LISTENING TO: THE MIRACLE WITHIN LANGUAGE
Psychoanalysis is a narrative seeking narratives – “tell me a story”.
Language is a miracle.
Freud recognized what poets knew, that language carries wildness and relatedness, and communicates as much as there is… both conscious and unconscious is-ness.
Language can savagely or ecstatically represent the disorganized, fragmented states of mind, or the unified and organized states of mind. Language gives us what Maurice Sendak evoked – language is where the wild things are, where the wild rumpus begins.
Freud liberated the world, gave us access to the fullness of our minds, with reliance on language to unlock the repressed – to seek from within the seeker what the seeker didn’t know was being sought.
Psychoanalysis is itself a miracle, discovering and narrating the discovery of narration, listening to the telling of a story, and telling a story….
Are words lies? Are words truth? Are words both? What strange fluid, shape-shifting medium, words, we use, to find -- what? Perhaps we use words to intuit what we find in the silence, the silence that sustains even as we seek what we find there, in words....
Is there another? Are words a bridge we use as we encounter the caesura between self and other, to recognize the self of the other, and, perhaps, the otherness of our own self?
Bedtime prayer: NowI lay me down to sleep, I pray my dreams my lies will keep....
And if I die before I wake, I pray my lies will not look fake....
Some lies are delightful lies. Does it matter whether we know a fiction is a fiction? Fairy tales seem so absolutely real to young children. Some lies might not be delightful, but may have a necessary truth: ogres and witches….
We awaken from the nightmare of history, and cherish what was lost. From childhood on we destroy in fantasy and alas, we encounter enormous destruction. What saves a mind from extreme chaos and horrific trauma? Derealization and depersonalization don't work -- the horror and chaos still are experienced, and life is an ongoing catastrophe. And yet....
And of course, dreams are not criminals, and legal considerations of criminal intentionality do not apply to dream-work-- except -- except -- if we stay with Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams, the superego acts as accuser, police officer, judge, and police warden.
The "Interpretation of Dreams", reinterpreted: Dreams speak iddish. The id tries to discharge, to achieve a wish. The superego says, uh-uh, id, no you don't. That's bad. We'll get in trouble. We'll regret it. The ego mediates creatively, by telling a story, giving form to the id wishes, pacifying as best it can the anxious superego.
So -- in my "reinterpretation of dreams", the id does not "intend" to communicate. It intends to achieve -- perhaps by obsessively ruminating on desire, trying to fulfill desires stifled in waking, but, still persisting, taking advantage of sleep to try to overpower superego and enlist ego if possible. And superego wakens, yet miraculously stays asleep, and says no anyway. And ego, with a primary "intention" of preserving sleep, casts both forbidden desire and anxious superego taboo in a creative tableau, a dream-story. It is not superego that preserves sleep by censoring the forbidden impulse, it is the creative ego.
Like all theory, it's just a theory. Problem with the theory is, how is it that some forbidden id impulses succeed in expression -- expression, if not communication? How do they override superego so successfully that the ego's story supports the id? Maybe the same way the superego overrides the id so successfully that the ego's story supports the superego? Hence incestuous consummation dreams, and being chased by murderous villains or police officers dreams.
We are such stuff as dreams are made of. Our conscious minds function similarly. The ongoing narratives we tell ourselves, that get unraveled during the psychoanalytic process, are very similar to dream narratives. Our repetition compulsions, compensatory fantasies, rationalizations and other defenses, are waking dreams....
Dear Eternal Children,
How could we be other than?
More "adult", alas -- well, maybe not. There is hope. Perhaps we are Onion people, with every age we've ever been, in transparent layers. And perhaps the Onion layers are able to transplace, so that all layers are equally available and float to the surface.
Once again, there is a time for every purpose under heaven. Whatever nickname our eras anoint us with --prophets, visionaries, heretics, Chasidism, revolutionaries (18th century CE France, the nascent America), Romantic Decadents (Beaudelaire, Rimbaud, Verlaine), Neo-Romantics, Bohemians, Flappers, Beatniks, Hippies, punks -- we stay true to ourselves.
I have faith in words. I trust that words build world views, link minds with minds, teach, illuminate, amuse. Of course words can be weapons of mass destruction. What that means is that words have power. I have faith in the power of words.
I am not concerned about the inadequacy of words. Words themselves can be transcendent. So I'll borrow Christian Wiman's "the faith with which you use them" to say, "The faith which you feel is the way in which you use words"...which doesn't mean you have to use words to feel and use faith. It means something else....
What happens when we use the phrase,"Words fail me"? First, we use words to say we are speechless, we cannot find the words with which to express -- something. Second, it means we are using words, starting with the three simple words, "Words fail me", to attempt to begin to say something we think we cannot say....
Why does John 1:1 begin with, "In the beginning was the Word"?
Why does Genesis 1:3 say, "And God said, let there be light, and there was light"? God said it. God said light into being. God said everything into being. He divided day from night, He called the light Day, He called the dark Night. He said the firmament, the heavens, among the waters into being. All through Genesis, all through the Creation, God says the world into being.
I have faith in words. Why? Because God says! And if there is no God?
There are words….