November 19, 2019
Christopher Bollas: Mental Pain

Christopher Bollas: Mental Pain

– Welcome everybody to this beautiful room on this beautiful day. Thank you for coming. I’m Alan Tansman, director
for the Townsend Center for the Humanities, and we’re here for this year’s endowed Avenali Lecture, and our lecturer and
resident for this week is Christopher Bollas. In a few minutes, Whitney Davis from the History of Art Department will be introducing him,
so let me say something about Whitney. He’s the author of seven books including “The Canonical
Tradition in Ancient Egyptian Art” and “Queer Beauty:
Sexuality and Aesthetics from Winckelmann to Freud and Beyond,” and “The General Theory
of Visual Culture.” I should also say that Whitney, out of the goodness of his heart, sheer intellectual passion,
and a long time passionate engagement with Bollas’s work has been convening a seminar with students reading his work before his visit here, and I should say also
that I, too, have been a long time recipient of the gift of Christopher Bollas’s
thinking and his writing. I revealed that the seminar this week, had that happened, but it’s too private to speak publicly here, but
I’ve always loved his writing, and it’s always an embarrassment to meet the real person who wrote
things that you loved for so long, but it’s been
an absolute pleasure so far to meet him. I should also say that
for some strange reason, the single anecdote of all his writing that sticks in my mind
and comes into my head over and over again, I
think I first read this 25 years ago was how he gave up coffee in the mornings and learned
to drink tea with his wife. I don’t know if you
recall this moment, yeah. (audience chuckling) Very briefly, let me say
something about the Avenalis whose family is endowed and sponsoring these kinds of residencies. Some of you know the story by now. Peter Avenali was a young man during the Great Depression. His Berkeley education
cost him $25 a semester, a price that included tickets
to Cal football games. He was the son of an Italian immigrant. He graduated from Berkeley with a degree in English literature, and he went to Harvard Business School, and then he went to war. He spent four and a half years in the Army serving time on the front lines including at the Battle of the Bulge, in which some 19,000 Americans died. Joan, a graduate of
Sarah Lawrence College, was in the Navy working
as a radio operator in Madison, Wisconsin when she met Peter. They married after four dates in 1945 during Peter’s 30 day leave from the army, and they honeymooned in Lake Tahoe, and the rest of the story I
leave to your imaginations. With that, let me have Whitney come up and introduce Christopher. Thank you. (audience applauding) – Good evening everyone. I’m not going to give
a long formal academic introduction tonight. You can read all about Christopher Bollas and his career and publications as a psychoanalyst and author
in any number of places, not only good old Wikipedia, but the scholarly and
biographical introduction by Arne Jemstedt in “The
Christopher Bollas Reader,” and in Sarah Nettleton’s
recently published “The Metapsychology of
Christopher Bollas,” which we have been using as a handbook in our advanced seminars and
seminars with Christopher. Rather, I want to make a
few more personal remarks. It might seem unusual for an art historian to be introducing a psychoanalyst, but on a moment’s thought, especially if you know Christopher’s work, it’s not unusual at all. It’s almost inevitable, and maybe it’s already happened before elsewhere. I don’t know. In my own case, I came
to Christopher’s work through an interest in Freud’s famous archaeology analogies for
the strata of the psyche. I’m an archaeological art
historian and pre-historian interested in the long term
evolution of the human mind and its symbolic expressions and adaptions and immediately discovered
a host of connections and overlaps between Christopher’s thought and the kind of projects that
I’d been wanting to pursue, which I think of, I guess, as a kind of inchoate mash up of “The
Interpretation of Dreams” and “On the Origin of Species.” Christopher moves fluidly
between the outer object world with its psychically constructed and partly unconsciously
constituted actual material things like paintings and buildings and texts written and spoken in the public context and inner object worlds
with special interest in their interface in what he calls the receptive unconscious
where original traumas in the subject’s past
meet evocative objects in the subject’s environment triggering and elaboration and nucleation of the newly constellated object universe that potentially provides the subject with a new vision of self and world, a transformative form one might say. As what’s essentially an aesthetics in which unconscious
work, play, intelligence, and intuition collaborate,
sometimes resisting resistance itself, this seemed right to me as a way to think about artworks, not so much as concrete artifacts, though they of course that,
but as crystallizations of the manner in which
things have affected us, as Kant says, a formative imagination. Of course for Christopher, the analyst, the primary setting for the consolidation of an unconscious
transformative aesthetics is the psychoanalysis where two subjects intersubjectively communicate in finding and making form, and it’s often said that what’s discovered
there can’t be replicated in say an art historian’s work or the painting in a museum, and certainly the literature
of psychoanalytic art and literary theory is
littered with reconstructions of a retracted severe historical criticism beginning with Freud’s own attempts, but one thing Christopher’s
work has done for me personally is to help get out of this bind, the seeming inevitability
of unconscious aesthetics on the one hand and its
seeming inaccessibility to all but analyst and
analysand working together. For if the receptive unconscious is the inner interface
of unconscious history, the receptive reader,
the receptive beholder, the receptive listener,
the receptive flaneur, if that position or
attitude can be achieved, is the outer interface. In three advance seminars
that have taken place over the past two months, a group of about 20 Berkeley
PhD students and faculty from fields as diverse as classics, medical anthropology, performance studies, clinical psychology, and architecture have been reading essays and chapters we selected in part, and which Christopher in part suggested. Though I read a lot of
his work over the years, it’s been in this context
that I really discovered the full scope of Christopher’s endeavor providing many points of entry for many kinds of readers, and despite the darkness
of some of the themes, an endeavor that is optimistic,
expectant, and joyful. It’s a pleasure to have
him here at Berkeley, actually back to Berkeley
where he studied history for his undergraduate degree. Couple of items of housekeeping before we get started. I will moderate the
discussion period, the Q&A after the lecture. We’ve got mics circulating,
so please wait for the mic to reach you so that you
can speak into it clearly, and we can pick you up on the recording. Also please turn off your cell phones and cognate devices. So, without further ado, please welcome me in joining, please join
me, sorry, in welcoming Christopher Bollas giving
the 2016 Avenali lecture on mental pain. (audience applauding) – I want to thank Whitney
and Alan very much for the introductions and
to the Townsend Center for inviting me here and to the spirits of the Avenali family for this occasion. This is the second time,
actually, I’ve given a talk at the University of California, and the first time was 49
years ago across the street, and the topic was mental
pain and schizophrenia. It was in Fred Cruz’s seminar, a wonderful seminar, and
I suppose it’s an odd time to be talking about mental pain isn’t it? This is a Tuesday evening
before the Tuesday in which we’re going to all
collide in an experience I expect harrowing states of mind. I feel a little bit like a surfer teaching the hazards of surfing on Phuket a week before the tsunami hits. That said, I’m going to recall a bit about my talk 49 years ago because in a way, it’s relevant
to the issue of mental pain, but to the pain, I’m going to
try to restrict myself here to the pain that comes with having a mind because we could speak
about all kinds of things that causes pain, but if we
try to stick with the mind, we’re on more narrow ground, and I know a little bit more about that having worked with people
whose minds get themselves into difficulty. I hope to read just one thing to you. I’m going to read from
Yeats’s autobiography, and in the first 10 pages
of his autobiography, Yeats describes experiences
in his childhood where he was hallucinating. There are interesting descriptions, he clearly went through
hallucinatory experiences, what we would call, these
days, schizophrenic episodes, and here’s what he writes. I remember very little of
childhood but its pain. I have grown happier
