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Chapter 5: Mind-Body

Eigen, Michael Karnac Books ePub

Chapter Five

Mind-Body

In previous books and papers (1986, 1992, 1993), I have written about the importance of the mental-self/physical-self distinction in clinical work. The Cartesian distinction between mind-body is one version of a dualism that runs through cultures in many times and places. It is as if emphasis on different capacities takes us into different worlds of experience.

We can get into or out of our bodies with a shift of attitude. We can relish surface sensations or dip into deep, interoceptive, quasi-sensory streams. Sitting still, or moving in various ways, alters our sense of aliveness. Music and painting take us to different places, perhaps branches emanating from a common source. Sight, sound, and skin interweave beautifully. But they can make different claims, pull in different directions, and at times tear us apart.

There is belief in spirits of ancestors, the Great Spirit, the Spirit of Spirits, a soul that antedates and survives death, eternal mind. These are not just beliefs but experiences. One undergoes an experience that can be described as an eternal moment. It feels that way. The moment fades. The everyday self makes its claims. Yet the eternal moment echoes. We sense its waves. It uplifts us in the background of our beings. It bursts into the foreground again and again.

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Chapter Two - On the Birth of Experience

Eigen, Michael Karnac Books ePub

The mystery of dreams is deeply connected with the birth of experience. We have an urge to know what dreams mean but often take for granted the field of perception that make dreams possible. Could dreams exist without the seamless perceptual world that seems effortlessly given to us? Dreams make use of the objects of daily life, sky, earth, water, mountains, people, dramas, and, above all, emotions that populate our objects, fear, dread, desire, care, reaching for fulfilment, loss. I say reaching for fulfilment for, I suspect, more dreams abort fulfilment than achieve it. Dreams often express fragmentary states, aborted states, states that break off before a successful end. As if dreams attempt to communicate something unsatisfactory about our fragmentary lives.

One can also posit the opposite, that the perception of our world we take for granted depends on unconscious dream-work. Freud writes that experience of the external world is made possible by projection of internal space. If what he calls “the it” (das Es) is the primary psychical reality and ego and superego develop from it, these structures require “space”. This view posits the first space as internal psychical space out of contact with external reality that plays a role in structuring growing experience of externality. If the “it” helps to pressure early dreaming processes into existence, partly as a medium dedicated to representing “it-reality”, we might say “it” dreams reality into existence as it seeks (creates) more space to extend and exercise itself.

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Appendix 6: Bion quotes

Eigen, Michael Karnac Books ePub

Following is a selection of quotes from Bion that are relevant for psycho-spiritual reflection. One could say most of Bion’s work is, so why pick these? I have picked a few that contain some kind of more or less explicit reference to psychological and spiritual dimensions. There are many more. I hope, from the few I chose, to stimulate interest for further exploration. I hope, too, that when I add some notes that they will be more helpful than annoying.

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The fundamental reality is ‘infinity’, the unknown, the situation for which there is no language—not even one borrowed by the artist or the religious—which gets anywhere near to describing it. (1994b, p. 372)

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Bion uses O to signify unknown infinity, ultimate reality. In this book, I have linked it with Ein Sof and YHVH, realities no name, image, or conception can circumscribe or describe. Yet, to use O, Ein Sof or YHVH seems harshly limiting. In the passage above, Bion tries to leave it open, no sign for it at all, although words like “the fundamental reality, infinity, the unknown” already infringe as pointers. What is it Buddha tries to convey when he speaks of reality that words or images or concepts cannot do justice to, not even words like “emptiness”? The unknown, too, is part of science and problem solving, gaps in knowledge and attempts to fill them. The physicist, Eddington, somewhere said about the universe, “Something unknown is doing we don’t know what”.

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CHAPTER EIGHT No one can save you from the work that you have to do on yourself

Eigen, Michael Karnac Books PDF

EIGEN Book_Eigen5 correx 27/06/2014 15:32 Page 91

CHAPTER EIGHT

No one can save you from the work that you have to do on yourself*

irst, I read Michael Eigen. His was like no other writing I had yet encountered on the inner life of psychoanalytic thinkers. He wrote about therapy from the point of view of a therapist participating fully, with heart and soul, in the frustrating process of psychotherapy in which time flows forwards and backwards, until tiny points of transparency, incremental miracles, appear in the seemingly impenetrable armour of life.

I have always been suspicious of psychoanalysis’s reductive instincts—in English slang, therapists are called “shrinks”, and for good reason. Analysts, it seemed to me, want to kiss us and turn us into frogs, reveal reality as a war of instinctual urges, in which every desire is also a naked grab for power, and every strategy conceals an erection.

In Eigen’s writing, there is room for everything except reduction— or escape. In The Psychoanalytic Mystic (1998), he shows us the traces

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Chapter 2: Defining Moments in Les's Therapy

Eigen, Michael Karnac Books ePub

Chapter Two

Defining Moments in Les's Therapy

Big Man

Les announced when he began therapy that he wanted help because he was a successful coordinator of sales for a big business firm and was afraid of flying. His fear of flying prevented him from pursuing higher positions in his company and made his present position painful. He flew when he had to, but the personal cost in coping with panic was high. He went through elaborate machinations to find ways of avoiding trips or to invent excuses for going by car.

My inclination was to point out the ambiguous note sounded in his presenting complaint. “Are you saying you want help because you are the successful coordinator of sales for a big business firm or because you are afraid of flying or both?”

Les bragged about his success: he had come so far; he could go further. After he felt he had painted a successful enough picture, he owned that he loved sales and business but hated the fear and kowtowing that seemed to be part of dealing with bosses and competitors. He hated the corporate structure.

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