My memoir and the theory behind it

An interview with Allan Shore


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.

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.

Bullying, narratives and ideology

I’ve just read an article on Huffington Post regarding thick and thin skins. The writer was, perhaps inevitably, of a religious persuasion. He counseled prayer and dependency on “God” as a solution to stressors.

I’m inclined to think that those who differentiate between having thick or thin skins oversimplify a great deal.

For instance, there are people who do not know their own stories, and who thereby become “thin-skinned”. Their histories have been erased and they are desperate to learn their story from anyone who will give them a hint.

A fifteen-year-old Canadian girl recently committed suicide after being bullied at school and online. It seems her story was hijacked to make her look like something she was not. Since the story of the bullies became psychologically bigger than her original internal narrative, she committed suicide. She had learned from her bullies that she was a bad person. Her understanding of what sort of person she actually was had not developed sufficiently for her narrative to be the dominant one.

Being thin-skinned is a necessary part of the process we all experience in order to learn about ourselves from others. Those who are capable of the greatest learning might be the thinnest skinned of all. If their educators are ethical, educated and wise, these people can learn magnificently. If not, they will be cast onto their own resources, which may be few. They may be overwhelmed by the narratives of others, which may be false or misleading.

Being able to know how much of what others say ought to be taken to heart depends on already having a good level of knowledge about oneself. One is not born with that knowledge, and many of us are still growing and learning. We are, at least, not stagnant.

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.

Identities as cultural and metaphysical constructs

I’ve had experiences with some US guys, who must have thought I was playing this game of trying to put on a tough image to get in with them, or something. Much of the experiences occurred on the Internet. As I’ve always stated (because it always seems to bear repeating), I come from a different culture, so my attitudes are different and I’m never really sure what games I’m deemed to be playing.  I am what I am.  In some ways, I could be considered very tough and generally insensitive to social mores, since from my early childhood, I did not feel the need to rely on social approval for my inner nourishment.  In terms of environments and quality of air, I am extremely sensitive.  I also respond a lot to changes of light.

Metaphysics doesn’t abide complexity, so it has to reduce it into something simpler.  Consider a child painting inside the lines of a prescribed figure.  The figure is that of a unicorn, or a donkey or a teddy bear.  Any color that falls outside of the lines belongs to “not Teddy”, because what falls inside the lines is “Teddy”.  Here, we don’t have complexity, we have a binary vision, divided into states of being “is” or “is not”. In this way,  presumably I was deemed to be playing a tough girl game,only to be playing it inconsistently, such that I let down my guard every now and then to show the “real me” — presumably the ultra-sensitive girl underneath that “cool girls” really are, despite the fact that they’re pretending not to be. (After all, it would be wrong for US types to let go of their gender essentialism in recognition of the women who seem to be exceptions to a rule.)

It seems really, really hard to put it across to some US types, that all humans can experience the world positively and negatively. If I experience some things positively and say so, I am deemed to fall on the “cool girl” side of identity. If I acknowledge some negative things, then this is deemed to be “my mask slipping”. Thus gender essentialist ideas (that women are all really weak and only pretend to be cool) are reinforced, whilst the real individual and her actual experiences are stripped of meaning in deference to some concept of categorical consistency (something quite different from characterological consistency and even inimical to it).

Such an insistence on reifying concepts of identity is why I think much of USA culture is insane.


Some people invest their egos in their reified identities and some don’t, and to some degree whether one does this a lot of little can be down to cultural factors, engendered in one’s youth.  A reified identity is one based on an abstraction about masculinity of femininity, and not on something like lived experience, or real subjective states.

My concept of Western culture, for a long time, was that it consisted of investing your ego into a reified identity concept. I tried, with all my might, because I intended to adapt to Western culture, for otherwise, people would keep accusing me of inconsistency for being naturally myself according to my earlier cultural conditioning. Now, finally, I’ve given up. I have to be consistent with my own views, but inconsistent from the point of view of those who believe people automatically fit into categories.

Tricks designed to get you laughed out of school

Patriarchal types always complain that nobody ever manages to explain to them in a logical or coherent way what patriarchy is and why it must be abolished. Some of those more contemporary ones may in fact read the words of feminists, but these words have no meaning to them, or if they do, the words seem “hysterical”, “crazy”, “emotional”, “reactive”, “oversensitive” and “exaggerated”.

In every one of these descriptions, we have precisely the patriarchal perception of WOMAN.  Patriarchal readers, some of whom may be women themselves, are unable to register any range of experience that is not already part of their conscious self-identity.   They wish to identify themselves with the opposite characteristics to those listed above.   Those opposite expressions to this are what patriarchal people view as “masculine”.

When a patriarchal fellow is unable to understand the substance of the words he is reading, but instead finds himself tripped up by pejorative expressions that enter his mind, guess who is tripping him up?  He is responsible for reading the characteristics he doesn’t want to be identified with into the written word, to the extent that he cannot make coherent sense of what is written, but keeps asking for another explanation.

Such a fellow has no doubt already been told many things by feminists, but he cannot remember any of them, because he has been so intent on projecting the qualities he considers to be negative out of himself and into the text he has been reading.  After that, he can feel disgusted with the text, but not disgusted with himself.   So far as he is concerned, he is empty, free, an undefined essence floating above everything.   Nothing moves him. He is a human being without emotion, without physical body.

Such is the nature of patriarchal projection.  Patriarchal people have been rendered insane by their ideologies, but it is always a woman who are viewed as being “mad” whenever a patriarch cannot digest her words to him.

What is projected into women by the patriarch is actually and precisely the insanity engendered in the patriarch’s mind as a result of his patriarchal ideological training.

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.

