Wednesday, 21 December 2016

on hallucination and fonction du réel

I've said before that a hallucination is a 'negative' of a sensory expectation. I kinda expect you to walk through the door. You don't. And so your 'ghost' walks through.

But what is striking about hallucination is that the expectations aren't cancelled by reality itself. If they were then, after all, we wouldn't hallucinate!

This experience, I've claimed, is like always lurching on stepping onto static escalators. But much of life isn't like that.

Much of the time we manage to get disappointed. We achieve relief. This happens instantly. And so we don't 'see ghosts'.

So we need to understand more about why, sometimes, we don't assimilate to the situation of the thwarted expectation.

I suggest it can be due to a failure of mourning. Sometimes it isn't bearable to assimilate the absence of the beloved. So we hallucinate her.

But sometimes it's due to - let's-call-it - gormlessness. We're not really adequately looped in to reality. We're drifting trancily, hypnopompically, into doolally land, into the land of wish-and-fear-fulfilment.  (This is not a structurally different phenomenon than a failure of mourning.) 

We do this when we're tired and we do it when we're overwhelmed.

Vital contact with reality - in which sensorimotor expectations are updated through an engaged participation with a reality which we have afforded the opportunity to update us thus - is an essential precondition for non-hallucinatory acclimatisation. Someone who seduces themselves, or is thrown, into the twilight zone of omnipotent wishful and fearful phantasy, does not get auto-updated. So when reality does not conform to their expectation they 'see' or 'hear' the antithesis of their expectation.

This is a very different kind of explanation than the one the psychologists like to give - of 'you hear what you expect to hear'. Their explanation ignores the role of a recalcitrant reality. ... Or at least: this is an explanation of why we might 'see' what we expect to see. It doesn't wander off into pseudo-scientific talk of 'interpreting visual stimuli' etc etc; that is, it remains properly ontological.