‘Abundant Delicious’, new book out now.

The cover of Abundant Delicious, a book by Andy White

This book is about the peculiarities and issues of crossing life’s thresholds. It’s about why and how we sabotage ourselves. Its about how we get stuck. It’s about how we live out destinies that are not our own. It’s about the process of self-discovery, the encounter with the Unconscious and the difficult journey that follows.

To do so, this book retells the ancient story of Sophocles’ Oedipus and shows, more than the spurious use to which it was put by Freud, that this intricate tale contains a whole string of symbolic events, developments and encounters from which we can gain perspective on contradiction, paradox and appreciate some of our ambivalence to what we want most in life.

Each chapter of the unfolding story contains dream like encounters, challenges and treasures that you will recognise from your own experience. Like a grail legend, or heroic quest, it uses myth as metaphor, to bring to the creative imagination what Sophocles finally addresses as…’the Secret and the Mystery’.

Enjoy.

‘A Tao of the Soul’, says Satish Kumar. Editor-in-chief of ‘Resurgence and Ecologist’. Author of ‘You are therefor I Am’ and ‘No Destination’.

Andy White is an internationally recognised writer, teacher, and artist with twenty five years of clinical experience as a psychotherapist in private practice. contact; info@andywhitemosaics.co.uk

Books are signed and cost £12 plus p+p.












Healing the Narcissistic Wound.

Despite the prevelance of Narcissism in our culture, the literature offers little to help us understand how such things have come about.

We have to turn to more ancient, deeper sources of wisdom.

“Myths are a primordial language…  psychic phenomena that reveal the nature of the soul…. healing the conflicts which threaten the child.” CG Jung

So we refer back to myths as a form of public dreaming in order to become reaquainted with our preverbal experience, that within our individuality that likewise seems lost in the mists of time.

”Myths are clues… that have to do with deep inner problems. They carry rich, live, vivifying information [so that] experience will have resonance to our own inmost being and reality.” J Campbell.

A myth that gives us some clues to the problem of Narcissism can be found in the story of Hercules. It describes not only the resolution to psychopathic behaviour but helps us to see how and why it manifests in the first instance.

We will turn to the well known  labours shortly but lets begin with the circumstances of Hercules early life in order to get a sense of the provisional life that besets Narcissism and why it is that creativity and relationships are so problematic.

Hercules problems start very young. He is the child of queen Alcmene of Tiryns and the God Zeus. Hera, Zeus’ wife, was none to happy about this. Even though he had been named after her as a gesture of appeasment she vowed revenge….

Alcmene, fearing Hera’s retribution, abandons the child Hercules in a field hoping the gods will take care of him.

The disenfranchisment of the divine feminine is sweeping across the known world. Everywhere the goddess is being unseated, cast out and humiliated. A wedge has been driven between women and their sacred counterpart so that mother/infant relations have become unbearably strained.

On the one hand Hercules is ‘special’, the son of Zeus. On the other he is deprived of nurture and care. Alcmene invests all her spiritual longing into her redeemer son. She needs him to fill the gaping hole in her psyche where once her sacred femininity was lodged and with which she is now hopelessly at odds.

Meantime Hercules struggles with being the contradiction of being the future lord of all Greece whilst being left forgotten in the dusty stubble.

By chance, Hera and Athene wander by and see the child. Hera, unaware of his identity, picks him up and suckles him, but he sucks so hard that she  throws him down in anger. Athene, more patiently, takes the child to Tiryns and gives him to Alcmene to be bought up as a foundling. Alcmene, overjoyed, hopes the three drops of milk that Hercules has managed to suck will preserve him from Hera’s ill-will.

Its not to be. Hera finds out what has happened. She’s furious and sends two pythons to kill the baby while he sleeps.

”One suspects that there is often a kernel of truth in paranoid delusion.”               S. Freud

The raging goddess, once the archetypal container of infancy, is now dead set against the child. Her devaluation by Zeus throws her into revolt and overwhelms the maternal instinct to care and protect.

Hercules becomes the proto-type of the deprived child.

As our story indicates, emotional deprivation is not simply the absence of nurture. The emotional vacuum is constued as an aggressive attack the best expression of which is paranoid fantasy. Something, somewhere is trying to get me.

”Maternal failures produce reactions which interrupt going-on-being and [constitute] a threat of annihilation.” D Winnicott.

The snakes symbolise the intrusive, cold-blooded, devouring quality of emotional deprivation lived out on a human scale by the curious detail that Alcmene now raises her son as if he were a foundling. She is a mother playing at being a mother which can only produce a child pretending to be himself.

This pretence is what RD Laing calls ‘elusion’. He quotes an example from Sarte of the waiter in a cafe who is not ‘in’ what he is doing. He is somehow not himself. Not that he is pretending to be someone else, which would be less confusing, but insofar as he is pretending to be himself. He is playing at being a waiter in a cafe and has that touch-me-not quality of Narcissus.

”He is never invested, never completely interested, never “all in”.  From fear and diffidence, he always keeps the essential part of himself out.” K. O’Brian.

I pretend I am not pretending to pretend….

