Thursday, September 8, 2016

Abection and Dream Work - A Clinical Vignette

Abject early 15c., "cast off, rejected," from L. abjectus, pp. of abicere "to throw away, cast off; degrade, humble, lower," from ab- "away, off" (see ab-) + jacere "to throw" (pp. jactus; see jet (v.)). Figurative sense of "downcast, brought low" first attested 1510s. Related: Abjectly.

early 15c., from Fr. abjection (14c.), from L. abjectionem (nom. abjectio) "dejection, despondency," lit. "a throwing away," noun of action from pp. stem of abicere.

When pondering about wilderness, wasteland and the archetype these place/spaces evoke I knew immediately I would write about abjection for both places throughout human history have represented inner spaces of emptiness, wildness, insecurity, vulnerability, and, in endured, encounter with one's self and with the numinous (the sacred, that which is larger than oneself and all known reality, that "mysterium tremendum" Rudolf Otto refers to as holy awe. Now this is indeed a large and multi-faceted subject so I have focused my account on the more psychological experience of wilderness/wasteland experienced in human relationships and longing for the "other", the beloved, a state which most people undergo when seeking to be companioned and partnered and most definitely when that search, that relationship has failed or proven to be a wasteland even when in the presence of the once-was-beloved.

Julia Kristeva's has written an entire book about abjection but unless one is very conversant with semiotics and Lacanian psychology then it will prove to be a wilderness experience. As one prone to wander headlong and inflated into wilderness I have tried again and again to tackle Kristeva's wilderness,

A key point I'm getting is that the abject one actually craves for yet rejects that which he/she feels would make him/her un-abject, whole, complete...there is an ambivalence to the "object" (the desired one who one hopes will restore us to ourselves) because that desired one brings up such longing in the abject self that it is a painful tsunami of emotions which, if felt, feels as if one will never stop feeling them...the abject one longs for yet fears the presence of the other for even the loving, good enough other feels "toxic" or dangerous because he/she evokes such early and living-in-the-present needs and felt emotions which the abject one either felt while abject and alone as a child/teen or had to repress in order to go on, to grow a self which could not afford to feel such feeling but had to get on with life no matter what the repressed emotional selves needed.

Such longing turns even the beloved one into a dreaded object...a source of dread because he/she evokes tsunamis, fragmenting waves of unfinished grief and rage and, of course, who wants to fucking feel that?! AND to compound it, if the beloved, the object "fails" the abject one, cannot be with floods of grief and emotions in the abject one, ignores, deplores, denies, and more, then the ancient griefs are compounded with fresh ones and the despair grows more tentacles...

Kristeva writes about this...that even the beloved and loved thing can become a horror, a dread, a negating presence because the longing evoked in the abject one is so great, the expectation and hope, and the attendant wish to finally tsunami crash one's emotions past upon the present and constant shore of the beloved, that the abject one is confused by his/her ambivalences toward the beloved/the object...especially if the beloved/object cannot deliver basic "good enough" presence with constancy/consistency. If this is the case (which it sounds like it is - your experience of Roger - he just can't show up, won't show up (because, frankly, of his own abjection but that's for him to ferret out and work with) and is equally frustrated by his own abject-driven needs for you to be his shore for his tsunami (tsu-Mami) and also his "good little charming boy" who has tremendous dependency needs beneath the charmer and the harmer).

What heals abjection? Constancy, presence presence presence and pacing pacing pacing (as in timing) the little bits of presence that the abject one can tolerate...if one is treating a starving person one cannot instantly feed him/her prime rib and potatoes as their system cannot absorb, digest, assimilate and eliminate such rich introduces little absorbable bits of food, a pablum of sorts, baby food enriched with much needed and restorative nutrients in the moment of where that starved body is at with its weakened capacities to tolerate food, to assimilate even what are good nutrients but are too much, too rich for the system at present.

