Tuesday, November 22, 2016

John F. Kennedy

Fifty-three years ago, the United States' thirty-fifth president was assassinated in Dallas, TX.

Intersubjectivity includes the constant struggle to hold the tension between recognizing the other as a subject and the tendency to see the other as an object.  As our country struggles, after a divisive election, to maintain the capacity to see the other as having the equal right to her/his own thoughts and opinions, I am reminded of the college paper of my younger daughter on JFK. She wrote:

In a speech at American University June 10, 1963 Kennedy reached out to the Soviet Union to join with the USA in ceasing to hold the world hostage with nuclear weapons testing.

       History teaches us that enmity between nations as between
       individuals do[es] not last forever. No government or social
       system is so evil that its people must be considered as lacking
       in virtue. Among the many traits that the peoples of our two
       countries have in common, none is stronger than our mutual
       abhorrence of war.

Historian Timothy Naftali said of this commencement speech,

           It’s the first time an American president said ‘the Soviets
           are like us’. It’s the first he asked the American people to
           think beyond stereotypes and the Cold War and think
           about the fact that this is a matter of the future of the
           human race.

Six weeks later, Kennedy reached an agreement with Khrushchev to ban testing on nuclear weapons. Kennedy referred to the negotiation as “a shaft of light cut into the darkness.”

Friday, November 4, 2016

Literature as the Third

Fred Griffin (2005) uses the work of physician and poet William Carlos Williams to “re-establish an imaginative space” when Griffin finds himself at an impasse in clinical work with Mr.D and at a loss for reflective thinking. Griffin describes the use of literature, and words, to create and contain experience, as well as describes his personal account of using literature to stimulate his “imaginative capacities.” In Williams’ short story “The Use of Force,” Griffin finds himself envying, then, through reverie, identifying with the physician protagonist  in the story who has the “freedom to possess an entire range of feeling states and … facility of movement among them…” [Bromberg] for “generative self inquiry” which allows Griffin to reinstate his capacity for thinking (ala Bion).

Certainly there is more to the shared analytic experience than mere words or narrative, and Griffin states his appreciation for wordless communication. He also astutely notes the parallel between analytic work, which may eventually find words for unspeakable experience, and the literary author’s struggle to give words to experience.  He notes that transference-countertransference “is a type of fiction that tells us what the patient’s internal object world is like as it is creating itself.” He quotes Williams:

    Some kind of poetic form has to be found or I’ll go crazy.

Griffin writes of Williams, “...he finds/creates words to articulate this living thing, the experience that is conceived and given life in the room.” Not only can words serve as a holding function, but, without words forming a bridge between experience and experiencer, between experiencer and witness, experience can remain dissociated and devoid of meaning, and the experiencer can feel utterly alone. When there is a loss for words, one is imprisoned.Griffin, too, knows that he and Mr. D must find a way together out of each feeling he is in his own “solitary confinement.” [Recently, a patient of mine, feeling his rage impotent to have an effect on his parents, said to me that he felt trapped in a room alone and screaming. His parents could neither see nor hear him.]

Solitary confinement is a place of desperation and despair transcended by the act of communion when an Other ‘gets’ one’s experience and the ‘getting’ is expressed in words. Williams wrote

  The physician enjoys a wonderful opportunity actually to witness the words being born...which he is privileged to take into his care with their unspoiled newness…[W]e have been the words’ very parents. Nothing is more moving..

In saying we are the parents of words, Williams becomes relational in the co-creation of meaning.

Griffin, FL (2005) Clinical Conversations between Psychoanalysts and Imaginative Literature. Psa Q, 4: 443-463.