Hera’s snakes are an envious double bind, an attack on both the  burdensome dependence and the dismissive autonomy of the child. Her devalued status makes her cling to him and try to live through the child whose own destiny and unique unfolding gets in the way. Whatever he does he cannot get it right.

In my family this took the form of the contradictory injunctions,

‘If you don’t ask, you don’t want.’

and

”I want doesn’t get.’

There is no way around such a double-bind. Like the twin snakes it can choke the life, or at least the aliveness out of you. Mother, in urgent need to elude ambivalence and pretend not to be pretending reads the ensuing ..

”extraordinary passivity and listlessness as satiation.” G Miller.

It gets worse. The child, faced with mother going through the motions of being herself must follow suit and tie himself up in the knots of pretending to be a small boy. Such pretense must exclude creative possibility since..

”any striving is construed as malign ingratitude..” ibid

I dreamt I was in a jail, like out of a spaghetti western with bars all down one side against which I was smashing a club screaming to be let out. Behind me, lying down on a bunk with his hat pulled over his eyes is, ‘the-man-with-no-name’. He says,

”door’s open you know”…

I throw down the club and cower in a corner… terrified at the thought that I could leave at any time..

The dream shocked me. I thought I was mature. I thought I was free and creative, despite my substance abuse at the time and the fact that I had no greater aspiration than to turn admiring heads at the traffic lights with my expensive motorcycle….

I thought I was living the bohemian life..

and so long as the life I was living was not my own I could coast along unchallenged..

secure in the knowledge that family and friends would eternally excuse my narcissistic life style and save me from the real world.

The fact was that all this being let off the hook was not the loving indulgence I took it for but rather the active witholding of Life’s Rule Book in order that I continue to accept the constrictions with which I had been raised.

My abberant lifestyle was not ‘rebellion’ at all, but a profound yet hidden conformity that my own destiny was a taboo for which I was both under-resourced and had no permit.

May as well go and pilfer the drug store..

or start a fight.

There’s nothing else to do.

Hercules does not have to play by the rules. Its his compensation for having his soul hi-jacked. And because no-one will discipline him or be sufficiently involved to teach him the ropes he is effectively caged and feral despite being given ‘every advantage’. One day kills his music teacher Linus for daring to correct his playing and instead of having to face the consequences his family spirit him off to the countryside where he can continue to be symbiotically attached to mother by whom he is..

”worshipped like a god and denigrated like a demon.” D Mathers

Hercules is not allowed to grow up. His psychopathic behaviour increases. He goes mad and kills his children in a fit brought on by the hidden hand of Hera, determined that he should not have his own life or live in his own world.

Fortunately, Hercules now has to pay his dues. He becomes depressed and accepts being sent into the service of Eurystheus, his cousin, who makes him perform many labours, a metaphor for the hard work of the psychotherapeutic process.

He has to become aquainted with all his split off aggression symbolised by the Nemean lion, the Cretan bull, the Styphalian birds, his bullshit symbolised by the filthy stables of Augeus, the Hydra that hides in the swamps of his unlived potential.

He has also to realise his own spiritual gifts, all those aspects of his own soulfullness he’s had to put on one side in order to be a vessel for others. These are represented by his task to fetch the Golden Apples of the Hesperides whose whereabouts are hidden deep in the Unconscious that require a night sea journey in a great cauldron for a boat. The metaphor is one of being slowly cooked, being transformed and being able to be taken in.

But Hercules doesn’t quite make it. Despite his successful labours he is tricked by the centaur Nessus who gives his second wife Deianira a poison tunic to give him should his affections wane, which you could pretty much count on given his habitual lack of relatedness.

The tunic consumes him….

and he throws himself on a pyre begging for death.

Then, as now,  your clothes are statements of identity, embodiments of personae. The poison tunic is an identity not one’s own, that stifles soul and gives rise to self destruction.

”Unlived life does not sit idly on the shelf. It will turn around and bite you” ML von Franz.

The great tragedy for the narcissist is not just the poverty of his early years but that it renders him so hogtied when faced with the enormity of his own potential. The first words I ever said as a client in therapy were, ‘I have more energy than I know what to do with.”

”The possibility that a once great capacity for positive living and other potentialities may have played some part in the development of psychopathy.. is worthy of careful consideration…. in reverse they might deserve the estimate of genius.” H Cleckley.

So the narcissist is doubly burdened, firstly by all the split off rage, confusion and pain at being un-mothered and secondly by the creative tension in him that demands expression.

The bonus is that all the material he has to integrate is already his own authentic Self. The difficulty is that he is at one and the same time much smaller than his puffed up image of himself, yet much bigger inside than he could imagine.

If we can accept that our own labours are noble and redeeming, worth doing for their own sake, that our creativity will both unhinge and restore us, that there is meaning and aliveness in suffering, we might fare better than Hercules who at the very least gave us a template for our own experience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Golden Child.

Stanford University professor David Rosenhan and some of his students decided to see what would happen if they feigned hearing voices to gain admission to  hospital, but then behaved completely normally once they were inside.

http://www.bonkersinstitute.org/rosenhan.html

Their ordinary behaviour was interpreted as schizophrenic in all but one case. Note taking was described by staff as, ‘engaging in writing behaviour.’

