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Thoughts on Christopher Bollas’s, “Generational Consciousness”*

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My grandmother left Canada with hope. The potato famine and poverty of Canadian farming pushed them south at the end of the 19th century. Her generation came here with opportunities to cultivate, and with full knowledge that she was leaving the previous generation behind, a loss taken to ensure survival. There must have been great strength garnered from the courage it took to migrate, leaving family, home, and all that is familiar behind for better prospects.

They arrived in America at a time of great innovation and rapid advances. There were no airplanes, no cars, electricity was a new technology when they got here in the late 1800’s by their new millennium

My parents, on the other hand, arrived to their 20’s and, saw the failure of that generation to be able to sustain the progress. They arrived to their generational subculture at a world of a Great Depression, soup lines, stock market crash and a most devastating world war, culminating by the dropping of two atomic bombs.

My folks inherited the failed dreams of their immediate past. I was born in a time of prosperity. Though my family was poor, the world felt promising. We were the generation that could have its cake and eat it too. We inherited the hope of peace, but just as your generation arrived in the world, our radical peace movement and hippie communes failed to sustain itself, and the cycle started over again where like my mother you were born into a generational failed dream. Generations are defining,  we shape the generation and the generation shapes us.  We bring individual goals and ambitions to the world but in addition to our individual view of our times, the times that we live in have a kind of sociological perspective that become a part of our psychic experience.

Bollas points out that it is not until young people are in their 20’s that they begin to identify with the cultural norms of their generation. At about this age, children begin to see themselves as belonging to the future generation. They are accomplishing a transition between where they came from and where they are going in the outside world and in the subjective world of the self.
Christopher Bollas says this:  “The sense of isolation can be severe, but solace may be found through recognizing that he or she is part of a mass sub-culture, a new adolescent subculture forming out of the abyss between generations.” When you are exit-ing your family of origin; and at the same time emerging into an adult, the process is almost entirely an unconscious one.  The experience is as much about loss as it is about forward movement.

The norms of the New Generation must be incorporated or the child becoming an adult fails the transition process and begins to doubt their ability to become capable participants in the New World order.  When the anxiety to separate from one generation is difficult to tolerate, the individuation of the child suffers. This process then settles itself into the consciousness as a lack of confidence and low self-esteem.

The massive difference between generations is not perceived except in retrospect. In hindsight we radically recognize the difference between the 1950s and the 1960s; yet, 1958 at the time did not look all that different from 1962.  Likewise, if you were born in the 60’s you have a memory of your parents generation and a sense of belonging and remembering first- hand the 70’s and the 80’s. The future decades all seem about the same save for a few technological advances that may stand out.

Christopher Bollas seems to be saying that there is a collective consciousness that assigns us to the generation that we belong too.  If a child assigns himself to the wrong (previous) generation because of fear of separation, success in the new generation becomes more difficult.

To this very difficult but natural set of complexes, we can add, in some cases; the generation that you came from makes it difficult for the transition to run smoothly. A consciousness of differences between generational norms allows a parent to assist rather than hamper the transitional process.  On the other hand, jealousy of youth, or fear of separating in the parent can retard the child’s development. The child may fear reprisal and abandonment from the parent’s generation and then attempts to remain the child of the previous generation rather than an adult in his or her own generation.

The consequences of not moving forward, of not letting go, obscure the possibilities of the future, and security and a false sense of safety are sought to mitigate the affects of fear and loneliness.

Christopher Bollas has written a bold new sociological take on the psychoanalytic process of separation and individuation.  His essay goes on to describe, in beautifully written language, the multitude of facts, fictions and symbols that enter the consciousness of a human during this delicate, but at time violent attempt to become a self….

From readings in, On Being a Character, 1992, “Generational Consciousness”.

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poetry in motion

Leonard Cohen has a way of summing things up for me.  Not much more to be said about a life well lived, albeit, very heavy at times; and often, more mindless than mindful.

