Thursday, 12 July 2018

repression, or not

For me the concept of repression finds its surest anchorage in two phenomena. One is the way it can be peculiarly hard to remember one's own dreams. Much harder than remembering someone else's for example. The other is the way it can be similarly hard to remember to tell your analyst about certain recurrent and genuine troubles, despite the fact that working through such troubles is why one pays such a lot of time and money for the analysis. I think there's also an ineluctable air of strain, shame and sneakiness about such phenomena - as is some of our thoughts are trying their best to evade capture, as if our efforts at recall feel like to us straining against a contrary impulse within.

And yet there's much that's strange about the concept. We have our Sartrean worries - that we're either going to end up with an incoherent idea of needing to be aware that a thought is distressing so that we can then make and keep it unaware, or in danger of proliferating various sub-agencies (censors, separate egos, etc) within the person, a theory-saving move which looks rather desperate in the face of the grammar and phenomenology of personhood. We also have the twin worries: that much that is troubling, much that we should rather like repressed, is not; and that much of what we struggle to recall turns out to be really rather affectively innocuous or, well, at least hardly worth all that fuss.

Now, there are things one can say to these worries by way of defence of the inner censor/repression theory. We may think of tropism rather than intention if the avoidance of the pain seems too intentionalistically rich. We may use Fuchs' metaphor of how one automatically adjusts one's gait if one has an injured leg: it's not that we have to keep feeling the pain and adjusting our gait; rather we make an automatic protective adjustment which stops the pain arising. We may offer a range of peculiar facts about human life which might make the sub-agency story more inviting. And we may distinguish between the infantile self who doesn't want and struggles with the feelings which it represses and the adult self who is rather more advanced and capable than the infantile self fears - the adult self, that is, who can't really understand what all the fuss was about when the ineluctable becomes, er, elucted.

Nevertheless, and before rushing ahead with further prosecution and defence, I'd rather choose to stop to think whether we might differently theorise these anchoring phenomena whilst yet respecting the phenomenology. So here's a different theory. This is that we struggle to recall that for which associative grooves are not already laid down in the mind. We struggle to recall that which is not well integrated. We struggle to lay down dream memories partly because we are moving from one radically different mental state to another (sleep to wake). By contrast we find it easier to recall others' dreams because we are fully awake when hearing them. And partly we struggle because dreams can symbolise material which is not well integrated into our dominant self. Because of this there aren't the associative back-and-forth tracks to travel on. And similarly for what we struggle to recall whilst on the couch. There are preoccupations that dog us but which are not yet well integrated into our dominant selfhood and self-conception.

An important difference between the repression thesis and my dunno-what-to-call-it-yet thesis is that mine needs no inner censoring agency to do its work. Another is that mine posits that the difficulty in recall is not a difficulty caused by the painfulness of, or anxiety aroused by, certain affectively charged emotions and memories, but is rather simply because such painful emotions and memories are not well integrated. Yet my theory would also explain why certain rather painless emotions and memories are also hard to recall: despite not being painful they are not (yet) part of the dominant self.

And how about the atmosphere of shame that attends the difficulty of recall on the couch? I propose that this is because we have an adult ideal of integration which we're aware of not here meeting. It's kind of embarrassing not to 'know your own mind'. And what we cannot recall may, because it's not well integrated, because it's the kind of concern which we are likely to encounter only when we are in dream or somewhat dissociated waking trance (as when mentally disturbed), not yet have had the chance to develop and join the club of adult mentality.

