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.

No comments: