‘Sin your way to heaven and get slaughtered: A byzantine general problem of the self’ (part twenty-two)

Filed under:Sin your Way to Heaven and get Slaughtered — posted by Schizostroller on January 22, 2019 @ 2:49 pm

The last post looked at the experience of voices over one day, this second one looks at a more, what Lacan would call S1, S1, S1, apophenic narrative to give more of a relation of voices to dreams. The experience isn’t over a day but over a twenty-minute period where the experience was intense enough that I needed to lie down.
I had been thinking I could hear gossiping about my personal business outside, this made me very upset. But on top of this it was as if my thoughts were being interrupted, badly, the interruptions seemed to focusing on criticisms with regards what I was eating. With regards both the gossip and the food criticism (seemingly based on the right to decide what I ate as ‘they paid their taxes’) the local community seemed to be involved, I could hear some criticising, some bullying but also some supporting voices and voices defending me.
It became clear that a large part of the community was upset by the worst elements of the abusers attitude and comments. I ended up shouting out of the window in a pique of rage, in what I imagined to be in earshot of the people gossiping but also with in hearing range of where I perceived the voices that seemed to stem from supportive neighbours, I shouted what I thought were the true details of the situation being gossiped about and slandered with the gossip rather than my ‘facts-about-myself’ being discussed as if the slander were true. I then noticed someone leave the local pub (a ‘real’ visual sighting), and heard a voice saying he had left in shame at the level of slander.
At this point the voices seemed to be silenced and much of the cognitive dissent had calmed down. However, then the smaller number of bullies voices increased and became more personal, and the voice experience more internal. I then heard their names shouted out. Dave, Carol and Sara. I had previously been to the police to talk about the perceived harassment, and I shouted the names of the bullies out of the window. “We know them” came the shouts of other voices. Chaos amongst the voices seemed to start up with sounds of the community telling the bullies off.
Later in the evening, as I was lying down I hear voices say that Dave has ‘done a runner’. (The impression my mind created from trying to untangle what the voices were saying was that he was the ring leader winding Carol and Sara up). Sara carried on the harassment alone and Carol tried to make amends. Carol then came under attack from the community defending herself against charges of Nazism. However, her harassment seemed to stop from that point on.

The voice named Sara continues the harassment and then ropes in voices with names Paul, Tim, Heather and Rachel. One by one these voices get pulled out of the fight by ‘the community’ (other unnamed voices). The voice named Dave then comes back for Sara and they ‘go for one last night on the town’ (they ‘paint the town red’) and then the voices all disappear (at least from this narrative arc).
At the time I wrote down associations I had with the names of the voices, Sara was a name that, according to a book I had recently read on Twentieth Century classical music by a writer called Alex Ross, was given to Jewish girls in the holocaust by the Nazis. It was also a name of more than one previous girlfriend, both of whose relationships were short (although in different towns) where the split in one had been bad (with later gossip about me), and the other friendly, we had continued to go out ‘on the town together’ regularly. It was also the name of a cousin who had been involved in musicals when younger, and had a partner still involved I the music scene, whose great grandfather’s (my great, great, grandfather and my father’s great grandfather) Jewish East End roots I had written about a few years before and then got paranoid about (partly because my mother who told me the story may have confabulated some of it, as I found out later). My cousin’s name when using her maiden name is the same as a feminist Foucault scholar who I had read before moving to this new town, before my daughter was born, with regards running themes of voices and unresolved cognitive conflicts, it was whilst my daughter was in the High Care Dependency Unit at Great Ormond Street when she was first born, but after I had started my PhD that (was not specialising in, but) included a lot of work based on Foucault scholarship, that I found myself sitting by my daughter’s bedside with the name “FOUCAULT, FOUCAULT, FOUCAULT” screaming through my head and chasing me through the halls of the hospital. This led me to break down and have to return back home leaving my partner there, and then set up a series of events and a poor future relationship with hospitals and my daughter’s care needs after that.

Dave was the name of a ‘voice personality’ used by another mental health survivor who had bullied me on line. But was also the name of two old friends from same town as the Sara I had gone ‘on the town with’ who both ended up with schizophrenia. It is also the name of a character in a book by Will Self I had recently read, who was a taxi driver, I job I had also had previously. It was also a job I had in the town where I had the friendly relationship with the ex-girlfriend Sara, shortly before my breakdown and later hospitalisation.

The relationship with the name in the Alex Ross book seemed to be related to the fact that my partner’s dad converts Jews as his Christian mission and as part of that mission teaches about the holocaust in schools.

I would also point out that it during this voice episode my wife told me she has ‘come on’ her period. It is after this that Dave comes back to take Sara on one last night on the town (and paint the town red) before they both leave. There is clearly a relation to relationship stress here, to libidinous desires and frustration, with Sara playing different roles, but possibly related to my partner and her state of mind at the time. Given this as a period where we were both exhausted and often cranky due to the amount of time my daughter was in and out of hospital as well as the care at home.
My voices later ‘informed me’ that Carol had worked in a sandwich packing factory. I had recently come across a social media meme joke about how actual real-world help was better than thoughts and prayers which didn’t really do anything, with the punchline by the male, American, black comedian being ‘make me a fucking sandwich or something’. I had also in the past worked in a meat packing factory in Kentish Town in London (although I knew no Carols there, it was at Christmas and I spent most of the temporary job packing frozen turkeys).
I wonder if this is also associated with the eating voices, as eating is often associated with ‘control’, food disorders are sometimes considered to be related to the fact that putting food in one’s mouth is the last stop of control over one’s own body. At the time my son was struggling with his food as a picky eater due to the stress of our circumstances and of course my daughter was peg-fed as she couldn’t swallow food without aspirating. So the eating and the gossip and bullying all seem to indicate relations to control issues and stress. As well as some relation to the sandwich joke, and relation to Christmas and packing factories. My father’s mother had an anxiety swallow issue that stemmed from her father dying when she was a young adult at Christmas. At the time whilst there is an association with my partner’s father mentioned here I had no contact and no support at all from my own father. Is there a ‘substitute’ issue here too?
With regards the family relationship Heather is the name of my sister-in-law although that name only takes a small role, and oddly seems to be the only name with a direct reference, the other names being code for other people. But basically, this period seems to be about relationship struggles, interference, frustration with work, I get voices that bring taxi driving up often (along with the ‘get a job’ voice from the last post), a job I have down in three different cities and is often my fall-back job when able to work but don’t have work experience. There also seems to be an aspect that whilst before my daughter was born and I had my second breakdown I had been working on changing my ‘job skills’ but they had been frustrated. The ‘on the town’ references seem to be both a desire to enjoy myself, get out of the house, and a reference to the reasons for my partner’s ‘mood’ although it is interesting to know that upon being given the information my voices ‘leave’, the gossip Sara turning to the friendly Sara. As mentioned in last post the ‘gossip’ seems to be related to a wish for recognition, perhaps tempered with disappointment with the lack of support my partner and I were receiving, other voices at the time spent a lot of time calling me ‘ungrateful’.
I would like to point out that this is a light ‘voice work’ as I am not prepared to go to deep into my unconscious (neither was Freud), especially not the more libidinous aspects, which will be involved, on public record, that work is best done with a therapist. But hopefully I have given enough information and done enough voice work here to open up the possibility of such forms of voice interpretation.