And what error theory do I have which explains why the concept of repression gets going so readily? This is that the theory mistakes an effect for a cause. It posits that it's because certain thoughts are disturbing that they're not readily thought about. I suggest first that such elusive thoughts are not always disturbing, and second that when they are it's not their being disturbing which causes them to be experienced as elusive. Rather it's their unintegrated character, the fact that they're not yet part of the gang, that makes us feel ashamed, that makes it the case that we've not yet found ways to deal with them, that causes them to evoke powerful feelings, etc. And why is it that we can feel like we're struggling with a contrary impulse within to not recall the thoughts and feelings in question? Well, first of all it often doesn't feel like this. Second, there's the fact of the shame we can feel at getting in touch with less integrated aspects of ourselves. Finally, and for the analytic aficionados, there's the ubiquitous concept of repression which comes in to (perhaps rather unhelpfully) colour our experience of ourselves.

Thursday, 28 June 2018

chesterton on madness

A man who thinks himself a chicken is to himself as ordinary as a chicken. A man who thinks he is a bit of glass is to himself as dull as a bit of glass. It is the homogeneity of his mind which makes him dull, and which makes him mad.
Here, by 'makes', G K Chesterton is talking not of efficient but of formal causation: mental homogeneity is a criterion of insanity. The statement is (not atypically) both overblown and underdetermined, but we get a clearer idea of what he meant as we read on:
Now, if we are to glance at the philosophy of sanity, the first thing to do in the matter is to blot out one big and common mistake. There is a notion adrift everywhere that imagination, especially mystical imagination, is dangerous to man's mental balance. Poets are commonly spoken of as psychologically unreliable; and generally there is a vague association between wreathing laurels in your hair and sticking straws in it. Fact and history utterly contradict this view. Most of the very great poets have been not only sane, but extremely business-like... Imagination does breed insanity. Exactly what does breed insanity is reason. Poets do not go mad; but chess players do. Mathematicians go mad, and cashiers; but creative artists very seldom.
Does this not seem peculiar? Is not unreason another name for madness? Chesterton clarifies:
I am not, as will be seen, in any sense attacking logic; I only say that this danger does lie in logic, not in imagination. .... Poetry is sane because it floats easily in an infinite sea; reason seeks to cross the infinite sea, and so make it finite. The result is mental exhaustion... The poet only desires exaltation and expansion, a world to stretch himself in. The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.
Perhaps what he is saying would be better put in terms of an over-extension, an immodesty, of reason's application being what makes for insanity. (Think: Minkowski on the morbid rationalism and morbid geometrism found in schizophrenia.) This is born out by what follows:
We have all heard people cite the celebrated line of Dryden as "Great genius is to madness near allied." But Dryden did not say [this]. Dryden was a great genius himself, and knew better. It would have been hard to find a man more romantic than he, or more sensible. What Dryden said was this, "Great wits are oft to madness near allied"; and that is true. ... He was talking of a cynical man of the world, a skeptic, a diplomatist, a great practical politician. Such men are indeed to madness near allied. Their incessant calculation of their own brains and other people's brains is a dangerous trade. It is always perilous to the mind to reckon up the mind.
Sanity, as Chesterton sees it, involves knowing when not to think. Consider:
the minor acts of a healthy man: whistling as he walks, slashing the grass with a stick; kicking his heels or rubbing his hands. It is the happy man who does the useless things; the sick man is not strong enough to be idle. ... the madman... generally sees too much cause in everything. The madman would read a conspiratorial significance into those empty activities. He would think that the lopping of the grass was an attack on private property. He would think that the kicking of the heels was a signal to an accomplice. If the madman could for an instant become careless, he would become sane.
Although Chesterton puts it in a psychological register, I suspect the point is better grasped as logical. (Think of Wittgenstein in On Certainty: we do not doubt the hinge propositions and, in fact: one would have to be mad to do so.)