”Given that the patient is in the hospital, he must be psychologically disturbed. And given that he is disturbed, continuous writing must be behavioral manifestation of that disturbance, perhaps a subset of the compulsive behaviors that are sometimes correlated with schizophrenia.” D. Rosenhan.

All the students were compelled to admit that they had mental illnesses and take antipsychotic drugs as a condition of their release.

Once the cat was out of the bag, one peeved hospital administration challenged Rosenhan to send them more pseudopatients which they would then detect and unmask, so to speak.

Rosenhan agreed.

Over the next weeks the hospital identified 20% of their admissions as Rosenhan ‘fakes’…..

but Rosenhan had sent no-one there…..

booyakasha….!

Our ‘guilty until proven innocent’, model of sanity, is rooted in Freud’s Drive Conflict theory, the jewel in the crown of Western Civilisation’s war of attrition against the Principle of Relatedness.

Drive Conflict theory eroded the significance of Mother, and common sense, to such a point that the quality of interaction with baby now became a factor that was secondary to the child’s inherent constitution.

cut to the chase, mon.

People no longer affect one another. You hurt yourself because you are weak and stupid. As for Mother…

DON’T SPEAK HER NAME…

We will no longer speak Her name. In fact we will refer only to her ‘object-relations’.

Mother doesn’t get front billing in early life… just a part of her, nor will she play much part,

or have any responsibility for how screwed up you are.

and that is the official theory, mon.

”..it was regarded as almost outside the proper interest of an analyst to give systematic attention to a person’s real experiences.” J Bowlby.

What this means for’ mad’ and ‘sane’ alike is that there is no legitimate suffering in life. Psychoanalysis’ central theory places itself outside the vales of sympathy and compassion required to heal grief, trauma and tragedy. To heal, the wound must first be given legitimacy, and second, meaning.

”My argument with psychoanalysis is the preconception that suffering is a mistake, or a sign of weakness, when in fact, possibly the greatest truths we know have come out of people’s suffering.” Arthur Miller.

There is a line in Sophocles’,  ‘Oedipus Rex’, sung by the chorus and therefore almost certainly the philosopher’s own personal perspective on life..

”Life becomes death longing, if all longing else be vain”. Sophocles.

It means that life is not worth living for its own sake. Freud said that the purpose of his method was to return people to ordinary misery. Ordinary misery is not enough. There has to be involvement in life beyond individual gain and measure for it to be meaningful. There has to be connectedness with one another and meaning afforded to legitimate suffering.

Not to have this is worse than death.

The Divine Feminine is the keeper of such truths.

Without sufficient representation of Her in our lives we need a host of back up theories about the inevitablity of our isolation and how it is somehow intrinsic to experience. In fact it is a collective mallaise caused by the devaluation of the Goddess.

..and produces what Masud Khan calls ‘symbiotic omnipotence,” a mood of inertia, helpless dependence, and emotional manipulation in people….

”whose outward lives looked okay but who were empty inside.” Dale Mathers.

Here’s how it works…

The depleted mother tries to compensate for the absence of a sacred vessel for motherhood by idolising the child.

actively discouraging..

”the perception of others as valuable or nourishing, through subtle collusion and indulgences”.  M. Khan

and keeping it from the real world.

She hides her sacred heart in her child. The child gets to be ‘special’, but carry’s this great burden of archetypal expectation, almost as a redeemer….. expected to do miracles… but denigrated like a demon when it all goes wrong…

”such a maternal relationship leads to dissociations…” M. Kahn.

The child can’t integrate his own personality. He’s been inappropriatley seduced into propping up something that is not his task to shoulder. His specialness is in exchange for mother’s use of him as a repository for all the archetypal material she’s been schooled to disown from her own soul. In the process he gets turned into a kind of golden idol..

”that we can then worship and adore so we have the illusion that everything is wonderful but actually have no real contact at all..” D. Mathers.

it’s a horribly split reality that leads to all kinds of superior, narcissistic behaviour and feelings of pathological entitlement on the one hand and worthlessness on the other.

The scary thing is that Yahweh’s Covenant with his  people ticks all the boxes for Symbiotic Omnipotence.

Exclusive attachment,

THOU SHALT HAVE NO OTHER GODS BUT ME..

active discouragement of other influences,

THOU SHALT NOT MAKE IDOLS

shared specialness,

THOU SHALT BE AS A BRIDE UNTO ME

poor communication,

BURN THEM ALL,

”failure to integrate aggression,” M. Kahn

BURN THEM ALL.

and prohibitive harmony…

BURN THEM ALL.

Kahn’s prognosis is poor…

”with maturity they became even more isolated, suffering a pervasive mood of diffuse anxiousness and apprehension.” Kahn

being special is a con.

”Always remember that you are absolutely unique, just like everyone else.” Margaret Mead.

The healing here is not particularly in any moral outrage that one might have in what being special pans out to be but in the longing and incompleteness at back of it all…

because that longing and incompleteness is another way of talking about love.

which is why longing has such great power in it.