with every year of life as though gradually conquering
something in myself, for certainly, my miseries
were not made by others, but were a part of my own mind. So, when I gave a talk here long ago, it was about a kid who had written poems, and so the talk was about his poetry, and I can still remember one
of the stanzas of the poems which was, “I’ve got to make it to sex, I’ve got to make it to sex, I’ve got to make it to sex, I’ve got to make it to sex, I’ve got to make it to sex.” I wonder why I remember that. He also kept comic books. They were really more like
daily accounts that he kept. He would be composing them during the day, and when he was either
composing his comic books or when he was writing his poetry, or actually songs because
he would actually sing them, he was really experiencing
sort of peace of mind. He enjoyed it. It was helpful. He had a wonderful habit
of licking his index finger and walking up to someone and putting it right on their forehead, and the other kids
would sort of accept it. This was at the East Bay Activity Center, which no longer exists, but was in Oakland just below the Mormon temple. And so, the kid would know at that moment that he was going to be put into the book, that comic book of the day, and this child who was composing this book and who wrote the poetry, would say, this is the fickle finger of fate, and indeed, the children
would be fated to be put into the book. Now, when he wasn’t writing or thinking because when he was
walking around the school licking his finger and
putting it on people, he was actually composing his book before he actually sat down to write it at the lunch table, but when he wasn’t engaged in the active composition, one way or the other, he
was in great great pain. When he was writing,
he would sometimes say, “I’m the master of the universe. I’m the master of the universe.” When he was crushed and
devastated, he would say, “I’m a shrimp at the bottom of the sea. I’m a shrimp at the bottom of the sea.” And he said it with such conviction that all of us around him felt his pain, so I learned something from him without entirely knowing what it was, which is kind of the story of the life of most psychoanalysts and clinicians who have a sort of monastic
contemplative life. You sit behind somebody,
or you work with somebody for hours a week, months, years pass, and you’re learning something although you don’t quite
know what you’re learning, but he helped me with another kid there who was my primary child to help, who would come out of autism. He was nine, he was strong,
he was very, at times, quite violent, and heck of a challenge, but he was wonderful, and
anyway, he was my kid. I would look after him. He would come through the
gate to enter the school, and well depending upon
the look on his face or certain gestures, I would
know whether the entrance was going to be relatively
quiet, phobic, violent. I could even figure out roughly speaking who he might attack, so
the therapy, so to speak, amounted to my basically
trying to find some way to get hold of him and escort him out to the lawn, which overlooked the bay, beautiful view, and then try to back up against the wall of the
school and drop down onto the grass and hold him. And I would hold him
like that for, oh gosh, 20 minutes, 30 minutes,
sometimes you know 40 minutes? And this would be anytime of the year, so if it was a cold damp day, I mean it was soggy bottom time really because one would be drenched in the rain or whatever it was that we call it. And he would calm down,
he would calm down. I had a lot to learn. He would go home, or he
would demand to go home, or by then, the school would
say he’s gotta go home. When his pendulum wasn’t working, and he had a pendulum in his bedroom, and it would, you know, it was a pendulum, and it had these domino type objects, and if the pendulum was slightly off, and it knocked over a domino, he would know it, and he
would say I have to go home. So we would send him home. So when I asked the, Frances Lemon, the clinical director,
I said, gosh, I said, have you ever seen his pendulum? And she said, “Christopher,
there is no pendulum. That’s in his mind.” I thought, oh, right. I mean I actually thought
there was a pendulum. Victor Tausk wrote an essay called “The Influencing Machine,”
and I probably read it 10 years later, whatever,
and even if I had read it, I’m not sure it would have been in mind because it was so convincing, but at the moment he’s lost his mind. Okay, so every day was like this until one day, and I suppose I got this from the kid who was composing stories, I don’t know where else it came from, I said, “How about I tell
you about an orange ship.” Where is it? Well, let’s say it’s in the Mediterranean. Where in the Mediterranean? I don’t know. Maybe it’s, you know, near Cairo, or somewhere like that,
and they’re to the Suez. Who’s the captain of the ship? I said, well you know, I don’t know. You’re the captain of the ship, and so it went from there. So for the next six, seven months, he would come through the gate, and we would go out together,
sit, not on the lawn thank God, on a bench, but
I had to tell him the story about the orange ship, and
each time was more or less the same script. Whatever port of call we would visit, we had to meet according to the wishes of the Department of Education in Oakland, so minimal education requirement, so we tried to teach him a little bit about the world and so on and so forth, throw in a bit about the
Acropolis and so on and so forth, but each time that we
would go to visit the land on one of these voyages, and by the way, the crew of course were
all the other children in the school and the
staff, so I would describe something about what
was to be learned there in the port of call, and he would say, and so and so was eaten by an alligator, and so and so was picked
up by a giant bird and taken away, so every
time there was a landing, there were horrifying events happening to everyone on the ship, and in my own naive way, perhaps I said, right well, that’s your story. I’ll tell you mine, and I would give him a different version. So then, about that seven
or eight months of this, every single day, and
it would take an hour or hour and a quarter,
he started to laugh, and it was a different kind of laugh. He had a very upsetting laugh before this. It was a laugh that was sort
of haunting and disturbing. This was a laugh laugh, and he said to me, you don’t get it do you? And, obviously I didn’t, and I said, what? He said, I’m joking, I’m joking. And that was it. We didn’t need to talk about
the orange ship anymore. He had gone through a stage in his life and the life of his mind. The influencing machine,
the pendulum was gone, and he just started to get on with life. It had something to do,
obviously, with what went on between the two of us. It had a heck of a lot
to do with what goes on in all of us when we negotiate and survive the hazards of life, and
he just got on with living. So he taught me something. Of course if we focus on mental pain and the life of the
mind, we can say, well, we don’t know much about what it’s like in the first year or two, three of life, perhaps the most disturbing
mental event we have are our first nightmares
because we don’t take them to be nightmares, products of the mind, we take them to be actual events. I mean I can remember
when I was about five, and my second brother was three, he would wake the whole
house up every few nights because there was a tiger in his room, and you know, it was going to kill him. So my father came in one night, and opened up the closet
door in our bedroom, and there was this huge commotion going on inside the door, and
he went bang bang bang. He came out and told my brother Mark, “The tiger is dead.” Mark slept peacefully after that, and from that moment on, I was
scared to death of my father. (audience laughing) So, stories can work. They can help us, and
we hear a lot of stories when we’re children. I mean, you know the
stories, the Santa Claus, the Easter bunny, squirrels talk to trees that talk to stones,
their friendly brooks, the world is animated in a wonderful way, a very reassuring way. It’s sort of like a fairy tale to help us transition from being genuine ingenues, I mean what the heck do
we know as six month olds or nine month olds even
though we love to study infantile skills and
cognitive capabilities and so on and so forth,
really we are not very bright in the beginning. We don’t really know very much at all, and so it’s a long long time before we can quote unquote think properly, so we have wonderful
stories that are told to us that help us because
we’re going to have to go through some pretty
difficult transitions, and I think the concept
of psychodevelopment is very interesting, it’s true. There is psychodevelopment. We do develop biologically
and psychologically, neurologically for sure, but in our need perhaps to slight, to gloss
over the hazards of life, the complexities of it, we’re inclined to sort of not attend to those moments, ordinary moments in childhood, which are just very disturbing, in which it can be said