First there was the meditation involved with creating the template–totally mindless.  I was absorbed in the quality of the feel, as the pen and ink dug into the paper and at times seems to effortlessly glide over the page so that a single stroke felt like it went clear across the pad and down the center to the very bottom of the page.

Then there were those comments when what to write went blank.  It went blank for months.  Gibberish. Then one day the journal was open to this unfinished page and Cohen’s meditation looked like it would barely fit on the page but it did. I thought it might sit well as an edited image.  It comes together as text-and-image and combines a number of moods while fulfilling its mission to be published.

Serenity is the outcome, but it seems too far away when I am carrying a grand-piano down a mountain of theory.  I am sitting with a young girl, fair and beautiful as she crawls to the couch.  I almost do not want to let her go there; but I do, and she emerges walking, maybe a half-inch taller than when she arrived; but how much growth can we really expect in an hour.  I hope she waters a few of the seeds awakened while we sat by the sea, chatting and untangling backlashes from yesterday’s fishing lines.  The wind seems to blow westerly in every season, and to every season we attach a new moment adding them up with an abacus left dusty besides the slide-rule, made of wood and brass. But here, I am the instrument of research.

Her life opened like a book on our laps.  I don’t count the way I use to. I don’t count on things and other objects–no, I think on myself now. And, I  thank myself graciously for the compassionate care that I often find capable of giving to myself.

I settle into that place of relative silence and slowly she enters, tentative at first, willing, ambivalent and scared.  But, she is strong and she does not want to let on that she is so vulnerable that she does not think she can take one more step.  Exhaustion and fear and insomnia and disease and helplessness and hopelessness will devour her if she takes even one more step toward life.  The piano is too heavy to carry.

She is addicted to the tune, that is how I know she will come back.
poetry in motion in brown


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Me & My Dad: a selfie

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What are the bridges from low-self worth to the real self.

The real self, the authentic self is equally neurotic in grandiosity as he or she is in self-defeat.  Fearing that we are not enough we strive to meet an ideal that we create for ourselves.  This ideal is filled with over-compensation and is therefore as unreliable as our fearing self in relation to giving us the feeling that we are enough and therefore prideful in who we are.

The chronic question of who we want to be over-shadows the who we are in such a way as to blur reality.  In the state of chronic striving we miss the importance of the nuances of life and miss, as well, the feeling of warmth that we get from the experience of life.

Moving from cold toward our real selves is a movement toward warmth–life is warm.  Death is cold.  In this equation it is our task to live as well as we can within the boundaries of human limitations.  We can want to be better, we can want to learn a new skill, we can want more things and even a happier life; we just can not want as a chronic condition.

At some point in the process of a psychoanalysis we face who we are with certainty.  This is not the end of the process.  While at the still point of facing ourselves it becomes important to make the choice that is most comfortable with the self…This is fundamentally different from what we hear about in the media and what we grew up believing.

The comfortable choice allows for the thoughts to come from the ego, but does not buy into the idea that the ego’s voice is the only alternative.  Listening more closely to our body, the anxiety that arises, the lethargy that may impose itself; or the somatic complaints that we may have, need to be heard.  Because these sensations are often un pleasant we at times try to ignore and dismiss the feeling.  When we chose this option the voices of the body come back in a louder and stronger manner.

A question oriented toward self-understanding is the better option.  What am I trying to tell myself with the activation of this anxiety?  Am I on target?  Am I aiming for well-being?  These questions posed to the anxiety can shed light on an otherwise very dark place within our subjective self.

If we are aiming to please others rather than aiming for our well-being first we will lose focus and the lack of clarity actually exacerbates the power of the anxiety or the power of the somatic complaint.

It is important to remember that the idealized version of ourselves is as important to dismantle as is the condition of low self-confidence.

 

Below is an article written by a counselor in Texas.  It is short and it is accurate in its mission.

Happy reading.

 

 

http://www.bettertherapy.org/blog/low-self-esteem/


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The Road Map Is Not The Landscape

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Van Gogh tells a story of a countess who commissioned him to do a portrait.  When the portrait was finished and it came time to unveil the canvas to his subject, she had a startled response.  “My God, she said, “that is not me!”

