culturally distinct ways into Preternatural–worlds behind worlds–cosmic, vertical schemes.

Edvard Munch – Vampire

The pagan layer is persistent. Belief in the work-around of the revenant is inflected with the revenant’s mercurial nature, and this seems to be an important aspect of their alternative myth of resurrection. Vampires are worrisome, unpredictable, and, the vampire’s activities could be glossed as: bugging, tormenting, fooling, tricking, gaming, messing around with, the living. After all, vampire and ghost and spectral phantasm, are also kin.

The revenant provides a kind of gnawing reminder: the ‘vertical’ world itself isn’t in the thrall of the light-bearing beings, ‘the angels.’ Revenants are profane. They exemplify in different ways, negative models.

Archetype is darkened, manifest in human enactment of a particular feeling tone, in precise ways, from specific contexts. Vampire, in the imagination, is an archetype of evil, but only from specific perspectives. The Benedictine Calmet sharpened his axe in antipathy to revenant denizens in accordance with his Catholic perspective. Three centuries earlier, the infections of plague, came to be understood in terms committed to explain the spread of death to be a damnation. At that time, the idea was: the dead were able to cause havoc even though ‘they appeared dead.’ Again, in the context of communities dealing with vast contagion, this response is in accordance with the timely intrapsychic ground. The contagion’s agents of punishment were the ubiquitous dead.

Archaic prototypes may infuse attempts at explaining what had befallen the community. Calmet leaned on, railed against(!) the archaic precedent.

So, why the fascination with vampires today? I don’t know anything about the cultural details. I enjoy the tv serial, True Blood, but this isn’t because I get a charge from vampires. I can’t analyze the trend in any Jungian way because I’m not a proponent of Jung’s collective unconscious.

I do note several rough features of today’s, in effect, multi-media vampire. One, he or she is often a very energized erotic figure. Two, often vampires are sorted out into good vampires, bad vampires, and ‘tweener’ vampires. Taking True Blood as an example, it seems to offer ambiguous morality tales. These take place within a decidedly supernatural cosmos, but much of the primitive vampire is not appropriated.

However, the focal point of the ongoing narrative seems to be how living and undead refract one another’s light and dark. Supernatural conceits don’t matter. In this drama, human and vampire are much closer to being two sides of the same coin. There is then, in at least this example, a humanization of the vampire. This would stand against demonization. Humanity inflects profanity.

The contemporary vampire may even be–all too human. This vampire is often a libertine, with sex* subsuming blood lust. Sometimes, as is the case with Bill from True Blood, he is ambivalent, conflicted, a tweener vampire between worlds, yet not able to transcend the vampire rules. Here is the post-modern turn: vampire as loose, identity mashup, This vamp reflects the chancy play of cosmopolitan identity. And, he or she may be more at home in the intoxicating nights’ cape, than in the tightening days’ cape.

Short of any fascination with vampires, the most common way the idea is entertained is when people speak of having their energy glommed onto and sucked by vampire-like pests. In this what’s left of either the token of the irredeemably fallen or the magical explanation for contagion, is: energy-sapping neediness.

The mercurial-work around able to defeat bodily death and enlightened eternal being is a more subtle layer of the undead.

Dr. Jung wrotes in the chapter Paracelsus as a Spiritual Phenomenon, (in Alchemical Studies.)

Paracelsus, like many others, was unable to make use of Christian symbolism because the Christian formula inevitably suggested the Christian solution and would have conduced to the very thing that had to be avoided. It was nature and her particular “light” that had to be acknowledged and lived with in the face of an attitude that assiduously avoided them.

(Jung earlier in the chapter speaks of the limits of the adept’s “daymind.”)

Archetype possesses the mechanics of refraction in the splitting of dominants and subordinate into further aspects. I’m going to recombine my rough intuitions and suggest the vampire is a subaltern figure–so the contemporary vampire imago stands “outside,” even when the currency of our day’s edgy, camp Vamp, is more the lip-sucking idol, is more sensitive, is more bourgeois. Remember, the contrast between primitive instrumentality and modern character is as stark as that between night and day.

As a practical matter, the attraction to the vampire at least seems to be a worthwhile anecdote to religious neuroticism; does not, as Jung put it, ‘conduce to the very thing that has to be avoided.’

It was nature and her particular NIGHT that had to be acknowledged and lived with in the face of an attitude that assiduously avoided them.