‘Sin your way to heaven and get slaughtered: A byzantine general problem of the self’ (part twenty-one)

Filed under:Sin your Way to Heaven and get Slaughtered — posted by Schizostroller on January 15, 2019 @ 2:06 pm

As we go through the disparate voice statements I heard in one day, the next one, which takes the form of  ‘Get a job’, seems self-explanatory, if it were not for the fact that Freud warns us that the secondary agency makes manifestation of content often far from simple. But let’s start with the obvious I have felt persecuted for my benefit status since the Tories got in, I was even aware that the Household survey showed that whilst attitudes to disability benefits had held stable for twenty or so years, tolerance towards them took a distinct drop after 2010, which is quite likely to be a direct consequence of the increase in ‘benefit-bashing’ programs on TV and intentional policy, something activist groups like disabled People Against the Cuts as well as opposition MPs and the UN itself, have all acknowledged has created a hostile environment towards those on disability benefits. So perhaps the phrase ‘get a job’ highlights my feelings of some projected hostility towards my position out there. But perhaps there is something more to the latent content, it is clear I feel frustrated, my mental health had improved some time ago and 4 years earlier I had been working full time as a taxi driver (I had earlier than that got voices about ‘the knowledge’, although this (I don’t want to go too much into this here) seemed to be related to knowledge about ‘voice hearing’ perhaps that I had previously facilitated a ‘hearing voices’ group, that my PhD was exploring psychosis, so I had some knowledge. I also got voices about McDonalds which sometimes came across saying I should stop worrying about running a business or trying to do my PhD (I had not withdrawn at this point), or stand up for my rights as a carer, but knuckle under, give in to right wing demand and get a job at McDonald’s. But again it is more complex as my wife’s maiden name is McDonald and by this time my daughter’s care had moved to Oxford John Radcliffe, and the parent’s accommodation for the children treated there was funded by the charitable wing of McDonald’s fast food chain and was the name of that accommodation wing), and so on top of getting behind on with the academic demands of my PhD, I was considerably more ill than I had been ever before. So, I was getting annoyed, angry and ashamed with myself that I had taken several steps back from my previous position, which itself had taken a lot of work and effort to get to. But also, there was an element that I just want to get out the house and do something else (I would later get agoraphobia due to the conflicting emotional demands, almost as a form of my body and psyche telling me to just rest). I was sick of the struggling with bills and worrying whether I could pay this month’s rent, and wanted to be earning more than I was getting as an income. But it was quite clear to those around me I was too ill to do so. So again perhaps this phrase reflects confidence issues with regards self-respect for what I do actually do, the hours mentioned with regards the previous voice statement, the very real demands of my daughter’s care, the support I give my partner who also struggles with me, and the severity of how bad I my mental health was and I needed to give myself a break. But if this is part of the latent content, it must be acknowledged that the reason it manifested itself the way it did probably was how bad the hostile political environment was. So there was a wish fulfilment not to be in this frustrated position, an awareness of the political environment, combined with a lack of (and therefore desire for – a want of) recognition for my circumstances and struggle due to social isolation.

So the ‘get a job’ voice and the next voice perhaps need to be dealt with together, and this is where the comments are less overt in their manifestation – ‘Join the Army’. There is perhaps a representative linkage to the voice ‘get a job’, it seems to indicate self-discipline too. It is also what those with few job prospects are supposed to do within certain traditional cultural beliefs. When I was younger, I was in the Air Force cadets, mainly because my grandfather was in the Air Force before, during and after the war. There is also a more personal return to the voice dialogue aspect of the inner critic, an aspect of my 16-year-old self coming to terms with 4 years of school bullying, and this my traumatised self (this voice had a younger appearance) that has since led to my voice hearing. Now this 16-year-old wanted to become a jet fighter. (Join the army). But I was rejected as I was colour blind. On top of this there was the time of hearing this voice I had been amused with regards an event with my son. I often took him out to give my partner a break, so that she could sleep, and one place I often took him to was a hill fort at the top of a steep hill, where we would play being roman’s attacking the ancient Britons, or vice versa. On this occasion I was following my son up the hill but it was feeling very grumpy, my son was walking ahead happy in his toddler world unaware of my feelings behind me, although he had been obstinate earlier, so I had feelings left over from that, some general tiredness, plus the effort of climbing up the hill, yet looking at my son in front I had a sudden strong feeling of love for him, this hapless child ahead of him happy in his own world. My grandpa who had been in the RAF was also a curmudgeonly grump, although he was kind and gentle man, and he had often taken me out to museums, zoos, but especially air shows. He had died around the time I first had my breakdown in the ‘90s. but I found myself wondering whether he had ever felt this way. That moment passed, and my son and I reached the hill fort. We did the usual and ‘attacked it’ running up over the mounds yelling. Then went and looked over the view to the world below, before we made our way back. As we did so, the air show troupe the Red Arrows flew over, again reminding me and giving me strong feelings of my grandpa, almost ‘as if’ a tribute to his memory provided for me by ‘the Real’. So there were feelings for my grandpa at the time, but also my son, and my son was very interested in the army at the time, he would like to get me to read about soldiers and the military to him, and for a Christmas present I went online and bought him a second hand army surplus (ladies, small) military helmet for him to play dressing up games. So, there was an element of ‘join the army’ play. As mentioned before though I had feelings of isolation in my new role as a carer, and with my left-wing leanings there was an element of the ‘Red Army’ indicating the desire to be more politically active and get solidarity through that means. So, again, the latent content indicated isolation and lack of solidarity or recognition.

So the latent content of the wish fulfilment seems concerned with frustration, isolation lack of recognition for the stress and my circumstances, a desire not to be living like this now. It suggested ongoing exhaustion and the need for self-care and to take a break. So it is interesting to note that my notes taken describing this day indicate that the day before I had decided to take a break, to rest, and during the day, an activity I was loathe to do,  preferring to get housework done or catch up on my PhD, it seems I had sat down and watched the film Catch-22.


‘Sin your way to heaven and get slaughtered: A byzantine general problem of the self’ (part twenty)

Filed under:Sin your Way to Heaven and get Slaughtered — posted by Schizostroller on January 10, 2019 @ 6:58 pm

As we have already observed the view that hearing voices is not necessarily a pathological symptom has already been discussed, as it happens diagnostic tools such as DSM and ICD historically require at least two symptoms only one of which might be hearing voices, so hearing voices alone is theoretically insufficient reason to have a mental health diagnosis. The Hearing Voices Network on its ‘About’ page on its website writes “Hearing voices has been regarded by psychiatry as ‘auditory hallucinations’, and in many cases a symptom of schizophrenia. However not everyone who hears voices has a diagnosis of schizophrenia. There are conflicting theories from psychiatrists, psychologists and voice hearers about why people do hear voices . We believe that they are similar to dreams, symbols of our unconscious minds.” If we turn to Sigmund Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams he famously used his own dreams as source material, and for that reason I shall endeavour to do the same with my own voices (whilst as with Freud leaving some details of a personal nature out). Freud writes:

“Thought is after all nothing but a substitute for a hallucinatory wish; and as it is self-evident that dreams must be wish-fulfilments, since nothing but a wish can set our mental apparatus at work. Dreams, which fulfil their wishes along the short path of regression, have merely preserved for us in that respect a sample of the psychical apparatus’ primary method of working, a method which was abandoned as inefficient. What once dominated waking life, while the mind was still young and incompetent, seems now to have been banished into the night – just as the primitive weapons, the bows and arrows, that have been abandoned by adult men, turn up once more in the nursery. Dreaming is a piece of infantile life that has been superseded. These methods of working on the part of the psychical apparatus, which are normally suppressed in waking hours, become current once more in psychosis and then reveal their incapacity for satisfying our needs in relation to the outside world.
The unconscious wishful impulses clearly try to make themselves effective in daytime as well, and the fact of transference, as well as the psychoses, show us that they endeavour to force their way by way of the preconscious system into consciousness and to obtain control of the power of movement. Thus the censorship between the Ucs. And the Pcs., the assumption of whose existence is positively forced on us by dreams, deserves to be recognized as the watchman of our mental health. Must we not regard it, however, as an act of carelessness on the part of the watchman that it relaxes its activities during the night, allows the suppressed impulses in the Ucs. to find expression, and makes it possible for hallucinatory regression to occur once more? I think not. For even though this critical watchman goes to rest – and we have proof that its slumbers are not deep – it also shuts the door upon the power of movement. No matter what impulses from the normally inhibited Ucs. may prance upon the stage, we need feel no concern; they remain harmless, since they are unable to set in motion the motor apparatus by which alone they might modify the external world. The state of sleep guarantees the security of the citadel that must be guarded. The position is less harmless when what brings about the displacement of forces is not the nightly relaxation in the critical censorship’s output of force, but a pathological intensification of the unconscious excitations while the preconscious is still cathected and the gateway to the power of movement stands open. When this is so, the watchman is overpowered, the unconscious excitations overwhelm the Pcs. and thence obtain control over our speech and actions; or they forcibly bring about hallucinatory regression and direct the course of the apparatus (which was not designed for their use) by virtue of the attraction exercised by perceptions on the distribution of our psychical energy. To this state of things we give the name of psychosis” (p.567-568)

                If we want to give a more contemporary association with modern voice work we might think of the work of those who have found success in Voice Dialogue, as has already been mentioned,, developed for voice hearers from the work of Hal and Sidra Stone, the Talking With Voices therapy developed by psychologists such as Dirk Corsten, Eleanor Longden and Rufus May. In this form of dialogue alienated selves, often including one called the Inner Critic, are invoked, this facet of our multiple selves is supposed to come into our lives early to stop us in advance from feeling such issues as embarrassment (or fear of sanction) or danger, a role as discussed earlier that Freud’s Superego might play. The Stones’ work suggests that this tendency becomes, in many ways, stronger from observing others, however at this moment in the analysis it is sufficient to suggest it is an early ‘watchman’ and hallucinations stem from the attempt of the unconscious to be heard by the conscious, a momentary overpowering of the preconscious (or not so momentary in some cases). In this sense this relates to the relation between latent and manifest content discussed earlier. According to Freud, in dreams the voices try to fulfil a wish, but the ‘watchman’ (the secondary agency) suppresses it, and so the unconscious has to learn to express itself in code, in symbols, in metaphor. If this is the case it should be possible to unpack a psychotic experience using the methods used in Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams. Much work has been done here previously by psychoanalysts, but so much by people who have struggled with psychosis, although it should be noted that Eleanor Longden is a voice hearer herself. There are implications here, Freud stated that he did not believe that the psychotic had enough insight, although Klein and Lacan continued the work on psychosis with varied levels of success.
In Freud’s book The Interpretation of Dreams he used his own dreams on the basis that he wasn’t neurotic. I am using my own experience of voice hearing and thought insertion on the basis that I am psychotic. However, we will both use the current discourse of our time to try to examine these phenomena. In my case the philosophy, psychology and neuroscience has changed and become more complex adding to (and occasionally disproving) the discourse available to Freud at the time.
Back to Freud’s theory though, Freud wrote “In the course of my psycho-analyses of neurotics I already have analysed a thousand dream; but I do not propose to make use of this material in my present introduction to the technique and theory   of dream-interpretation. Apart from the fact that such a course would be open to the objection that these are the dreams of neuropaths, from which no valid inferences could be made as to the dreams of normal people, there is quite another reason that forces this decision upon me. The subject to which these dreams of my patients lead up is always, of course, the case history which underlies their neurosis. Each dream would therefore necessitate a lengthy introduction and an investigation of the nature and aetiological determinants of the psychoneuroses. But these questions are in themselves novelties and highly bewildering and would distract attention from the problem of dreams. On the contrary it is my intention to make use of my present elucidation of dreams as a preliminary step towards solving the more difficult problems of the psychology of the neuroses. If, however, I forgo my principal material, the dreams of my neurotic patients, I must not be too particular about what is left to me. All that remains are such dreams as have been reported to me from time to time by normal persons of my acquaintance, and others as have been quoted as instances in the literature dealing with dream-life. Unluckily, however, none of these dreams are accompanied by the analysis without which I cannot discover a dream’s meaning. My procedure is not so convenient as the popular decoding method which translates any given piece of a dream’s content by a fixed key. I, on the contrary, am prepared to find that the same piece of content may conceal a different meaning when it occurs in various people or in various contexts. Thus it comes about that I am led to my own dreams, which offers a copious and convenient material, derived from an approximately normal person and relating to multifarious occasions of daily life. No doubt I shall be met by doubts of the trustworthiness of ‘self- analyses’ of this kind; and I shall be told that they leave the door open to arbitrary conclusions. In my judgment the situation is in fact more favourable in the case of self-observation than that of other people; at all events we make the experiment and see how far self-analysis takes us with the interpretation of dreams. But I have other difficulties to overcome, which lie within myself. There is some natural hesitation about revealing so many intimate facts about one’s mental life; nor can there be any guarantee against misinterpretations by strangers. But it must be possible to overcome such hesitations. “Tout psychologiste,” writes Delboeuf [1885], “est obligé de faire l’aveu même de ses faiblesses s’il croit par là jeter du jour sur quelque problème obscur.” And it is safe to assume that my readers too will very soon find their initial interest in the indiscretions which I am bound to make replaced by an absorbing immersion in the psychological problems upon which they throw light.’ (p.104-105) As we have observed  with regards the unconscious and the relevance of Freud especially the Interpretation of Dreams, Freud argued that dreams are usually concerned with the previous day but that the censoring part of us means that the part that needs to speak, inform us of our needs, has to do so in code. For our first attempt let’s take some ‘voices’ I hear in one particular day, according to my diary they include statements such as: “Colour blind” “Join the army” “Get a job” and Criticisms of my right to be claiming benefits by a gossip. Let’s work backwards, I had been timesheeting my week to see what I activity I was doing at the time. Given the voices were partially about benefits the n with regards anxiety dreams it seems quite straightforward. In 5 days I pulled 63 hours of child care (including for one of my children who has High Care DLA), house work (affective labour!), PhD work and publishing business, so evidently my right to claim carer’s and have it topped up (as the income generating work is Therapeutic Earnings for only about 5) is legally justified. However, I would like to do more evidently, my business at the time was looking as though it was is close to taking off, but I couldn’t physically put more hours in. This then this was very frustrating. So, then my feelings about myself move from a ‘poor me’ to a ‘bad me’ (in the Richard Bentall sense), and so I seem to have invented as nemesis who is a ‘naïve realist’ but very right wing and prejudiced inner critic. At other times I hear many voices/ alienated inner thoughts and many of them argue with her defending me (as an expression of the solidarity I see out there, however when knackered, miserable and depressed my ego defences fall she ‘walks in’, to do so of course I have had to invent a character/ construct who, symbolically speaking, when confronted with an open door will blame the fact that the door is open for her act of walking through it) but this voice just doesn’t seem to ‘get’ it, even when confronted with her harassment, she defends her right to an opinion, when its pointed out that she is entitled to an opinion but not to harass someone with it, to which she either responds with disrespectful fundamental attribution errors, straw men and ad hominems or she resorts to ‘poor me’ statements, like “silly me”, “oh, it would be my fault” etc . With regards the ‘dream-day’. This period would be around 2014 during the intense period of austerity brought in by the coalition government, around 6 months to a year before the 2015 election that would be one by the Conservative government. So, my social media feed for example would be full of news about the latest example of the punitive austerity regime, as I knew members of both Disabled People Against the Cuts and Recovery in the Bin (this was around the time this second group was formed). If this is manifest content however what could the latent content be. Well, given I was hoping my business was going to take off, perhaps it was a desire not to feel criminalised by the propaganda at the time. As it happens one of the reasons I had moved to the town I was in was the cheap rent, I had done so fed up with being turned down for rentals whenever I moved, I had previously ‘recovered’ and worked full time, so although I had a relapse, I was hoping to be able to use the place as a base to get into paid work where I would be free to move wherever I wanted without having to be worried about the stigma of housing benefit. As it happens writing this later, I am still living in the same place, my mental health having turned worse after my daughter’s birth is improving but I am still unable to work full time. I now get voices that say ‘move’, there are multiple possible reasons for this, but one is the continuing frustration of not being able to ‘avoid’ the stigma if I move. I do not get this voice every day, so the question when I do get it (typing this did not trigger it) is whether there is anything I can trace the day before that would have led to it popping up the next day.
Otherwise the behaviour of the female voice though seems to be similar to games played by those from my childhood who wanted me to ‘be in the wrong’ no matter what I argued, using different strategies to get me into trouble rather than them. A sibling power game. Yet this is an aspect of my own frustration, I am not in regular contact with this family member(s). There are two factor involved here, one my frustration is to do with my limited power, for my unconscious to ‘explain’ the perfectly normal and reasonable frustration of the amount of care and affective labour that I (willingly) do but that (admittedly) frustrates my other dreams that are put on hold, so as Freud argues the secondary agency brings up previous patterns of frustration, or frustrating behaviour. With regards the dream day, we must be honest and remember I am married, my partner also puts in many hours, due to my poor mental health does more of the hospital visits and is exhausted. From observation both myself and my partner often ‘revert’ to habitual behaviour (as opposed to refreshed ‘self-aware’ behaviour) and as my partner who is the same gender as my grandma, mother and sister who all used similar games (although to no extent as severe as the voice behaviour) so she in small-scale, microaggression struggles we have in raising our children exhibits this behaviour as a self-defence mechanism when feeling sensitive and powerless. But, again, in no way as extreme as the voice construct’s behaviour. That I guess is exacerbated by my own ongoing frustration combined with my sensitivity to the hostile political environment. On top of this I also get names of certain ex-girlfriend’s (some more than others) mentioned during periods that this voice comes into play. Although this may involve listening to certain music of my youth (for example) the day before (and I have observed this time interval) rather than the behaviour itself. The last aspect is the presentation of gossip, and in a classic Freudian reversal, whilst the manifest content in part related to certain periods in my late adolescence/ early adulthood where I was the victim of malicious gossip, in fact perhaps it exhibited mine and my partner’s isolation. Not just social isolation but in part the lack of social support we were getting (for our mental health and our daughter’s care needs) due to the service cuts. And my clamouring for some practical support when we were struggling.
In the next post I will continue examining some of these voices, plus examine another voice experience with a more structured narrative than the occasional statements mentioned here.