Don’t try to mold others

Clarissa’s writing yesterday got me thinking.  I hadn’t realized it was possible to suffer from formlessness.  I may have suffered from it in my early twenties, when I craved a rite of passage to test me, teach me the lessons of adulthood and what society means and how it works.   That was a period in my life when it would have been good for me to begin learning martial arts.  More generally, though, she and I are polar opposites. Whereas she agonizes over formlessness, I have had to try to find ways to escape the imposition of too much form.This is why people who come along and try to shape me for any reason earn themselves the status of my mortal enemy. I have my own internal structure and I’m capable of reaching a fever point in self-discipline.   What I don’t need is someone coming along and arbitrarily trying to impose some structure on something they can’t see.   What I need is to extract the heat, to take off some of the pressure of being fully formed and to be allowed for moments at a time to enter formlessness.I have nothing to fear from formlessness, unlike the fear I have of too much structure, especially when the new structures imposed are unrelated to my existing structures.   To calculate multiple opposing principles and conform to all of them means the temperature rises to the point that I can no longer think. I need simplicity and clarity in order to continue to achieve my tasks.

Psychological structure  has always been a part of my life to the extent that I’ve internalized a sense of structure fully.  I never have to fear losing control or devolving into a state of formlessness, because my early childhood life had more structure in it than I’ve experienced since.   Above all, my primary school had an extremely military structure.  We marched everywhere in single file, recited our times table and greeted our teachers by standing up whenever one entered the room.   We were yelled at, threatened and sometimes subjected to corporal punishment — a ruler on the knuckles for inattentiveness.  That was how I grew up, by internalizing the necessity for such discipline.  Should I drink alcohol or move away from places where form is directly imposed, I still retain this form within myself.

But impose yet another layer of form on me that takes no account of my early training, and I’m in danger of losing my cool.   I have a form of my own and I don’t need two or three more layers of someone else’s necessities imposed on top of that.  A Christian cultural tendency for strangers to come along and morally shape others I find reprehensible. Let people be as they are and function according to their identities.   Don’t come along and try to mold or rearrange them!

Psychological projection as political attack

Yesterday, I spent the largest part of my day loafing in the bed, in retreat from the cold, and reading Teresa Brennan’s book, The interpretation of the flesh: Freud and femininity.I must say that in her conclusions, she agrees with something I had been contending all along, that the manner of treatment of adult women in the public sphere can have a profound ontological effect on them.

Here is what she says:
“Of course the notion that this projection can castrate the other presupposes that psychical energetic connections work not only within but between beings. […] For the subject, the advantage of this projection is that it disposes of the affects and anxiety that otherwise inhibit his ability to follow a train of thought, and/or linguistic chain of association; the disadvantage is that this ability depends on maintaining critical blind spots.” ( p 233)
Here we have an example of the way that psychology can assert itself into the realm of the political. Brennan certainly sees that there are cultural-historical influences that determine how masculinity and femininity are constructed in the society, but she does not go so far as to label these constructions as being also political.
That does not mean that these projections onto the other of a state of “castration” — which we can understand as mental and political helplessness — are not facilitated by political mechanisms, making them profoundly political. Rather, Brennan is writing in 1992, and advancing a novel thesis about psychological intersubjectivity, that was hardly recognised at that time. Seventeen years later, we are more familiar with post-Kleinian theory, and we are able to draw more conclusions concerning the interlinking of the political sphere with our inherent psychological mechanisms.
It becomes clearer after reading Brennan’s book that the projection of “castration” onto an other — which, as Brennan points out, can be one who is biologically male or female, but for psychoanalytical reasons, is generally a woman — is a political feature of the psychological division of necessary labour.
This is because, as humans, we are all physiologically complex — which is to say, made up of both rational and irrational drives. So it is that if one is to politically represent and uphold exclusively the rational side of one’s identity, it is necessary for one to somehow do away with the irrational side of one’s self (both as representation and as, far as possible, as conscious experience).
To maintain a rational self-image, the inherent irrational aspects of human psychology — (those which intrude at times to seem to prevent the work of narrow rational thinking) — will be denied, or sublimated of projected, depending on the level of the level of the psychological resources and skill of the subject.
Brennan deals with the issue of projection in the last few pages of her book, and it is fortunate that she does so, since these days it is tacitly acceptable, within the Western socio-political complex, for projections to flow from male to female, but not for them to flow the other way around: That is, the political rhetoric that maintains ideologies imputes that “it is irrational to impute irrational characteristics to men.” It does not seem to be irrational to impute them to women, however. So it is that individual men are lifted above the possibility of criticism, by virtue of the tacit acceptability of the logic of projection.
But projection isn’t merely rhetorical: that is, there is more to it than expressing the idea that “it isn’t me, its you!” as a way of putting women back into their (traditional) places. Rather, at a deep psychological level, the subject who projects also actually believes that it is not he, but her, who is responsible for a hole in his otherwise far too fluid and facile chain of thought.
Consider the nature of the political divide in terms of this tacit division of psychological labour: Phenomenologically, those positioned as “masculine” (which can be upper division women as well as men, in the managerial classes) experience only annoying interruptions to their rational train of thought, which seem to come from the outside of their own psyches, and need to be crushed or put down. Meanwhile, those positioned on the alternative side of the political divide, those allocated to do “feminine” work, will have a variety of experiences depending on their degree of psychological and political awareness.
The end result is that those who find themselves positionally on the “feminine” side of power systems will often tend not have the same view of the world and of established systems of morality as those who find themselves on the “masculine” side (due to factors dominated by psychological symbolisations of gender and social status). At the lowest level of consciousness, women who are projected upon will find a certain need fulfilled, in that an identity — albeit a weak and shaky one — is projected upon them. Their narcissistic sensibilities (whether weak or strong) are enhanced.
At a higher level of developed recognition of what is taking place, one can openly acknowledge male projection of castration anxieties as a constant assault on one’s processes of thinking, as well as on one’s capacity to maintain a sense of identity. The males who project are inclined to expect women to identify with all of their failed processes of thinking, as if they had originated from the women themselves. In the case of ongoing assaults of this projective sort (which I have experienced), which sometimes appear to be specifically designed to weaken one’s resolve, I find the only solution is to get away from the situations that allow for these power dynamics, and to take refuge as a hermit. Otherwise, one will not be able to think very much, if at all.
When one has no choice but to associate with those (including organisations and systems) which engage in this process of projection, it does feel masochistic, despite the fact that one is on red alert for combat, and is not masochistic at all. This is because these projective attacks work against one’s inner ontological awareness — the part of the self that governs a stable and healthy sense of identity.

