Historical forces and psychological projection

I confess to quite an acute skepticism of psychoanalysis because its terms of reference have seemed to me limited to the late capitalist nuclear family, without taking into account social or historical events.    Because this kind of psychoanalysis is worse than useless to me personally, my skepticism had continued to grow and grow. Recently, however, I found this article and considered it embrace a balanced form of humanism.

I’ve learned to steer clear of traditional psychoanalysis because the paradigm it promotes seems to encourage people to believe that is one is suffering in some way, it is likely to be because one is “projecting something”.  I developed the impression that psychoanalysis was often, if not always, a means to expressing an unwillingness to deal with historical facts.   By not dealing with these and with the impact they can have on the psyche, one preserves a sense that we live in the best of all possible worlds, and that nothing  can or should be changed, apart from at the level of the individual.   That is, the person suffering should change themselves, but they should do so in a way that doesn’t implicate others or avoidable historical circumstances in the process of change.   They should just make the changes as part of their moral duty to society, above all by hardening up and not taking any nonsense from anybody.

While I’m sure that the imperatives of bourgeois society are not necessarily the imperatives of psychoanalysis, there seems to be an overlap.  According to the article I’ve linked to, the capacity to dig into emotional states, to find out what is there,  is a core part of psychoanalysis. But, psychoanalysis occurs in a context, which is that of contemporary society, the society of the bourgeois individual.  The functioning of the individual is important within this sort of system, but their individual mental states are not relevant so long as they perform their job effectively.  Forms of therapy that would try to coax a person into expressing a certain impersonal demeanor are particularly noxious, although perhaps quite common.   The article linked above outlines how psychoanalysis is supposed to simply make a person more aware of their hidden motivations, so as to have more control over their lives. The impressive aspect of the article was that it didn’t frame a person’s suffering in terms of individual moral culpability.

My resistance to psychoanalysis as a system has been on the basis that I must necessarily and rightfully defend myself against insinuations based on bourgeois concepts of moral culpability.   I don’t mean to imply that I’m a perfect little angel, in bourgeois terms.   I just want to get rid of the bourgeois framing of experience.   We are not guilty sinners, who suffer because of our mistakes or deficiencies.  This reductive way of viewing human nature does much harm.   Rather, we deal with issues the way we do, sometimes inadequately, because of emotional overload.

Sometimes the emotional overload is so strong that we demand others bear some of its weight.   That is known as ‘projective identification’.  One does not resort to this because one is immoral or lax, but more probably because one does not know how else to deal with the burning intensity of emotional pain apart from spreading it around.   By doing so, one survives, although if the emotions one has to spread are negative, this is highly costly to others.

We may often not come to  like people who project onto us, because they are giving us a burden not our own.   That tends to produce resentment and sometimes rage. If the project is negative, and not made up of overflowing joy, or if authority is not what’s being projected onto us, we may feel that we have no choice but to carry someone else’s pathology.  We might do this willingly or unwillingly, but it can be more difficult, when young, to develop the ego strength to resist powerful forms of projection.

2.

I still have the notion that disaster can strike at any time, and it will be my fault.

I think I understand how that belief came about, but I would never have reached an understanding apart from  my belated awareness of some very specific historical circumstances.

My father’s rage was lit by his mother allowing her husband, his father, to be killed on a flying jaunt in World War 2.   Participating in the war was “the thing to do,” his mother had said.  It sounded frivolous.  He didn’t have to do it, but it was the flavor of the day.  My father said he didn’t “trust her judgement”.  Of course not — because a light tone ought not to be followed by a disaster.  The two aspects of the deadly outcome, the feeling before the world fell apart and the feeling afterwards, are incongruous.  There was much to distrust, including possibly, his mother’s judgement.

All the same, I know what she was feeling, because it was how I felt when harsh and critical judgement were projected onto me.  You see, my father didn’t ‘trust my judgement’ either, on the basis that I seemed like a person not to be trusted.   When I scan the past for anything I may have done to provoke such unwarranted criticism, I do not find it.  It is likely that my gender was the fundamental element that drew this fire.

My grandmother’s internal workings have become mine, to a certain extent, as a result of my father’s issues.  It is true to say that his relationship with her became his relationship with me.  I know how it feels to be blamed for something terrible that one can’t quite put one’s finger on.  I’ve had the responsibility to rectify historical wrongs, but without understanding their specifics.   I just felt guilty.  Also, it was very important for me that the world should know that I was deeply traumatized and not ‘hysterical’ — women of my grandmother’s era were often depicted as ‘hysterical’ and my father was inclined to handle his rage by displacing it — and condemning me.

The plane that went up and never came down was all my fault.   I didn’t realize the source of all the hostility and aggression, but had I understood it all much earlier, my ego would have still needed further years to develop to be able to take the strain of being targeted in this way.

Psychoanalysis may be a useful tool, then, if it helps people to understand the sources of their pains, but it surely takes a great deal more to overcome historically inflicted blows — and, if history is out of its picture to begin with, what then …?

RHODESIA, SEX AND GENDER:  THE RIGHT-WING WAY.

3. The cure for a man who still believes in female hysteria is to wait until he has something very urgent he needs you to understand.

Then say: “I’m sorry. I’m not getting it. Would you try and say that again in a way I can understand? I encourage you to keep persisting, if you like. Or, by the same token, don’t persist. Either way, it’s all the same to me!”

Anti-colonial knee jerks

I was one who was born in Rhodesia, and was forced to emigrate whilst still a child (as this was my parents’ decision, not mine). Regrettably, I found my ‘welcome’ into the First World to be anything but. To this day, I keep up that the general level of moral reflection and self-discipline among much of the populace in my current milieu are frighteningly low. I wonder if it could cross the minds of some of the moral ideologues on the evils of colonialism that acting upon their unchecked assumptions about colonial whites could give the colonial white immigrants, to whom some denizens of the western left are pleased to give short thrift, imputing to them collective guilt. This only leads to the blindsided newcomer learning complete contempt for those who wish to punish us for nothing we had done wrong. To act to punish without even the preliminaries of an introduction to the person whom you are punishing is quite without morality or decency, in my view.

Ashis Nandy, the Indian post-colonial theorist and intellectual cautions us against making monsters out of the ex-colonials. To do so, he says, is to reinforce colonialism as a psychologically potent force. These disempowered colonials as victims of Modernity, dwarfed in relation to the gigantic mechanisms and devices of modern warfare.

Nandy’s position on colonialism lends itself to a psychological appraisal of the colonials, who and what they were, and how they are really in relation to contemporary manifestations of power. The children of the white colonials are particularly vulnerable, even compared to their uprooted parents. My generation is also the victim of colonial secrecy about what went on, and religious shame, which prevents free communication, and makes us victim to both right-wing and left-wing propaganda.

A simple-minded anti-colonialist position, by contrast to Nandy’s more enlightened perspective, only contributes to a highly unethical and destructive blaming of the generation of the white colonial’s children, who did not play any part in the politics of the era.  Identity politics theorists who have a reflexive need to condemn the colonialism of the past, whilst not looking at the issues of the present, are reinforcing the violent psychological legacy of the colonial era, and is creating more of the anguish which the astute Zimbabwean writer, Dambudzo Marechera, railed against:

“We are refugees fleeing from the excesses of our parents,” he said.

Marechera, hardly a partisan for the order that preceded colonialism, went on to say, “Tradition, on closer examination, always reveals secrets we prefer to flush down the toilet.”

Origins of my character

I’m able to make sense of some of my character in relation to how actual events occurred.  For instance, I consider how I was my mother’s strong support system whilst my father was at war.  He was often away on call up from the time I was born.

So I learned to see the ability to have the correct emotional response to every situation as a matter of life and death.  I consider emotions very, very important — but also, and above all, the non-expression of emotions if someone looks like they are flaking out.  I can distance myself very, very quickly when that happens — and always do so.   I don’t experience my emotions, using that method — but, above all, this is an act of charity, trying to prevent another person from experiencing their negative emotions.

So, stoicism is very deep in me, and it is also deep in Mike, who must have learned the same technique when he was five and his father died, crossing a road.

We both consider emotional management very important because it limits the damage that we could have caused our parents if we had not had strict control over our emotions.

I’m suited for a crisis — as is Mike.   But I’m not suited for everyday situations.  If a child cries, and it is not a matter of life and death, that doesn’t interest me.  I’ll wait until it is one, or I’ll let someone else take care of it.  I don’t have a subtle variation of emotional nurturing patterns.   It’s kind of boring.  But life and death issues pull me in.

To understand this is important, because I know I just react to emotional input differently from people who were not brought up in similarly pressing circumstances.  I don’t diagnose myself as having a problem I ought to set out to fix.  Rather, I see myself as having the capacity to adapt to extreme circumstances, but not to those where subtle and measured responses are required.   I have a character, not a pathology.

And, I think that is useful to know.

My memoir and the theory behind it

An interview with Allan Shore

QUOTE:

His training as a psychoanalyst was critical in highlighting the importance of the relationship between the mother and the infant. But there was a struggle within psychoanalysis – in particular between Anna Freud and Melanie Klein – about how much was really a creation of the infants mind., a phantasy. Bowlby began to fervently argue and bring in data from other disciplines to show that the real relationship, that the real events, not only were there but they were indelibly and permanently shaped there in a way that would affect the way that the personality would develop over the lifespan.  [EMPHASIS MINE]

This is precisely what I was interested in studying when I wrote my memoir!

 

Primary process thinking and relating

Primary process thinking is the form of adaptive thinking we are all born with. It at the foundation level of human nature. Just as a tadpole turns into a frog, or a worm into a moth, we all engaged in primary processes in our chrysalis stage.

It’s related to an original state in the womb (and later in early childhood), where subject and object are one. The child and the mother are one bio-system, rather than being individualized and separate. Rationality has not started to develop. Nor has the awareness that one is separate from others. This way of thinking lends itself to the feeling that anything could happen. The imagination, and not logic, tends to predominate.

Primary process thinking also has an instrumental role when people have to adjust to larger systems, under strain. Humans are equipped to become one with an organisation, by projecting and distributing various facets of their personalities and needs into other members of the institution. Thus the institution functions as a whole organism, or one mind, rather than as separate people going their own way. This is very adaptive, but at the cost of rationality and individuality.

Humans are extremely adaptive in a positive way too.  We use primary process thinking all the time.  For instance, primary processes are the basis for empathy — the capacity to think oneself into the other’s skin in relation to basic human needs and desires (The lowest rungs of Maslow’s pyramid of needs).  In all, it’s what lies behind our ability to relate most directly with others.

Accepting you have become corrupted and recovery

Let’s Spread the Word: Wetiko | Reality Sandwich:

‘via Blog this’

An article, linked to above, worth reading.  It may come across as New Age, but I also arrived at the same conclusions through my careful, far more academic study and observation.

I also concluded that the patriarchal religions perpetuate this deformed state of consciousness, by encouraging men to project their darkness onto women.

Intellectual shamanism reverses this process by insisting that one develop a relationship with oneself.  As the article says:

[The pathological person’s] will becomes dedicated to hiding from the truth of what they are doing, a truth which endlessly pursues them, as they continually avoid relationship with themselves.  [Emphasis mine].

My intellectual shamanism is concerned with the structuring of the human psyche and with remedies through restructuring and forming a relationship with other parts of yourself, that may have become alienated from the whole.  Accepting one’s dissociated and split state, one goes looking for them.  This does not involve blind searching, but active and reasoned looking.

The moralistic tone of the article, especially where it suggests that “excess” or boundary-crossing are always “evil” reveals much of the limitations of New Age psychology.  Whether these are “evil”, or corrective of pathology depends on how you use them.  Otherwise, it’s like saying that dynamite is bad under all circumstances — because it causes destruction. Few things are intrinsically bad in and of themselves — and sometimes a degree of destruction is necessary, in order to recover full health.

Blinded by the light


“We grope like the blind along a wall, feeling our way like people without eyes. Even at brightest noontime, we stumble as though it were dark. Among the living, we are like the dead.”–Isaiah 59:10
“and you will grope at noon, as the blind man gropes in darkness, and you will not prosper in your ways; but you shall only be oppressed and robbed continually, with none to save you.” Deuteronomy 28:29
***
“And the blindness of the blind one, and his seeking and groping, shall yet testify to the power of the sun into which he hath gazed,–did ye know that before?”–Nietzsche

***************

Compare the quotes above Nietzsche gave a very non-Biblical (shamanistic) meaning to his aphorisms. He thought it was funny to take portentous Biblical words and change them into ideas that oppose Biblical trains of thought with more naturalistic ones. For instance, he thought that knowledge had to do with realizing just how necessarily and interminably irrational reality is.   The more one gazes into this fact, the more one loses one’s illusions about any overarching rationale for human existence.

In opposition to the Biblical views, which imply that blindness to the light is the result of not acquiescing to God’s will, Nietzsche maintains that blindness is the result of gazing too directly into reality — that is too much into “the light”.  One can see reality through the filtering device of metaphysics, as one employs a thin screen when gazing at a solar eclipse. However, this view of reality is not a direct view of it, because it is filtered by a fabric that changes what is really out there

Marechera must surely have read Nietzsche, as his parodic humor suggests that the blinding light of knowledge emerges out of the Devil’s ass, that is, from the capacity to confront danger/evil.

Bataille’s book, THEORY OF RELIGION

Bataille self-identifies as a proletarian, by contrast with Nietzsche’s aristocratic self-identification. For him, “religion” invokes a mantra of destruction. One destroys the surplus provided by the Capitalist system whenever one is not working to reproduce that system. This everyday destruction of the commodity (through use), and of oneself (through festivals, including drinking) is the enjoyment of God on the last day of the week, having invented everything. Nietzsche saw “God” in the human consciousness and its capacity to create. Bataille adds a Marxist twist and sees “God” in his capacity to DESTROY.

Much of Bataille’s writing urges us toward a retraining of the Superego for nonconformity in the face of servitude and slavery. Transgression is not for its own sake, nor to indulge whims and desire. It involves a reorientation towards the world on the basis of one’s individual strength to do that which was previously forbidden for one to do.

Destruction is transgressive and therefore freedom-inspiring. It is undertaken between the individual and himself (formerly his society’s mores, that have been introjected as Superego). There is much at stake here — much to lose. But every gain is an improvement in the range and power of one’s will. The territory that one ultimately conquers is one’s self. (That is a beginning.)

Nietzsche has a similarly defiant relationship to his Superego. Zarathustra desires to break the law tables of “the good and the just”. Such principled destruction also requires transgression of the Christian value judgements that had commanded European society. These values would probably have been internalised by his intended readers, meaning that, in a way, to destroy the value judgements of the “good and the just” meant destroying themselves, and recreating themselves anew:

It is not your sin-it is your self-satisfaction that crieth unto heaven; your very sparingness in sin crieth unto heaven!