we sort of had breakdowns. I mean, a child who has a nightmare is having a sort of breakdown. I mean, that’s sort of what it is. He recovers, or she
recovers, through maternal or paternal narrative or interventions. The parents are constantly
helping children to recover from very disturbing events. If you even try to say to yourself, well we’re in a family, we’ve
all been in families, right? We take it for granted. We know what that is. I don’t really think we know
what a family is actually. In the 60s and 70s, Minuchin
and other family therapists believed they could assemble
a group of folks in a room, families, and get them
to talk to each other and sort out through family
therapy family conflict, but after a while, they
were so overwhelmed, as you know, they needed
to have two way mirrors in which they would disappear, go back in, have a chat with three or four colleagues to try to figure out what to do next because the conflicts inside the family were such that after a while,
a group of five or six people, in the same group called a family, you wouldn’t have ever
thought they knew each other. You would’ve felt they
never had met each other, but in a way, there are certain things that you can’t think, you know. If you’ve gone and you’ve just seen Mahler’s second symphony,
and you come out of it, and someone says, tell me
about it, what was it like? I can’t tell you what it was like, and I can’t tell you
what my family was like, so there are certain things in life that are unthinkable
because we can’t think them, not consciously. However, we have assimilated them. We have integrated them into some internal unconscious matrix that is there. Now, when my brother and I get together, having been in the same family, we can talk about it, and so it’s in him, it’s in me, and so we
can share that together because we’ve been through it together, although experienced it
separately and differently of course, but still, we have
a sort of inkling of this. So families are sort of
unthinkable phenomena, yet the predicate of the family, it just set us up for life. And off we go to school,
and we think we know where we’re going. We go to kindergarten, and guess what? It’s perhaps our first
experience of group life, a group that’s not our family, and so there are other children who come from other families,
small do it yourself groups, asymmetrical relations,
and we’re meant to know how to live inside a group, and that’s a pretty hazardous experience, and I hope, perhaps today,
we’ll have enough time to get to life inside the group mind because we have problems
with our own minds thinking about things ourselves, but then we’re all part of a group mind which we now know very well indeed as being American citizens
as most of you are inside a group process called an election where we have to try to
think about what’s going and talk to each other
about what’s going on, very difficult indeed. So but when you go off to school, the complexities of school life, the fact that children can
be suddenly very cruel, friendships can terminate
at a moment’s notice, there’s a labile nature to this, that we’re somehow meant
to be able to deal with. It’s very very painful. Now those of you who are parents, who’ve had children,
you know what it’s like when your six year old son or daughter comes home heartbroken
telling you that this friend or that friend or someone has
done or said a terrible thing. And they’re shocked, and
there’s a certain kind of look on their face that I’ll be talking about in the course of today’s lecture, or attempt at a lecture. There’s a look of bewilderment
on the child’s face, that just bewilderment. They can’t think about it. They don’t know what’s happened, so you then start becoming a
sort of psychologist of sorts. You know, you’re trying
to help them understand how people quote unquote
change their minds, how don’t take it too seriously, but how can you not take seriously the fact that your best
friend or good friend has said something horrible about you or done something horrible, or you’ve seen something horrible? Now we tend to be in denial
about what we’ve done that’s horrible. Somebody’s always wrong if they think we’ve done something horrible, but otherwise we see it outside ourselves. So let’s just call those moments when a child comes home, when a child is devastated at school, an ordinary mental breakdown. It’s kind of what it is, and what do parents do or teachers do? Well, they do therapy. They help the child recover
his or her stability, his or her trust in a way in the group. May have to take a couple days off school. There maybe some parental conferral or maybe some conference to
try to repair the damage, but you’re also trying
to renew the child’s let’s call it participation in
the stream of consciousness. You just want the kid to get back to the stream of consciousness. You want them to believe
that they can go on thinking and dreaming
and living their life without being too anxious about things. Ironically, you don’t want
them to think too much. By the way, every so often
I dip into social sciences and see what the latest stats are. My favorite discovery
this year is the research that we are daydreaming 47%
of the time during the day, we daydream. I always thought we daydreamed a lot, but I didn’t know it was 47% of the time. Secondly, three universities
have collaborated to study this. When we’re daydreaming, we’re
actually solving problems, and students at university given complex, very complex mathematical problems that would, you know, that
were hard to figure out, that had to do with series of numbers, only one out of 10 students
was able to solve it in the class consciously. Six or seven of them solved it overnight, three of them in dreams, and the others while they were daydreaming
and not thinking about it at all. It just popped into the mind, so part of what they’re concluding is that the children who are looking
out the windows at school, who seem bored, and who are bored are more productive than those who are paying intense attention. Very interesting, isn’t it? Because what this research is indicating is the daydreamer who is given
over to unconscious thinking is actually engaged in
intense deep thinking. Well, okay. So our minds, if we can
get back into the stream of consciousness, if we can just get back into unconscious thinking, we can recover as well from the trauma of life. However, well you probably remember what it was like to be a seven,
or eight, or nine year old. I think it’s round about then that we realize that
although in the previous eras of our life, ages three or four or five, we could turn to mum and dad, maybe talk about this,
that, or the other thing, get some help, right? Six, five or six maybe
to a teacher or others, and they would help us with
whatever was bothering us, you know, world of thoughts and feelings. But then, we start to have
pretty upsetting thoughts all by ourselves. First sexual stirrings will produce ideas, certain aggressive
thoughts will come to mind, nasty, cruel thoughts,
thoughts driven by envy, competition, all these sorts of things. Now, this is when we
tend to go rather quiet. We don’t tend to turn to people to say, you know I’ve had a very strange thought cross my mind. No, we tend to sort of go undercover. In a way, it’s a beginning
of a type of solitude in which we turn to our
mind as a type of companion. Now, my own view is the mind has all along been a kind of companion. I think of it as a sort of a muse. I think, for example, reading Boethius’s “The Consolation of Philosophy.” I mean I think for him
the muse is rather like the mother holding him in the months before he’s to go to his execution. But we all have this muse, if by that we understand this to be
origins of mind itself, which comes as a result
of that collaboration between the mother, father, and others, and our infant self because mothers are constantly holding us both literally, figuratively, psychically. They set limits, they soothe us, they calm us, they translate us, and so between the maternal
mind and the paternal mind and those around us and the cultural mind, the social dreaming that we all live in that perhaps we’ll get to later on, we then develop our own mind, but in my view
psychologically, unconsciously, that which was out there
in the mother and others and so on, we gradually
take into ourselves, remains as Hannah Arendt
says, a type of dialogue which is the two in one. For Arendt, the mind is two in one, so we have a relation to our own mind, and we’ll turn to it at times to say, well what do I think about this, whatever. Sometimes, we’re asked what we think. Well what do you think? What’s on your mind? And consciousness might
come up with something, but in fact, much of what we’re thinking, of course, we’re thinking unconsciously. Much of what we know,
we know unconsciously. So there’s a very complex
relationship going on here, an intra-subjective relationship. I know intersubjectivity
is very important, but not more important in my view than intrasubjectivity. What sort of relation
