Sunday, June 8, 2008

PART ONE: The Moth in the Flame, A Center in Chaotic Fires of Addiction



"Ah! I am so forsaken I will worship at any shrine impulses toward perfection." -- Artur Rimbaud

"Ye littles, lie more close. Make me, O Lord, a last, a simple thing that time cannot overwhelm." -- Theodore Roethke

addict - 1529, adj., "delivered, devoted," from L. addictus, pp. of addicere "deliver, yield, devote," from ad- "to" + dicere "say, declare" (see diction), but also "adjudge, allot." Modern sense is really self-addicted "to give over or award (oneself) to someone or some practice" (1607). The noun is first recorded 1909, in reference to morphine. Addicted is from 1914. Addiction in modern (narcotics, etc.) sense is first attested 1906, in ref. to opium (there is an isolated instance from 1779, with ref. to tobacco).
[Please Note:
-The views and opinions expressed in what follows are purely my own. They are not necessarily shared by my Learning For Life Group colleagues.
-Once again the formatting of paragraphs and subtitles is thwarted by the blogspot site. I have tried to reconfigure, edit, change format and spacing but the changes do not "take". I'll continue to work on this.
-The above photograph I took in one of the oldest churches in Mexico built by Cortes. Tlaxcala, Tlaxcala, Mexico, Jan. 2008]
A Prologue
In approaching addictions, let us remove our shoes. Our feet may be burned, but this burning may return us toward some awareness of where we are not, what we have lost, what we seek to gain in gaining not only the bliss promised in the addiction but also the Dis within it, the Roman name for Hell, (dis-, a prefix meaning 1."lack of, not" (e.g. dishonest); 2."do the opposite of" (e.g. disallow); 3."apart, away" (e.g. discard)). Moses saw a traumatizing burning bush and was disfigured, refigured and transfigured from such seeing. Job hallucinated in his derangement of massive loss, grief, and illness a Behemoth God who sought to be withstood and contained in human perception, his consciousness having to contain this Dis side of the Deity and not be destroyed. He was altered in the beholding of this dark aspect of the deity, and so was the deity. A daimonic dialogue consciously made humbles that one who must behold such traumatizing vision. But even in this vision some arrangement, some order, some transmutation, transformation is sought by Dis itself. It is not rehabilitiated nor sanctified. It is made conscious, and consciousness does this thing to all that it turns its attention to. Renewal? Not necessarily, but It has a conscious place at the table, and that rearranges the meal. One can imagine the table talk to be had.

The Moth In The Flame, A Center In Chaotic Fires,

At the outset I take 3 basic ideas, similar in description, regarding external and internal catastrophe from 3 giants in the field of psychology, D.W. Winnicott, W.R. Bion, and Heinz Kohut; these are 1) primitive agonies and unthinkable terrors (W.), 2) annihilation anxiety (Bion), 3) fragmentation/disintegration anxiety (Kohut). These men along with other men and women contribute greater understanding of destruction/construction/reconstruction of "shrines..toward perfection" which can contain, transmute, transform and integrate that Referent toward which our "impulses toward perfection" yearn, burn and, yes, burn us out. I am construing "impulses toward perfection" to mean addictions of all kinds. "The moth in the flame" is an image which contains pathology as we understand pathology, an illness which we are from which we yearn to be healed from, and also recognizing that there is a "path" in pathology I understand that moth in the flame image as describing an innate impulse/compulsion/drive toward an ultimate coniuntio, union, marriage, reunion of self not only with mother/others but also with what Rudolf Otto calls the Wholey Other, that mysterium tremendum, that Sacred Reality and Ground of All Being which is ultimately incomprehensible (no words, images, thoughts can completely and utterly express IT) yet is apprehensible (apprehend meaning "to grasp"). Jung calls this Ultimate One the Self which is not the conscious ego but that Source from which all things emerge and have their being. That an addiction of any kind is a "low grade religious experiences" (C.G. Jung) means that the addiction is an often unconscious attempt to reestablish a constancy within and without via apprehension and conscious experience of an Ultimate Reality or Higher Power in whatever form It reveals Itself to individuals. As you can see It has many names.

We, like Rimbaud in the above quote from his book of poetry called The Drunken Boat, seek a language which conveys our experience of catastrophe yet has within its expression a redemptive residue of meaning which reintegrates and contains one anew. All language orients us one way or another. Linguistic philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein does not limit language to words but also to inarticulate sounds and gestures. A dance speaks. A symphony speaks. Our unspeakable agonies and primitive terrors, our ecstatic longings and streaming glossolalia (tongues, prattle "of echoic origin") speak and orient us and attentive others. We seek orientation or, rather, we seek to articulate orientation, even a disorientation spoken orients us. In a recent lecture I said that if there was no hell we would have had to invent it for the word and idea of hell gives meaning to meaningless (disoriented) suffering. "It was hell," we say, "hell, I tell you!" This gives meaning to some unbearable experience.

Thus language is cosmology. Language is orientation. Language means something. Meaning continually breaks down and we continually search "to say" what needs to be said and in the saying find orientation. Interesting to note that one of the root meanings of the word addiction is "to say, to speak," 'ad-' = to, and "dicere" = to say, to speak. There is something in addiction saying something, speaking to us. What is it? This is an orienting question. What in addiction wants to be said, to be spoken? Rimbaud's cry above is, I believe, one of the heart cries spoken in addiction -- within addiction, as Jung has pointed out, is religious longing for reconnection, linking back to Originary Source or Sources; perfection, Rimbaud calls it. Etymologically perfection means complete, as in finished. Another root meaning is ripe, as in ripe fruit. Thus in perfection is implied evolution and growth in time, ripening, maturity. Rimbaud cried at shrine after shrine, a young man who wrote before he was twenty years old that his poetique involved an intentional "long, intimidating, immense and rational derangement of all the senses. The sufferings are enormous, but one must be strong, be born a poet, and I have recognized myself as a poet." Rimbaud's poetry of disorientation reorients us toward the psyche which contains and values chaos, what flame refers to in the title above, and its everchanging and ever emerging cosmos, meaning "pattern, arrangement" also contained and valued in the psyche, the moth in the title above, in dynamic tension of push and pull, up and down, in and out, forming and dissolving, conscious and unconscious where human awareness suffers all this, bears this by bearing witness to it and speaking it, articulating it. Implicit is the idea of evolution of consciousness, ripening. But we also know that ripe things get overripe and then decay and die through no fault or negative thought of their own. We also know that ripe and overripe things have a strong odor such as in the phrase, "the stink of enlightenment." Completeness, maturity also has it's stench which is fine for the psyche but so often not for humans!! Rimbaud did not achieve maturity, dying young, yet he left rich testament to the discovery of and eruption of the unconscious which turned humanity and the world inside out and "upon the analytical couch" in the 20th century. We are still at shrines, official and unofficial, and language, thought and reality bend and twist, turn and tank in an age of think tanks and "getting tanked" on substances legal and illegal. The "say" in addiction, addicere (latin), is none other than the sacred or, rather, addiction is an action, a making sacred or holy, at least in the narcissis narcosis dream and scream/scramble/scrim of addiction. There is then in this word addict/addiction and associative words, and all words mean something, some Thing to which they refer. Thus Rimbaud's cry. And ours.