Where is the lightning to lick you with its tongue? Where is the frenzy with which ye should be inoculated?

Lo, I teach you the Superman: he is that lightning, he is that frenzy!-NIETZSCHE, ZARATHUSTRA

Whereas Nietzsche self-identifies as an aristocrat and wants to overcome his limitations, Bataille sets the stage for revolution.

An amusing jaunt

(Tongue in cheek:)  the first experience in the new tent — I tested it by sleeping in my back yard. Who would have known my back yard could have been so noisy?  One is sheltered from most of the noises that take place during the night by brick walls and glass windows.   Mike had warned me that it was pure madness to test my new equipment on a night when it was destined to rain heavily.  By virtue of his hefty warning, he put it into my head that I may go mad.  There is a thin line between insanity and normality.  I’ve always been intrigued as to where that is, and what exactly one must do to cross it.

That night was a test of my metal — if not my mettle.  I heard some funny noises.  The stirring wind that accompanied the heavy rain produced a lively clatter.  Planes passed over.  Loose debris in the neighbors’ yard seemed to ricochet from one position to the next.

I should mention that, whilst not exactly claustrophobic  I am acutely sensitive to the quality of air.  As a kid, there I had an outright hatred for large department stores, or Hypermarkets, due to the very bad quality of air below an adult’s leg span.  It’s likely that carbon dioxide and nitrogen sink, whereas oxygen rises.  In any case, I could never get enough of the good quality of air, and usually began to feel nauseous, ten minutes into the trip.  After that, I would feel deeply fatigued and refuse to go any further, much to the adults’ chagrin and assertions that I was just whining.   So, pulling the lid of the small tent (called a ‘swag’) over my head, whilst sleeping, was never going to be a good idea.  It wasn’t inevitably a bad one, either.  But fraught with uncertainty, it surely was.  Uncertainty is just subjective.  It doesn’t matter.   One gets over a fright, because it happens only in one’s mind.

There was the time I shut the bedroom door to sleep — and window, too. That was because we had a guest to stay, and the wind had rattled the blinds.  I woke up suddenly, with a screech.  I feared that square  white objects were falling off the wall behind me. I had to leap out the way, lest they land on my head.  Another time the window was almost shut and the air wasn’t circulating.  I screamed because someone seemed to be coming in the window.  Apparently my shriek was so piercing, I totally shattered Mike’s peace of mind. My heart was racing and I thought, when he grabbed me to reassure me, that I had stood up and he had led me back to bed.  I had not been standing up, in truth, for it would have taken him longer to lead me back to bed had that been so.  In fact, a lack of oxygen to my brain had led to another hallucination.

There were two more of this sort — and always with the common cause of air circulation being cut off.  In one case, there was a man standing over my head, wearing cowboy attire. In the other case, Mike and I were sharing a swag and had pulled over the lid to stop the rain from getting in. Whilst asleep I had imagined a large ant, waving its feelers at me.  I screamed and smashed the ant as hard as I could.  My finger remained jarred for several months after that:  I had lashed out at it pretty hard.

The night of the event where I became a kangaroo, due to my haunted swag, was that night when I did my testing.  This was in our own back yard.  This was the night a Melbourne woman was being murdered.  But that is irrelevant either way.  I’d shut the lid, due to the rain, then tossed and turned. The air quality was not good.  A small backyard, bounded by fences, does not allow the air to circulate.  A lid above my head does not improve this. I am in my coffin. I am dying of poor air quality.  I have to prove my metal and my mettle, otherwise I won’t be born again.

I stayed in the back yard with all the mysterious items racketing around.  I endured it for several hours, but my sleep was light, or not at all.  Suddenly, neither awake nor fully asleep, I had the feeling I should make a dash for it.  I could get back into the warmth of the house and cross from death to life.  I had to find my confidence, because once I reversed the process of dying and started living, I might find anything at all.  The first step was to open the lid and peer out at the sky.  But the sky was terrifying. I felt a predatory animal, no doubt a pterodactyl lurking just above my head, ready to swoop and take me as its prey the minute I revealed myself.  If I unzipped myself, I could die.

An image carried me forth, however. It was a mental image; a hallucination. I saw myself bounding to the back door and entering it.  I became a wild kangaroo, and my legs were carrying me, driven by pure animal terror, in through the back door.

But I was human — and so, limited.  As a kangaroo, I could enter the back door, but my human skills slowed me down.  What if the zipper did not unzip?  As a kangaroo, did I have the right to expect it would? Also, I would be using a human hand to turn the back doorknob.  What if the door knob did not respond to a human hand, because I had forever been condemned not to be human?

There was a huge risk in testing whether I was still human or not.  I decided to make a run for it.  I unzipped quickly, and like the kangaroo in my dream, bolted for the door.  In a weird way, two miraculous things happened.  One:  the zip that bound my lid unzipped in normal human fashion. Two:  the door knob turned and let me in.

I had escaped the radiant of evil.

It was unbelievable to be human again. I moved up near to Mike and reveled in the sheer humanity of it all.  Being human meant comfort, and protection, and solidarity, in a way I hadn’t recently understood.  I lay there basking in the warmth and wonderfulness of humanity.

This had not been my only experience of the kangaroo spirit that embodies my swag.  It may not be my last.  I had another, similar experience, on the recent trip. I’d put the lid down to protect myself from pollen, and was going asleep, when suddenly a kangaroo was standing above me.  I saw it in three flashes, the same outline of a kangaroo — and screamed.  Only, the scream may have been silent this time, even though my heart rate was high when I woke myself up.  Of course one does not see a kangaroo through an enclosing cover.

The body has an amazing way of alerting you when the quality for living isn’t all that good.  Supposing I had really been in danger of falling into death, due to a lack of air supply, my body would be doing an amazing job. I don’t condemn it for being alert.

At the same time, it is weird that I see kangaroos in every instance when I’m dying. Mike says he also thought a kangaroo was sniffing around us on that night.

Imagination and reality; these sometimes curiously combine.

Shamanism and identity

The old and new traditions of shamanism are linked by their idea of the psyche as being made of disparate elements that require integration if one is to function as a human being, without an integral loss of being or distortion of it.   Nietzsche depicts Zarathustra as being concerned with the selfsame issues:

When Zarathustra went one day over the great bridge, then did the cripples and beggars surround him, and a hunchback spake thus unto him:

“Behold, Zarathustra! Even the people learn from thee, and acquire faith in thy teaching: but for them to believe fully in thee, one thing is still needful–thou must first of all convince us cripples! Here hast thou now a fine selection, and verily, an opportunity with more than one forelock! The blind canst thou heal, and make the lame run; and from him who hath too much behind, couldst thou well, also, take away a little;–that, I think, would be the right method to make the cripples believe in Zarathustra!”

Zarathustra, however, answered thus unto him who so spake: When one taketh his hump from the hunchback, then doth one take from him his spirit–so do the people teach. And when one giveth the blind man eyes, then doth he see too many bad things on the earth: so that he curseth him who healed him. He, however, who maketh the lame man run, inflicteth upon him the greatest injury; for hardly can he run, when his vices run away with him–so do the people teach concerning cripples. And why should not Zarathustra also learn from the people, when the people learn from Zarathustra?

It is, however, the smallest thing unto me since I have been amongst men, to see one person lacking an eye, another an ear, and a third a leg, and that others have lost the tongue, or the nose, or the head.