Here's his most striking pronouncement:
If you argue with a madman, it is extremely probable that you will get the worst for it; for in many ways his mind moves all the quicker for not being delayed by the things that go with good judgement. He is not hampered by a sense of humor or by charity, or by the dumb certainties of experience. He is the more logical for losing certain sane affections. Indeed the common phrase for insanity is in this respect a misleading one. The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason.
I believe that here Chesterton mis-speaks. Reason and good judgement are of a piece. What the madman still has is not his reason but rather his reasoning - his rational inference-making. Such reasoning activity has been deprived of its status as mechanism of reason - regardless of its inferential impeccability - because it does not have its feet on the ground. But this talk of being unhampered by the 'dumb certainties of experience' is surely on the money (think, again, of Wittgenstein's On Certainty). In other places Chesterton understands better that it is not inference making, but rather such reality contact as manifests reason, which is awry in madness:
The man who cannot believe his senses, and the man who cannot believe anything else, are both insane, but their insanity is proud not by any error in their argument, but by the manifest mistake of their whole lives. ... [The] chief mark and element of insanity ... in summary ... is reason used without root, reason in the void. The man who begins to think without the proper first principles goes mad; he begins to think at the wrong end.
Chesterton's recipe for therapeutics is surprising, but this is but a function of his rhetoric. The following makes this clear, and also speaks for itself:
Mysticism keeps men sane. As long as you have mystery you have health; when you destroy mystery you create morbidity. The ordinary man has always been sane because the ordinary man has always been a mystic. ... He has always cared more for truth than for consistency. If he saw two truths that seemed to contradict each other, he would take the two truths and the contradiction along with them. ... Thus he has always believed that there was such a thing as fate, but such a thing as free will also. ... He admired youth because it was young and age because it was not. It is exactly this balance of apparent contradictions that has been the whole buoyancy of the healthy man. The whole secret of mysticism is this: that man can understand everything by the help of what he does not understand. The morbid logician seeks to make everything lucid, and succeeds in making everything mysterious. The mystic allows one thing to be mysterious, and everything else becomes clear. ... The one created thing which we cannot look at is the one thing in the light of which we look at everything.

Monday, 25 June 2018

psychotic dreams

Kleinian theory tells of psychotic and borderline dreams; here I merely summarise and clarify.
Susanne Langer

As Segal has it in The Function of Dreams, Freud didn't have the concept of 'working through' at the time of writing The Interpretation of Dreams. But once we have that concept available to us we can start to see dreams - 'good dreams' at least - as not just a defence against, but as the constructive processing of, difficult emotional experiences. For Freud, dreams are compromises of repressing and repressed forces; for him only the repressed was symbolised. In Segal's hands, however, 'symbolism' comes to mean something much more like what Langer means by it: that is, the expressive bodying forth of meaningful action tendencies whereby difficult emotional experience is given shape and representation, and so can be renewingly woven into the flow of an ongoing subjective life, regardless of whether the symbolising subject can now avow an intentional object for his emotion. (This isn't surprising: Segal read Langer in the 1940s.) What I want to stress here is that this isn't a different theory of symbolism: it is a different concept of symbolism. In fact it's a rather radically different concept: for Freud, symbolism has to do just with what is unthinkable; for the later Kleinians it becomes the process whereby difficult experience becomes thinkable. The difference is rather underplayed by Segal. If I had a psychoanalytic fiefdom I think I should insist there on 'symbolism' for the Freudian, and 'symbolisation' for the Langerian, phenomenon. 


As is well known, Segal enriched psychoanalytic theory by distinguishing between symbolisation proper and symbolic equation. The latter involves a collapse of symbol and symbolised, something we may also call 'concrete' symbolising. Segal often talks of the psychotic patient not being able to tell apart the symbol and the symbolised, but a more helpful way of putting this would be in terms of an actual indistinction - and not just 'for them' - between thoughts that treat of metaphoric and those that treat of literal truth, between self and object. This occurs, Segal tells us, when projective identification is in the ascendant: i.e. when aspects of the self are truly lost from it and instead become lodged in the self's representations of its objects. The distinction becomes important when we turn to psychotic dreaming. Symbolisation proper, Segal tells us, by contrast, can only obtain when the subject is capable of mourning. After all, one might think, the ability to tolerate the absence of the object is essential before one can represent it as absent - and this capacity is essential to a symbol functioning as such.