Morality and the shamanic void

In much of my experience, I haven’t been a “valid human being” at all. I think that is the starting point for shamanic initiation — where one recognizes that one is not a valid human being in some sense. Then one loses one’s humanity and regains it — that is the definition of initiation.

You have to enter non-being. Then, that kind of sticks with you, and you don’t employ moral categories so readily.  There are no longer any ““valid human beings”, just the totality of human experience, for better or worse.

A “valid human being”, for instance, is a moral category implying person-hood, with all that this entails according to people’s trained or educated notions as to what differentiates people from each other. So, on the basis of my education and training concerning “validity” I may come to certain conclusions about the kind of person who is valid, what characteristics they have, how they conduct themselves, their ontological status (as being redeemed by “God” or by morality, or by virtue of the state granting them their “rights”) or what have you. So, I’ll have a certain image of that person, perhaps very distinct, or perhaps rather fuzzy. In any case, I’ve created a categorical demarcation as to what constitutes validity in a human being.

This logically and practically also implies that I have it in the back of my mind as to what would make a human being “invalid”. So, maybe that kind of person would be immoral, evil, strange, not my color of skin, or whatever. In any case, I’ve set up a mental barrier that mediates my experience of the world on the basis of categories of “valid” or “invalid”.

For instance, like a certain male feminist writer does, I might mentally erect a category of oppressed people who have great validity as human beings. On the basis of that, I’d start to show great indulgence and forbearance in relation to these oppressed people. It may happen, though, that mediation of reality through defining a category of oppressed (versus less oppressed or not oppressed) means I can’t experience the shades of grey that make up the world as it actually is. There’s too much mediation of reality and not enough direct experience of it. That’s what moral categorizing does.

By contrast, entering non-being means we can open our minds a bit more, after we are not afraid of losing some structure and entering the void.

The meaning of amoralism, according to Nietzsche and Bataille is to become wilder, stronger in oneself, more independent and less tame. This is not a moral injunction that everybody has to do it. You can try it or not attempt it. It’s not even an issue of having the power of free choice. One can be seduced into trying shamanism, or one can avoid it. There are no transcendental principles governing this choice.


NOTE: Nietzsche’s amoralism is viewed most commonly as lauding the rights of the oppressors to oppressor whomever they please. But that view assumes a very morally delimiting perspective, as it makes it out that he was maintaining a moral position on who gets to oppress who. He isn’t.
Bataille’s dalliances with prostitutes have also been criticized for their immorality. But that was precisely the point of Bataille’s actions, to slip out of the grasp of morality.
Thirdly, the idea of renouncing judgement on people would need to acquire a moral motivation since it is a categorical distinction — i.e. that it is a good idea to renounce judgement on others.

Shamanism is not about establishing a moral position but about exploring a psychological void where making moral distinctions has not yet become automatic for you.



See below how both use the same sets of imagery as a basis for propounding the same naturalistic philosophy of morality.


That lambs dislike great birds of prey does not seem strange: only it gives no ground for reproaching these birds of prey for bearing off little lambs. And if the lambs say among themselves: “these birds of prey are evil; and whoever is least like a bird of prey, but rather its opposite, a lamb-would he not be good?” there is no reason to find fault with this institution of an ideal, except perhaps that the birds of prey might view it a little ironically and say: “we don’t dislike them at all, these good little lambs; we even love them: nothing is more tasty than a tender lamb.”

To demand of strength that it should not express itself as strength, that it should not be a desire to overcome, a desire to throw down, a desire to become master, a thirst for enemies and resistances and triumphs, is just as absurd as to demand of weakness that it should express itself as strength. A quantum of force is equivalent to a quantum of drive, will, effect – more, it is nothing other than precisely this very driving, willing, effecting, and only owing to the seduction of language (and of the fundamental errors of reason that are petrified in it) which conceives and misconceives all effects as conditioned by something that causes effects, by a “subject,” can it appear otherwise.




“The man I describe is in tune with Nature.”

“He is a savage beast.”

“Why, is not the tiger or the leopard, of whom this man is, if you wish, a replica, like man created by Nature and created to accomplish Nature’s intentions?  The wolf who devours the lamb accomplishes what this common mother designs, just as does the malefactor who destroys the objects of his revenge or his lubricity.”

“Oh, Father, say what you will, I shall never accept this destructive lubricity.”

“Because you are afraid of becoming its object — there you have it:  egoism.   Let’s exchange our roles and you will fancy it very nicely.  Ask the lamb, and you will find he does not understand why the wolf is allowed to devour him; ask the wolf what the lamb is for:  to feed me, he will reply.   Wolves which batten upon lambs, weak victims of the strong: there you have Nature, there you have her intentions, there you have her scheme.