‘Sin your way to heaven and get slaughtered: A byzantine general problem of the self’ (part nineteen)

Filed under:Sin your Way to Heaven and get Slaughtered — posted by Schizostroller on @ 3:12 pm

Das Beste, was du wissen kannst,
Darfst du den Buben doch nicht sagen.
(Goethe – Faust, Part 1 Scene 4)

To take up the question of dream distortion Freud analyses one of his own dreams, the upshot of the interpretation is that it is a dream that presents some affection but seem to be some disguised insult, that is the “distortion was shown in this case to be deliberate and to be a means of dissimulation.” (p.141). Freud suggests that although some dreams are undisguised fulfilments of wishes, “in cases where the wish-fulfilment is unrecognisable, where it has been disguised, there must have existed some inclination to put up a defence against the wish; and owing to this defence the wish was unable to express itself in a distorted shape.” (p.141). Freud attempts to find a social parallel and finds an analogy in situations where there are two persons, “one of whom possess a certain degree of power which the second is obliged to take into account. In such a case the second person will distort his psychical acts, or as we might put it, will dissimulate”. (p.142). This he also relates to politeness and social convention. Freud mentions the obfuscation political writers use to avoid censorship, “the stricter the censorship, the more far-reaching will be the disguise and more ingenious too may be the means employed for putting the reader on the scent of the true meaning. The fact that the phenomena of censorship and of dreams distortion correspond down to their smallest details justifies us in presuming that they are similarly determined. We may therefore suppose that dreams are given their shape in human beings by the operation of two psychical forces (or we may describe them as currents or systems); and that one of these forces constructs the wish which is expressed by the dream, while the other exercises a censorship upon this dream-wish and, by the use of that censorship, forcibly brings about a distortion in the expression of the wish.” (142-144). Freud concludes that everything from the first agency must pass through the second agency to reach consciousness as such “we see the process of a thing becoming conscious as a specific psychical act, distinct from and independent of the process of formation of a presentation or idea; and we regard consciousness as sense organ which perceives data that arise elsewhere.” (p.144). Freud continues, “bearing in mind our assumption of the existence of two psychical agencies, we can further say that distressing dreams do in fact contain something that is distressing to the second agency, but something which at the same time fulfils a wish on the part of the first agency. They are wishful dreams in so far as every dream arises from the first agency; the relation of the second agency towards dreams is of a defensive not of a creative kind.” (p.144-145). As such we cannot understand dreams through the actions of the second agency alone. Freud reaffirms his statement “A dream is a (disguised) fulfilment of a (supressed or repressed) wish.” (p.160).
The application of procedure for Freud’s dreamwork allows him to separate latent from manifest dreams, but the three characteristics of memory in dreams Freud suggests are as follows:
“1. Dreams show a clear preference for the impressions of the previous days.
2. They make their selection upon different principles from our waking memory, since they do not recall what is essential and important but what is subsidiary and unnoticed.
3. They have at their disposal the earliest impressions of our childhood and even bring up detiuls from that period of our life which, once again, strike us as trivial and which in our waking state we believe to have long since forgotten.” (p.163-164). These details are expressed in the manifest content.
With regards characteristic 1., Freud is quite specific, “the question may be raised whether the point of contact with the dream is invariably the events of the immediately preceding day or whether it may go back to the impressions derived from a rather extensive period of the most recent past…. I am inclined to decide in favour of the exclusiveness of the claims of the day immediately preceding the dream – which I shall speak of as the ‘dream-day’. Whenever it has seemed at first that the source of a dream was an impression two or three days earlier, closer enquiry has convinced me that the impression had been recalled on the previous day and thus it was possible to show that a reproduction of the impression, occurring on the previous day, could be inserted between the day of the original event and the time of the dream; moreover it has been possible to indicate the contingency on the previous day which may have led to the recalling of the older impressions.” (p.166). Freud clarifies “the instigating agent of every dream is to be found among the experiences which one has not yet ‘slept on’. Thus, the relations of a dream’s content to impressions of the recent past (with the single exception of the day immediately preceding the night of the dream) differ in no respect from its relations to impressions dating from any remoter period. Dreams can select their material from any part of the dreamer’s life, provided only that there is a train of thought linking the experience of the dream-day (the ‘recent’ impressions) with the earlier ones.” (p.169).
The question with regards voice hearing would be how much the previous 24-hour period affects the next day’s voices manifest content, and the distortion any secondary agency may have on the elucidating the latent content of voice hearing from the manifest content. This takes awareness of the possibility that Freud may be right on this, and from thence reflection on the process. I have done this, and I will use the next article to demonstrate from my own psychotic experience with examples of my own voice hearing. If there is any relation it might then be necessary to question what this secondary agency may be in waking life. As well as updating any issues with Freud with regards advances in modern psychology and therapy. I will also be in future articles pursuing the relation of this secondary agency with regards the Word Salads as described by RD Laing, and signifyin(g) as described by Henry Louis Gates Jr. Before relating it to biopolitics, but first I want to continue looking at Freud and dreams, and its relation to Deleuze and Guattari on the machinic unconscious.