Psychotic Dreams? 

In true psychosis there is no difference between wake and sleep, hallucination and dream. (In the ambit of the complexes, that is; it's not as if the psychotic subject is always inexorably psychotic, nor the sane subject always inexorably sane.) Segal suggests that the patient may treat their ‘dream’ as a real happening. By contrast we may suggest (with e.g. Sass) that the schizophrenic patient experiences reality as having the subjective quality of a dream. In fact, rather than say either of those, I propose that we stick instead to an ontological, and avoid the epistemological, claim: the schizophrenic's mind does not, when he is in his autism, instantiate in its very form the distinction between reality and fantasy. Dream and reality are of a piece. This is because they are in that radically dissociated - 'autistic' - state of mind. They've lost 'reality contact'.

Borderline psychotic subjects, by contrast, ‘can use dreams for getting rid of, rather than working through, unwanted parts of the self and objects’. Hence the curious Kleinian talk of ‘projection into a dream’. 

It is the use, rather than the content, of dreams which comes more to the fore in Kleinian analysis, and this affects the kinds of interpretations given when working with borderline subjects. 

Bion

In chapter 7 of Learning from Experience, Bion proposes that the function of dreaming is to create a distinction of conscious emotional experience from unconscious emotional experience. He describes this in concrete terms: as a semi-permeable 'barrier' composed of alpha elements. I cannot find a way to treat this as more than a mythology useful for keeping our eye on the relevant phenomena whilst yet remaining explanatorily impotent. A way to think about the creation of this conscious/unconscious distinction is in terms of the narrative structure of dreaming, which binds salient tolerable emotional experience into a thinkable/dreamable whole and thereby excludes otherwise overwhelming unmanageable proto-thoughts and proto-feelings (which now can be said to be unconscious). Psychosis, then, involves the failure of dreaming to create the distinction between the conscious and unconscious. 

Whilst a mentally healthy person can be both awake and asleep, the psychotic person cannot be either when in her psychosis.

Here is a helpful passage from Learning from Experience. Unlike in Freudian theory,
in alpha-function theory the powers of censorship and resistance are essential to differentiation of conscious and unconscious and help to maintain the discrimination between the two. This discrimination derives from the operation of the “dream”, which is a combination in narrative form of dream thoughts, which thoughts in turn derive from combinations of alpha-elements. In this theory the ability to “dream” preserves the personality from what is virtually a psychotic state. It therefore helps to explain the tenacity with which the dream, as represented in classical theory, defends itself against the attempt to make the unconscious conscious. Such an attempt must appear indistinguishable from destruction of the capacity to dream in so far as that capacity is related to differentiating conscious from unconsciousand maintaining the difference so established.
To end I should like to share my own Bionian impression of the psychotic dream. Which is that it is a dream which is violent, disturbing, a fusing of love and hate, containing objects broken into pieces, not rich in imagery, with barely any development, etc. Perhaps it is just of some dangerous teeth or threatening faeces. It's a dream which hardly functions as such since the narrative containing function barely gets going.

Saturday, 9 June 2018

on symbolisation, take two

There are 2 theories of psychological symbolism and psychological symbolisation which interest me at the moment. One we owe primarily to Freud, the other primarily to Langer.

Freud's is a substitutive theory. It parallels our understanding of conventional (non-psychological) symbolism - in which one extant thing (the substitute) stands for some other extant thing (an intolerable wish or fear, for example) - except, in the substitutive psychological case, the relation (created by a 'mechanism' of displacement) is causally rather than intentionally constructed. (This makes it capable of being unconscious.) The intolerable wish/fear can now be avoided by a focus on the tolerable substitute which focus is invested with the affective charge proper to the intolerable wish/fear.