do we have to our mind? What kind of conversations
do we have with our self? It’s an interesting world,
and I think it’s interesting literature although it’s
a failed literature, whether it’s George
Bataille’s “Inner Experience,” whether it’s Vygotsky’s literature, who never really is trying
to get to the conversations that we have with our self. I haven’t read yet an
account of what gets close to what it really feels like for myself, and I think for others. So there’s a certain kind
of inevitable solitude here, isn’t there to the
intersubjective relation. And now, by the early part of adolescence, we’ve only just let’s say
understood what childhood is. I mean, you know, in fifth or sixth grade, we’re feeling pretty good. You know, I felt pretty good. I liked kickball, dodgeball, tetherball. I mean, I like the fact
that girls and boys liked each other, and you know, were kind of like, you know sexuality was just not a big deal, and it was nice in my view
that it wasn’t such a big deal, and so I had lots of girl friends, as in girl friends, and boy friends, and it was really quite
nice, quite decent. You know, there were problems, but it was a lot of fun. Then, my God, along comes sexuality, the biology, and we are just
not prepared for this at all, not prepared for it at all, and so it’s an extremely disturbing event, in fact, it’s a form of annihilation. I mean, it’s a kind of annihilation. You know, we want to
think life is progressive, that each stage makes some kind of sense. We have all sorts of
narratives meant to help us to sort of see where we are
in the evolution of ourselves, so this is all meant to be rather good, and in fact, in some ways,
it’s extraordinarily wonderful, but then again, we’re beginning to have all kinds of thoughts
at an incredible pace that we certainly don’t
want others to know about, we don’t even know, really,
what we think about them, and probably the easiest
thing adolescents can say to one another and be
absolutely spot on about this. Oh, you’re two-faced. Right. To be a hypocrite is to be an adolescent. You have to be. It’s got the beginnings of the full self. You’ve really got to fake it, and adolescents, of
course, are very skillful at developing a place in their groups. It’s where the peer group
becomes extremely important, doesn’t it? Being part of a group, a
consensual behavioral pattern and so on and so forth. Now, all of the so-called
mental illnesses, the major ones, begin in adolescence, whether it’s the
anorexic’s decision to say, you know what, you can all go forward, become adults, I’m out,
I’m back to childhood. So they’re on strike, and
they’re pretty intelligent. It’s a very intelligent strategy, and it tends to work. Other kids have more
disturbed experiences, those who have manic-depressive episodes have a very serious
problem with their mind. Those who are schizophrenic
have serious problems with their minds. There are far more
transient psychotic episodes in adolescence than we’re
in the least bit prepared to discuss. There are ordinary
phenomena in adolescence which we think are wonderful like a tendency of adolescents
to idealize things. We think of idealization
as just great, right? We do, but in Great Britain, idealization, maybe it has to do with the weather, idealization is viewed as
a psychotic state of mind, so it’s not unusual, I mean in Britain, folks would look at the youngsters going off to ISIS as just rather typical psychotic adolescents. You know, idealizing, you
know, the dudes out there in Syria or whatever. You know, yeah, adolescents
will do something like that because they’re kinda out of their minds. They’re idealizing, so
some kids will idealize the Peace Corps or Habitat for Humanity, and go off and do what are great things. Others will go up, pick
up a gun, and kill people, but they’re still idealizing, okay? Adolescents are, you know, kind of nuts. Now, I’m going to tell you
about what I’ve learned from those adolescents
who are having breakdowns. I’m going to talk, excuse me, first about a schizophrenic kid. He’s one of the few I
can talk to you about. I got a call from the parent. This is typical, 16 year old kid, describing the fact that his son was pulled out of a baseball game and has been staring
out the window blankly, and would I please see the kid. Sure. Now, kid comes to see me, and he has that look on his face that I told you about with
the kid who can’t believe what’s happened. All people who are having breakdowns, whether psychotic breakdowns
or non-psychotic breakdowns, have that look of utter
bewilderment on their face. I’ll come back to that in a minute, but I mention that to you because it’s the first visual indication of a person being in really deep trouble. That is breakdown. That is the first indication of it, and guess what, you see it. You see it before your very eyes. We all tend to negate it, but it’s there. So, he went into the windup for a pitch. He was a relief pitcher,
went into the windup, and as he was about ready
to deliver the ball, he looked over his left shoulder, and the batter and the strike zone were 50 feet behind where
they should’ve been, and they were very small,
and he threw the ball, and it went over the batting cage. So he was disturbed, and
he went back to the mound, went into another windup,
same thing happened. They got small, they disappeared, and he threw the ball over
the batting cage again. Coach comes out, says,
begins to talk to him about what went wrong, and
he can see clearly the kid is distressed, takes him off the mound, and so we’re talking about this, and I said, gee, how’s your team doing? One of the things you
learn is you cannot ask abstract questions to somebody
who’s had a breakdown. You don’t say how are you feeling. No, you try to stick to the concrete and to the particular, so you know, how was your team doing,
do you remember the score? Yeah, we were way behind. I’m not going to go into all the details. It would simply take too long, but by going to the
details of the situation, by going back in time, bear in mind, this is a person who’s in shock because what happens in
a schizophrenic moment is you experience a
radical split in the self, so the notions that
schizophrenia does not have to do with a split in the self, that’s not true. It is actually a split in the self. It’s the first moment in
a schizophrenic experience is profound state of shock
and being outside yourself, usually watching our self
from a distance, okay? So there’s a radical dissociation, and when I asked him about where he was and what was happening,
you have to go back into the everyday. You’re taking a history. Going to try to find out what happened. He said that just before
he went into the windup, he heard someone laughing in the stands, and I said, right, laughing. Now, he wasn’t saying who was laughing, so I said, so you could
hear somebody laugh? Yeah. So, you know who that was? Yeah. So, who was laughing? Uh, and he named a girl I said, wow, oh geez, she laughed. You know her? Sort of. Which to make a longer account shorter, this was the girl he was in love with, but she didn’t know it
because he hadn’t had the courage to tell her that
he was in love with her, but she’d laughed, and that was enough to take him out of himself. That was so shocking he couldn’t recover, and he had a transient psychotic episode. This is the first stage of
the schizophrenic process. I mention process because
it takes several stages, and if you catch it in the beginning, and you can find out how it’s started, if you can do the history, you first learn why the person dissociated,
they then learn why they split and dissociated,
so they learn something, you learn something, that’s important. But also, you get them
back into the position where they can speak as an I. I did this, I did that, I
thought this, I thought that. Getting them back into
the narrative function of speaking of the I, rather
than vacating the position of the I, is extremely important. Okay, in addition to
that, I do what I’m sure you would all do. Upon hearing this account,
it’s heartbreaking. You know, you cannot
hear something like this without feeling the kid’s pain, and it’s easy enough to say, oh my God, that’s just terrible. It’s just awful. Now, it’s never been my experience with a person who’s going
through a schizophrenic episode that that has brought about tears. It hasn’t. They’re too far away from that, but if one sticks with one’s affections, and I mean by that being
speaking with affect. I think we need to be affectionate,
ie speaking with affect, in order to engage the
person’s emotional potential. So, that’s important
because you then get back to the potential for an
emotional experience. Now I’m going to come
back to that in a second, but there’s something
else that is accomplished by going back to the event, okay? And that is this. Both those who have manic
depressive experiences and those who have
schizophrenic experiences lose their place in space and in time. Radical dissociation means
you lose your location. You’re suddenly no longer