Mass indignation

Nietzsche understood correctly that so much of the mass indoctrination into modes of morality is about moving the swamps. In making this judgement, Nietzsche was drawing on his understanding of mass psychology — that the masses regularly feel a need to release the tensions that come from being squeezed together into a massive conglomeration of human feelings, needs and desires. When the tension starts to build because of the pressures exerted on individual minds in relation to the cause of becoming massively ONE (one state, one national identity, one fuhrer), another force starts to demand its recompense, that is, in blaming others. “Since I have had to sacrifice so much, in order to become one in mind and heart and soul with my community, others who seem different from me and who may not have suffered as I have, will now also have to suffer.”

Thus the nature of so much of mass morality is to reward oneself for all of the efforts of delayed gratification by going on a psychologically bloodthirsty rampage in order to impugn others — those whom, presumably, have not conformed to the programme quite as well as Thou has. Or maybe the masses vote out one governmental party and put another into power to express their moral indignation.

Feelings, emotions and traumatic residue

These days I have a certain problem with coffee. In effect, it makes me insane — although there may be a benefit in going deeply into this madness it produces. Unlike so-called “depressants” like alcohol, which take you lower into the self and the emotions, a stimulant like caffeine acts to block my emotional awareness. This is not at all a source of jubilation, as when I cannot access what I am feeling I suspect that certain aspects of my environment are out of my control.

The horse beneath my seat may be walking, trotting, cantering — but I have no sensation of the reins, hence no control over my decision-making processes. I wouldn’t know if I were pulling too hard or not at all. I’m not quite sure what I’m feeling about anything. In times like this, I exercise perfect control and say nothing at all. I won’t be able to tell until the caffeine wears off and the flood gates allow my sensations to pass through again.

Caffeine triggers a traumatic center in my brain. Since I am unable to draw sufficiently from my emotional memory, I jump to the most negative conclusions about the-nature-of-reality-itself. It all seems very sordid, rather scary, deadly and refusing to reveal its layers.

An occasional drink of wine, on the other hand, is not just beneficial but practically essential for my health, for otherwise, with caffeine or no caffeine, I tend to lose touch with what I need to recognize in order to maintain my mental well-being. I can reintegrate my emotions by going deeply into them in a positive way, whilst building plans and formulating my ideas. This is what a glass of wine achieves for me. Not engaging in this bi-weekly ritual, however, returns me to my early-adult self. My 16-20 year-old self had repressed everything to do with emotion and feeling. This was the effect of post-migratory trauma; also of the tactics I’d developed from a very early age to deal with emotionally confusing and disturbing experiences. I switch off.

It has taken me years to realize the damage I was doing to my health in not maintaining emotional awareness. I had no idea I was so impersonal and detached from everything, until a crisis made me realize I had been repressing a huge amount of sadness and anger. I made a tremendous effort, from then on, to switch on to my actual emotional states. My physical health immediately improved with my self-understanding.

My ongoing tendency is nonetheless to switch off and thus to become a mystery to myself again. I hold my breath and hope nobody asks me what my motives and intentions were, because likely as anything I will not be able to know — until I have consulted with myself. And, who knows how long or short such a consultation with one’s inner being might be? It could take forever. Or a very limited time. Still, one has to begin the query first and then, wait and see.

Because of an inclination to hold my breath, I sometimes need to learn what I’ve experienced retrospectively. I haven’t really been taking it all in. I’ve been waiting for someone to be an ass — and then I’ll deal with it. I handle crises of most sorts and people behaving like asses very effectively — because it’s this I have been waiting for. I can think extremely logically and unhindered by any emotion or doubt, once I’ve decided to take action. My views and values become sharpened, clearer, in a crisis — and this is really paradoxical because it’s just the regular stream of life where I often can’t get enough emotion to flow through to think clearly. In a situation resonant of my trauma, it is difficult for me to “be myself”.

I retain an odd, Rhodesian personality — which I have modified to some degree.

I take time to decompress, to feel what I have been experiencing. I have developed a much higher capacity for emotional integration than I had in those early days of post-migratory trauma. Despite this, I’m never going to be an “emotional person” or even a very personal person, because focusing on feelings in their own right, rather than as building blocks of culture, puts a huge strain on me. I genuinely can’t understand the importance of having emotions that don’t supply substance for analysis.

It’s the resulting analysis that counts, which is the source of every deeper pleasure.


Object relations and shamanism: two theories of a kind

If Marechera’as self-exile from the world of conventional mores had a reason, then that reason was to repair an internal sense of loss. According to Alan Collier Ostby, H. Ellenberger (The Discovery of the Unconscious, 1970) says traditional healers saw psychological problems in terms of “soul loss” (Otsby p 166). Contemporary object relations thinking of the psychoanalytic school speaks, instead, in terms of “object loss”, however the qualities of sickness they are describing are, in phenomenological terms,  similar, one presumes, apart from the obvious cause of cultural differences, which contextualise this inner sense of loss in different ways. To place oneself into a mode of temporary exile facilitates an opportunity to recover the lost “object” that is experienced as a lost part of one’s self. The partially regressive return to the “womb” — that is to a state of mind where reality is dealt with on simpler terms than those on which a healthy adult would normally be inclined to deal with it — can facilitate healing. Restoration of the lost object would restore one’s hope in humanity, enabling re-integration into the social realm of everyday human relations.

Such psychological regression turns toward the psychologically receptive mode of the pre-oedipal field, wherein reality appears to be defined less by society and more by one’s internal object relations. This state of being involves the apertures of the mind narrowing to limit the data taken in from the outside world, to emphasise the particular nature of the internal dynamics of love, hate and knowledge (ref. Bion) that give one one’s idiosyncratic design, thus make one who one is. Marechera’s refusal to adopt the mantle of social conformity, to fit into his society, was based on his need to continue his “soul journey” to find the lost parts of his being that would enable him to feel whole.