I just finished a session with an elder abject one who cannot understand why being with his dearly beloved granddaughters is so draining on him physically...this man grew up ignored and so early on took his abjection into an over-compensated independent "pull up one's own boot-straps", meet his own needs (via power and booze) "adapted self" (a self grown over or around the authentic self, the child self which had to go into hiding in the safe but constricting protective bunker deep in one's core)...a life of alcoholism, womanizing, money making made him emptier. He never felt much but became obsessed with the opera and was even an extra on the NYC opera stage for years until one day during a performance of La Giocanda he began to weep in the wings just before going onstage with the "city crowd" aria was being sung which he had heard and loved for years but this time something in him broke open and a flood of tears spilled over the once unbreakable dam. He went on stage and wept the entire scene through, left the theater still weeping and was absolutely befuddled and frustrated by such an event while knowing some long unattended part of himself, the abject one, had finally broken through. When with his grandchildren he is unconditionally loving and present and quote, "I cannot get enough time with them...I love them so much...I need to be in their presence." When with the grand-daughters his inner child, the abject one, is also very much my client gives what he needed to get as a child, his abject child is also getting and such old griefs arise in him, such old longings and such old authentic emotions surface or try that he literally has to repress these feeling in the moment. He leaves the grand daughters utterly physically and emotionally wasted. Within 10 minutes of leaving them his energy returns usually.

Recently I explained this to him and could see him "getting it", his questions was, "how do I take care of the abject one, the child self more conscientiously?"

I responded, "By allowing the child to grieve, to openly grieve, and to feel all the hurt, anger, despair of his childhood, the difference being that YOU are there to show up and comfort and be present with. AND I am here for are your wife, children, and grandchildren whether you show them these emotions or not..."

The first dream he brought in to therapy: he is with a new bride in a new apartment they have bought together to prepare for their marriage. He is trying to build a small shelf/altar in a narrow corner of a large room which he and his fiance are trying to make together but the corner is oddly shaped and it is very tiny...the altar is all black, draped in black cloth like that of the curtains at the opera...he/they don't know how to fix the problem of the altar in the tiny space [my client's work was construction, had his own construction business which was very successful). He wakes up feeling frustrated and sad that not only he but his fiance couldn't resolve the problem of the altar.

I asked him what his associations were to the dream. He's quite concrete in his thinking and not very good with symbolic was grief, he said...and the curtain cloth, of course, was opera and he loves loves loves loves opera and has attended it since he came to NYC as a young man and his girlfriend who became his wife turned him on to the opera.

All the while I've noted to myself that this little opera altar representing passion and feeling (strongly felt emotions often about tragic love) has only a tiny little corner in a large room in a new place for him and his beloved. Together they cannot get the altar/shelf to client's emotional life has been given one little corner and an awkward one at that! Prognosis? Feeling feeling feeling...a return of his conscious emotional life which gets to be lived with the granddaughters and frustratingly with the fiance...

I asked him, "If this dream had a soundtrack, say, from an opera you know, what might that opera be?"

He blushed, teared up and said choking back tears, "That bloody aria from La Giocanda..." and he wept some...teared up and allowed some tears to fall down his face, felt them...he was deeply deeply moved. The needed interpretation, if you will, was and still is those tears and being moved deeply where something, his compulsions, met his conscious understanding of abjection and return of emotions, restoring of emotional life, of taking care of his abject one. His tolerance for his fiance's demanding dependency needs (an abject one, much orphan psychology) increased. He immediately understood from the dream image (as I suggested it) that she could not solve the problem either due to her own abjection, her own needy child who is jealous of the grand-daughters. He has begun to show up for the fiance while continuing to show up for the grand-daughters and, most importantly, for himself.

And his feeling life returns by conscious grieving which is healthy and sane for one must grieve, it is natural to grieve, losses, not ever getting what should be given, when something, someone, some other dies, when life dies in all its possibilities, dead dreams and hopes, when some parts of self have to "die" in order to go on living, to grow on, get practical and here and now, killing dreams so much that compulsions arise insisting on wholeness...

Abjection is healed by allowing all the feelings within the abjection to come forward (perhaps incrementally else one winds up between the wings of the opera and then onstage weeping without stops (and thank the gods of opera this happened).

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