a part of the every day. So, many times, the next stages will be, at some point, the
schizophrenic, the person who will become schizophrenic
is going to have to invent a space and a time. So if left to the process,
they are going to say at some point, well I
come from another planet, I come from Zion, it’s
along way away from here, and I’m 35,000 years old. They’re in space, and they’re in time. They’re inventing it. It’s got nothing to do
with the world around them, and that’s the whole point. That they can control,
that they can live in. The mind they have got to
recover in that particular way, but that’s quite a ways down the road. If you can relocate them
in history, in space, and in time, if they
can get back into that spatial-temporal reality,
they’re going to be okay. It will take a while, but
they’re going to be okay. They’re not going to go on to become full blown schizophrenics. Now this is accomplished by
talking to them every day. You may have to talk to them for two hours or three hours, which is not very long given the stakes that are at play here. There is also a period,
they do want to get back into the everyday, and there’s
an awful lot to be said for getting back into the everyday. For Freud, the everyday
was the data residue, but it’s the stuff of life. The everyday is the day
of lived experience, it’s the day of nourishment, it’s the day of food for thought, it’s where we’re nourished by experience. We’re nourished by things we see. We’ve got to get back
there to be nourished, so, but there’s a problem here because, as you can imagine,
they feel terrified now by their mind. They’ve had a terrifying experience, they don’t trust their mind anymore, and you can understand why
they don’t trust their mind, but they’re youngsters, so one of the ways you can help them is to
say hey look, look, look. You are a relief pitcher, you are going in there, your
team was down 13 to nothing, you’ve lost every game in the year. I mean come on, and then you hear somebody you love laughing? I mean, you did something that meant you had to get out of the game, right? You threw the ball over the batting cage. You know, it’s kind of smart. That’s kind of an intelligent thing to do. You got outta there. I mean, you got outta there, right? You got outta there, right? That’s a pretty smart thing to do. It’s a pretty smart thing to do, and actually most of what
schizophrenic kids do like that, there’s an intelligence there, and if you help them to see that it was a form of intelligence, then
they get a better feeling for their own mind,
their own mental process. Yes indeed, I guess being crazy is a way to escape unbearable mental pain, okay? But there’s a period in of some mourning because if you’ve lost
your mind for a while, there is this feeling of abandonment. And you remember when I said there’s this kind of stare on the kid’s face? They have been abandoned. Now, the kids at school
have been abandoned by the texture of their belief in life by all the assumptions that have gone into the stories told to them
about the wonderful nature of school, the children,
all the fairy tales. They’re stupefied, and
so you’ll see that look of stupefaction as well
with a schizophrenic kid. It will take weeks and
months for them to begin to trust their mind again, and so if you work with an
adolescent who’s schizophrenic, you’re going to get
telephone calls from them maybe five years later or
eight years later or 10 or 12 years later because there will be memories of the episode when they
think it’s happening again, and it isn’t happening again. What’s happening again is they’re
remembering what happened. So it can take a long time for them to trust their minds again. Now, a fair number of kids will then, interestingly enough, turn to fiction, to reading, or to poetry, to read fiction or the novels or poetry,
although it will take a while for them to do that. It’s very interesting. Perhaps it makes sense
that if they haven’t, let me put it slightly differently. If they’ve heard voices,
if voices have occupied their mind because the
subject has disappeared, if the I disappears, then
voices will start to show up. That’s why it’s so
crucial to get them into the narrative position, but
if you haven’t been able to do that, and they then have a full on schizophrenic episode, they’re gonna have voices
occupying their mind, and that’s awful. After that, folks who get to that place aren’t going to want to read fiction, aren’t going to want to read poetry. Why’s that? They don’t want any thoughts
entering their heads anymore. They can’t deal with them. They’ve already gone crazy. Are you kidding? You want me to read this novel? But then, it’s very interesting,
if that has not happened to them, or those who have recovered through psychotherapy,
psychoanalysis, or whatever, or just good enough parental care, they will turn to fiction,
they will turn to reading, and because in a way, it
is a way of experiencing an other’s mind. I’m not saying that when you read a novel, you’re reading, you’re
entering the novelist’s mind. I’m not saying that, but
you are going through an experience that will be painful often, can be mentally painful. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. You lose yourself in it. It can be disturbing, disorientating, but you get to the feeling of the form of an other’s mind. You’re helped by the form
of the mind of the other, and whether you’re doing this
because you have gone through psychotic episodes as an adolescent, or whether you’re doing
this simply because there’s just something smart
about immersing yourself into fiction, about the act of surrender to another’s mind and experiencing
how they take you through the intensities of mental
life and mental pain. Back to emotional experience. Remember I mentioned that
you speak with affection to the adolescent. An emotional experience,
movare, is very different from an affect. It’s a moving experience. Emotions are not just affects. An emotion is a more complex
form of thinking in a way than is a dream because
it’s intensely ideational, it’s interstitially connected
with layered affects, it’s deeply unconscious,
and it’s curative, it’s healing, there’s a
beginning, a middle, and an end. So what one wants to try to
get the schizophrenic kid to go through, or anyone’s recovering from a mentally challenging
and disturbing experience, is to go through the emotional experience that they would otherwise
have gone through, had they not been arrested, shocked, and had to go into radical dissociation. So emotional experiences
are very very essential to our existence. That’s, of all the emotional experiences that I know of, that are the most profound emotional experiences,
other than I would say certain idioms of music,
certain forms of music, it’s poetry because I think great poems do invite you into an
emotional experience, and you go into the
form of that experience, you endure it, you’re not
quite sure what you’ve read, what you’ve learned, and what is it. That’s fine because the
relation of consciousness to what was unconsciously learned or taken in through the poem, that ambiguity, that tension, that’s the stuff of life itself. So every time you read a
challenging and interesting poem, you go through something akin
to an emotional experience, and I think the writing
of a poem for most poets is an emotional experience. That’s what it is. How do you get an emotional experience out there written? It’s extremely difficult. So, in that way, the
poem is a curative event. Let me see where we are with time. Oh, bloody hell, when
am I supposed to stop? (audience laughing) It’s five past six. Another five minutes, 10 minutes? Okay, I’m going to have to, I can’t talk to you about the individual who goes through the manic
depressive experience other than to say as you can imagine, when in a state of depression, there’s incredible sense of betrayal, the loss of the mother mind
that was looking after them and feeding them intoxicating thoughts when they were manic. In the manic state, there’s
a terrible feeling of dread that they’re going to succumb
to the depressed position, that they’ll be back
into that horrible state, so here you have a very
interesting situation of individuals in great mental pain oscillating back and forth between two very radically
different positions. It takes time to work with this person, but again, talking to them in
each one of these two states is very helpful for folks who are in deep clinical depressions. I just get them to do things. With one kid who hadn’t
been able to go to work, I said, well just why don’t you just, I’m being too cryptic. The first thing I said to him is look, with a mind like yours, I
wouldn’t get out of bed either. He wouldn’t get out of bed. I wouldn’t get out of bed either. Stay in bed. Why try to get up? He would come to his sessions because he would be brought
to sessions by someone. Then I said after working
with him for a couple weeks, I think actually you’re on strike. I think this is a strike. I mean, yes you’re depressed, but I think you’re
