What did you learn from psychoanalysis?

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October 10, 2021

"the distinction between fantasy and reality is important to adaptive functioning. But separating fantasy and reality is only one way to construct and organize experience. . . . each requires the other to come alive" (29).

Is this a balancing act? Or is a more precise image the maintenance of a circuit? Not tending to one part of the circuit may lead to short-circuiting and "malfunction". What I want to challenge in this reading is whether this trio (the reality-fantasy binary and their mediation) is dependent on a single reality. Is reality scarce? Something we all need but not everyone can have? Or is reality just an agreement - a "contract of silence" as Felman writes about? Besides that matter there are the important political consequences of a threshold of malfunction within conditions of scarcity. Malfunctioning constitutes failure, failure is waste, and waste must be punished-isolated-excluded-obliterated.

October 4, 2021

I have been struggling a lot to figure out what an interdisciplinary professional life looks like - let alone how an interdisciplinary brain functions. This reading affirmed one of my more recent suspicions: that I would do well to let myself think like a lawyer, and let myself think like an anthropologist, and then allow these two voices to exchange ideas and comments. Instead of trying to unify two ways of thinking and stuff them into the same mouthpiece, it would be productive to make room for another mouthpiece. In fact, I already have other mouthpieces (set to various volumes) that are representative of my multiple roles.

October 3, 2021

“It is important to note that such epistemological resonances between Sufism and psychoanalysis were not related solely to the “infiltration” of Western ideas into the Middle Eastern world. They were related, as well, to the nature of psychoanalysis itself.”

-THIS; psychoanalysis and its themes of the self and consciousness are prevalent throughout cultures and how communities structure belief systems and morality;

 

“Kenneth Reinhard has argued that “scripture is the unconscious of psychoanalysis, at once its model of dream interpretation, its grammar of law and desire, and its treasury of unspeakable words and absurd commandments.”

 

“Perhaps more directly, we may note that mysticism has continued to play a role within analytical theory as a nexus for understanding the relationship between the self and the Other”

-Exactly! The process of trying to self-actualize or psychoanalyzing someone else predates Freud’s psychoanalysis and very much aligns with theology as there has always been an “unknowable” factor for humans that often is considered mysticism, and is used to describe and attribute certain characteristics or behaviors to people when others feel they cannot understand or “rationally” determine one’s actions

 

“Abu al-Wafa al-Ghunaymi al-Taftazani outlined a unique Sufi perspective on the architecture of the self, narrating the composition of the self as an interconnected network of self or soul (nafs), spirit (ruh), heart (qalb), and mystery or inner secret (sirr). Taken together these components constituted the soul or the human “seat of subjectivity.”

-ascribing words and terms that may be viewed differently depending on the culture, but clearly illustrating the similarities and where psychoanalysis and Islam can converge in theme and theory.

 

“In many ways analogous to the “topographical aspect” of Freud’s model of consciousness and the unconscious as “systems in the mind that are superimposed one upon another,” … Rather than a straightforward concern for “regions in the mental apparatus” however, al-Taftazani’s topography concerned the very nature of man’s soul, that which enables a being to “bear what is intolerable in this world”

-emphasizing the interconnected nature and how you cannot just pick one facet to examine to understand someone but ultimately it’s the combination and combined influence of all of the factors

 

“The term nafs has two meanings. The one relates to that entity in man in which the power of anger and the power of desire are found. This use is the most prevalent among the Ṣūf īs. For them nafs means the element in man that includes all the blameworthy qualities. . . . The second meaning is [that of] the subtle entity . . . that is man’s true reality, soul (nafs) and essence.”

 

“Within this Sufi ontology the nafs was a specified evil—representing the locus of base instincts and reprehensible acts. According to al-Qushayri (d. 1074), “the soul is nothing but darkness; its secret [heart] is its lamp; and the light of this lamp is Godspeed. Whoever is not accompanied by God’s assistance in his secret [heart], lingers in total darkness.”