I see and have seen worse things, and divers things so hideous, that I should neither like to speak of all matters, nor even keep silent about some of them: namely, men who lack everything, except that they have too much of one thing–men who are nothing more than a big eye, or a big mouth, or a big belly, or something else big,–reversed cripples, I call such men.

And when I came out of my solitude, and for the first time passed over this bridge, then I could not trust mine eyes, but looked again and again, and said at last: “That is an ear! An ear as big as a man!” I looked still more attentively–and actually there did move under the ear something that was pitiably small and poor and slim. And in truth this immense ear was perched on a small thin stalk–the stalk, however, was a man! A person putting a glass to his eyes, could even recognise further a small envious countenance, and also that a bloated soullet dangled at the stalk. The people told me, however, that the big ear was not only a man, but a great man, a genius. But I never believed in the people when they spake of great men–and I hold to my belief that it was a reversed cripple, who had too little of everything, and too much of one thing.

When Zarathustra had spoken thus unto the hunchback, and unto those of whom the hunchback was the mouthpiece and advocate, then did he turn to his disciples in profound dejection, and said:

Verily, my friends, I walk amongst men as amongst the fragments and limbs of human beings!
This is the terrible thing to mine eye, that I find man broken up, and scattered about, as on a battle- and butcher-ground.

And when mine eye fleeth from the present to the bygone, it findeth ever the same: fragments and limbs and fearful chances–but no men!  [emphasis mine]

Attaining wholeness — this was the project that Bataille read into Nietzsche in his introduction to his book, On Nietzsche.   Bataille thought the majority of his time was prevented from being whole due to the enslaving nature of work.  In other words, history has a structure that creates deformities in its subjects. One need not take up Bataille’s Marxist view explicitly to understand that history — and our responses to it — lead to the fracturing of identity.

Identity is, after all, not a tangible possession, but is an emotional relationship to one’s inwardness.   One is whole so long as one’s inwardness is integral, But force of circumstance may cause one to lose that relationship with one’s integral self.  In that case, one loses wholeness and becomes deficient as a human being.

The resulting deficiency is not precisely personal, but can be viewed in terms of one’s relationship to one’s environment, which will differ from individual to individual, whilst often also having some aspects that are held in common (depending on the nature of the historical dynamite that would be capable of separating limb from limb).

It’s easiest to give an example on the basis of one’s own experiences, since one can claim to know oneself the best.   In my case, I experienced a degree of emotional numbing after emigrated from Africa to Australia in 1984.   In shamanistic terms, this meant my inner sense of identity had become scattered and was less than integral.   Emotional scattering is also cognitive scattering, as Antonio Damasio suggests. It can lead to being unable to make the best decisions.  Due to my having become scattered, I became susceptible to many viruses, as well as to others’ misinterpretations of my identity.   I needed to restore the parts of myself that had become historically scattered, in order to restore my sense of wholeness.

My idea is that the fundamental goal of shamanisms, past and present, is to restore the individual’s human wholeness, by recovering the parts of the self that has been lost due to historical change.

Since shamanism deals with history and with political forces, it differs from psychoanalysis, which restricts itself to pathologies arising from family structures.

Intellectual shamanism today is concerned with strategies to restore an individual’s wholeness, through emotional integration of parts that were at times lost, due to the suddenness or violence of historical shifts.

After the Chimurenga

 | Clarissa’s Blog

People have tried to change me ever since the end of the Second Chimurenga, in 1980.  Both political leftists and political rightists have tried it for reasons best known to them.

This eventually caused me layer upon layer of traumatisation.

Once you get pulled into the power of evil people, the effect of their force field is hard to resist.  Other people won’t let you get away. I’ve even had people imply that because I was in such a hard place that I tried to accommodate all the demands for change, this meant I had an unstable sense of self.  If you try to give people what they’re forcing you to give, it means you had something wrong with you from the start.  The ideology of dominance and submission typically reverses cause and effect.   “If you comply with me, I will prove you are evil!” is the ideology of evil and self-hating people.

The good news is, I’ve finally found a way through — by giving up.

You know, if an assailant has you in a bear hug, you can find that difficult to resist, but if he grabs you when you have a lot of air in your chest, you can suddenly let all the air out and make your body go limp. You can then drop to the ground and escape.

This is what I’ve finally managed to do on a psychological level, because I had learned over the years that the more I resisted, the worse it would become for me.

Restoring lost things

People have said to me in not precisely these words, “How dare you go on about the same thing, this African thing?  Why not give it up?”

The answer has always been: “No! Impossible.  One cannot mingle mechanically in the realm of things and systems when there are those lost items missing.”

Now I understand — although I didn’t then — why I was hell-bent on recovering lost facets of reality; how this task preoccupied my every waking moment.   To recover lost possibilities — that was the meaning of my memoir and forms its basic structure.   These experiences were primarily those of my father, who had lost everything.

My allotted task, whether I denied it or not, was to be a better mother to my father than his mother had been.

That is why I had to find these missing items, which were facets of experience.   Once I found them, I would not only understand my task better, but I would be more effectively equipped for the main task.

The attempt to understand unconscious processes through writing led to the absurd result that I ended up writing a memoir that wasn’t really about me, but about “my task”, and if asked, even up to a couple of years ago I couldn’t define it.

“Restore what was lost.”  That is what my father had communicated to me via his subliminal language.

Something was very much lost and I had to find it.   Finding it would make things good again.  Find the lost elements; the lost facets.  Then you can restore everything.

My father’s lost childhood, then his lost brother, then his lost war, then his lost home from the backdrop to my writing.   Everything lost.

When I finished writing the book, I felt that I had begun the restoration process, which was far from finished. I had at least established, “things were lost”.  But then people confused me.  They said the book was about me, when I didn’t see so much of myself in the book, but rather my overwhelming project, the project that preoccupied me night and day, and made me feel on the verge of failure. I was getting older and still hadn’t found “it” yet.  That made everything seem more urgent.   Every email sent to me might have contained a clue.

I realize now, the sense of urgency I had come from the role of mother I’d been allotted.  The mother saves.  Only she didn’t.  She deposited her child in boarding school and left him at the mercy of his cold, adoptive father.  So, now I was given the task to save my father, part of whom had been left in boarding school, and part back in Rhodesia.   Yet, my father made me mad, very mad, and angry.

He was an unpleasant fellow to be around, viewing me very hazily as if I had been some ephemeral ghost, whilst making gender-stereotyping pronouncements.  He had a short fuse, and responding in unconventional ways to anything would be enough to set him off.

He liked to see everything about the world only in one way.   In this perspective, there were no problems or difficulties.   If you brought a difficulty to his attention, it was because you were being an undependable child, showing a lack of faith and trust in something higher than you were.   You were trying to tear down the social system with your little issue.   I deserved the severest censure, and no reprimand could be harsh enough.

My father also demanded that despite being worthless and a failure, it was still my job to save him.   I had to save him from his worthlessness and sense of failure, which was actually an emotional state.

My thesis was, in a way, trying to save him; my memoir, definitely so.

But then people said I was writing it about myself, and that confused me, since I couldn’t see where I appeared in this.

The Marecheran genre and the importance of history

Imagine if you had begun your life in a country which began a civil war when you were in primary school. You were exceptionally smart, but “civilization” was identified as the capacity to speak English and act in a British way, whereas liberation was identified as the ability to renounce British values, including the English language? Imagine your parents were on the side of the “liberation”, but to be on that side meant you couldn’t liberate yourself personally from a state of extreme poverty and repression, since the only means to do so was by getting an education in a missionary school? The psychological conflict this would produce would be tremendous. It would probably tear your mind apart.