Such cries confer and bestow. Wear them, then. Swear them, too, for curse is also etymologically one of the meanings of the word sacred (see etymology below this paragraph). So much Christianization of psychology and thought has confined a good curse to the Devil's bin. Yet in etymology is the ancient originative meaning thus sacred and curse have business together, belong together, not exclusively but importantly. The curse has been left out. Thus we turn, or can if we aren't too addicted to donut sugar Light, to those earth traditions which resound and rebound in curses. These are not false or of lesser value. These belong, insist themselves upon us and our imbalanced addiction to so-called peace, love and light. Too much of all that is life out of the balance. I have recently experienced a curse, an evil eye, in the form of a closing hostile email's "peace and blessings." I felt relief and not anger upon reading this as it revealed that the shadow value, the curse, will out. When one is overly identified with Light the Dark is bound to come out in such closures as disclosures of Darkness, curses. This appears to be a depth psychological law. The psyche and the curse as opposite to the consciously over-identified with "peace and blessings" value/belief will out. Knowing this relieves one of the curse of being the victim, the scapegoat, an odious faction which carries the disgarded and demeaned inintegrated value which is refused.
c.1300, from pp. of obs. verb sacren "to make holy" (c.1225), from O.Fr. sacrer (12c.), from L. sacrare "to make sacred, consecrate," from sacer (gen. sacri) "sacred, dedicated, holy, accursed," from O.L. saceres, which Tucker connects to base *saq- "bind, restrict, enclose, protect," explaining that "words for both 'oath' & 'curse' are regularly words of 'binding.' " But Buck merely groups it with Oscan sakrim, Umbrian sacra and calls it "a distinctive Italic group, without any clear outside connections." Nasalized form is sancire "make sacred, confirm, ratify, ordain." Sacred cow "object of Hindu veneration," is from 1891; fig. sense is first recorded 1910, from Western views of Hinduism.
O.E. swerian "take an oath" (class VI strong verb; past tense swor, pp. sworen), from P.Gmc. *swarjanan, from root *swar- (cf. O.S. swerian, O.N. sverja, Dan. sverge, O.Fris. swera, M.Du. swaren, O.H.G. swerien, Ger. schwören, Goth. swaren "to swear"), from PIE base *swer- "to speak, say" (cf. O.C.S. svara "quarrel"). Also related to the second element in answer. The secondary sense of "use bad language" (c.1430) developed from the notion of "invoke sacred names." Swear-word is Amer.Eng. colloquial from 1883. Swear off "desist as with a vow" is from 1898.
The Navaho people of North America perceived the world as a creative struggle toward balance. Their word for beauty means balance. Their word koyaniskaatsi means imbalance. The wisdom in this is that too much balance is an imbalance and vice versa. Thus the sacred inclusion of accursed in the very root meaning of the word sacred. Keep this in mind as you read on into a kind of devil's cosmology regarding addiction. This is an alchemical idea that the gold is in the shit, the devalued, un- or less refined material. Alchemy is the conpensatory balance to systems, theological, psychological, metaphysical which overly-value the Light. One need only read the Beatitudes of Jesus the Christ to see his attempt to turn such imbalance on it's head with aim to balance perspective and experience on the human creaturely realm. This is Jesus the chakra varten which means wheel turner, which is what Siddhartha Gautama became, Buddha, the awakened (conscious) wheel turner, meaning trouble maker, confronter and destroyer of rigid, calcified, barnacled values, world views, personality cults, status quo, etc. When a Buddha or a Chirst showed up some where you could here the local authorities swear, "Damned Buddha! Damned Wheel Turner!! There goes the neighborhood cosmologically, ethically and epistemologically!!"