What were these parts in particular, that he felt he had lost? Indications from reading his book of Hararean exile, Mindblast, give the strong impression, through many different textual “clues”, that what he sought was to continue his life in a peaceful Zimbabwean society, from childhood on up, that would have nurtured him as part of it. The breakout of civil war (the Second Chimurenga), which began in earnest around 1966, around the time that Marechera’s father was suddenly killed in a road accident, destroyed the sense of normal everyday life for the teenage Marechera. This loss of internal security, a loss emphasized still more in his mind through the increasing intensity of war in the society at large, robbed him of the sense of security he required to feel “at one” with himself. Henceforth, he could no longer believe in “society” and had lost it as an object of love.

Having lost his belief in this object – society – he also lost his feeling of security that would have enabled him to be at peace with himself. In a shamanistic sense, Marechera was suffering from “soul loss”. His stint as a tramp on the streets of Harare was designed to simplify life in such a way that he would be able to focus his mind on finding something valuable and emotionally precious that would stand in as a replacement for that original loss, and would have enabled him to integrate himself more effectively into society.

In Mindblast, Harare is a “womb” for Marechera not just in the sense that it is the place with which he identifies as the core and origin of his Zimbabwean identity.  Like Orpheus, he is in search of his lost other half, and he hopes to find in the world of the dead. In Harare is both a place of psychical regression and a “hell” — where the author struggles with a sense of the ethereal nature of his art against a countervailing reality of middle-class lifestyles, devoid of meaning or depth.

The destructive effect of the gendered division of mental labor

I made this exploration in my memoir — how was it that I came to be so divorced from so much of practical reality? Well, we can investigate that as an imposition of social norms. But don’t forget, whilst you are investigating it, to investigate the suffering this produces. And the confusion. And the immature status this imposes on both men and women alike, since where nobody is a complete person because everybody accepts a different division of labor, nobody can make rational, adult judgments about anything at all — and this includes men, too.

If “rationality is male” according to a division of labor, then men are deprived of their full humanity and are not so much rational as wooden, devitalized, robotic and insane.

How can you even test reality to work out what is there if you require another person to be a function for you, in order for you to be whole? You can’t do any trial and error because the other part of you — either your emotional function or your rational function — is somewhere else.

Because I was the eldest, but also because my father had a lot of mistreatment as a child as well as abandonment issues, I was allocated to:

1. express the emotions he had because of his anger at the world for being abandoned early on.

2. express his sadness and anger for the demise of Rhodesia after the government capitulated to outside demands.

3. act as the whipping girl on a practical/emotional level for everything that went wrong in his later stage of life, when he began to succumb to his lifelong traumas.

4. Accept the blame, publicly, too, for women are “the weak ones”, not men.

5. Act as “the good mother” (or else) and teach my father how to operate within the culture we had entered as migrants.

6. Accept the guilt of “the bad mother”.

* The problems I have had with my father have been endless and only ended with his stroke, which destroyed much of the creative/intuitive/emotional side of his brain. I’m sure he is also thankful for its removal of his trauma, even though it has left his with a severe disability.

He can now speak logically, rather than manipulatively, about what went wrong in his life. For the first time, we have a good relationship, where he isn’t trying to sabotage me all the way.


The magical allure that is undoubtably present in Nietzsche’s writing is shamanistic. It is that which enables him to play the pied piper and to attract a following. Yet the shamanistic mode of logic — although present — is not as deep as it ought to be, were one to be truly faithful to the principles of shamanism. In precise terms: although the notion of plasticity of identity and self transformation is trumpeted, the degree of plasticity that is potentially available in each human being is portrayed as being much more limited than actually it is. Whereas changing genders is the ultimate expression of the logic of shamanism, Nietzsche’s views that the gender roles ought to be fundamentally unassailable is directly in line with the logic of patriarchal priests throughout the ages.


And yet he uses shamanistic structures of thought — which have a natural voluptuousness and sense of joyful celebration of the here and now — to sell us on this gloomy patriarchal priest’s ideas.


This is the contradiction within Nietzsche’s work. Shamanism would totally free its initiates the constraints imposed by guilt, if not from guilt itself  — but Nietzsche wants a certain amount of freedom to be permitted, and no more.


He is like a wine merchant who has decided that his product isn’t going far enough — and so he dilutes his wine with methylated spirits.


But methylated spirits — the priestly complex — is actually poison. Specifically, it is a poison in the eyes of this particular wine merchant.


So how did he go wrong — to mix in so much priestly doom and gloom into what were, and ought to have been, liberating ideas for his time?


UPDATED:  Nietzsche once wrote, “Apart from the church, we too love the poison [of ascetic ideas].”

It seems that both Nietzsche and Bataille mixed their knowledge with a certain amount of religiosity — poison — in order to reach the widest possible audience.


Limits of psychoanalysis

1.  Many of the Lacan’s patriarchal stupidities are also present in Freud. That said, I do believe in people getting better, it’s just that you can’t have patriarchal practitioners trying to guide you in the process.

What they’ll end up doing is projecting all the failed protests about injustice from millenia onto you and giving them a psychiatric diagnosis.

Why did Freud misunderstand the direction of projection, when it concerned women. Women are not projecting their desires onto men and thereby becoming hysterical because they can’t face the fact that they have desires. Freud’s society was patriarchal and ours are largely the same.


2.  The manipulation of female perceptions that happens AS A RULE under patriarchy is to blame for the states of distress.  It’s not the other way around.

Any advances on Freud’s perspectives are very slow in coming, due to the domination of patriarchal ideas in broader culture. What should be very obvious — that people suffer from trauma when they are manipulated — has been turned into a dogma that people suffer because they are afraid of their own sex drives or in some other way “afraid to face reality”.

But, the origins of trauma are much more simple and straightforward. Freud is to some degree an antidote to patriarchal attitudes of sexual repression, but he also reproduces these attitudes because he could not see what was in front of him.