‘Sin your way to heaven and get slaughtered: A byzantine general problem of the self’ (part eighteen)

Filed under:Sin your Way to Heaven and get Slaughtered — posted by Schizostroller on January 2, 2019 @ 3:04 pm

In examining this Royal Road, Freud first clarifies his idea that every dream is a wish fulfilment, he states that people would question this assertion: “’There is nothing new,’ I shall be told, ‘in the idea that some dreams are to be regarded as wish-fulfilments; the authorities noticed that fact long ago… But to assert that there are no dreams other than wish fulfilment dreams in only one more unjustifiable generalisation, though fortunately one easy to disprove…’” (p.134). And Freud suggests that a counter-argument would be distressing anxiety dreams. He responds “It does in fact look as though anxiety dreams make it impossible to assert as a general proposition… that dreams are wish-fulfilments; indeed they stamp any proposition as an absurdity… Nevertheless, there is no great difficulty in meeting these apparently conclusive objections. It is only necessary to take notice of the fact that my theory is not based on a consideration of the manifest content of dreams but refers to the thoughts which are shown by the work of interpretation to lie behind dreams. We must make a contrast between the manifest and the latent content of dreams. There is no question that there are dreams whose manifest content is the most distressing kind. But has anyone tried to interpret such dreams? To reveal the latent thoughts behind them? If not, then the two objections raised against my theory will not hold water: it still remains possible that distressing dreams and anxiety dreams, when they have been interpreted may turn out to be fulfilment of wishes.” (p.135).
Is it this that Deleuze and Guattari question when they state “These indifferent signs follow no plan, they function at all levels and enter into any and every sort of connection; each one speaks its own language, and establishes syntheses with others that are quite direct along transverse vectors, whereas the vectors between the basic elements that constitute them are quite indirect” and yet they seem to acknowledge manifest content when they say “No chain is homogeneous; all of them resemble, rather a succession of characters from different alphabets in which an ideogram, a pictogram, a tiny image of an elephant passing by, or a rising sun may suddenly make its appearance. In a chain that mixes together phonemes, morphemes, etc., without combining them, papa’s moustache, mama’s upraised arm, a ribbon, a little girl, a cop, a shoe suddenly turn up. Each chain fragments of other chains from which it ‘extracts’ a surplus value, just as the orchid code ‘attracts’ the figure of the wasp: both phenomena demonstrate the surplus value of a code. It is an entire system of shuntings along certain tracks, and of selections by lot, that bring about partially dependent, aleatory phenomena bearing a close resemblance to a Markov chain. The recordings and transmissions that have come from the internal codes, from the outside world, from one region to another of the organism, all intersect, following the endlessly ramified paths of the great disjunctive synthesis” The relation to latent content is understood thus: “If this constitutes a system of writing, it is a writing inscribed on the very surface of the Real: a strangely polyvocal kind of writing, never a biunivocalized, linearized one; a transcursive system of writing, never a discursive one; a writing that constitutes the entire domain of the ‘real inorganization’ of the passive syntheses, where we would search in vain for something that might be labelled the Signifier – writing that ceaselessly composes and decomposes the chains into signs that have nothing that impels them to become signifying.” But the clincher where they differ from Freud is this: “The vocation of the sign is to produce desire, engineering it in every direction.” The tendency for desire to engineer in every direction is the relation of Freud’s wish fulfilment to Deleuze and Guattari’s machinism. This is clearly a move towards cybernetics post-Saussure, and Lacan’s working of Freud after Saussure. And for this reason, in a while, it is worth looking at Laing’s understanding of machines as well. However, I would first like to momentarily return to Voice Dialogue and point out that the interpretation of voices by this technique still retains the knowledge that manifest content and latent content are separate. However, to look at this as a biopolitical point of view one must then look at machines in Marx’s Grundrisse, and Foucault’s understanding of the relation of machines to ordo-liberalism as an aspect of biopolitics in order to then return to the use of Voice Dialogue (and CBT for that matter) in contemporary mental health treatment, why one gets widespread policy assent (especially under austerity) and the other still lacks traction. In the meantime, let’s return to Freud’s theory of the dreamwork and its relation to the unconscious.
Upon elucidating the concept of latent and manifest content of dreams to explain wish-fulfilment in anxiety dreams, Freud suggests to effectively interpret the latent content as part of the dreamwork one must ask another question which is “Why is it that dreams with an indifferent content, which turn out to be wish-fulfilments, do not express their meanings undisguised?” that is; what is the origin of dream-distortion?


‘Sin your way to heaven and get slaughtered: A byzantine general problem of the self’ (part seventeen)

Filed under:Sin your Way to Heaven and get Slaughtered — posted by Schizostroller on December 26, 2018 @ 3:30 pm