Addictions As Creation Myths

It could be said that an addiction is, too, a creation myth or, rather, there is a creation myth in each addiction. Each addiction seeks to create via discreation (derangement of established orders), recreation of a new world, a new being, a new self more authentically connected to self and to Self (Jung's notion of that Greater Reality within the human psyche from which all reality including the unique ego emerges). That's being optimistic. If something is new it is not necessarily better or improved inspite of commercial promises that new is better and good. It is just new and this new such as it is, good/evil, a mixture of both, must be endured, encountered, ensouled and made room for "at the table" of personality and consciousness. What goes awry in these creation myths-addictions?

dis- prefix meaning 1. "lack of, not" (e.g. dishonest); 2. "do the opposite of" (e.g. disallow); 3. "apart, away" (e.g. discard), from O.Fr. des-, from L. dis- "apart," from PIE *dis- "apart, asunder" (cf. O.E. te-, O.S. ti-, O.H.G. ze-, Ger. zer-). The PIE root is a secondary form of *dwis- and is thus related to L. bis "twice" (originally *dvis) and to duo, on notion of "two-ways, in twain." Dis has even stepped out on its own as a word (1980), as a shortening of disrespect or dismiss, originally in U.S. Black English, popularized by hip hop slang.

Loss or, rather, an atrophy of active imagination, reduction of it to a chemical/biochemical takeover which substitutes for that Imaginal World (Mundus Imaginalis) the Islamic mystics speak of, that Really Real Creative Source, Imagination, from which all things derive makes us dependent upon addictions of all kinds to access some connection and expression of Imagination. The appeal or cry, the say, within an addiction is for reunion with this Source which at first may even access us to It. But the substitute for imagination takes over and the human imagination is turned no longer toward Creative Source but toward the substitute itself which sucks imagination into feed and need and greed for more of the substitute. We become hungry ghosts which can never be satiated no matter how many kilos, haloes, chemos, orgasmos, dineros thrown down it's gaping mouth into alimentary oblivion. The substitute and addictive behavior becomes an idol which obscures and deranges one's capacity to access That numen (sacred thing) which at first it pointed to.

To reiterate, addiction, too, is a loss of imaginationor a turning it toward destructive, contractive purposes. How many creative ways can, say, a junky beg, borrow, lie and steal in order to shoot up? Imagination, what's left of it, is reduced to obsessive, concrete preoccupation with the substitute and substance/activity which now demands from every cell of the body to be worshipped, tended to. Worship, which means worth-ship, is in part a tending to the sacred in the temples/shrines. The very word therapy derives from the ancient Greek meaning of therapeut, meaning those men and women who consciously tended to the deities in the temples. A hellish worship addiction is. But there is, too, in this derangement of meanings something in Hell, in hell states and beings which is numinous and demands our conscious attention, too. Carl Jung and James Hillman have written extensively on the inherent need to also turn our gaze, thought, creativity and energy toward the darker forces, the hell realms, the underworld. Doing so consciously mitigates unconscious takeovers of the demands from the underworld which, too, seeks to be included in consciousness by any means necessary.

Dream work is an effective way to cultivate one's darkness consciously. Conscious darkness is creative/destructive and wholeness requires it's also "being at the table" for it is there whether invited or not no matter how so-called spiritual and whole and light one feels one is. Thus one of the pulls toward wholeness in addictions, impulses toward wholeness, is this recognition of darkness, of evil, of that which has been confined to the underworld. The Romans call this realm Dis. Addictions dis-pose us toward Dis which insists Itself, too, upon and within us. It seeks conscious inclusion, not exclusion and will not be dis-tanced from us.
What is disposed of in addictions? What do addictions dispose us toward? Consciousness-as-orderly-arrangement is dis-persed, fragmented, scattered into derangements. What can be made of these? Working with addicts and addictions includes these reorienting questions where reframes of the addictions themselves are required to find that sacred substance, that meaning which seeks conscious expression. Rimbaud's poetry attests to his Dis-posal to what had been left out of his culture and religious milieu, those dis-garded elements consigned to Hell/Dis. A Season In Hell, one of his collections of poetry, underscores this, his personal myth, his being gripped by the daimon which was not only his but that of the culture and religion which had disgarded it.
Rimbaud did not end well. He died young of a cancerous knee. He was a morally bankrupt slave trader. He was an unconscious prophet, and there were many emerging in his lifetime who like Rimbaud suffered the fate of being mugged by the Dis-world. Dis-covery. Derangement. Recovery. Rearrangement. All dis and more are involved in the wholing, ripening, maturing ongoingly of consciousness, personal, social, transpersonal. Wholeness does not mean perfection in the Greek sense of pure and perfect, the way we usually use it in English, as well. Wholeness is holdness which excludes nothing. Everything is contained in an "infinite, boundless container," to quote Michael Eigen. I hold in my mind an image of holdness from the first Star Wars movie where Luke Skywalker arrives with Hans Solo and company at a nether outpost in the galaxy. Luke enters a galactic bar/juke joint and there sees the strangest crowd of creatures he's ever seen. Beings from all over the planet are in this place, this container which holds them and all the opposite types in there with them. Yes, there are bouncers with appropriate zapping technology. All is in there. And it takes effort to maintain some order in the din and dis-parateness of the individuals making up the crowd. There is a hold for even those hairy, scaled, bespined instinctual aspects of self along with whatever refinement may mean in such a place. Holdness. Not perfection in that pure sense the world commonly conveys. And there's room for the tension of the opposites, the raucus and explosive energy is held, as well.