saying to the part of you that excoriating you every morning and saying you’re a bag of rubbish, you’re no good, you’re awful. This is what was happening to him. So I think you’re protesting. I said, you know, that’s a
pretty good way to protest, isn’t it? You’re saying, right, okay
if you think this about me, I’ll be like this. So he wanted to know what we could do to help him mentally, and I said, I tell you what, why don’t
you just go back to work? He hadn’t been to work for six weeks. What should I do when I get? Don’t think about it. How long should I be there? A minute? Just go to your desk, sit in your chair, and I actually bet him, I wagered him. I said, I’ll wager you
this, gentleman’s bet. I think after about a month,
you’re going to be okay. How do you know that? Well, they don’t really know it. That’s, you know, it’s a bet. You know, it’s my hunch. Just do it, don’t think about it. So, here I was, an
analyst, telling somebody not to think. Just do it. I realized this, I came
up with it not consciously because after working with him, I did something I hadn’t done
with any other of my patients. I found it so upsetting I would walk him to the limousine and put him in the car because when I first saw
him in the waiting room, it was like seeing a four year old child. He was 20, but it was like
seeing a four year old who is just, he was trying to smile, but the smile was turning down, so it was utter helplessness, so you know, I took him into care, took him down to the car. Then I would walk back
not to my consulting room or back into the house, I
go for a walk in my garden, which I had never done before, and I had a basketball court back there, and sometimes I’d shoot a basket or two, then I go back to the house,
wait for my next patient. And so I think it must’ve been out of that that my recovery from
him was to go for a walk, just to go out into the landscape, and so that’s I think why
I said just go to work, just get out there, and then he did that. He was able to get back
to work, recovered, and then as time went on, we looked back on what it was like for him to be in such a catastrophic depression, and well, that’s a very long account
and so on and so forth. In the remaining five minutes, let me just say very briefly en personne the work of history we talked about here, the therapeutic efficacy of history is extraordinarily significant,
so in many concepts of historicity has to be the concept here that it’s to do with in
the world of the self and the ordinary self
that the thinking about one’s past, one’s history,
one’s especially recent history, extremely important especially
when one has gone through a psychologically
turbulent state of affairs, so we need to rethink
the value, in my view, rethink the value of history. We’re all part of a group, and we’re all part of a group mind whether we like it or not, and we don’t like it,
we are part of a group, so the life of the mind itself is quite overwhelming,
and we have many ways to dumb ourselves down, pairing off, getting married, being
parts of clubs and so on, are ways to dumb ourselves down because were we to just
be occupied by our minds, we would go nuts, you know, it would just be too much, so we have very good ways
to dumb ourselves down, to be able to bear the
complexity of mental life. In groups, the objectification
of the complexity, of minds and emotions is overwhelming. In Great Britain, there’s a training, it’s called group relations training where the analyst learns that his function as the consultant is to help
every member in the group understand what whatever he or she says is a function of the group, so someone can say something awful, and the analyst is going to say, the group thinks that, so the
individual is not isolated, the group thinks that, so if one evening, you’re talking to a Trump
supporter et cetera, one would say, the group
thinks that it’s unfair to live in this country
because we’re being left out. That’s what you’d say. Now the function here is to detoxify the more toxic sides of affect. It’s to try to reverse
the paranoid process because paranoia is where we go to solve the problem of the mind, why? Because paranoia simplifies mental life. Mental life is at times
unbearably complex, and it’s much more
complex than we actually want to know about, so all narrowing it, paranoia not only narrows
the complexity of the mind, it turns simplicity into pleasure. It turns that pleasure into a form of hate that will stay with one
for as long as you want it. Love comes and goes, but
if you want to have hate with you all the time, you
got a reliable companion. You can hate for the whole of your life, and by God, it’s going to be right there. Right there with ya. So what do we do if part of
the way we solve our problems is to get rid of
complexity, go towards hate, narrow the realm of
thought, and enjoy ourselves because the competition
here is not necessarily being sanity and insanity
or the psychotic parts of the mind and the non-psychotic parts. That’s part of it, but
a problem we’ve got here is that those who would add more of a, let’s call it, a democratic frame of mind, a more representative mind where you have most of the dimensions
of thoughts in your mind, trying to have you know,
think of lots of things to be inclusive, et cetera. I mean, that’s not really pleasurable. That’s complicated. It’s kinda like the federal government, checks and balances, you know. It’s just a world of sort of frustration, whereas the paranoid
mentality is just divine. It’s just so delicious. It’s so delicious, but we have to see that what we’re up against here therefore is whether we can bear our
minds within the group process, whether we try to pass it off
to so-called representatives, you know, electoral
representatives, good luck. You know, or whether we decide we’re actually going to
have become more involved in meeting opposite minds,
trying to stop the polarizations, to try to deter the tendency
towards paranoid squeezing and paranoid pleasure
because it’s so pleasurable that if allowed to continue, in a sense, we’re up against something, by we I mean those of it,
let’s call it a more democratic mental process, more
inclusive of more elements, more dimensions, we’re going to lose. We’ll lose. So, I’m sorry to be so cryptic here. I really am. The question, the project let it say of how leaders can develop group minds and work with opposite
figures to collaborate over and deal with opposing thoughts is a really interesting area. I work a little bit off
piste in advising people in government, dealing
with very complex issues, whether adversarial states of mind and getting them to
understand that as a group, they’re responsible for
the mind that they’re in. We’re all inside what we
could call social dreaming. All society’s dream, we call it culture. We all dream. Every day, every night, the media, whether it’s the CNN or
print media, whatever, it’s dreaming our dreams,
and we contribute to them, and sometimes they’re interesting
points of convergence. I’m going to end with one. What’s on her emails? What is she keeping? What don’t we know about her emails? I mean, what is she keeping from us? And by the way, what about his taxes? What is keeping from us? And by the way, Dylan, why the hell didn’t you respond to the Nobel community? What the hell were you thinking about? Now, in social dreaming,
you get these convergences, for Freud, they’re nodal points where cultures and
societies begin to converge around particular unconscious
fascinations, right, preoccupations that then
gather force and power, and so what’s on your mind? I mean, are you keeping something from us? I mean, is it classified? Or what label of classification is it? Is the FBI around? Et cetera, in other words,
there’s a certain fear here about what’s on the mind, and who has the right to privacy, who has the right to have a mind, okay? Okay, I’ll stop there, and I hope this hasn’t been too painful. (audience applauding) – Are the roving mics set up? Ready to go? Good, thank you. Comments and questions, interventions, discussion, welcome. Put your hand up high so I can see and so the mic can reach you efficiently. Question over there. – [Woman] Yes. Here? You mentioned the importance. – I’m sorry, I can’t see you. Can you raise your hand? – [Woman] Oh sure. I’ll get up. – Oh thank you. – [Woman] You mentioned the importance of historicity, and if I assume that means the personal psychic history
of the individual person, of the patient. This has gotten a lot of
bad press from time to time, and people can get stuck in it, and I’m wondering if how you handle that, or if that, you see that as a danger. – Well bad press is always a danger. The term historicity has been
around for 75 years or so, and it means an awful lot of
things to different people. A part of the definition,
or one of the definitions I like about it is the self’s relation to the act of history itself. That is a type of intimacy in relation to the act of history, to
the narrative’s history, so historicity there is
