Tuesday, 4 April 2017

the inner, the outer, the unconscious

Our thinking about the unconscious harnesses itself with beguiling readiness to the inner/outer picture which we've otherwise worked so hard to overcome. I'm thinking of how easy it is to imagine that unconscious emotion is inner emotion which is not yet finding its way to outward expression. That defences are inhibitions on voicing and otherwise expressing. Or even that they are inhibitions on some kind of (philosophically invented) 'inner access' to our own inner emotional state.
P M S Hacker

I've no desire to rehearse the critique of the metaphysical inner/outer, and correlative epistemological self-access, picture here. Peter Hacker has conclusively done this to death many years since with his Wittgensteinian work in the philosophy of mind. Let's instead start with a reflective appreciation of the immanence of mentality in behaviour and ask ourselves where this leaves our conception of the dynamic unconscious.

According to Maurice Merleau-Ponty, dynamic unconsciousness is best understood as a latency. This seems promising to me. My desire is, sure, not reducible to, but nevertheless not somehing other than, my expressions of it. The unconscious is an atypical black hole in the texture of my expressive emotionality. And this emotionality has its very being in its enactions, which enactions may be shrunken or expansive, simplistic or finely nuanced. And, since we are here eschewing the inner/outer picture, shrunken or widely ramified and nuanced expressivity is of a piece with shrunken or ramified and nuanced emotionality itself. 

Defences are typically against the shame of having this or that desire, experience, feeling, thought. It is when the accepting balm of the shadow of Thou is cast over me by you that I can thaw, expand into my own latent emotionality. Now there is relief, since the blockage - not in merely outer expression or self-knowledge, or in some separable quotient of the emotion called, tautologically, the feeling of the emotion -  is undone and I can once again body forth in my relatedness. Now I can go on. Now my emotions can actually take shape as such.

M Merleau-Ponty
Now I can make sense again - not in the sense of making reflective sense of my feelings (best leave that to the psychologist), but in the sense in which I, in my feelings, can now develop in them, and a merely immanent possibility of intelligible being - of relating with sense to a world - is back on the table as something more than immanent, as something which may now actually take shape and take up space. My ability to make sense is the same as my ability to move again, to unfold here and there,  to enact meaning in my self-becoming in the context of this and that relationship.

Freud's energic metaphors - which he somewhat psychotically did not recognise as such - capture well, I believe, the experience of defensive blockages on affective becoming. For when we cannot body forth with an affective intentionality, all that we may have left by way of expression is something denuded of intentionality. For example, a sense of pressure, of dampening, of physical symptoms (we cannot cry but perhaps even so water spills from our eyes.)