“No, Madame, you are quite right that is not you, that is a painting of you.”

 

Frequently as we meander through life, we internalize images and thoughts and these images and thought are stored in a “consciousness-storage” container.  Some place in the brain-body matrix we have visions and we hold on to these visions as memories.  They take on an internal life of their own.  We can close our eyes and see a light we saw ten years ago, or we close our eyes and we see a person saying something to us.

At times these visions of our internal world become so real that they appear to us to be our reality.  In fact these visions and memories are simply symbolic representations of those people, places or things.

What is contained in our minds represent the world outside of us, but it is not the world outside of us any more than a road map of the eastern United States is the landscape of the eastern United States.

We can find Flint, Virginia on the map, and a good map will represent the way to get to Flint Virginia, but, it is not Flint, Virginia.  In the same way we often have a dialogue with ourselves and that internal dialogue takes a form that resembles reality.  We can become convinced that this internal dialogue is life, when in actuality the internal only symbolically represents life.

If we go looking inside ourselves for our souls, we will find inside a representation of our souls, but our souls are not in us.  We are in our souls.  The soul, what Emerson called the Over-soul is something that we reside in.  It does not reside in us–we reside in it.

It is an important philosophical distinction because if we can not let ourselves know that life is out-side of us, we will continue to believe that when we find Flint, Virginia on a broad map that is all that there is to Flint.  Guide-post exist inside of us that we can use to find the world, but we ought not confuse the map for the reality.  If we only find our selves on the map we will fall far short of the satisfactions that the universe can provide.

Let’s give it a shot.  Let’s go find ourselves in the world rather than remain content with the representational, symbolic world that exist as a chemical matrix within.

 


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Schedule: Mindfulness in Psychoanalysis 5/1/14

 

office 16 trenton

Hello–Family, Friends, Clients and Interested Folks:

This is being e mailed to people familiar with my practice or
my writing. It is a reminder of my practice hours and practice days
in Rhode Island, and it includes information on the groups that
are on-going in my practice, Mindfulness in Psychoanalysis.
This memo includes information on how to reach me.

web-site:
https://onlinetalktherapy.wordpress.com

Mobile Phone: 401 447 5765

We are leaving St. Augustine in the morning and heading toward
the Shenandoah Valley–my definition of Gods’s Earth. I love photographing
in that region, so we will spend a day meandering through that country side
and we will be back in Rhode Island on Saturday or Sunday this weekend.

Mindfulness in Psychoanalysis will be back in full swing as of Monday May 5th
at 16 Trenton Street in Providence, RI…..
For the time being all my face to face consultations will be held at the Providence office….
The Charlestown site is temporarily closed, as my friend Michael has his music studio
in what had been my Charlestown office. I am enjoying this and as long at it works for Michael and Bernie and I, we plan to continue this arrangement at The Lake.

INDIVIDUAL ANALYTIC CONSULTATIONS:
In-person Consultations: Tuesday Wednesday and Thursdays Providence Office
By phone Consultations by appointment @ mutually convenient times

ANALYTIC GROUPS:
Groups have been operating and there will be no changes in the group schedule
between now and the 20th of June. If you are interested in joining a group or know
someone you want to refer to a group, this is a great time to do this….
Groups operate on
Tuesday Evenings: from 6:30 to 8:00, &
Wednesday Evenings: from 6:00 to 7:30

There will be seven groups between now and June 20th. This is a nice small cluster
of groups if some one is wanting to try this modality. Although these two groups have
been operating for well over 25 years, the core of the group is always changing and
evolving. A seven week trial is a small number of sessions to commit to, enough
groups to be able to tell if you can benefit from the modality; yet, not so many groups
that the commitment feels overwhelming.
You can write to me about this or call any time to discuss an involvement in an
analytic group.

Looking forward to seeing you all in Rhode Island. We will be staying at The Lake
through July 31…..