3.  I think a lot can be gained from a kind of wilderness analysis of oneself, so long as patriarchal practitioners are not involved. But if they are, they will reinforce the necessity of the trauma, making it essential for participation in society.

This is not an ideological attack on Freudianism, but just pointing to its limitations. And, unless I have misunderstood, the underlying principles of psychoanalysis are to give people the fortitude to face reality. Only, (and this is where I am pointing out the source of the problem), reality happens to be patriarchal reality, most of the time.

So it works out like this: “Here are the resources you need to face patriarchal reality, which is true reality, the only reality. You need to embrace the necessity of your trauma. You need to lie to yourself as necessary in order to fit in. You must just accept things as they are, without trying to change them.”

I’m not saying that this is what psychoanalysts, or Freud himself, intended. But if patriarchal power itself does not come under scrutiny through psychoanalysis, then psychoanalysis is worse than useless.


4.  The books I’ve read on psychoanalysis, even the most liberal ones, take very gingerly steps toward the possibility of patriarchal values being wrong. Dorpat, for instance, who speaks of “gaslighting” in therapy (i.e. telling the client that they haven’t really experienced what they have), still maintains that most therapists don’t intend to abuse their clients, but that such abuse is ubiquitous by virtue of the therapists making mistakes.

The mistake is, of course, that the therapists have internalized patriarchal values which depict women as “just silly” or “too sensitive’ or “making it up”.

European and African shamanistic philosophers/writers

I’ve virtually read every book in the house. That would be about 800 books.  Mike had his collection, which he shipped over from the US in sea bags.  I also accumulated mine, particularly as I wrote my PhD.

Mike’s books consist of heavy historical tomes describing and analyzing the nature of communism in the 20th Century and its shortfalls.    My books tend to be by Nietzsche, Bataille, Marechera and assorted other African writers who give a historical context to my thesis.   Mike’s literary interests include the Beat Poets and texts by classical Greek and Roman authors.   My interests are more contemporary, although I don’t read literature these days.   I stopped reading literature after Black Sunlight blew my mind.   Now I rarely read theory, either.

Theory has always held a fascination for me, but now I think I’ve reached it’s outer limits.  In truth, I felt that I was suffering from all the G-force I could take from theory as I approached the completion of my thesis.  I was applying my version of theory to go beyond my limits, opposing my own superego with all the force my mind could muster.  My emotions began to shatter as I made headway into the stratosphere.   My emotions and my will power became counter to each other.   I could barely keep it together as the external shell of the shuttle of my being began to quake.

Part of the reason was de Sade.  I say this now with some degree of certainty, having pulled his tome of collected works off the shelf.   I’d had to do battle with his elements in Nietzsche and Bataille, by trying to formulate a different attitude and solution, as per my “intellectual shamanism” than the woman-hating that the Nietzschean chain supplies.  Immersing oneself in the intellectual logic of woman-hating writers in order to understand them, and then attempting the difficult task of self-extrication from their zeitgeist, with a surge of woman-hating trolls forever on one’s back was not easy.   I determined, finally, that Marechera did have more insight into the psychological repercussions of woman-hating than either of these earlier authors.  In “The Alley”, a short play, he portrayed how wartime contempt for women made the self-image of the soldier as a valiant protector of women and children into a farce.

Marechera has a kind of combativeness that uses psychological insights in order to overthrow attitudes he finds contemptible.   Hierarchical domination is precisely disliked.  One must be honest about one’s psychological states and not pretend that they are other than they seem to be, otherwise one does not face the fact that war inflicts trauma that requires healing.   Of course, the use of psychologically informed political tactics is not new, for they also form a large part of Bataille’s writing.  His predominant trope of facing death, for instance, is a double-edged sword, intended to push individuals to more extreme limits, beyond the circumscribing limits of bourgeois morality.   In Nietzsche’s writing, he offered that the noble elements of European culture were those most accepting of the need to sacrifice themselves; that is, those for whom “the preaching of death was most at home”.   The other edge of the sword is that the subjugated classes would become ungovernable if they effectively (in my terms) “shamanized” and had strange visions.   They could overcome their fear of death and therefore fear no punishment for their behavour.

If Nietzsche was defender of the aristocracy, Bataille wanted revolution for the working class.  Marechera was in some ways more extreme than either of these writers, more aligned with the lumpen proletariat, at least in terms of choice of lifestyle (vagrancy, petty crime).   For all that, Marechera was more deeply shamanistic in his insights — that is, more aware of the degree to which psychology can be used to manipulate political perceptions.    He was also a master of disguises in his own way.   He thought that one could simply become what one imagined being, for instance a Fleet Street photographer (you just need to wear a number of cameras around your neck and pass yourself off as one).

Marechera was also the least sadistic of the chain of writers.    He had no stake in maintaining any form of social hierarchy whatsoever, so there was no need to try to distort perceptions in any way.  He just had to show up the aspects of the psychologies of groups that they were trying to hide.   For instance, the cost of going to war is that one must live with the knowledge of what war does to women.

Although the European writers mentioned are sadistic, Marechera’s writing isn’t, at least it’s far from being so at bottom.   Despite this, his style finds its place in a historical continuum with Bataille’s perspectives.  That is, he uses politically motivated psychological writing in a surrealistic, stream-of-consciousness form.   His writing has the effect of making one feel like one has entered a privileged realm where one is aware of the glorious fragility of life and its sacred nature.

Even if you are atheistic, you can be in awe of what it means to live and breathe and have existence — life may be being squeezed out of you, but you are still here, to watch it and record it.   At this most reductive level, which is where Marechera takes you, there is the quintessence of life.