And then, someone comes along and presumes to analyse your psychological torment in relation to your comments about how your mother had become a prostitute to support the family. “What a terrible thing to say about one’s mother!”

Well, this is to suppose that the writer was just alleging prostitution and that his mother hadn’t actually needed to make money in this way. Why doubt the writer? It must be important to make it seem like all of his psychological torment was a result of having “mummy issues”, but why does a critic need to see it that way?

Psychoanalytical theories and perhaps especially academic versions of those, do not take into account political and social issues. They make those who have used every amount of ingenuity to survive tremendous waves of upheaval seem like blathering idiots who brought their problems on themselves. The same applies to my memoir, which is in the Marechean genre. One cannot separate the individual from the historical and social context of the times without losing meaning.

This is partly a response to the following post, which I endorse:

http://clarissasblog.com/2012/10/10/is-obama-a-narcissist/

Why some ideas sell

I’d like to make another point: that universities should get over their market-based assumption that would-be intellectuals ought to test out their ideas in “the market place”.

One could end the market-based delusion just by engaging with empirical evidence.  Ideas that have been imposed and reinforced through tradition, deprivation, or the cultivation of fancy are those that sell today.   There is no particular magic to this.   There’s also no particular “discerning power of the public” that anyone can cater to.  If a book or an idea is pushed, people will buy it:  If not, people will leave it alone.

Here are some of the top-selling books that the public has noted worthy of purchasing:

The Da Vinci Code

With The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown masterfully concocts an intelligent and lucid thriller that marries the gusto of an international murder mystery with a collection of fascinating esoteria culled from 2,000 years of Western history. [Amazon.com Review]

 The Secret

Fragments of a Great Secret have been found in the oral traditions, in literature, in religions and philosophies throughout the centuries. For the first time, all the pieces of The Secret come together in an incredible revelation that will be life-transforming for all who experience it.In this book, you’ll learn how to use The Secret in every aspect of your life — money, health, relationships, happiness, and in every interaction you have in the world. You’ll begin to understand the hidden, untapped power that’s within you, and this revelation can bring joy to every aspect of your life.The Secret contains wisdom from modern-day teachers — men and women who have used it to achieve health, wealth, and happiness. By applying the knowledge of The Secret, they bring to light compelling stories of eradicating disease, acquiring massive wealth, overcoming obstacles, and achieving what many would regard as impossible. [Amazon]

Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia 

This beautifully written, heartfelt memoir touched a nerve among both readers and reviewers. Elizabeth Gilbert tells how she made the difficult choice to leave behind all the trappings of modern American success (marriage, house in the country, career) and find, instead, what she truly wanted from life. Setting out for a year to study three different aspects of her nature amid three different cultures, Gilbert explored the art of pleasure in Italy and the art of devotion in India, and then a balance between the two on the Indonesian island of Bali. By turns rapturous and rueful, this wise and funny author (whom Booklist calls “Anne Lamott’s hip, yoga- practicing, footloose younger sister”) is poised to garner yet more adoring fans. [Amazon]

Fifty Shades of Grey: Book One of the Fifty Shades Trilogy 

When literature student Anastasia Steele goes to interview young entrepreneur Christian Grey, she encounters a man who is beautiful, brilliant, and intimidating. The unworldly, innocent Ana is startled to realize she wants this man and, despite his enigmatic reserve, finds she is desperate to get close to him. Unable to resist Ana’s quiet beauty, wit, and independent spirit, Grey admits he wants her, too—but on his own terms.

Shocked yet thrilled by Grey’s singular erotic tastes, Ana hesitates. For all the trappings of success—his multinational businesses, his vast wealth, his loving family—Grey is a man tormented by demons and consumed by the need to control. When the couple embarks on a daring, passionately physical affair, Ana discovers Christian Grey’s secrets and explores her own dark desires. [ Amazon]

***

As we can see, people are hungry for religious mystification,  new age mystification, the mystification of self-indulgent femininity and the mystification of sex via the mechanics of sado-masochism.

Also note:  If I’m the one “just being cynical” here, how does one explain away the evidence that the public wants to feed on shit?  Christianity, femininity, self-indulgent consumerism and dominance and submission have been trained into the masses over eons.  Consequently, what has been instilled also informs their tastes.

Should academics then turn to the public to approve of their skills or to sign off on whether their ideas have any market-place validity?  What is the nature of the mystical affirmation that such academics would be seeking from the public?

Wilfred Bion, Lacan and Bataille

Key to Bion’s work is the idea that people need to express what would become a “nameless dread” if it were to stay outside of the field of society and specifically, socially rendered intelligibility. Bion’s is a dualistic model of the mind, just as Lacan‘s is, but there is much more of a direct metaphysical continuity between Bion’s “unconscious” and the articulate, socially structured mind, than there is with regard to Lacan’s viewpoint.

For Bion, the unconscious is experiential reality that hasn’t been articulated. Indeed, the unconscious can never be fully articulated because it is multidimensional** (has, in effect, more dimensions to it than we can simultaneously process with our rational minds). Articulation, therefore, is always a process of simplifying (indeed, oversimplifying for the sake of managing) that which is irreducibly complex. From my reading of Lacan, there is a complete transition from the prearticulate level of the infant’s experience of the world, to the articulate social interpretation of the experience. His is a more complete mind-body dualism — dividing  the rational from the irrational aspects of experience, in a way that is designed to be practically impossible and thus makes place for the Catholicism of “sin” as an automatic part of the human experience, since we must all fall short of the Ideal.

But for Bion, the unconscious is the damming up of experiential reality, and the work to be done is in the further interpretation — the actually simplifying — of memory, to make it manageable, and to reduce the feeling of “nameless dread” (as it were, by giving the dread a name and a social context and meaning). The naming of the “nameless dread” is the social contextualisation of it by means of  an objectively recognised form (in words). This is like opening the floodgates to allow the water to go through the wall of the dam.

But we can see the role of the artist in all of this — to convert nameless dread into something that is socially meaningful. Thus the interpretive movement between the “paranoid-schizoid position” of disintegrated self and inarticulate experience, towards the “depressive position” (of simplified and linguistically reduced meanings, which, nonetheless “make sense” socially).

The Bion model is also shamanistic: the subject mediates between the multidimensional space of the unconscious field (in some senses the “spirit world”) and everyday, limited three-dimensional reality, which can be articulated and can be expressed rationally.

One might add to this understanding Bataillle’s perspective.  So long as one does not express oneself in language, one keeps hold of the unbroken whole of experiential reality:  this splinters as one speaks of it. 

