Thursday, December 29, 2022

Return To The Organic: An Invitation

In my work I am often struck by how creatively psychic reality is expressed physically. Awareness of this phenomenon can lead to realization; emotions long stifled can be recognized and recovered, then processed and shared. This is no perfect formula: we must attend to the body's challenges, acknowledging the concrete realities of environmental stressors and injuries. But a delicate and attentive relationship can develop between the mind and the body when the link that separates the two, feelings, can be tolerated and symbolized.

When one stifles emotional expression, as so many of us have been raised and socialized to do, emotion can be capped and forced down into the body, where that force can limit the easy, organic movement of the soft tissue that helps waste move through the body and be let go of. This "body-ifying" of emotions does seem to work in the short term; but though the mind can feel immediately relieved of painful emotion, if severe enough, one can be left with a physical difficulty swallowing, eliminating, or both. 

Without a place to put painful emotions, and without a way to digest and eliminate them, one can turn to a partner. This partner, who may be empathic and have difficulty with boundaries, can find herself unwittingly functioning as a receptacle for her partner's unacknowledged pain. When, inevitably, this pain overflows, she may appear to have had a "meltdown", a kind of PTSD attack that relieves the system of psychic waste that cannot be processed, partially because it does not belong to her. This empathic partner might, alternatively, "tighten up" to avoid this kind of overflow or explosion; in this case the pain might be again forced into the body, leading to idiopathic physical pain, or even autoimmune disease.

This interpersonal system of waste management is developed unconsciously as a matter of necessity, and it works for a while. Its breakdown can feel catastrophic for the person who has not developed a method for digesting internal pain; the threat of years of repressed pain flooding the system can feel like an impending tidal wave, the landing of a tornado of chaos, or even a complete "lights out" end to conscious life. However, its breakdown may also be a turning point, a kind of necessary defeat in preparation for an entirely new way of functioning. Picasso's "Every act of creation is first an act of destruction" comes to mind. 

As an individual who has struggled with metabolising his own sense of internal chaos encounters its inevitability, through a breakdown either internally or interpersonally, resistance and rage may dominate the process. One might feel that, after a lifetime of hyperfunctioning and control, the unavoidable reality of chaos is a kind of cruel destiny. One might find the loss of a partner who has functioned as a metaboliser to be an abandonment of almost metaphysical impact. And yet the slow development of the capacity to internally experience and tolerate, then think about and respond to, emotions serves as a new platform for psychic life.

The end of one system of pain management is often the beginning of the development of a new one. When we outsource primary psychic functions to other minds, the day of reckoning does, eventually, come. Yet one usually knows, deep down, that he has had to design a mechanical workaround for a system that should have been functioning organically. He may feel he has cheated the system, though he is not sure how; or that punishment is coming, though he is not sure why. A return to the organic may seem like the end of the world, but it often just marks the end of the reign of the mind. As this ending becomes unavoidable, an invitation to the reign of the psyche, of which the grounded mind is an important functioning part, emerges. This invitation must be accepted for the new beginning to unfurl.