[Note: the following section is a rough draft I will be continually working on. Read it as rough notations/thoughts/expressions. I will write more re: a heroin addicted client's dream and Kristeva in the coming month.
The above photograph I took in one of the oldest churches in the New World, located in Tlaxcala, Tlaxcala, Mexico, it was built by Cortez. ]

Orientation = Presence,
Questioning As Sacrament

I read a few years back and cannot now locate the source from which I read it that "more than food, clothing, sex and shelter humans crave orientation." This is the function of a cosmology (by the way, a medicine wheel is a cosmology, an organizing of the chaos), a view of everything -- it orients us, locates us in being and time inwardly and outwardly. Reiterations: Having orientation, experiencing location, one is consciously present. Orienting is presensing. Presense is an experience of cosmology, of orientation, and location. One is present with self and the cosmos.

Laurens van der Post in his excellent biography of Carl Jung says that stone age people and the primordial mind/cosmology and tradition they lived within is essentially a lived experience of being known by and within the universe. The universe is a thou, "They (the stone age people) gave out [a feeling]of utterly belonging to life and time and nature...I found that even though they themselves may not know much, they had no doubt of being fully known wherever they went." (pg. 102, Jung and the Story of Our Time, Laurens van der Post). This "being known" locates the ancient ones at all times as present in a living universe. That experience covers the spectrum of primitive agonies and and unspeakable terrors to ecstatic union and communion with the Force in all things in ongoing unfolding manifestations. Recent photographs in the world media of uncontacted groups of Amazonian indigenous peoples reveal the photograph by photograph an orientation, a cosmology. Two men photographed were painted red while a third was painted black. This coloring is symbolic, analogical, and cosmological revelatory of the primal mind/primordial tradition Vander Post speaks of. One can only imagine what these men made of the aircraft noisily hovering and circling above them. Arrows strung, spears at ready, these warriors of the forests stood their ground, defended their territory of which another cancerous, disconnected linear cosmology of greed and "subduing" of nature encroaches upon them with weapons, guns, saws, bulldozers, diseases.

To underscore the supreme value of orientation and cosmology-as-orientation as an innate function in the human organism, Henri Corbin, the late mystic and scholar of Islamic mysticism, writes in his book, The Man of Light in Iranian Sufism:
"Orientation is a primary phenomenon of our presense in the world. A human presense has the property of spatializing a world around it, and htis phenomenon implies a certain relationship of man witht he world, his world, this relationship being determined by the very mode of his presense in the world. The four cardinal points, east and west, north and south, are not things encountered by this presense, but directions which express its sense, man's acclimatization to his world, his familiarity with it. To have this sense is to orient oneself in the world. The ideal lines that run from east to west, from north to south form a system of a priori (prior to) spatial evidences without which there would be neither geographic nor anthropological orientation. And indeed, the constrast between Eastern man and Western man, between Nordic man and Southern man, regulate our ideological and characterological classifications..."Orientation in time" refers to the different ways in which man experiences his presense on earth, and the continuity of this presense within a kind of history, and the questionj as whether this history has a sense, and if so, what sense?" (pgs. 1 & 2) -- Henri Corbin, The Man of Light in Iranian Sufism, Omega Publications, Inc., 1978.
How Do You Stand Within These Realms
There is a body-oriented psychotherapy called Hakomi. The word, hakomi is a Hopi Native American term which means, "How do you stand within these realms." This question is the question of orientation, evokes exploration, discovery and experience of cosmology. Cosmology is a conscious activity of making the unconscious conscious, making conscious those "taken-for-granted" beliefs about the nature of reality. This has been and is an ancient and ongoing undertaking such that our most cherished and fundatmental assumptions, presuppostitions, beliefs have become mostly unconscious and unexamined "sacred cows" out of which we live and "shape" our lives and our view of life. Questioning our presuppostitions, examining those mostly unconscious fundaments upon which we stand under/under-stand is therefore one of the most sacred, sacremental acts of human consciousness. Questions, such as the one in the Hopi Hakomi, continually unfold us and the world anew. Most primordial traditions, those of the people of the first light of human cosciousness, and the languages evolved therefrom are characterized as dynamic, verb-based articulations of the ongoing "sizzling and fizzing" continuously creating nature of perception and reality, languages which evoke and demonstrate movement, process, change, interconnection and pattern. For instance, and I take this from Michael Ortiz Hill's Blues Song at the Edge of Chaos, page 8, the Navajo language conveys "a universe which is interwoven or, more accurately, interweaving. Nothing is static. Beauty is in the making of beauty."