Bataille takes his understanding of the nature of subjective experience and its oftentimes antagonistic relationship to language from Nietzsche, who says: 

Ultimately, what does it mean to be ignoble?—Words are sound signals for ideas, but ideas are more or less firm image signs for sensations which return frequently and occur together, for groups of sensations. To understand each other, it is not yet sufficient that people use the same words; they must use the same words also for the same form of inner experiences; ultimately they must hold their experience in common with each other. That’s why human beings belonging to a single people understand each other better among themselves than associations of different peoples, even when they themselves use the same language; or rather, when human beings have lived together for a long time under similar conditions (climate, soil, danger, needs, work), then something arises out of that which “understands itself,” a people. In all souls, a similar number of frequently repeating experiences have won the upper hand over those which come more rarely; people understand each other on the basis of the former, quickly and with ever-increasing speed—the history of language is the history of a process of abbreviation. On the basis of this rapid understanding, people bind with one another, closely and with ever-increasing closeness. The greater the danger, the greater the need quickly and easily to come to agreement over what needs to be done; not to misunderstand each other when in danger is what people simply cannot do without in their interactions. With every friendship or love affair people still make this test: nothing of that sort lasts as soon as people reach the point where, with the same words, one of the two feels, means, senses, wishes, or fears something different from the other one. (The fear of the “eternal misunderstanding”: that is the benevolent genius which so often prevents people of different sexes from over-hasty unions, to which their senses and hearts urge them—and not some Schopenhauerish “genius of the species”!—). Which groups of sensations within the soul wake up most rapidly, seize the word, give the order—that decides about the whole rank ordering of its values, that finally determines its tables of goods. The assessments of value in a man reveal something about the structure of his soul and where it looks for its conditions of life, its essential needs. Now, assume that need has always brought together only such people as could indicate with similar signs similar needs, similar experiences, then it would generally turn out that the easy ability to communicate need, that is, in the last analysis, familiarity with only average and common experiences, must have been the most powerful of all the forces which have so far determined things among human beings. People who are more similar and more ordinary were and always have been at an advantage; the more exceptional, more refined, rarer, and more difficult to understand easily remain isolated; in their isolation they are subject to accidents and rarely propagate themselves. People have to summon up huge counter-forces to cross this natural, all-too-natural progressus in simile [advance into similarity], the further training of human beings into what’s similar, ordinary, average, herd-like—into what’s common. [emphasis mine]

*Actually this analogy is mine. Bion’s is that the mother of the infant initially is the one who acts to “contain” or hold the inarticulate emotions of the child, and thus she gives social form and shape to them. My analogy focuses on this “nameless dread” as if it were to occur outside of a defined social context, whereas Bion shows the way this “nameless dread” is generally diverted towards becoming meaningful social content.

**Godwin, Robert W “Wilfred Bion and David Bohm: Toward a Quantum Metapsychology. .” Psychoanalysis and Contemporary Thought 14.4 (1991): 625-54

Shamanism and the reworking of memory

The shamanistic view is different from the psychoanalytic view that holds that psychological projection is an anomalous attitude of reprobates.   In terms of shamanism, absolutely everything one sees, hears or encounters is a projection.   Neurology makes it clear that perception is a function of the brain’s incorporation and rearrangement of data.  According to Atul Gawande:

Richard Gregory, a prominent British neuropsychologist, estimates that visual perception is more than ninety per cent memory and less than ten per cent sensory nerve signals.

The information we take in from our ears and eyes is not the same as what we experience.   The brain takes a huge amount of information from the senses and then rearranges it in such a way that a human being can gain advantage from it.  We see what makes sense to us, often by adding to incomplete information by producing information from memory, so that we often encounter precisely what we expect to see. We are the creators of our own realities.

 To go a step further, we don’t visually experience the far sides of the color spectrum that beetles and bats may do.  But, had we the needs and desires of insects, our brains would have learned to give us a different range of information.  We would have learned to sense a far wider spectrum including infra-red and ultra-violet.  Becoming aware of these light waves perhaps does not serve us as humans, since this may not give an advantage in indicating  food or sudden danger.

Humans and beetles inhabiting the same space will nonetheless experience different qualities to their environments.  What comes to the foreground and what pales into insignificance will not be the same aspects of the terrain.  A friend tells me that on taking LSD one hears all the background noises to life that would ordinarily be filtered from awareness.

 To  have the benefit of vision  enables us to navigate our human worlds effectively as humans.  A parallel world may exist for other species.  Each takes from the sensory environment what will nourish it in terms of what it is.    Taking in too much of reality would obstruct us in our normal activities.   We do well to leave a lot unnoticed.

 On the basis of being separate peoples and cultures, we also automatically impose filtering mechanisms.   I see what I need to see to nourish myself according to my particular needs, desires and capabilities.   I am convinced that others who enter the same environments would not see or experience the same network of meanings that are available to me.  I switch off when confronted with young children, for instance.  I can’t focus on them and my brain attempts to block them out.  I’m learning to notice social tensions, but they don’t intrinsically interest me, so they are about the last thing I recognize when I enter a new environment.

 When I began my life in Australia I didn’t “see” social relationships — only natural ones.   When I began a new job many years ago, I didn’t “see” institutional relationships.  I saw only postmodernist metaphysics, by virtue of which I had been trained to see the world.  I began reading Marecheralater and had to get rid of a lot of postmodernist assumptions to understand him.

 Contemporary humans get to move through their environments by throwing off one reality to enter another.   Shamanism enhances the process of gaining knowledge of our worlds by encouraging us to switch off from what we think we know, which is just a neurological projection however useful.   We can’t enter another environment so long as we are certain of what we know.   This is only possible by entering a state of uncertainty.  As Bataille says of Nietzsche, out of this striking moment of dissolution a philosophy is born:

Let no one doubt for an instant! One has truly not heard a single word of Nietzsche’s unless one has lived this signal dissolution in totality; without it, this philosophy is a mere labyrinth of contradictions, and worse; the pretext for lying by omission (if, like the fascists, one isolates passages for purposes which negate the rest of the work).

In terms of what I have described of shamanism, Nietzsche’s way of writing, whether intentionally or not, actually invites a radical rewriting of consciousness on the basis of a fundamental dissolution of reality.  By means of such shamanistic reworking, one’s existing projection gets dissolved and is replaced by another, superior reality.  This would be a result of  including a different network of memories in one’s perspectives. This adjustment in seeing, however, leads to handling life more effectively.

Altered states of consciousness

The use of psychoactive drugs enables a shaman to discover a cosmology that would make us all connected to each other, in particular via a sense of unity with organic nature, as the prime source and origin of life. The insights gained through exploring this cosmology are useful. The sources of malaise can be ascertained, observed and come to terms with.

The range of possibilities for life may be greater and more widely varied than those observable in everyday existence. Thus, a shamanic journey can lead not only to healing, but to creative solutions to life’s difficulties.

Shamanic experience could also free one from idées fixes through a baptism into new experiences.

This is of course against the grain of Nietzsche, who feared, as Luce Irigaray pointed out, the element of water, including oceanic experiences.

Have no fear that water is “feminine”,as it is only so according to essentialist notions of identity.  Patriarchal religion would urge us to see it in this way, but there is no need to trust patriarchal versions of anything, given that the patriarchal priest is invested in maintaining specific power relations.  We should rather distrust anything essentializing — at least until we can test it for ourselves and work out what its value might be.

Rhodesia and I

Even as an adult, I was often very insecure about my knowledge of the world.  That was  because everything I’d grown up with had been defined in extremely patriarchal terms.   Both men and women had authority in every aspect of life in my childhood.   Women’s authority was on a par with that of their male counterparts.   The only difference was that men knew about politics in a way that women didn’t.   The men went to war and it was forbidden to tell the women back home everything they had experienced.   To this degree, women were on a par with children — although they were authoritative in public life, they were not expected to carry the emotional burden of war.

The structure of colonial society was hierarchical in terms of knowledge.  As it seems to me now, there was a cabal who knew what was really going on with regard to the war and the likelihood of winning it.  Then, there were those like my father, who went along with the program because it was the decent thing to do.  As in the second world war, the lack of men around the place meant women had fairly high status, being those who were able to manage the running of institutions with an old-fashioned whip-hand.