Langer's is a non-substitutive, expressive, theory. It offers 'symbolisation' as the name of the natural process of (let's-call-it) the animal soul whereby confounding experience is metabolised through its various expressions, or whereby the joyous exuberance of the individual bodies forth in spontaneous creativity. Symbolisation, that is, is the largely non-conscious expressive metabolism of such predicaments as we are sunk into, or of the ecstatic creation of new meaning in play and art. Without it the engine of the animal soul seizes up and we become flung along or frozen by life's vicissitudes. These expressions may include conventional expressions (e.g. linguistic representations that mention an intentional object of the now fully-fledged wish or fear) but may include non-conventional expressions. Yet any expressive shape may do the job: gestures, song lyrics, singing expressively without words, play scenarios, visual-artistic productions, rational emotionally-alive thoughts about the situation one is in, the imaginative self-talk of young children.

So an important difference between the two models is how much each relies on defences as the defining motors of symbolisation, and how much each relies on the idea of an extant representation being repressed and transformed. Substitutive theories rely on a notion of an already extant representation being worked over by a defence which leads, by psychologically real 'primary processes' which themselves may not be motivationally driven (i.e. they may just characterise 'the unconscious'), to the creation of a substitutive symbol. The symbol here really does take the place of something which already obtained, if only 'in the unconscious'. This 'taking the place of' is part of what characterises the particular meaning of 'symbol' at play here.

In the expressive theory we have instead emotional experience striving for whatever expressive form it may take. From the point of view of emotional experience, as it were, it doesn't really matter whether such expressive forms take on the shape of what can form the content of true statements about what is expressed. What matters is that life - the fluid movement (the 'externalisation' a la Hegel) of the animal soul - goes on. To think that it naturally takes the form of what can constitute the content of a judgement is to impose on it a model which really only fits one quite particular region of the soul.

There are various significant and obvious benefits, at times, of operating within this region - i.e. of finding an expressive outlet for a feeling which outlet also constitutes a truthful self-ascription of that very feeling. Yet there appear to be disbenefits as well when that mode takes over (think of those rather annoyingly poised 'well-analysed' people who only tend to express their feelings through well-controlled self-ascriptions), disbenefits such as creative deficits, lack of real playfulness, lack of inspiring passion - in short, disbenefits that seem to amount to a lack of full humanity since one part of the soul has here hijacked its other parts. It seems to me that the substitutive model also fosters that unhealthy 'hermeneutic of suspicion' that can underlie a certain kind of psychoanalytic vision: a vision which risks inexorably imposing a normative model of the 'actual intentional object' onto others' expressive projects which are seen now as inexorably defensively motivated. To be sure, we do well to take note of, and issue with, those who unfairly take out their feelings on others. Yet many a work of, say, visual art may express feelings toward objects which are not depicted on the canvas without their creation itself being motivated defensively.

One of the risks of using self-ascription and descriptive object reference ('I am angry - with her for hurting my friend') to articulate feeling is that it can quickly become affectless. We risk falling into 'intellectualisation', i.e. into situations in which - however much one's words may count as true descriptions of situations and relationships, and as true self-ascriptions of feelings towards those situations - one's self-ascriptive words no longer count as expressions because they do not express the feelings in question. (Here I follow Finkelstein who describes unconscious states as those which cannot themselves be expressed by means of true self-ascriptions.) Situations in which, I'd say, the words no longer convey an understanding or show a knowledge of the described situations, since true understanding and knowledge do not reside merely in words but rather propagate right through, and take their shape within, the lived body's reactive dispositions - reactive dispositions which here are lacking. (A pseudo-mature person 'knows' that one ought to save drowning men (knows to say 'one ought to save a drowning man' and to draw apt inferences about such situations) but yet on encountering one walks on by: such a person does not, I think we should want to say, really enjoy moral understanding or embody moral knowledge.) Situations of quiet affect yet truthful judgement which are mistaken for genuinely coming to terms with one's predicaments.