Such is the author’s shamanistic propensity, that we can eschew sadism from our psychological vocabularies, and still be sure to have adventures and dare ourselves.  Read, for instance, Black Sunlight.

questions, questions, questions

My father’s madness involved a reversal of typical parent-child relations, where I was held responsible for all sorts of things that seemed to have gone wrong, in the eyes of my father.   I didn’t know what these things were.  It has taken me about twenty years to find them out.

This short paragraph encapsulates the issue I kept trying to ask authorities about, including anyone older than I, or more experienced.  I didn’t have a way to articulate the nature of the problem then, because I hadn’t studied enough psychology or heard enough of the facts, to be able to piece everything together, until after my PhD.

Basically, I wanted to know what was the dimension of emotional meaning that would make sense of the experiences I’d had in my life, in particular in relation to my father.  Even after writing my memoir and sticking plainly to the facts, without attempting very much direct interpretation, or going beyond what I knew at that time, I was unable to articulate the core of the matter I was trying to describe — which is now outlined neatly above.

There were all sorts of questions I wanted answered.

1.  Was/is my father mad?

2.  What went wrong?

3.  Specifically what was I being held responsible for, in terms of what went wrong?

4.  How does that “work” anyway, that I’m blamed for things that happened before I knew about them taking place?

I now have satisfying answers to all these questions.

With regard to number one:  Yes, my father suffered from an accumulation of traumas, very closely related to the history of Rhodesia and its past.   Thus that he did go mad, and blame me for things I never could have done.

2.  What went wrong was related to my father’s very early childhood experience and ongoing sense of abandonment by his parents.   His father was killed in WW2, and due to the pressures of patriarchal society and the need to remarry, his mother had to marry too soon, and into unfavorable circumstances.

3.  Specifically I was held responsible for giving my father the unconditional approval he had lacked from his parents.   When his unconditional trust for his country’s authorities backfired, and he was left in the lurch, he blamed his mother for making him unconditionally trust an adoptive father, whom he never really liked in the first place.  As I was the eldest, and female, I came to represent his mother to him, and above all her “poor choices”.   So, he blamed me for the demise of Rhodesia, after he had been led to believe the country would not be overturned.

4.  How does that “work”?   It works through early childhood psychological dynamics, where the mother and child share the same psychological unity and interact as one entity.   My father had unfinished work to do at this level, because his mother had been suffering from bereavement trauma and associated denial, so seems not to have brought my father to full emotional independence.   He blamed me for what went wrong in his life, because he blamed his mother for what went wrong in his life.   Blaming others is a primitive way of coping, under extreme stress — and one woman (me) is the same as any another woman from the perspective of such a one who feels everything has turned out badly.  Thus I became the one to blame for emotions (both familial and historical) I had not been in a position to understand.

This was why I kept trying to ask those whom I thought might have been better positioned than I, to read and understand my father’s strange behavior, what his behavior meant.

Unfortunately, because we have a misogynist society, those I tried to ask suggested that I had actually been the cause of my father’s emotional distress, since the logic of cause and effect pointed in my direction as the “cause” of all these problems.

More logically, though, a child of fifteen cannot be the cause of parental trauma.   That’s getting things back to front and twisted.  It also has too much about it of the Judeo-Christian ideological residue of “women as eternal sinner”.

Living the moment of dissolution

I’m reading Nietzsche’s ANTICHRIST again.  I find it perfectly logical.  What can make a difference is the perspective of the reader.   It takes a while to develop the capacity to read it without the lens of contemporary ideologies.   I remember being very much enmeshed in some of the contemporary era ideologies that were invented to smash the left.  You were either on the side of “civilization” or against it.   This kind of reading distorts Nietzsche’s writing so that instead of making logical points, he seems to be taking sides in a political struggle.  To read Nietzsche as making psychological observations, not political ones, gives coherence and intelligibility to his whole approach.

When I consider his opposition to the anarchists, I can reflect from the standpoint of today that I have met many left wingers who seem emotionally weak.  I’ve also met their equivalents on the right.   Nietzsche thought that the disruptive people, who looked to undermine society, were intent to undermine a structure which they could not enjoy anyway, due to their dependent natures.    It wasn’t the society that had something wrong with it, but these agitators themselves did.   Psychologically speaking, I have found this is often true.  It doesn’t work to condemn all agitators as weak personalities, though, because to generalize in that way is only possible by invoking metaphysical — that is theological — principles.   That’s exactly what Nietzsche’s writing wants to avoid.  Rather it seems one should exercise intellectual caution and view everyone on their own merits.

From my point of view, I find Nietzsche’s commentary on those who want to overthrow the established order to have incredibly complex ramifications.   Consider that I had barely become an adult, when my own established order was completely overthrown.   Almost nothing remained, except for a small core of agitators for the extreme right and another skeleton group taking refuge in denial within the protective bubbles of their Christian ideologies.   For me, life itself, in almost every sense that I had known it, had been completely overturned:

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).[“will to chance,” Bataille]

I immediately saw through the ideological, defensive response, and I only considered the alternative — the hive of right-wing agitators — when the aggressive people of the left had begun attacking me too much.  Primitive emotional responses are common when a defeated enemy (me) is in your grasp.  They’re also common when the prior rulers realize they have been defeated and seek to take revenge for their humiliation.  I’ve experienced this aggression from both sides of politics.   Both have seen me, somehow, as their enemy — someone whom they need to pick on to score points, or prove themselves worthy of their particular political ideologies.

Handling it on one’s own

After migration, there was an  issue of weird and confusing stereotyping, which fed me the wrong sort of information.  I have since been led to understand that PROBABLY a cultural stereotype was at work, as well as most certainly a gender stereotype.  This information I received, fundamentally another culture’s stereotypes about my identity, made it very difficult for me to get the information I needed to make the necessary cultural adjustments.