They had greater power than women have today, when men are present and competing with them (which leads to gender war and psychological strategies to demoralize the other).  Despite this, they did not speak of the war “we” were prosecuting, and indeed, in the high school I attended it was forbidden to speak of it.

That was how it came about that my peers and I grew up with a traditional British education, but remained wholly naïve about politics.  We studied the history of Europe but we did not study recent, colonial history.   When “Rhodesia” became “Zimbabwe” and an uncensored version of “The Herald” began to appear on the library lectern, we sometimes used to flip its pages with a sense of fascination and complete incomprehension.  The tactile sensation of flipping the pages and observing the strange imagery in the late morning sun was enough for me.

Children were a step below “women” in the Rhodesian hierarchy, so we occupied a world of our own.   We were not to know anything at all, but to be protected from it.   That was the role of the strong Rhodesian male — to protect the (white) women and children from too much knowledge.

The structure of the antiquated society explains everything about my attitudes as I became an adult and understood that I was suffering from a knowledge deficit.  I had a number of strategies to try to cope with this, most of which failed me.

One was to try to get adults to tell me what I was missing — to fill in the gaps that comprised my knowledge failures.   This was a wholly failed strategy.  Whenever I went to see a psychological counselor of person of that nature (which I did sporadically, at various points in time), I generally wanted to draw from them the knowledge I’d been lacking.   I had a feeling that if I could get the knowledge I didn’t have, I’d be able to piece together all sorts of aspects of my reality that didn’t make sense before.

Needless to say, the psychological counselors I saw were not trained to fill in the gaps of your missing knowledge and it was hard even for me to try to gauge what knowledge I had to get to make reality into a coherent whole.   A lack of substantive knowledge can become a psychological problem, interfering with one’s way of interacting with the world, but contemporary psychology doesn’t recognize this as a fact.  I would inevitably talk at cross-purposes with such helpers — and then leave feeling that I hadn’t obtained much of what I’d hoped for.

The problem was:  I never had a psychological problem so much as a deficiency in understanding, which made me seem like an idiot, walking into walls that others already seemed to know were there.  I’d tripped up on too many barriers due to my worldly ignorance (which also related to sexual matters).

Much of what had led to this was that my Rhodesian engendered superego defined my limits.   I couldn’t do the work to find out what was “out there” because to be quiet and accepting of all sorts of boundaries was my acculturated norm.

To “transgress” authoritative boundaries, whilst defying the superego, became my means to escape from the Rhodesian cultural identity that had failed me.

Don’t trust the mob

A Small Observation « Clarissa’s Blog
I had the opposite experience to Clarissa and I am also not a narcissist. I tried to get explanations for a number of unfortunate circumstances in my life, and people said, “It’s down to you as an individual. There is something wrong with you. You’re not trying hard enough to succeed.” So, I tried even harder. I became hyper-conscious of every word I said and every action I did, and whether it was a prelude to failure or not. My self-consciousness and capacity to analyze myself became extreme. I gave supreme credence to the views of those around me, who perhaps saw something in me that I hadn’t seen. Nothing changed, except that actions that should have been natural and intuitive on my part became orchestrated and deliberate. This was exhausting. I became extremely fatigued, but still the implications were that I was unintelligent and not trying hard enough. I couldn’t figure it out at all.

As I pursued my PhD and gradually became more educated, bit by bit I realized that other people didn’t really know what they were talking about with regard to their “expertise” on my life. There was a turning point — around 2009 — when I realized the “impartial” observer was not necessarily more intelligent than I, either.

In the past few years I’ve been consolidating the knowledge that most of what people assumed to be true about me was based on their own cultural experiences along with their own self-serving psychological projections. This new understanding leads me to consider that I don’t need to get myself all worked up in order to succeed. I’m already highly motivated enough, without adding fuel to my fires. To the contrary, I need to learn to pull back and relax and accept things as they are. Above all I need to stop taking direction or advice from narcissists.

2.

When it comes to trying to figure ourselves out, we often don’t find the answers in any place resembling common sense, especially not in the common sense of the masses. They’re the ones most likely to reinforce a false perception of reality that keeps you operating in the same old ways. I couldn’t work out what daunted me until I realized I was projecting the better part of myself into others. So, when they came up with random pronouncements or critiques, these seemed to be imbued with the authority of someone who really took intellectual ideas seriously, who was very concerned with accuracy and rigor and who had deeply humanitarian impulses…. And yet, if these were the attitudes behind some of the comments, why would those comments have been made at all?

This incongruity between expectation and actuality used to confuse me a great deal, and then, one day, VOILA! — I realized that people were speaking much more impulsively than I would do, and from a cultural rather than intellectual base. In other words, other people were rarely “like me” at all. I’d been projecting my own qualities into them, and then critiquing myself on the basis of what they’d had to say.

God is the reification of rational order

 Women are the made to stand for the entropy driving the universe toward more and more disorder until God (reified Reason) fades away to nothing. Just another irrational power game justifying  of one group of humans dominating another.
Even many secularists get suckered into playing this game — Richard Dawkins was, for instance, when he implied that women trying to draw some demarcation lines of their own (which is always a patriarchal no-no, since women are intrinsically without structure) is just so much whining and silliness.
The lines he would draw between rationality and irrationality are consistent with Western culture being quintessentially rational, and cultures where women allegedly (or actually) suffer more than anybody might normally do in Western culture being considered irrational.  This contrast is hardly as stark, in reality, as our metaphysical conceptions would lead us to assume.

 

Utterly fundamental to understanding shamanism

1.  Shamanistic usages of language

Shamanisms learn to speak very indirectly about reality.  As Georges Bataille points out in his Unfinished System of Nonknowledge  verbal communication sets itself at odds with the physical body and its vicissitudes.   To communicate completely, one does not communicate with language, but non-linguistically.  “We feel each other through our wounds,” he said, thus suggesting shamanic access to  another dimension of knowledge, not through suffering as such, but through the internalization of knowledge as a result of wounding.  To draw a distinction here between two levels of communication is vital.

Crude psychoanalytic interpretations would tend to make out the shaman to be one who whines about wounding whilst justifying false ways of seeing the world, to make himself feel better.  So, psychoanalysts may set out to defeat what it sees as a competing system of interpretation of the world, by distorting its claims.  The willful nature of this misunderstanding is obvious because it does not distinguish between a wound and the person who has it.  Whereas psychoanalytic distortions would have the wound seem to speak for and on behalf of itself, in shamanism, the shaman masterfully speaks on behalf of his wounds and furthermore uses his incidental wounding and the understanding it brings to heal others.

In the case of Bataille’s form of shamanism, the “wounds” are the sexual organs, which he considered a wound to language itself, as a system that aims to be closed and complete, capable of accounting for everything and making all of reality seem rational.   The physicality of the body itself  prevents the formal dimensions of language to close the circle of meaning, in terms of giving a full account of everything in the world.

This suspicion of language is expressed in all forms of shamanism, which attempt to address the problems associated with the body in a more direct way than via language.   To the end of addressing the body and not the mind, language may be “twisted” so that the shamanic seer can use it to “look around corners”. Marechera uses this expression in The Black Insider, where he criticizes logical formulations for degrading the more human dimensions of reality.

The tyranny of straightforward things is more oppressive and more degrading than such idle monstrosities as life and death, apartheid and beer drinking, a stamp album and Jew-baiting. One plus one equals two is so irrefutably straightforward that the unborn child can see that even if man was wiped off the face of the earth one plus one would always and forever-equal two.