*Most psychoanalytic criticism related to vampires focuses on Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Maurice Richardson, in “The Psychoanalysis of Ghost Stories,” says: “From a Freudian standpoint—and from no other does the story really make any sense—it is seen as a kind of incestuous, necrophilous, oral-anal-sadistic all-in wrestling match”. Phyllis A. Roth finds Bram Stoker’s neurotic fear of sex and women to be the clue to his novel’s popularity; it allows readers “to act out” their own “essentially threatening, even horrifying wishes,” based in the “lustful anticipation of an oral fusion with the mother”. Judith Weissman concurs: “The vampire, an ancient figure of horror in folk tales, undoubtedly represents in any story some kind of sexual terror . . .”. Others, like Christopher Craft and Andrew Schopp, regard vampire literature as a disguised opportunity, as Schopp says, “for acting out socially prohibited roles, and for reconfiguring desire”. p54:Vampire God. The Allure of the Undead in Western Culture, Mary Y. Hallab, SUNY Press 2009 Amazon

Leave a Comment

Filed under analytic(al) psychology

Weather Report

Continuing from the earlier post What the Wind Blows, presenting a schema of Four Orders given as a phenomenological device. (This device captures the diversification of awareness about one’s own behavior–it ranges from the unconscious yet singularly aware First Order, to the conscious and singularly aware Second Order, to the conscious and aware-with-choice Third Order, to the conscious and aware-with-reasons-for-choosing Fourth Order.)

This general scheme may be extended to also frame a view of belief about any person’s relationships to the world. And this is extended to, specifically, belief as awareness about the objects (and objectification,) given by social aspects of the world.

 First order – Singular; no articulated belief; (not applicable)

Second Order – Singular; “This is what I believe!”

Third Order – Multiple; “This is what I believe, but, from other perspectives, what I believe looks different.”

Fourth Order – Multiple; This is what I believe, but I understand why I believe this–rather than some other thing. And, so, I can also see how I might come to believe this some other thing.

Note: the more diverse, the more ambivalent; the more diverse, the more available are possible choices of what to believe. Ambivalence, divergences, searching for other possible perspectives, (etc.) may work together to, in a sense, “de-certify” the absolute, non-ambivalent, convergent, certainties.

Strong Second Order features are found in the current political discourse. It tends toward singular testaments of certainty. Roughly, First and Second Order positions do not obtain the cognitive complexity inherent in Third and Fourth Orders. Second Order beliefs (or positions,) seem, in effect, programmed, and seem to converge on the program.

Someone protests,

“They are trying to steal my liberties, and, my country from me!”

In this statement of protest there are three objects: they, liberties and country. The latter two are possessed as such by the subject. Nevertheless this possession is subject to being nullified by “they.”

Consider, if you can, what it would feel like inside to possess liberty and country, and, in feeling this, also feel the deprivation were one dispossessed of same. Consider also what it would feel like to have a much looser, less associated, relationship with objects such as these.

Contemplate what are the implications of the objects discoverable as features of the belief of the sign carrier above. Do this just from considering what are the possible implications given by the photograph.

What I find gripping is to consider the object relations found in Second Order belief. This is to suggest how the combination of certainty and splitting work to support single-minded beliefs.

Conspiracy. Almost all conspiracy-mindedness reflects reduction to a singular perspective, certainty, and, require casting split-off parts, in effect, ‘away’ from the highly charged core certainties. 

Second Order belief may be very bad at evaluating evidence. Birthers, young earth and intelligent design creationists, 9-11 conspiratoids, each showcase how bad they are at this, but, at the same time, each are–in different ways–obsessed with evidence too. In this, the splitting dynamic is obvious.

Face-to-face with Second Order belief provides an opportunity to drill down and learn if there exists any fragile level of depressive ambivalence. At such a level, anchoring of the ‘First Order” belief may be tenuous because the belief is no longer rooted in the unequivocal solid ground of certainty. However, often this level is not accessible.

I find people’s fears to be poignant. It’s ironic when people’s fears are characterized as being irrational, when such a characterization itself is Second Order–comes from a singular evaluation rather than any possible alternative. A person’s belief that the governmental ‘object’ will dispossess he or she of their ‘liberty’ object is rational at the level of what is true for the particular object relations. It’s as if liberty can be stripped away. Thus, this prospect of dispossession feels frightening.

In this respect, the move to a more cognitive complex order is poignant, as is the First and Second Order fearfulness also poignant.

Leave a Comment

Filed under social psychology, organizational development


I don’t have a harsh judgment to levy against Hillary Clinton in the aftermath of her answering the question about, implicitly, her tenacity in the face of long odds and about party unity at the end of the process. There’s a reason for my being circumspect.

It’s that the incident takes a specific psychological form and consequently its reasons are psychological.

If someone answers a question you’ve posed to them in a way that promotes your thinking to yourself, “I can’t believe he had the thought, let alone spoke it, and in doing so spiked his own self interest!” it is likely that this answer is affect-laden and its dominant is subjective. In suggesting this, such an answer is against other possible answers, including rational, well-rehearsed answers. (The question Hillary was asked about when she thought the nomination would be decided was not in any way a question from left field.)