For those interested in further exploration of this I refer you to Benjamin Lee Whorf's always cosmology shifting, question-raising book, Language, Thought and Reality. In reading this (along with Michael Ortiz Hill's pamphlet mentioned above) one will undergo a reorientation away from final received knowledge into knowing as an ongoing study, activity, and ecstasy. One discovers that it is questions and not answers which continually orient one toward an archetypal "true North," an inner "galactic center," which is conscious questioning, research and, equally important, insearch (see James Hillman's early work, Insearch: Psychology and Religion for an accessible, inspiring promotion for "thinking on the edge, searching in the frontiers of psyche" as orienting toward ongoing creativity and revelation regarding orienting and locating oneself and the world as a living breathing "making of beauty." Beauty in the Hopi/Navaho cosmology means "balance." If one is unbalanced one is disoriented. Thus the prayer Navajo prayer, "Before me beauty. Behind me beauty. Inside me beauth. Both sides and all around me beauty. I begin in beauty. I proceed in beauty. I am ending ongoingly in beauty," reveals a cosmology of balancing awareness and forces and the walking in this awareness.

Ideas Matter, Root Images, Presuppositions

Most of our cosmologies, and myths and religions are cosmologies, are attempts to characterize, understand and apprehend/grasp ultimate questions such as "why is there something instead of nothing," "from whence did/do we come?" and "to what individual and collective purpose?" Cosmology is an attempt to develop a view of everything (including nothing!). If cosmology as a term is frightening or offputting Marcus Borg, author and religious scholar, has a helpful and more readily accessible term which may assist in grasping the scope of the venture of uncovering one's personal cosmology:

"Ideas matter. One would only expect an academic to say this, so let me add at once that some ideas do not matter very much. But some do, deeply affecting our lives. Of the ideas that do affect us, perhaps none does so as much as the root images of reality which lie deep in our psyches. A root image is a fundamental image of how reality is, our most basic 'picture' of reality. Perhaps most often called a 'world-view', it consists of our most taken-for-granted assumptions about what is possible. It is an idea ( mental construct) of immense power. Very importantly, a root image not only provides a model of reality, but also shapes our perception and our thinking, operating almost unconsciously within us as a dim background affecting all of our seeing and thinkning. A root image thus functions as both an image and a lens: it is a picture of reality which becomes a lens through which we see reality...Operating within us at the level of the imagination, a level deeper than the discursive intellect, root images of reality involve the imaging or intuiting of a whole Gestalt in light of which everything else is seen." (pgs. 31 & 43) -- Marcus Borg, "Root Images and the Way We See", Fragments of Infinity, Essays in Religion and Philosophy, Ed. Arvind Sharma, Prism Press, 1991

The term root image forms a literal visual image of roots and is less abstract than the words "cosmology" and "world-view." In the conservative Calvinistic Christian theology I was educated in as a young man the word used then and now in apologetics courses (apologetics is an academic study which prepares an intellectual "defense of the Christian faith) the word used, and it's a good one, for root image is presupposition. One can discover and examine and question one's presuppositions, those "taken-for-granted" assumptions/suppositions and see how they, indeed, do become "a lens though which we see reality." Everyone has a cosmology, a world-view, root images and if Socrates the ancient Greek philosopher is correct, and I think that he is, "the unexamined life [and it's root images] is not worth living."