So we (these unreflective selves who are us) often do better to express our feelings in a variety of creative and, relative to truthful self-ascription, oblique ways. This keeps us inwardly alive and prevents us from falling into a cul-de-sac of affectless (non-expressive) true self-ascriptions. Our unconsciousness (or at least: our not here expressing our feelings through self-ascriptions) is now not a problem. All that really matters is that we express ourselves creatively and don't take our feelings out on undeserving others. Relatedly we will do well, too, to not allow our rites and rituals to become too instrumentally intelligible, for this will corrode their true function for us. Our gods, too, ought not to become the objects of intelligible predications, for they surely die once that happens (caught in the Enlightenment's spotlight, for example). And whilst we need our theologians to be self-conscious of when they're issuing intelligible pronouncements and when they're talking nonsense, it would be devastating for the meaning of our faiths if they tried to substitute the former for the latter.

Sunday, 3 June 2018

symbolisation

What's a psychological symbol? What is psychological symbolisation?

Freud provides an answer which makes ready use of entitative and correlative epistemic metaphors: we have an emotionally disturbing wish, but it's too unbearable, so an inner censor doesn't allow it's representational content to rise to inner consciousness, so we don't know we have the wish in question. It resides in the unconscious, but by a primary process mechanism called 'displacement' the emotionally alive wish is transferred onto a substitute object. This substitute is what we call the 'symbol'. The desires are enacted freely with regards the symbolic substitute. The substitutive gratification quells the wish for a time. The substitute action or object may be a symptom e.g. an obsession and compulsion, it may amount to a sublimation, it may be a dream image, a pet dog who is a stand-in for a non-existant lover, etc. Petocz tells this story well.

The cogency of Freud's answer depends upon whether the story still seems to us to have legs once we've cashed out the spatial and epistemic metaphors, once we remind ourselves that our relationship with our conscious feelings isn't perceptual, introspective, or awareness-invoking, once we remind ourselves that the 'censor' is just a theorist's metaphorical concoction, once we question the coherence of form-content dualism when it comes to emotion and desire (the energy and the representational content of an emotion), once we remind ourselves that emotions aren't, in any normal senses of the words, sensibly to be counted as entities or processes. My own opinion is that it's rather a mythology, and that it fails to provide enough by way of criteria of identity for the unconscious wish for us to credit it with cogency. In short, the criteria would seem to reduce either to the fact of the symbol itself (which thereby collapses the explanatory power of the theory), or reduce to what the symboliser later acknowledges (Wittgenstein suggests something like this. However when is it that we take someone to be in a position to own their previously unconscious wishes? We can hardly say 'when the repression is lifted' or 'when they become conscious' and expect to be taken seriously - for that goes round in a circle), or to be whatever is wished when the symbol fades away (but many things may be wished at this time...)).

So what's the alternative? Well, the existential phenomenologists have already given us a different conception of the unconscious, and effectively, too, of the motor of (a process worth calling) symbolisation. The unconscious for the phenomenologist is not what we don't inwardly apprehend, since apprehension isn't relevant here, but is instead what we're too close to to bring into focus. The unconscious is so close to us that it's our very flesh. When we do come to have feelings about our predicaments, we've managed to extricate ourself enough from our predicaments to bring them into our purview. We are now not simply sunk into them, not simply of a piece with them, fused with them. We may here make use of Bollas' 'unthought known': we 'know' our predicament in the sense of 'are of a piece with it', but we can't 'think' it - can't bring it into view because instead we share flesh with it. The unconscious is part of the seeing eye, not something we're blind to. Something we are primally seduced into (Laplanche). The presence of imaginative a prioris (Lear). Tacit enframing assumptions we take in unquestioned, unnoticed, with mother's milk which yet go against the bent of our flourishing.

Take a child's unconsciousness of the miserable emotions which saturate the atmosphere in his family. He inhabits this atmosphere, it is part of the 'from where' of his experience, it is the uninterrogated invisible background against which various thoughts are formed. A pervasive mood which runs right through him. It runs through him like the customs and habits of his culture which he has absorbed - customs and habits which he knows not that he has. It's part of his manner of interacting, and not something itself interacted with.