However whilst Deleuze and Guattari acknowledge Lacan when they talk of the discovery of a fertile domain of a code of the unconscious incorporating the entire chain – or several chains – of meaning, they then state that this domain is indeed strange due to its multiplicity – “a multiplicity so complex that we can scarcely speak of one chain or even one code of desire. The chains are called ‘signifying chains’ (chaines signifiantes) because they are made up of signs, but these signs are not themselves signifying. The code resembles not so much a language as a jargon, an open-ended, polyvocal formation. The nature of the signs within it is insignificant, as these signs have little or nothing to do with what supports them.” (p.38).
what supports these signs is the ‘body without organs’. “These indifferent signs follow no plan, they function at all levels and enter into any and every sort of connection; each one speaks its own language, and establishes syntheses with others that are quite direct along transverse vectors, whereas the vectors between the basic elements that constitute them are quite indirect.” (p.38). There is a materialist understanding of the unconscious here that is worth comparing with Freud’s understanding on the unconscious in the Interpretation of Dreams, however first it is worth noting that although Deleuze and Guattari acknowledge Antonin Artaud as the source of their theory of the Body Without Organs, reference to bodies without organs goes back to Schopenhauer. This is important as Schopenhauer had a major influence on not just Nietzsche but also Freud and Bergson, both of whom influenced Deleuze, although to fully get the ‘phenomenology’ here, we must understand that Spinoza brings the materialism in here. So, to recap, in Deleuze, there is an anti-Hegelianism that goes back to Difference and Repetition (Schopenhauer famously was a contemporary at the same university as Hegel) that is influenced by a combination of Schopenhauer’s vitalism and Spinoza’s materialism. So, to look at this understanding of the unconscious we can trace historical roots that go back thus far (and further to Greek atomism) but to do so we will use Freud for the Schopenhauer influence, and Antonio Damasio for the Spinoza influence. However in doing so we will compare and contrast with the influence of Hegel, at least the influence of machines, to Marx’s theory in the Grundrisse.
Firstly though it was in World as Will and Idea, Book 2, Section 23 that Schopenhauer wrote: “It remains only for us to take the final step, and to extend our thesis to all those forces which in nature act in accordance with universal, immutable laws under which all bodies move, being wholly without organs, are not susceptible to stimuli, and cannot perceive motive.” And it is with this in mind that we delve into Deleuze and Guattari’s picture of the unconscious: “The disjunctions characteristic of these chains still do not involve any exclusion, however, since exclusions can arise only as a function of inhibiters and repressers that eventually determine the support and firmly define a specific, personal subject. No chain is homogeneous; all of them resemble, rather a succession of characters from different alphabets in which an ideogram, a pictogram, a tiny image of an elephant passing by, or a rising sun may suddenly make its appearance. In a chain that mixes together phonemes, morphemes, etc., without combining them, papa’s moustache, mama’s upraised arm, a ribbon, a little girl, a cop, a shoe suddenly turn up. Each chain fragments of other chains from which it ‘extracts’ a surplus value, just as the orchid code ‘attracts’ the figure of the wasp: both phenomena demonstrate the surplus value of a code. It is an entire system of shuntings along certain tracks, and of selections by lot, that bring about partially dependent, aleatory phenomena bearing a close resemblance to a Markov chain. The recordings and transmissions that have come from the internal codes, from the outside world, from one region to another of the organism, all intersect, following the endlessly ramified paths of the great disjunctive synthesis. If this constitutes a system of writing, it is a writing inscribed on the very surface of the Real: a strangely polyvocal kind of writing, never a biunivocalized, linearized one; a transcursive system of writing, never a discursive one; a writing that constitutes the entire domain of the ‘real inorganization’ of the passive syntheses, where we would search in vain for something that might be labelled the Signifier – writing that ceaselessly composes and decomposes the chains into signs that have nothing that impels them to become signifying. The vocation of the sign is to produce desire, engineering it in every direction.” (p.38-39).
If we first go over dreams as the ‘royal road to the unconscious’ for Freud. Freud states quite specifically that “Dreams are not to be likened to the unregulated sounds that rise from a musical instrument struck by a blow of some external force instead of by a player’s hand; they are not meaningless, they are not absurd; they do not imply that one portion of our store of ideas is asleep while another portion is beginning to wake. On the contrary, they are psychical phenomena of complete validity – fulfilment of wishes; they can be inserted into the chain of intelligible waking mental acts; they are constructed by a highly complicated activity of the mind.” (p.122). This seems to be the very obverse of what Deleuze and Guattari are claiming. Freud is claiming that there is indeed a chain of signification, even whilst we are asleep. The difference for Deleuze and Guattari relates both to the body (albeit a body without organs – there is a reason for this) and the introduction of machines into human artifice, especially as a product of the industrial revolution. One that made its way into psychology via cybernetics (such as Bateson).
But to have a point of contrast, let us familiarise ourselves with Freud’s concept of dreams and their relation to the unconscious. For Freud, perhaps the entire structure of his book the Interpretation of Dreams can be premised on the question of “if, as we are told by dream-interpretation, a dream represents a fulfilled wish, what is the origin of the remarkable and puzzling form in which the wish-fulfilment is expressed?” For some, including behaviourists, not too much is to be read into dream interpretation, nor for that matter the unconscious, what matters is observable behaviour and how this can be adapted or persuaded. Deleuze and Guattari do not want to jettison the unconscious, but they do want to make it more ‘machinic’. Freud continues asking “what alteration have the dream-thoughts undergone before being changed into the manifest dream which we remember when we wake up? How does that alteration take place? What is the source of the material that has been modified into the dream? What is the source of the peculiarities that are to be observed in the dream-thoughts – such for instance, as the fact that they may be mutually contradictory? Can the dream tell us anything new about our internal psychical processes? Can its content correct opinions we have had throughout the day?” (p.122-123).


‘Sin your way to heaven and get slaughtered: A byzantine general problem of the self’ (part sixteen)

Filed under:Sin your Way to Heaven and get Slaughtered — posted by Schizostroller on October 21, 2018 @ 10:11 am

Sentence structure varies in length from the very brief of commands such as “Go!” to the very long. Most sentences on average contain around 20 words. From this it has been estimated that there are a possible 100,000,000,000,000,000,000 possible sentences in the English language. There are some sequences of words that aren’t sentences. These words are considers unacceptable, one can argue that this is because there are prescriptive and descriptive rules about how sentence structure works. These rules are known as syntax, grammatical rules that determine the sequence of words that constitute a sentence. Some would say that grammatical acceptability is related to meaning. However nonsense writing such as that of Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky would disprove this. The acceptability of sentence structure lies more in phrase structure. Behind this phrase structure lie the sentence’s underlying structure (or ‘deep structure’), which provides the starting point for semantic meaning, e.g., who does what to whom. However one can move around the element’s structure, perhaps for stylistic reasons, or to draw attention to one element rather than another, this is the surface structure (or s-structure). This is the structure of the sentence expressed in speech. A sentence’s underlying structure cannot be observed directly, instead it is inferred from various patterns in the surface structure. When an element of a sentence vacates a position to move somewhere else, it doesn’t depart cleanly. Instead it leaves a trace behind. The trace isn’t expressed out loud, but is evident in the speech pattern. These traces thus allow us to document that elements have been moved around and from where they have been moved. This then establishes that different types of sentence, such as questions, are not formed by running through the appropriate phrase structure rules, but by moving elements around in a tree structure in accord with the movement rules.
This relates to sentence formation, but how do we comprehend the sentences we read or hear? How do we parse sentences? We know that subjects use phrase structure to interpret the sentence in the first place. But how do we figure out the phrase structure? It seems listeners and readers use phrase endings to do so. But how do they identify such phrase endings in more complicated sentences? Parsing a sentence turns out to be a complex process due to the variety of sentence forms and also due to ambiguity. Temporary ambiguity can occur within a sentence, where the first part of sentence is ambiguous but the second part clears things up. It seems we use a variety of different strategies to parse sentences. For example as a matter of convenience, we assume sentences for the most part are active, rather than passive (at least in English) and listen out for them, although this can cause issues parsing when passive sentences are encountered. Other factors involved in parsing are function words and the various morphemes that signal syntactic role. There is also minimal attachment, this means that throughout a sentence the listener or reader looks out for the simplest phrase structure that will accommodate all the words heard or read so far. Parsing is also guided by semantic factors, not just syntax. With regards words for which there are multiple referents for the same word, then people tend to assume its most frequent meaning.
So we now have a combination of syntax and parsing, and we bring these to bear in parsing language, but how do these factors combine? The interactionist view is that all one’s knowledge comes to bear on a sentence simultaneously. Then there is the modular account, where one uses different sources of information at different points whilst parsing the sentence. One might first try to analyse the syntax without consideration of semantic elements, only bringing these elements to bear once the syntax has been understood. Although the interactionist model seems a best fit when it is observed that moment-by-moment, word-by-word parsing is influenced by semantics when trying to untangle syntax. But the picture is different when we look at word identification. When an ambiguous word is used, there is a delay, so initially in parsing word identification is quite open, but as the latter parts of a sentence come into play, the reader or listener make their selection and the ambiguity is shut down to one possible interpretation.
Although we have looked at the complexity of interpreting language, this description still understates things, firstly there are pronouns. Pronouns without specific referents can be very ambiguous. The sketch with the Knights Who Say Ni in the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail who are ultimately defeated by an overuse of the word ‘it’ is a case in point. Then, especially with regards spoken word there is prosody, the rise and fall of intonation and the pattern of pauses, the rhythm and pitch cues of speech, which plays an important part in speech perception. It can reveal the mood of the speaker, it can, through effect, direct the listener’s attention to a specific focus or theme in the sentence. It can also render unambiguous a sentence that would otherwise be confusing.
And after examining this we have not dealt with how language is produced. How does one turn ideas, intentions and queries into actual sentences? How does language come from thought? This was partially covered by Vygotsky. Likewise after parsing a sentence how does one particular sentence integrate with earlier or subsequent sentences? With regards this we have looked at Wittgenstein, although there is also the issue knowledge of pragmatics, that is how language is ordinarily used. However this proceeds into on the one hand literature, the other politics, communicative ethics and rhetoric. We however want, for the moment to venture backwards to the unconscious and back to our discussion of Deleuze and machines. First though it is useful to refresh are discussion of Vygotsky and inner thought. For the psychotic and voice hearers, at least those distressed, there are clearly issues of ambiguity in the voices heard. Is this as Vygotsky argues the issue of predicates? We have seen that in a sentence of at least two parts it is the first part of a sentence that is ambiguous, but if inner thought is based on predicates, do we only hear one part. Take the statement ‘she passed’. Is that someone dying? Missing a turning in a journey? Passing an exam? Passing a ball in a game of football? But it is ‘heard’ so we have the phoneme issue in spoken word, so there is (like in the game Charades) a ‘sounds like’ element, so is the statement ‘she parsed’ instead? Perhaps we have a further clue when the statement is revealed as a longer one: ‘She passed the sentence’. Perhaps it was a mishearing after all and it is ‘she parsed the sentence’, someone (‘she’ bearing in mind ‘who’ is still ambiguous) has understood a sentence. But maybe not perhaps the referent is a judge and the judge has passed sentence on a criminal? As has already been implied this is before the issue of ‘referents’ with regards pronouns is taken into account. At we have yet to question the possibility of metaphor as argued by Freudian psychoanalytic theory. However, from this issue with sentence parsing in voice hearing, I would like to remind, for the third time, of Vygotsky’s statement that “while in external speech thought is embodied in words, in inner speech words die as they bring forth thought” and that “a thought may be compared to a cloud shedding a shower of words” and in the next article we will return to Deleuze and Gauttari and the machinic unconscious, that the chains thought in the unconscious are called ‘signifying chains’ (chaines signifiantes) because they are made up of signs, but these signs themselves are not signifying. The code resembles not so much language as jargon, an open-ended, polyvocal formation.”


