Pathological magical thinking in the pre-Oedipal mode

First, a qualification:  I’m with Jungians in accepting that not everything about “pre-Oedipal” thinking, including magical thinking, is necessarily entirely bad, false and regressive.

After all, if we accept the premise that at the earliest stages of childhood development, we all experienced the world in this way at once stage.  To then hold that early childhood a purely negative or purely psychotic state is to impugn it.  Rather, it is more logical to imagine that early childhood gives us the raw material for becoming adults, including the liquidity that enables us to transform from a raw state of infancy to particular cultural expressions of adulthood.

So, there is likely a creative and productive potential to pre-Oedipal thinking.  Yet, if adults want to harness this force effectively, they must do it by doubling their consciousness, so that a more mature mindset does not lose complete control of those aspects of the self that remain irrational.  Unless this particular sense of shamanistic doubling is enacted, we would  be left with unharnessed and wholly unconscious pre-Oedipal states — which would then be destructive and simply regressive.

Ujheley gives a great explication of pre-oedipal states. Her writing and other texts I have investigated, suggest that part of this regressive mode of thinking involves an attitude that words, once said, are irrevocable, having an effect on others that we would equate with the same force of revelatory truth. Thus, from this regressive perspective there is no human fallibility, no possibility of struggling within an arena which includes both truth and error. Rather, by speaking my words, I make them definitively TRUE.

This literalist interpretation and speaking is of course extreme and odd. Ideas do not become TRUE just because we speak them. Yet, from the perspective of one who sees and experiences the world through the pre-Oedipal modality, all words spoken have what seems to be the FORCE of truth — just because he or she has no internal means for defending against them. Without the means to fend off other people’s judgements, for instance by putting them in perspective, (since emotional perspective is exactly that which one who is stuck at a pre-Oedipal level lacks), words themselves seem to be truths, that one must compulsively accept. Thus a word, once spoken, can never be modified.

Fundamentalist Christians often seem to process information in this way. From my personal experience, this mode of consciousness also happens to be a feature of right-wingers‘ political consciousness in many ways. Indeed, the vulgar ideology expressed by the Bu(l)shite neo-conservatives, that “The reality based community only researches reality, where we are the ones who actually create it,” would seem to stem directly from a regressive pre-Oedipal consciousness, whereby merely speaking your ideas suffices to turn them into intractable truths.

Joke-telling, however, relies implicitly upon the listener’s capacity to tell the difference between reality and illusion. Thus, things I have uttered in a very light-spirited, humorous vein, have often been used against me by right wingers, who go with their accusations with a reprimanding tone: “You once confessed that you were [some negative or shameful thing]!”

 

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