What Has Cosmology To Do Withy Addiction?
Abjection Leads To Ejection, Injection, Projection of the self/Self

I have taken the time and space above to discus cosmology as an essential element of human consciousness. Consciousness is orientation. As practicioners of various kinds, social workers, psychotherapists, ministers, pastoral counselors, addictions counselors, body workers, healers, astrologers, psychoanalysts, 12-step sponsors and sponsees we deal daily with people who are disoriented by addictions which at first began either consciously or unconsciously as attempts at orientation/reorientation away from environmental impingments, disruptions, faults, defaults and failures. When one has steeped in any one or all of these one is in a state of abjection. This abjection becomes a way of life, an inner orientation, which, I propose for addicts of all kinds, borrowing from one method of addiction, leads to ejection and injection. Julia Kristeva has written extensively about abjection in her book, Powers of Horror, An Essay On Abjection (1982). To understand what she means by abjection I quote extensively from an article by Inna Semetsky (click here for the entire article):

"abjection n. 1. the condition of being servile, wretched, or contemptible. 2. the act of humiliating. 3. Mycol. the ejection of spores by a fungus.abject adj. 1. utterly hopeless, miserable, humiliating, or wretched: abject poverty. 2. contemptible; despicable; base-spirited: an abject coward. 3. shamelessly servile; slavish. 4. Obs. cast aside.

The meaning of abjection, as described by Kristeva in her "Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection" (1982), is "one of those violent, dark revolts of being, directed against a threat that seems to emanate from an exorbitant outside or inside, ejected beyond the scope of the possible, the tolerable, the thinkable" (1982: 1).

We experience abjection as a spontaneous reaction that may manifest in a form of unspeakable horror, often expressed at a physical level as uncontrollable vomiting, when faced with a breakdown in meaning caused by the generic loss of a habitual distinction. When the distinction – it being between subject and object, self and other, life and death -- – is destroyed, then the abjection takes its place. Abjection preserves what existed at the archaic level of pre-objectal relationship, as Kristeva puts it, within the extreme violence as a condition of a body becoming separated from another body so as to be! Corpse serves as a primary example, traumatically reminding us of our own finitude and materiality; but so does Auschwitz as a symbol of a particularly destructive, violent, and immoral event. Kristeva, describing abjection, uses the infinitive 'to fall', cadere in French, hence cadaver, the corpse:

"[M]y body extricates itself, as being alive, from that border. Such wastes drop so that I might live, until, from loss to loss, nothing remains in me and my entire body falls beyond the limit – cadere, cadaver. If dung signifies the other side of the border, the place where I am not and which permits me to be, the corpse, the most sickening of wastes, is a border that has encroached upon everything. ... 'I' is expelled" (1982: pp.3-4).The corpse indicates the breakdown of the distinction between subject and object, that is, a loss of the crucial factor in establishing self-identity: it therefore exemplifies the concept of abjection." [End Semetsky quote]

This "destruction of distinction" is disorientation. The addict attempts to eject himself as the "bad abject" along with the bad objects (parents/caretakers/group/society) who cast him aside, make wretched, contemptible, dispicable, lower than low. He does so by injection by which I mean addictions of all kinds. There is a simultaneous attempt to eject the negative, unlovable "I-self" in the addictive act that when eradicated, evacuated may be filled by an "I" which reunites with "I" and an archetypal reconnecting Other which reorients one toward life and not death alone. Death cannot be ejected but life can be injected and injested to such an extent that one is projected/propelled/impelled toward that "I" who evolves creatively with the Life/Death force into more meaningful struggle/play in life.

[In Part Three I'll publish an account of a single consultation with a heroin addict fresh from rehab and seeking support in recovery. I have asked my Learning For Life Group colleagues to write and "dream" around a repetitive dream the client reported during the consult and publish their work with their permission. I have also asked another colleague who works as an addictions counselor to also work the dream. He has agreed to do so].

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