‘Sin your way to heaven and get slaughtered: A byzantine general problem of the self’ (part fifteen)

Filed under:Sin your Way to Heaven and get Slaughtered — posted by Schizostroller on October 19, 2018 @ 9:02 pm

Deleuze and Guattari suggest that the understanding of the machinic unconscious can be traced back to Lacan. However they argue this unconscious is a multiplicity “but how very strange thisw domain seems, simply because it’s a multiplicity – a multiplicity so complex that we can scarcely speak of one chain or even one code of desire. The chains are called ‘signifying chains’ (chaines signifiantes) because they are made up of signs, but these signs themselves are not signifying. The code resembles not so much language as jargon, an open-ended, polyvocal formation.” (p.38). In this sense we can see we are looking at that part of thought beyond inner speech identified by Vygotsky where thought breaks up “But while in external speech thought is embodied in words, in inner speech words die as they bring forth thought” or “A thought may be compared to a cloud shedding a shower of words.”
I think it is appropriate for the moment to look at language from a cognitive perspective, and then look at some of the cognitive underpinnings of language use, specifically ‘connectionism’. Generally, in cognitive theory, sentences are considered to be comprised of ‘morphemes’, these are the smallest language units that carry meaning, these can be roughly split up into content morphemes and function morphemes. In the sentence “The umpires talked to the players”, the content morphemes would be ‘the’, ‘umpire’, ‘talk’, ‘to’ , ‘the’ and ‘play’, whilst the function morphemes would be ‘s’, ‘ed’, ‘er’ and ‘s’. In spoken language morphemes are conveyed by sounds called ‘phonemes’. Speech production is categorised via places of articulation and manner of production, that are affected by airflow and the movement, shape and physical characteristics of the mouth and vocal chords (think Watson’s theory of inner speech as sub-vocalisation). With voice hearing specifically though, we might think perhaps, especially with regards acousmatic voice hearing especially (i.e. voices heard through the ‘sound’ of distant, muffled speech) that speech perception and language parsing is important. One might think less so with regards ‘inner voice hearing’ although with regards Freud’s phrase ‘he is suffering from memories’ and that we have memories of things said and described we might at least entertain that such perception is still relevant, whilst also trying to hold at the same time Vygotsky’s arguments of inner speech, and Deleuze and Guattari’s polyvocal formations. “Features of speech production also correspond to what listeners hear when they are listening to speech. Thus phonemes that differ only in one production feature sound similar to each other; phonemes that differ in multiple features sound more distinct. This is reflected in the pattern of errors subjects make, when they try to understand speech in a noisy environment. Subjects misperceptions are usually off by just one feature, so that [p] is confused with [b] (a difference only in voicing), [p] with [t] (a difference only in place of articulation), and so on… This makes it seem like the perception of speech may be a straightforward matter: A small number of features is sufficient to characterise any particular speech sound. All the perceiver needs to do, therefore is detect these features and, with this done, the speech sounds are identified… As it turns out, though, speech perception is far more complicated than this.” (p.351). One of the problems is that “within [a] stream of speech there are no markers to indicate where one phoneme ends and the next begins. Likewise, there are often no gaps, or signals of any sort, to indicate the boundaries between successive syllables or successive words. Thus, as a first step prior to phoneme identification, you need to “slice” this stream into the appropriate segments – a step known as speech segmentation.” Reisberg points out that common sense suggests to us that we are usually convinced that there are pauses between words that mark word boundaries for us, but, he argues, this is an illusion and that we often ‘hear’ pauses that aren’t there. An example is when we measure the speech stream captured by a recording device on sequencing software, or when we listen to a foreign language we don’t know so are unable to put the word boundaries in ourselves, so as a consequence we hear a continuous, uninterrupted flow of sound. Another problem is coarticulation which refers to the fact that in speech we do not utter one phoneme at a time, they overlap. So as you are uttering the ‘s’ in soup your mouth is already saying the next vowel and so on to the next phoneme. “These complications – the need for segmentation in a continuous speech stream; the variations caused by coarticulation; and the variations form speaker to speaker or form occasion to occasion – render speech perception surprisingly complex.” (p.353). So how do we manage it? Well, we are generally able to supplement what we hear with expectations (conventions) and knowledge, our Lebensweld, and this guides our interpretation. This can also lead to ‘restoration effects’ where subjects hear ‘speech’ sounds that are not presented. However, generally, inferences are used to fill in gaps, as are redundancies (such as the predictability of certain conventions with regards phonemes in the English language).
However these are not the only means we have for deciphering speech, there is also categorical perception, this is the trendency to hear speech sounds ‘merely’ as members of a category e.g. the category of [z] sounds or the category of [p] sounds. But Reisberg continues “more precisely, we are quite adept ay hearing differences between categories, but we are relatively insensitive to variations within the category” (p.354), so we are better at distinguishing [p] from [b] but not so much amongst differing [p]s, Reisberg argues that “of course ,this insensitivity is precisely what we want, since it allows us to separate the wheat from the chaff: We easily detect what category a sound belongs in, but we are virtually oblivious to the inconsequential (and potentially distracting) background variations.” (p.354). But what about more complicated sounds? English speakers use 40 phonemes, but these can be combined and recombined to create tens of thousands of different morphemes, which can then themselves be combined to form even more words. These combinations though are not random. There are patterns to these combinations, some common, some rarer. The average person knows from around 45,000 to over 100,000 different words. For each of these words the speaker must know the meaning that corresponds to the words’ sound, that is our knowledge of words must be able to tie together the phonological representation with the semantic representation. With regards the idea of concepts that Vygotsky refers to, where at age 12 the average person moves from complex thinking to conceptual thinking, there is a connection between semantic knowledge and conceptual knowledge. Some concepts are harder than others to express in words, other concepts take many words to express. Even so there are many words that express single concepts and generally speaking on can only understand a word’s meaning if one understands the relevant concepts attached to it. Some argue that to understand a word one needs to know its definition, others that one must understand the prototype for the concept named by the word. Generally though words are used to name objects or events in the world around us. What a word refers to is called the referent. Saussure says that with the word H-O-R-S-E, where the concept of horse is what is signified, the referent is what ‘kicks you’. Thus the referent always means the actual thing in the real world, to which a word or a concept points. With regards the reference to Deleuze above the signifier is the pointing finger, the word, the sound-image whilst the signified is the concept, the meaning, the thing indicated by the signifier. The thing signified is created in the perceiver and is internal to them. Whilst we share concepts, we do so via signifiers. the signifier creates the signified in terms of the meaning it triggers for us. The meaning of a sign needs both the signifier and the signified as created by an interpreter. A signifier without a signified is noise. A signified without a signifier is impossible. Take for example The Prime Minister of the UK. The reference to any particular living person changes, but the meaning itself, the position within government and its relation to the governance of a nation state has more stability. With regards the meaning of the signified being created in the perceiver, the meaning of the term Prime Minister of the UK will be different for a Labour supporter than for a Conservative voter; for an anarchist than for staunch supporter of representative democracy. However the concept referred to by the signifier, that a particular person is the head of the government at a particular time remains more stable and allows the Conservative and the Labour supporter to know that they are referring ot the same position, as much as possible.
In addition to referent we may find that two or more phrases refer to the same objects in the world but mean different things. This case of ‘same reference, different meaning’ means there must be more to meaning than reference. This is called the ‘sense’ of a word. For example ‘creature with a heart’ and ‘creature with kidneys’ can refer to the same type of living organism.
The next article we will look at the psychological reality of linguistic rules before returning to the underpinning thoughts, and then we will take another look at what Deleuze and Guattari are trying to say.