 

As a spiritual essence the nafs was distinct from the body, a Neoplatonic presence that existed previously in another world (ʿalam al-amr, the world of Divine command) outside of time and matter.Yet in its earthly manifestation it was trapped in the prison house of the body, a source of evil.51 The nafs thus oscillated between its bodily and spiritual manifestations, functioning as a barzakh or isthmus between spirit and matter. This spectrum of darkness and luminosity expressed itself in a tripartite conceptualization of the nafs, derived from the Qurʾan and loosely echoed in Aristotle’s treatise On the Soul

--compares in a way to the composition and understanding of the ego and the id

 

“The shifting between psychoanalytic and Sufi registers enabled the knowledge of the nafs developed in the science of the soul, ʿilm al-nafs, to contribute to the knowledge of God, maʿ rifa.”

-we can see how both sufism and psychoanalysis deal with ethics and morality and how the “Other” mediates the domain of the unconscious; however, sufism does not just accept the unknowableness of the other and instead seeks to engage its impact in the conversation with psychoanalysis;

 

In comparison to Kant, Freud’s work offered “a more somatically, socially, and historically grounded approach to the formation of rational and ethical capacities.”

Mike Fortun's picture
September 26, 2021

"osteoporosis of meaning"  That's it; that's the annotation.

Mike Fortun's picture
September 26, 2021

For Frie, reductionism or reducing (and reification, although I think that's different) are bad, and its always the Freudians or the neo-Freudians or someone else who is doing them, guilty of them, and the interpersonal and cultural are complex and have "primacy" and are done by anthropologists and Sullivan and Fromm.  Sounds like splitting to me. As though Frie's entire article isn't replete with reductive statements, explicit or implict, starting with the notion that culturalists are never reductive. So "reductive" marks some kind of resistance, resistance to seeing oneself as implicated in your own critique? First thing to ask is: when, say, Freud was saying something reductive, what was he actually saying? Maybe the reducer only sounds reductive to someone who thinks they are doing something other than that or beyond that.

And isn't Marcuse's critique of Fromm is that he is being reductive? What kind of primate is always determined to find or ascribe "primacy"? Something has to be first, the most important, the biggest, and that just happens to be the thing that *I* do or champion. Bit of narcissism to add to the splitting.

Tangled up with this is a reductive view of biology and biological matter: biology is fixed and invariant, only culture has difference.  Geertz is quoted: there's no such thing as human nature outside of culture. Yeah sure fine. But there *are* human babies, and they may not be outside of culture when they are born, or at six months, or at three years, but neither are they in it or is it in them. How does the baby "get" culture, by what mechanism (go ahead, call me reductionist) does culture come to occupy us and we it, in all our cultural difference? Lots of talk about being "embedded" in culture, but not a lot of curiosity about: what kind of creature can get embedded in culture, or have culture introjected into it? Most primates, probably, looks like elephants and giraffes too -- birds? Bees and the "social insects"? Not in the same way, for sure, but we don;t get space for that question here: culture is given and it is a thing (despite being said to be dynamic and in process) and it is human.

You can take that whole paragraph Geertz is quoted in --

As I stated previously, culture is not a static entity that can be reified. Rather, culture exists as a process; it is inherently dynamic, participatory, and interactive and includes language, tradition, and heritage that is passed down across generations. Although the individual person can never be separated out of culture, neither can he or she be reduced to a mere representation of culture. As psychoanalysts, in short, we need to find a way to account for the role and place of lived psychological experience within culture. As the anthropologist Clifford Geertz (1973, p. 49) famously states, “[t]here is no such thing as human nature independent of culture.” (p390)

and swap in "biology" for "culture" --

As I stated previously, biology is not a static entity that can be reified. Rather, biology exists as a process; it is inherently dynamic, participatory, and interactive and includes language, tradition, and heritage that is passed down across generations. Although the individual person can never be separated out of biology, neither can he or she be reduced to a mere representation of biology. As psychoanalysts, in short, we need to find a way to account for the role and place of lived psychological experience within biology. As the anthropologist Clifford Geertz (1973, p. 49) Darwin famously states, “[t]here is no such thing as human nature independent of biology.”

-- well, that reads just fine to me.  And which kind of belies the statement in the next paragraph, that "the view point I am describing rejects persisting Cartesian dualisms..." Denial is not just a river in Egypt.

Gadamer: yeah, that tracks. There's the whiff of conventionalism hanging over the whole thing -- Marcuse seems to have smelled it too. Like it's been Fried.