It didn’t help too much that I spent the first few post-migratory years not communicating, and then when I did, I spoke about my problems, which had become substantial by then.  I couldn’t understand things fundamentally.  That was my most significant issue. I hadn’t been brought up to understand the world I’d been transferred into.   I spoke English and was white, so I didn’t look like I should be having cultural problems, yet I was.

Ten years down the track and it was becoming clear that I was out of step with all sorts of cultural expectations.   Actually, this may or may not have been true, but it was my sudden analysis, bought on by a heavy episode of dysfunctional workplace exposure.   My project to adapt and adjust, in order to “save myself” became extreme — my motivations became extremely energized.  I looked around for all sorts of advice. I mean, how does one stop the abuse?  Is there some form of conformity that assures it comes to an end?

People told me that there surely was:  I had to get off my high horse and stop being so “sensitive”.   So I took that lesson to heart.  I developed a rude and abrasive manner.  I also tried not to feel anything much at all, unless it was the anger and aggression that had been building up over a number of years.   I sought the ideal solution to defuse this anger and aggression, by joining the army.  I would blow up people, and then the anger and aggression would be out of me and into them.  It was uncomfortable to have so much rage building up, but if I got off my high horse and mixed it with the worst of them, I would surely find a way to move beyond such an uncomfortable inner state.

I learned a great deal from this period of time how it is possible to be extremely calm whilst enduring a state of rage.  I had a bomb ticking inside me and I had to find a way to manually defuse it.  If it did harm in a socially acceptable way, I was fine with that.

I also found it was quite possible to be comfortably alone with my inner state, with no sensitivity at all.  I could respond to people and at times present outward emotions without feeling any inner change at all.

I never forgot, even for a moment, that I had only one goal — and that was an issue of my life and death — to defuse this inner dynamite in the safest way possible.

Undoing identity, undoing fascism

The primitive components of our brains are preoccupied with setting invisible boundaries that are defined by social inclusion or exclusion is .   Nationalism, sexism, racism and all other forms of social identity rely on this primeval mechanism of division and exclusion.

We can’t directly fight these aspects of our thinking, since they are part of our way of structuring the social realm. This part includes certain members socially by exclusion and scapegoating.  “Projective identification” creates negative identities  by scapegoating, whereby those who are perceived to be outsiders of the group are made out to represent the kinds of qualities the group doesn’t want to own as part of its identity.

Fear and pride predominate at this level of consciousness.

  Identity politics, which attempts to make us address our “privilege” has  failed on every level.   It has only led to infighting within the left, which has created a gigantic gap for those who are better organized on the right to perpetuate their agendas.  This they have done ever since the eighties, so that American society is effectively dominated by an extreme right-wing agenda.

Leftist identity politics is just like its right-wing counterpart.  It is wrong-headed because we cannot attack a part of our own humanity without failing.  It is better to understand the workings of the   primitive brain and use our knowledge to become more fully human, and not fight it as snooty moralistic ascetics.

Few people are aware that our brains create basic boundary divisions at an unconscious level.  More specifically, most people take the divisions they meet in the world as natural and logical.   Ethical groups all have essential qualities.   Zionists are crazed and wrong and Palestinians are noble.   That’s just how they seem to our naked eye.  Or, vice versa:   school teachers are leaching off our system and business men are here to help.  That, too, is visible to the naked eye, if one is brought up with the “right” forms of conditioning — that is if one has a pure, religious heart and fears the economic bust.

Just as being aware that the sun rises in the morning is not the same as commanding it to rise, being aware how the mind creates divisions does not mean that one applauds them.

For instance, much has been suggested, in the past, that Georges Bataille, who engaged with the psychology of fascism and understood the psychological states involved in it, must necessarily be a “left fascist” himself.   After all, why study something, unless one in fact is the object one is studying?   If one is not lifting up the sun with one’s eyelids, why claim that the sun actually exists?

I have Michael Richardson to thank for pointing me to Georges Bataille’s shamanism, at least in the sense that Richardson conceives that Bataille’s emphasis on “facing death” was shamanistic and that it was Bataille’s intent to cure himself via this method.

Another trope of shamanism is boundary crossing:

[S]hamans are men in some cultures, either men or women in others, and biologically male transvestites in still others. Some Inuit cultures are especially well-known for their association of shamanism with cross-dressing. If we wish to think about this in terms of symbolic classification, it seems quite logical that crossing one symbolic boundary, that between the sexes, should be made to “stand for” another symbolic boundary-crossing, the bridging of the gap between humans and the supernatural. [David Hicks, quoted by University of Waterloo]

Whereas I’ve heard it mentioned, in a class at university, that Georges Bataille engaged in cross-dressing, to learn about the other side of consciousness he was repressing, I have been unable to trace any written references to this effect.   That is to my regret, for it makes entirely logical sense that Bataille would have engaged in this kind of experience, given his other shamanistic proclivities (documented by me elsewhere).

Dambudzo Marechera, whose writing I’ve also pointed out as being shamanistic, was a  quintessential boundary crosser:

Hell is crossing the railway line

In dark mood on a dark night

This railway line would have been between differently segregated parts of town, in racially segregated Rhodesia.

Crossing boundaries gives us access to experiences we have earlier avoided, but without being aware of our avoidance thanks to the operation of the primitive parts of our human brains.

Shamanistic crossings thus undo the boundary-making that our lizard brains have formulated.   Transgression breaks through the code of primitive thinking, and expands our minds.

There’s nothing necessarily primitive about breaking down primitive unconscious processes, even though the means themselves may seem strange and dangerous to us.   “Watch out!” Primitive lizard brain warns us.  “Boundaries of identity are there to preserve you.  Breaking them down will be dangerous to your health!”

Still, the shaman must be master of the lower mind: This isn’t fascism,  this is the denial of fascism; its undoing.