 

saturated in augustine

dr. al dussault
aldussault@gmail.com

mindfulness in psychoanalysis
web-site:
https://onlinetalktherapy.wordpress.com
blog:
http://freeassociations.wordpress.com/

 

 


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Groups Work: Things Are Never Only As They Seem

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Charity begins at home.  Group work teaches the elements of a functional community

It may not be necessary to start with the biological evidence that the space between objects, be they cells or planets, is charged with a dynamic that responds or at least carries data between one organism and another.  This “empty” space between objects has primarily been referred to as “nothing.”  Starting with that reputation and continuing right into the present, the study of the subjective has not  been considered a matter for science.  The physical world, the what-you-can-see-and-touch world was the physics of everything.

Common sense, and our sensual perceptions, however, tell us something very different.  At least in our atmosphere there is air between objects and when we are speaking of the space between two people in relationship there is a perpetual transference that exist between the two people and that transferences is at work all the time assessing and re assessing and internally commenting, or subjectively judging the quality and the quantity of the relationship between the two.

Human evolution has complicated these relationships by the, (in geologic time), relatively recent introduction of language; that is, a form of communication that allows for not only the perception of data but the synthesis and the analysis of data.

Language, or “just words” as a recent patient called it, makes use of the space between the two and uses that space as a vehicle to communicate symbols and sounds that are organized in such a way allowing for one person to pretty accurately render a thought and/or an emotion from one to the other.

It is that very space between the two that defines the differences and explores the similarities.  Psychoanalysis is the science that has in the last one-hundred plus years provided the most convincing data that relationships are not only random bumpings into each other.  Instead, psychoanalysis has shown us through clinical research that human interactions are froth with not only what is happening in the moment; but our dynamic interactions contain transferences that may come from not only an earlier event in our lives, but might be handed down in some kind of genetically coded ancestral characteristics.

We are a complicated lot, we humans.

My favorite place to acquire knowledge and understand about my patients is in groups.  I find groups to contain the metaphors for all that we encounter in the rest of our lives.  The circle, the intimate group is a setting in which the negative union is guaranteed a fair hearing.

There is a quality to family life that is evolving in a way that bothers me greatly.  Often I see alienation and disconnections between people and especially in families.  This lack of connection grows into a disrespect because frustrations and negative union are some how not permitted to exist.  It is as if we are homogenizing into a purity of intention that is so fearful of the bacterias that might contaminate, that we are avoiding dynamic differences between us altogether.  We have grown to despise differences in our politics, our society and our families.

As we unconsciously move forward to where we all wear a size nine shoe.  Many of us can not and do not want to keep up with the mis-guided marching forward unconsciously.  We are marginalized and even legislated against.

Let’s get rid of the safety net for the poor and the unfortunate because they are a drag on society.  In the same way we have become use to not calling Mom because she will probably say something that we do not agree with and we do not want to be subjected to an opinion other than our own.  We seem to have become unable to disagree without hating and defending.

We are closing down at home and at work and in our politics.  Differences are seen as dangerous to my greed and growth so they are witnessed with caution.  Eventually the disenfranchised are arrested and punished for the discomfort they cause us.  In families the tendency is to simply drift further away until connections become simply too inconvenient.

The very compassionate and loving feeling of sadness has been trampled into anger, and where there use to be life long attempts to resolve differences, we are seeing major cut-offs in contact and communication.  This further causes the ennui from which our age suffers, but in many cases the new feeling of ennui is also transferred or put onto “The Other”, further complicating resolution, repentance and restitution.

I find that working in groups, we develop more thoughts and  insights into who we are and into the variety of influences that effect or everyday decision making.  I find that empathy and love and compassion and understandings are easier to come come by in a setting where a nonjudgmental atmosphere contributes to intimate investigations that increase our capacity for strength by developing a tolerance for vulnerability…

Group work has been the centerpiece of my psychoanalytic training.  Process and not out-come has been the method through which making the unconscious conscious takes shape.  Group work has also become the centerpiece of my psychoanalytic practice.  When we gather for the explicit purpose of building community we are exposed to our weakness and we are exposed to our strength.  This complete, undistorted view of ourselves, this processing movement toward authenticity provides the new paradigm from which we learn to operate our minds and our bodies in a manner conducive to health, success and happiness…..

Charity still begins at home.

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on-line talk therapy.com (fall-schedule) & a brief blog on perspective

Well, one more summer, one more whirl-wind ride through the universe and we arrive at, now.

summer 2013

I always feel in sync with the  Jewish Holidays, because the new year always begins in September for me.  Mindfulness in Psychoanalysis will have its doors opened on Tuesday September 10th at 297 Wickenden Street in Providence.  Also individual appointments can also be made for meetings at the Lake house in Charlestown beginning on Thursday September 12th.

I look forward to seeing some people that I have not seen all summer and I look forward to continued work with those folks who have maintained their analysis by phone or by analytic scripting.

The Groups will meet at the same schedule as last year:

Tuesday Group:   September 10 through October 12th    &    November 12th  through December 17th

Wednesday:          September 11 through October 15th    &     November 14th through  December 18th

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

There will be 12 groups to the fall semester in Providence.  The break in october will be for three weeks and there are a number of options for how to work during those three weeks that I will be in the St. Augustine Office.  Suggestions and opinions will determine how we deal with the three weeks away mid-semester…..I have a capable co-therapy partner is one option I am considering.

Another new item is the method of payment for group.  You can elect to pay in advance for the entire 12 week course, or you can pay as you have in the past at the end of the month or at each session.  If you must use a credit card for pay-in advance then there is a 12% sur-charge for the processing fee.  If you pay in cash or check in advance you may give yourselves a 12% discount.

Of course, talk to me individually about fee negotiating.

If you are new to my practice you may not know that I insist on a negotiated fee.  I feel strongly that this talk about money and the impact that it has on what we can and can not do, is foundational to the analytic relationship.

I hope to see you all very soon.  I am looking forward to studying together some of the patterns that came up over the summer for some folks.  Many of the individual conflicts that we talked about would be great fodder for our collective mill.  As you know about me.  I love the process of analytic groups.  They represent the most basic system of order know to man–the consensus .  We toss our conflicts around and we look around at Other’s tossed-around conflicts and we wonder if order can be made from the chaos.

It can, and it does once the primary resistances are cleared away making room for a new perspective to invade the strong ego.  New perspectives are what is needed to stop the old repetitions.  Often we are so in love with our own beliefs it becomes impossible to tell the difference between a sacred belief and a delusion.

The fear of shame that is at the core of a narcissistic wound, is itself an infant in a pre-verbal stage of development.  Regression, that nasty and hasty rush back to a state of pure sensation is enough to trip up any one of us.  We all have it, we all suffer with it.  It is not a neurosis or a mental condition.  No, it is a source of information.  Information that has lodged itself into our bodies and acts out in a multitude of painful somatic and chaotic behaviors.  When our bodies yell they do so with pain.  But the yelling is in vain if you only quell it, or worst pay no attention to it.  The Pain of a somatic situation is a message that something is wrong with the organism and a “new-perspective” will be needed if the pain of the repetition is to be understood.

New perspectives, (especially those that come from the heart, the instincts, or the soul) are central to our connection with all of sentient life.  They connect us with nature, with the elements of the universe that can have a natural and positive impact on our journey “whirling through space in complete darkness on a spinning ball with no one guiding the ship,” as on patient put it this summer.

PRACTICAL Information:

My hours of Analytic Time are very flexible, my practice is a part of my life, not an addendum or an artificial add-on.  Consequently talking and working with people who are lost in an internal conflict is a challenge that i welcome with great pride and that I perform with a relative high degree of success.  The object of a successful analysis is knowledge.   We need to know  how to get health, happiness and success.  The delusions that get in the way of this work are the resistance that the analysis recognizes.

As Ever & in-joy,

Dr. A. L. Dussault

Mindfulness in Psychoanalysis

aldussault@gmail.com

(401) 447 5765