a kind of commitment, it’s a type of relationship. They’re certainly not the province only of the historian by a long shot. In an essay I wrote called
“The Functions of History,” I distinguish between
the past and history. The past is done, dead, meaningless, gone. History, narrative is enlivening. There’s something about
history that’s intrinsically on the side of the life instincts, so the act of history is an
extraordinarily critical part of our recovery from the past. And of course, I’m not saying
that every work of history is efficacious in itself. I mean there are lots
of different narratives I don’t agree with, but the act itself, the effort itself is extremely important, mentally important. – [Whitney] Yes, down in the front. – [Claire] I wonder,
since you were introduced by someone from the art department, I wonder how you think of art, that is non-verbal, visual
production in your work. Do you ever use it in your work, and since it’s non-verbal,
what kind of relationship, what kind of use of affect do you think of when you think of, if
you think of using art in your work with either schizophrenics or adolescents or just a general question about the relation between
your particular approach and the use of the aesthetic object, the visual object that’s non-verbal? – Well, I don’t use art
in the quote unquote proper sense of that, in
the sense that I don’t make references to paintings, although I work with painters, and certainly if they
want to bring their work into sessions, I’ll look at it, but from my way of thinking, the act of imagination,
the image is pre-verbal. We have images before we have words, so we live within the
world of the imaginary, in la consense, but so as I’m working with the people I work with,
I’m imagining things all the time. You know, some of what I’m
imagining I’m conscious of. An awful lot of what I’m imagining I’m not conscious of, and the stream of consciousness includes an awful lot of images, or an awful lot of inner picturings. There are accompanied,
of course, by feelings. I don’t like the word affect
because affect is really, it’s important, but affect
is a standalone state like anger, anxiety, whatever. Claire, I think you have
a follow on comment. – [Claire] Well thinking of affect as a kind of physiological response, I think affect theory
at least begins with. – With the body. – [Claire] Yeah, physiological response, and the reason I thought
of art and paintings not only because you’re introduced by someone from the art department was that you were talking
about using poetry as a way of helping a
schizophrenic who is getting out of that state find a form and a mind to contain his anxieties or whatever, so I was wondering whether
you ever used images in that way you used poetry. – Thank you for the question. That allows me to correct
something I would’ve therefore misstated. I don’t ask anyone to read
poetry or write poetry. My observation is they
may themselves do it, although if someone’s gone through a major schizophrenic breakdown in which they’re hearing
voices and hallucinating, then they want their mind to be empty of any kind of mental content, so they’re terribly
frightened of reading fiction or reading poetry, and
may be a very long time before they do that, but
I would not urge them or recommend that they read poetry, or I actually don’t make recommendations because I tend to follow
what my patients think. They tend to, everyone free
associates in sessions. Every single person can free associate, they just do it differently, and my own understanding
of unconscious thinking is people ask questions,
explicit or implicit, at the beginning of a session, and they proceed to answer them. So my job is to just listen to the answers they come up with to the
questions that they pose. That’s my job. And other than that, I don’t have any real ambitions, and so, but to go back in a way to the heart of what you’re saying, an awful lot of the
work of psychoanalysis, psychotherapy, or
relations, is pre-verbal. It is to do with very
early forms of knowledge, which I call the unthought known, and which is going to be expressed through emotions, it’s going
to be expressed through images, it’ll be expressed through affinities, it’ll be expressed through
in a sense certain kinds of sensory perceptions of one another that are somatic
expressions of one another, or somatoform perceptions. Schizophrenic people, when
they get rid of their minds, will return to somatoform perception, which is a very interesting area, and I’ve written about it in a book called “When the Sun Bursts: The
Enigma of Schizophrenia,” but yes we know an awful lot, and we perceive an awful lot, that really is there
before language itself is a form of thinking. We have many ways of thinking. Just think of musical composition. For those of you who are
musicians and who’ve composed, musical thinking is different than any other form of thinking, and so many ways of thinking. – One of the implications of the idea that the patient asks
and answers the question in the session, albeit unconsciously, is that there would be a
lot less resistance there than classically thought,
and we talked about that last night in the seminar,
and for a lot of us, I felt that was a very revealing feature of your clinical experience
and your intellectual approach since we’re so wedded to the idea that what’s really just has to go on here is identifying and
breaking down resistance, but in fact, if it’s not really
there in the first place, then that whole way of thinking about the situation therapeutically is sort of gotten off on the wrong foot. – I agree. I mean, I think of where
the greatest resistance is are located is probably
in the psychoanalyst. I have not found people who talk freely, who free associate, I have
not found resistances. After all, the so-called resistances are going to be disclosed
through free association, so it’s kind of like a person
unconsciously telling you their likes or dislikes, what
they’re in resistance to, whatever, but I find
people in psychotherapy or psychoanalysis deeply invested
in telling you the truth. You know, they may be in
a state of self-deception, they may not want to know consciously what they’re telling
you, okay, I get that, we all have the right to do that, but unconsciously, I think
people are telling you what they think. There’s a startling honesty
to their disclosures, so I’m still bewildered
over Paul Ricoeur calls it the school of suspicion. It doesn’t make any sense to me. People are profoundly cooperative with people who are
prepared to listen to them, whether that person listening
is called a psychoanalyst or just a very good friend. They’re going to really tell
you what they’re thinking, especially if they don’t
know what they’re telling you because consciousness in a way, self-awareness in a way is a
kind of form of incarceration, and we are incarcerated at times by being too self-aware or
too conscious of our self, but we need us to be liberated
from ordinary incarceration to a freer existence which can happen through free association, through writing, through dancing, through creating music, going for walks, all sorts of things that are liberated activities. – [Whitney] Question over here from Alan. – [Alan] You’ve started to
answer the question already, but can you say something
about why you’re, where your confidence in
the unconscious comes from? Why you’re confident it
won’t lead one astray? – It takes time, I think,
to trust one’s unconscious as a sort of guide. I expect there’s a
phylogenetic reason for this. In other words, it may very
well have to do with survival. In other words, the
perception of the world, the organization of the perception, the patterning of the perception, so that we can act in reality is probably vital to our survival, so it’s I think very, it goes way back, tens of thousands of years. I think also there’s something about let’s call it encountering
difficulties in life and negotiating them such that the way you go into the
problem and come out of it, if you’re reflective, and
your mind keeps supplying you with new thoughts, new ideas,
and you’re nourished by it. An intrasubjective life, it’s
just about the most important thing we have. The relation to our own self is just about the most important thing we have. Now of course, there are
times when we lose our minds, or we don’t know what we think, and that’s pretty awful, but when that, when we call it, we call
it the return of the mind, but when that process comes back, we feel like we’re being guided again. Like I said in some time ago, I think its origins lie,
for us as individuals, in the history of being looked after as infants and small children
by the care taking world, and even though mothers and
fathers and others screw up, of course, if the basic
structure is a care taking one, then we’ll have internalized that and structuralized it,
so that our own mind will be experienced as looking after us. I am very interested in the
prophetic function of dreams. I think dreams do foresee the future, and so I think we need