On such a conception, making the unconscious conscious can involve something like turning a mood into one or more feelings. This process involves a disidentification from the embedding mood, an Hegelian 'externalising' of what was previously part of the flesh of the self, so that now there arises a comprehending relation (rather than identification) between (the now separate) self and object, which intentional relation is what we call an emotional experience. The growth of the self, the achievement of self-possession rather than remaining possessed by the habitual dynamics, is a matter of the ongoing disidentification from such atmospheres as one is sunk into, a condensing out of that inhabited atmosphere into liquid or solid particulates which can now be apprehended rather than unwittingly inhaled. The very act is freeing, and it makes the as-yet unthought known thinkable.

Now a striking thing about this disidentificatory, self-possession-creating, process is that it runs along by itself, naturally, autochthonously, and is found in dreams and spontaneous imaginative creations of other sorts. The young child plays with her dolls and dinosaurs and spontaneously acts out a scene as to what is going on in the family. She doesn't know she's doing this. But what she's doing is starting to make thought and feeling about her family situation possible. She's unwittingly preparing the grounds. In this process of birthing meaning through disidentification/externalisation, an aspect of the ground of the self's 'form' morphs into the figure of one of the self's 'content' (it's now-possible intentional relations with its objects), and this now enables predicaments to be grappled with rather than leaving them as invisible contexts against which anything must show up.

Why is it that dreaming and playing and free associating tend to make disidentificatory predicamental thought possible through coming up with contents other than those which could be developed for the primary predicaments? (I'm looking, recall, for an answer that doesn't involve knowing and repressing knowing, doesn't take an epistemic attitude to the unconscious, doesn't see it as contingently hidden extant figure but instead sees it as necessarily blind enframing, doesn't invoke putative mechanisms like displacement but instead sees that as a useful theorists' fiction.)  In other words, if the successful disidentification involves the externalising of some aspect of (in our example) the family's latent enframing predicament so that it can now be thought about, why is this not always the dreaming mind's first choice of figure? Why do we have 'substitute' figures (substitutes for the as-yet mere res potentia (rather than hidden res actualis, as the traditional epistemic conception of the unconscious would have it)) rather than the real deal?

The first thing to note is that whilst externalisation is, at least in a reasonably healthy individual, somewhat inexorable, it is yet blind. It doesn't know where it is going. It is not teleological. (How could it be, on pain of Sartrean contradiction?) This freeing up of the ground so that it may transmute and dehisce in various ways, this free play by the animal soul with its own structure, obtains at a diffuse affective association-drifting level, so perhaps any old thematically congruent content will do. The mind, here, is, remember, dreaming. Second, it is sometimes, perhaps most often, the case that the unconscious becomes conscious in a more straightforward way. One dehisces rather precisely from the actual predicament and thoughts and feelings thereby becomes possible about that very predicament. It is only when we start talking about symbolism that we ask the question as to why the original content is not directly thematised. Third, I suggest it is simply easier for the animal soul to develop the requisite dehiscence when not dealing directly with our actual predicaments. And this simply because we are more entrenched in our actual predicaments than with their thematic cousins.

Might we say that the little girl blithely intently passionately unknowingly acting out her family drama with her dolls is substituting the dolls for what she unconsciously knows is the real object? Might we say that she does have an unconscious feeling toward her mother and father which is being expressed here? Well, what I'm suggesting is that a) we don't have to say that, and b) that if we do we mustn't confuse res potentia for realia. For, remember, it is only on the basis that such an unconscious feeling would in this situation be a valid feeling to have consciously, and on the basis of the thematic content of the play, and perhaps retrospectively on the basis of her later conscious feeling, that we ascribe the unconscious affect in question. Unless I'm missing some other criterion (please tell me if you think of it!). But yes, by all means, call being in just that configuration 'having an unconscious emotion' if you like. (Just remember, if you want to say you are doing so as an inference to the best explanation, to please not forget to give criteria for the identity of the unconscious emotion in question.)