More remarkable was when she wrapped up with this:

“Um you know I just I don’t understand it.”

Again, this kind of answer fits into a usual form: one understands why people share the page they’re on together, and, for those that don’t, the question begged is: ‘how do I understand their position?’ In this second aspect, there is an implicit Theory of Mind conundrum; how are other perspectives in other minds to be understood? There’s nothing about those who disagree with Hillary–about her remaining in the race–that is hard to understand, so she gives away something at work in her depths in pretending she doesn’t understand.

A question is: How could she have answered and met the twin objectives, one, to justify her remaining in the race against diminishing odds, and, two, to support confidence in party unity irrespective of who should become the nominee?

The psychological question then is: what are the types of internal psychic (or cognitive factors,) that will tend to diminish a person’s ability to firstly stand outside the mystique of their subjective perspective and secondly respond with enough objectivity to meet objective-type goals?

Continue reading

Leave a Comment

Filed under analytic(al) psychology


Now, some of them believe that by delaying funding for our troops, they can force me to accept restrictions on our commanders that I believe would make withdrawal and defeat more likely. That’s not going to happen. If Congress fails to pass a bill to fund our troops on the front lines, the American people will know who to hold responsible. (Applause.) Our troops in Iraq deserve the full support of the Congress and the full support of this nation. (Applause.)

I know when you see somebody in the uniform, you praise them, and I thank you for that. We need to praise those military families, too, that are strong, standing by their loved one in this mighty struggle to defend this country. They risk their lives to fight a brutal and determined enemy, an enemy that has no respect for human life.

We saw that brutality in a recent attack. Just two weeks ago, terrorists in Baghdad put two children in the back of an explosive-laden car, and they used them to get the car past a security checkpoint. And once through, the terrorists fled the vehicle and detonated the car with the children inside. Some call this civil war; others call it emergency [sic] — I call it pure evil. And that evil that uses children in a terrorist attack in Iraq is the same evil that inspired and rejoiced in the attacks of September the 11th, 2001. And that evil must be defeated overseas, so we don’t have to face them here again. (Applause.)

If we cannot muster the resolve to defeat this evil in Iraq, America will have lost its moral purpose in the world, and we will endanger our citizens, because if we leave Iraq before the job is done, the enemy will follow us here. Prevailing in Iraq is not going to be easy. Four years after this war began, the nature of the fight has changed, but this is a fight that can be won. We can have confidence in the outcome, because this nation has done this kind of work before. March 28:07 President Bush Discusses Economy, War on Terror During Remarks to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association


The role of the father in psychoanalysis is conceived as being that of a lawgiver (Freud, Lacan, Chasseguet-Smirgel), as well as that of a liberator and facilitator of desire and ambition (Benjamin, 1988). The father’s role is widely conceptualized as creating an exit from the mother-infant orbit (sometimes called “merger”, “symbiosis”, the Imaginary, or”regression”) into the outer world, lawful, reality, language, and the Symbolic Order (Lacan). In religious fundamentalism the figure of the father is perverted: a father who liberates his sons (and daughters) into social life, into taking initiative, and into the joy of competence and the entitlement to pursue their desires in life, becomes the Father who liberates his sons (and daughters) from “themselves”, from their individuality, human compassion and the moral impulse. Love for this father liberates his sons to humiliate, kill and destroy “his” enemies. The persecutory father, who is an inner “gang leader” (Rosenfeld, 1971) is rephrased as a loved and loving father, although this father is obviously a vengeful killer. Obviously, what subtends this love of God is tremendous, transformed hatred, a kind of loving paranoia.

When discussing paranoia, we tend to stress the persecuted, fearing-and-hating, self-referential, hostility-imputing quality of experience. But we often forget another dimension that marks this state of mind: solemn reverence and mindless adoration. At the beginning of his Analysis of the Self, Kohut (1971) draws a most evocative diagram in which he traces the regressive itinerary of the omnipotent archaic object. This archaic object constitutes an endpoint along the path of the disintegration of higher forms of narcissism into archaic narcissistic positions. The regressive itinerary of the archaic object exists, according to Kohut, alongside the regressive itinerary of the self. On this diagram, (1) “normalcy” is the capacity for admiration and enthusiasm. In narcissistic personality disturbances, writes Kohut, this capacity degenerates, at the stage of (2) “idealized parental imago,” into a “compelling need for merger with the powerful object.” A further “downward” spiraling stage, still within the narcissistic personality disturbances, is that of “nuclei (fragments) of the idealized omnipotent object: disjointed mystical religious feelings, vague awe. The final, irreversible stage is reached in (3) psychosis, with the “delusional reconstruction of the omnipotent object: the powerful persecutor, the influencing machine” (p. 9; italics added).

Leave a Comment

Filed under current events