The “unborn child” is one who cannot yet speak, who can be readily victimized by narrow forms of logic that would easily be able to erase humanity.  The “unborn child” is also the non-rational state of the shamanistic seer.   Huge aspects of reality are more readily observable when one has learned not to depend on language.

2.  When shamans work with “energy fields”, they are referring to the ability one needs to have to defend oneself against projective identification.  This term has gained meaning in psychoanalysis as implying that someone has injected their own needs and values into another person to get them to play a particular function on their behalf.   These functions are to express emotional attitudes that area already in another person but which he doesn’t have the confidence or the courage to express.

Shamans work to develop a strong “energy vest”  for the one who has become ill, to enable her to resist future attempts to control her.   A shaman’s incantations are sung to create a sense of wholeness about identity, defined as integral bodily sensations. Future assaults against the integral wholeness of the victim will from now on be understood by her in terms of what they are, and not being unconsciously accommodated.

Having developed a sense of energy fields, one is cured, since one now understands when one’s own energy field has been violated.   Should a “dart” be fired in one’s direction, one can choose to ignore it, or to return the dart to the original owner.  There is nothing mysterious about the fact that darts and energy fields exist, except for the terminology.  The means by which assaults take place, as well as their psychological meanings,  can be accounted for in the earlier mentioned term of projective identification.

Shamans take knowledge of energy fields a step further than others do in psychoanalysis, however.   An advanced shaman will conduct effective ideological warfare by observing another’s energy field and sending “darts” into the field of another to disrupt their mental ability to work. It was said that shamans used to lob mountains at each other.

Nietzsche,epistemology and shamanistic texts

 Due to the nature and intensity of opposition to the intellectually shamanistic paradigm, I understood there is a formidable amount of emotional investment in the view that both morality and knowledge have predetermined structures.  These are thought to be made known though the inspiration of certain wise men, whilst being inaccessible to women.  Nietzsche, too,  can be read as promulgating a foundationalist position in the pattern of old testament prophets whose oracles were only decipherable by those of the greatest spiritual elevation. Many of his contemporary readers believe that belonging to the generic category, “men”, suffices for one to understand Nietzsche’s works.Shamanistic literature is much more evasive than foundationalist texts about who has the right to understand it.  Nietzsche’s naming of one of his works as Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for All and None is very much within the shamanistic tradition, which appeals to a heightened subjectivity.  If the book appeals to you, it is “for” you, but otherwise it isn’t.In contradistinction to this are the quintessentially patriarchal texts of the Christian God and Allah.  All foundationalist texts seem to fall from the sky already formed but in actual fact are the products of much prevarication and revision.  Given that none of the patriarchal texts lie on a firm foundation, despite the vigorous promotion of the opposite idea, monotheistic religion does not have a better leg to stand on than shamanistic texts.  The idea, “these texts are true because they have an authoritative source”, does not seem to hold up where patriarchal authority is shown to be multiple, historically variable, subject to the political climate and ultimately devoid of an actual God to assure the authenticity of all interpretations.Herein lies the advantage of shamanistic writing, in that it does not require one to first believe in anything in order to gain benefits from it.   One can read Carlos Castandena’s Don Juan without any concern as to whether it is a reliable text.   If Castaneda was in a sense Don Juan himself, having made up all the information and advice, the value of the text remains unaltered.   Psychological trickery is fundamental to shamanism, just as it is a means by which its wisdom can be communicated.    Nietzsche adoption of the tone of an old-testament prophet, despite being nothing of the sort and indeed inimical to the aims of religiously inspired persons, is a concession to the shamanistic spirit of mockery as a means for communicating wisdom. So if you come to the ultimate conclusion that you have been “had” by a shamanistic text, perhaps this is the principle lesson of life you needed learn all along: the meaning and value of skepticism.

According to the principles of shamanism, what one says doesn’t have to be True, but it has to work.   By contrast, patriarchal reasoning demands that something has to be true when it is based on authority.  However, it can neither show that its principles work, nor produce its authority.  One may not be better off with shamanistic texts, but at least one is not worse off.

Shamanic death and regeneration

I had cause to revisit my knowledge of the so-called “death instinct” after reading the following article.

ON THE DEATH OF WHITNEY HOUSTON: Why I Won’t Ever Shut Up About My Drug Use | xoJane

Herein, a very beautiful ape expounds:

The life instincts are those that deal with survival, reproduction, pleasure—in other words, instincts that are crucial for sustaining a person’s life, as well as the continuation of the species: thirst, hunger, pain avoidance, love, human interaction and other prosocial actions.

You follow?

But eventually Freud determined that human behavior couldn’t be explained by life instincts alone—and introduced his theory of death instincts, or death drive, or Thanatos.

Freud posited that “the goal of all life is death”, concluding that humans hold an unconscious desire to die—and that self-destructive behavior is an expression of the energy created by the death instincts.

According to this theory, then, if you are not a self-destructive person, your death wishes are under control because they overridden by healthier life instincts.

I shall both add and subtract from this formulation on the basis of my shamanistic understanding.

The “death instinct” is not a self-destructive drive that kicks in automagically in the same ways cells are biologically programmed to die.   Instead the death instinct is the underside of the life instinct, and its constant monitor and guarantor.  The death instinct makes sure the life instinct is on-track, or if not, it withdraws its support for whatever you are doing and forces you to reformulate your goals:

Even in your folly and despising ye each serve your Self, ye despisers of the body. I tell you, your very Self wanteth to die, and turneth away from life.

No longer can your Self do that which it desireth most:- create beyond itself.

That is what it desireth most; that is all its fervour. But it is now too late to do so:- so your Self wisheth to succumb, ye despisers of the body.

To succumb- so wisheth your Self; and therefore have ye become despisers of the body. For ye can no longer create beyond yourselves. And therefore are ye now angry with life and with the earth. (Nietzsche, Zarathustra)

Nietzsche speaks of those who have succumbed to the death instinct, because they have embraced a lie about the nature of reality.   They think reality is spiritual and not physical, and therefore the death instinct has  taken charge and is forcing them to either rethink their proposition or to get out of life altogether.

As I have outlined via my interpretation, the death instinct serves the life instinct.   These are not two distinct instincts that could gain the upper hand. The reality is close to Taoism and far removed from Manichean formulations.

That the death instinct is always in service of the life instinct is very good.  Wilhelm Reich, by the way, also noticed that when one does not believe in oneself enough, one sacrifices oneself to those whom one more easily believes in.  This is the death instinct at work, functioning as an evolutionary principle, and removing those who don’t believe in themselves so that they do not clutter the scenery.

Why does one not believe in oneself? Because one is on the wrong track, because one has turned against what is ecstatic, vital and good about life, and has adopted negative formulations.

The intervention of the death instinct is not supposed to be final, except in the worst of cases. Mostly, it is just death tapping you on the shoulder, telling you that you have gone off-track.  It may be difficult to figure out where one has erred.  When I received my warning from death, I was in a mode of extreme conformity and emotional repression.  That’s when death alerted me that I had to change my ways. I’ve since done so, and nothing has been the same since.  All my relationships are extremely positive.

Shamanistic death and regeneration works in the same way. One has to face death in order to learn where or how one might have strayed from life’s purposes.  Once one has discovered this, one can get back on track. Death no longer has its hold, and Eros (the life instinct) takes over.