So: the externalisation develops, the self now becoming progressively separated from its predicaments, which predicaments are now affectively thinkable. We observers, theorists, or post-fact symbolisers may say: ah, this relationship with this dream figure symbolises this actual relationship with this actual person. We can if we wish avoid turning these res potentia into realia - the unconscious thought or feeling was just a potential thought or feeling, one that, one could say, needed to develop if freedom and coping are to be maintained or achieved. And the dream symbol for it was but a way-station. We may take it as a representative of that affective thought which would, we believe, be the apt thematisation of the predicamental situation.

Now what about the idea that symbols may be the kinds of substitutes which prevent the 'true' feeling from becoming conscious? So that one is instead satisfied with compulsively acting on the obsession; petting the pooch; remaining in the psychotic delusion. Isn't this the import of the Freudian thought that the affective energy is detached from the representation and redirected onto the symbolic substitute? Well, how can we tell that the symbolic act is here preventing reality from being emotionally contacted? Imagine: perhaps if the symbol were not found the person would become catatonic or depressed. Nothing in the story suggests that the person who has a dream which organises those feelings as are not yet more finely directed at what, post-disidentification, will become acknowledged as their real predicament, need yet have the requisite ego capacity for the latter emotional achievement. But consider too that often enough the true emotional realisation is not troubling. The new reality might take some getting used to. But, in my experience at least, the main accessory feeling - aside from the emotional understanding in question, that is - which arises on the condensing out of the atmosphere is relief. And yet the fact of the reality of the feeling of relief doesn't put into question the status as symbolic of the dream or play images.

Let's try an example. So, in March of this year I dreamed that I found myself, after selling a house, staying for two years in an expensive hotel until the next house came on the market. In the dream I was shocked at how I hadn't thought about the expense of the hotel stay and the effect of this on my future house-buying plans. When I awoke I asked myself what this was about. Now, in reality, at the beginning of the year I started a two year sabbatical from my clinical work to focus on writing rather than earning. I started out the year mindful of my spending habits, living as simply as I could on my savings. Yet by March I'd started to drift unreflectively into spending in the way I did when earning. I wasn't really aware of this, although my mood was not straightforward - I felt somehow blocked. What I needed to do was to become anxious about my predicament, to take it in hand, and develop a clear spending plan. Yet at that moment I was unaware of this discrepancy - I was simply sunk into my habits without any liberating self-consciousness. Here we can say that the two years between houses symbolises the two years off work, and the hotel bills symbolised my shopping bills. The dream was a gift 'from my unconscious' as we might say: through thinking on it I could see what what my predicament was and what I needed to do to get a handle on it. The mood, the diffuse anxiety, lifted - a specific object emerges takes shape and can now be handled clearly.

A simple traditional Freudian account would be: I had actual worries about my spending, I didn't want to have these so I repressed them in the service of the palliative pleasures of spending, the feelings were then displaced onto an imagined predicament about hotel bills, I developed a low mood as a result of the repression. The revised reading I'm offering is: I'd become (yes, conveniently) mindless about my situation and so was left needing to develop some decent thoughts and feelings about it. The dream works towards dehiscence of self and predicament through developing the requisite feelings. The ball-park feelings are directed toward whatever imagined objects comes to mind (think of how often the dreaming mind reuses the same imagery - the school exam one suddenly finds oneself sitting aged 44, etc.). When asleep we don't have the distractions of the day, the teloi which keep us busy, to divert our attention. Dreaming occurs as a natural process - it's the unconscious mind finding (or at least seeking) its own level again, i.e. 'aiming' for maximal coherence amongst its projects (amongst its ego ideals, its extant interests, its knowledge and desires).

That royal road to the unconscious which is dream interpretation is one which is already begun by the dream itself. But the destination - it itself is work in progress.