to have a look again at the way our dreams are ways of looking into the future and advising us, giving us hints about what we could do or think about not doing
so on and so forth, so there’s an awful lot
to learn about dreams. Again, we should go back to
studying them in that way. – [Whitney] There’s a question down front. Sir, are you still? Could we get the mic? Right up front. – [Man] Sorry about, I’m
apologizing for the question, but it’s such a general question, but it just came to me
out of my unconscious, so I know it gets good value. I just wanted to ask you
what is the end of analysis? I mean, and that can, I
guess, can mean several ways. What is the goal, or when is it over? – Good question. It’s over in my view when
the patient feels it’s over. I mean, there’s a pretty
easy way to see it when it’s over, and it’s when the person that you’re working with, you can just see they’re losing interest in it. You know, they’re not bringing
their dreams much anymore, they’re not invested
in the process anymore, and whatever they wanted to get out of it, well they probably have gotten out of it, and it’s time to stop. And the fact that you may
like them an awful lot, and they may like you an awful lot is not a reason to continue,
but if you simply point out, you know I just think, you know, you’re just not as interested
in this as you were, and that’s a good thing. What’s the goal of psychoanalysis? I don’t think there’s any one goal. I think each person who comes to it comes to it for his or her own reason. My view is that whatever we call, whatever psychoanalysis
is, and I’m still not sure I know what it is, I see it as a project more than an accomplishment,
so it’s a project, it’s got a name, and it’s
the patient’s property. It’s not my property, so they come to me for
whatever it is they think a psychoanalysis is going to be. There is just one method to it that I’m familiar with, comfortable with, and it is I sit and listen, and I tell them. You know, I’m going to be fairly quiet for a long period of time, and that’s because I’m listening, and because I don’t know anything yet, and when I think I know something, I will tell you. I don’t think one should be
mysterious about this process. I mean, it’s challenging
enough at times you know. You don’t have to make
it any more mysterious than it would be. The question as to whether
one is going to analyze a person’s character, that is, are you going to do that or not? It’s really, in my
view, up to the patient. Analysis of character is very different from let’s say of the internal world or analysis of whatever else
is on their minds and so on. Character has to do with the
analyst’s making observations about the impressions of
the other upon the self, so it’s very slow work. You make an observation,
patient says, mmm sounds right or no, explains it, whatever,
and then at a certain point in time, in my view, it’s
years, you might decide to give them a portrait of themselves as you experience them, but
you will have checked it many many times. It’s the most, in my view, it’s the most hazardous thing to do, and so I really, I must
say I’m reluctant to do it, but some folks where it’s a demand, they need it, or they want it, and I’ll do the best I can. The liability for error is considerable, so you need to build into this process, what I call a dialectus
of difference namely. The good thing about working with people is if they disagree with you, they really let you know, and I like hairsplitting. You know, I’ll say, split hairs. You know because most people
revere the analyst too much. They revere the analyst too much. The transference is a
very hazardous situation, and I want them to be critical of me, to correct me, I will correct
myself in their presence, so I tend not to get these
idealizing transferences, which I think anyway, what good is it? You know? And it’s easy enough to
exploit the transference, sadly enough, but I
prefer them to be critical and for us to go on. Most people know, I think,
somewhere why they’re coming to see an analyst, and sometimes
it lasts five sessions, eight sessions, sometimes,
couple of weeks, sometimes couple of months, sometimes eight to 10 years. I’ve no idea. – One of the themes in your work is being to be open, receptive
to the unconscious news from the self, that kind of approach. And in some early
advertising for this event, that approach was
contrasted with an approach that might rely on
pharmacological assistance for pain and anxiety, but I’ll be curious to hear you say how those two approaches may or may not conflict
or complement one another or is it a case by case situation? – If I have a headache,
I’m going to take aspirin. So I’ll take medication to help myself, and I’m very concerned about
the move towards medication as the first step in
helping an individual. I understand why physicians do it, and I understand why psychiatrists do it, and I understand why parents
and others want it done. I would prefer that people
went and saw someone and talked to them, provided that person is really willing to listen, and that can be hard to find, but if they’re going to listen, and you just get to talk, I think you’re going to get better. But we know, I mean there’s
a very interesting study on Tylenol, look it up online. Tylenol and empathy, May 26, 2016. Tylenol and empathy studies
are quite fascinating. People who take Tylenol
have a significantly, have a huge drop in
their empathic capacities because of the chemical that’s in Tylenol, and they studied this by
looking at university students, giving them short stories to read, and they would take Tylenol on the day. On one day, there would be a placebo group and a Tylenol group, they would be looking at reading the same short stories, and those who were off Tylenol had empathy for the characters. They could feel the
pain so on and so forth and were reflective, and
those on Tylenol weren’t. So this is a medication
that 25 million Americans are taking, so it reduces empathy, and we know the SSRIs
reduce empathic capabilities and reflective capabilities, but look, you know, some people who
are on lots of medication will be upset with me and
say how can you say this, I mean after all,
medication saved my life, and I respect that position. If that’s what they want to
do, they’re going to do it, and people should do what they want to do. I’m troubled if children
are put on medication before they have the right to say no. I’m troubled by labels like ADHD because I think that our
kids are far less disturbed than we think they are, and
that the educational systems are driving our children crazy, and because we’re putting
way too much pressure on them as little ones, even though
they seem performatively gifted, an awful lot of them are
disturbed and distressed, and they come up with labels, and then there’s a whole
technology of assistance to help them to recover from
whatever cognitive deficiency they’ve been found to have that I think are produced by
the education system itself, so you know, we I think need to look at the larger scale of things. How many people are we driving crazy? Look at PTSD, post-traumatic
stress disorder. A lot of the troops who
come back from the wars have that label now. In order to get treatment, they’ve got to have
that label, don’t they? They have to. But gosh, do we really
need to give it that label when, you know, ’cause
I spend half the year in North Dakota on the prairie, and a lot of the kids go off the farms, they join the military, they’re sweet kids just come out of high school, and you know I go to the airport, and they come back form Afghanistan or wherever they’ve been, and their families are waiting for them, and they’re changed. Why? Well, you know, boot camp
turns you into a killer. You may never even see combat, but if you did go into a combat zone, it’s not just that you’ve
seen people killed. Yes, that’s true, you have, but you’ve also killed people. Now if you keep doing this and doing it, and folks come back from these war zones, they’re going to be
shattered in some ways, not all of them, but most
of them are shattered, and we call it PTSD. Why don’t we just call it
going into the bloody military? That this is what we do when
we send people off to war, and this is what we have to
expect is going to happen to human beings if you send them off, and the first thing they have to do is to kill off the humane
parts of the personality. Kill it off because if you’re empathic, if you think too much,
you’re a danger to your unit, so we need to continue a
kind of political-cultural anthropology that
consistently deconstructs social delusions and the
way we, as societies, continue to cover up our
own destructive processes because most societies,
not just the United States, most societies have parts of them that are extremely destructive, and so being part of a political party and asking people to represent us is no solution to this. – Thank you very much Christopher. That was very great. Thank you all for coming out, and round of applause again
for the 2016 Avenali lecturer. (audience applauding)

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