‘Sin your way to heaven and get slaughtered: A byzantine general problem of the self’ (part fourteen)

Filed under:Sin your Way to Heaven and get Slaughtered — posted by Schizostroller on October 17, 2018 @ 8:00 am

To sum up with regards Vygotsky and inner speech, “Inner speech is not the interior aspect of exterior speech – it is a function in itself. It still remains speech, i.e. thought connected with words. But while in external speech thought is embodied in words, in inner speech words die as they bring forth thought. Inner speech is to a large extent thinking in pure meanings. It is a dynamic, shifting, unstable thing, fluttering between word and thought, the two more or less stable, more or less firmly delineated components of verbal thought. Its true nature and place can be understood only after examining the next plane of verbal thought, the one still more inward than inner speech.” (p.249). It is for this reason I have spent some time examining Vygotsky, as I would like to look further at the unconscious and its relation to voice hearing. We have looked at Freud and anxiety, Gombrich and projection, and we have looked at Reisberg and cognition’s relation to language, we have looked at Jaynes’ consciousness of consciousness. But what is it being projected? And what, if anything, is reflected back? For that reason I want to look at Deleuze and machines, if only as a stepping stone to Marx on machines in the Grundrisse. But for a moment let us carry on with Vygotsky. “That plane [the one still more inward] is thought itself. As we have said, every thought creates a connection, fulfils a function, solves a problem. The flow of thought is not accompanied by a simultaneous unfolding of speech. The two processes are not identical, and there is no rigid correspondence between the units of thought and speech” (p.249). He points out that “thought has its own structure and the transition from it to speech is no easy matter.” (p.250). Vygotsky continues “every sentence that we say in real life has some kind of subtext, a thought hidden behind it… thought unlike speech, does not consist of separate units… a speaker often takes several minutes to disclose one thought. In his mind the whole thought is present at once, but in speech it has to be developed successively. A thought may be compared to a cloud shedding a shower of words. Precisely because thought does not have its automatic counterpart in words, the transition from thought to word leads through meaning. In our speech there is always the hidden thought, the subtext.” (p.251). With regards the pursuit of the question, not only what gets projected, but also what gets reflected, in voice hearing it is useful to note that Vygotsky brings up a character from an Uspensky novel who finds himself unable to express himself in front of an authority figure: “experience teaches us that thought does not express itself in words, but rather realises itself in them. Sometimes such realisation cannot be accomplished, as in the case of Uspensky’s character. We must ask, does this character know what he is going to think about? Yes, but he does it as one who wants to remember something but is unable to. Does he start thinking? Yes, but again he does it as one who is absorbed in remembering. Does he succeed in turning his thought into a process? No. The problem is that thought is mediated by signs externally, but it is also mediated internally, this time by word meanings. Direct communication between minds is impossible, not only physically but psychologically. Communication can be achieved only in a roundabout way. Thought must first pass through meanings and only then through words.” (p.251-252).
However Vygotsky follows this with the argument that “thought is not the superior authority in this process. Thought is not begotten by thought; it is engendered by motivation, i.e., by our desires and needs, our interests and emotions. Behind every thought there is an affective-volitional tendency which holds the answer to the last ‘why’ in the analysis of thinking. A true and full understanding of another’s thought is possible only when we understand its affective-volitional basis… to understand another’s speech, it is not sufficient to understand his words – we must understand his thought. But even that is not enough – we must also know its motivation. No psychological analysis of an utterance is complete until that plain is reached.” (p. 252-253). He concludes “Only a historical theory of inner speech can deal with this immense and complex problem. The relation between thought and word is a living process; thought is born through words. A word devoid of thought is a dead thing… But thought that fails to realise itself in words also remains a ‘Stygian shadow’. Hegel considered word as Being animated by thought. This Being is absolutely essential for our thinking.” (p.255). Vygotsky ends saying that as the basic characteristic of words is a generalised reflection of reality then “this aspect of the word brings us to the threshold of a wider and deeper subject, i.e., the problem of the relation between word and consciousness. If perceptive consciousness and intellectual consciousness reflect reality differently, then we have two different forms of consciousness. Thought and speech turn out to be the key to the nature of consciousness… If language is as old as consciousness itself, and if language is a practical-consciousness-for-others and consequently, consciousness-for-myself, then not only one particular thought but all consciousness is connected to the development of the word. The word is a thing in our consciousness, as Ludwig Feuerbach put it, that is absolutely impossible for one person, but that becomes a reality for two. The word is a direct expression of the historical nature of human consciousness.” (p.256).
With regards this historical nature of human conscious, as a contemporary analysis of voice hearing and psychosis, then we have to deal with the existence in this ‘external world of signs’ of machines, at least since the advent of the Industrial Revolution and their relation to the development of capitalism, and this capitalism’s relation to consciousness-for-myself and its relation to the formation of subjectivity.
In the book Anti-Oedipus, Deleuze and Guattari discuss their understanding of ‘machines’, they claim that “a machine may be defined as a system of interruptions or breaks (coupures). These breaks should in no way be considered as a separation from reality; rather, they operate along lines that vary according to whatever aspect of them we are considering. Every machine in the first place, is related to a continual material flow (hyle) that it cuts into.” (p.36). This theory of machines is related to Melanie Klein’s theory of partial objects, but is a more cybernetic variation, so it focuses on the flow between the connections, and the role of those connections in starting or stopping the flow of material (hyle) such as water in a hydraulic system, or say sense data in the body. This is related to the ‘body without organs’ (“eyes closed tight, nostrils pinched shut, ears stopped up” (p.37-38)) which with regards the child relates to a regression to the womb, although as such is still a ‘machine’ as foetuses are connected up to the flow of the mother’s body via the placenta. However with regards hyle such as ‘sense data’ we start getting an idea of their attempt to describe the workings of the unconscious and its relation to physiological flows, connections and disconnections. “Far from being the opposite of continuity, the break or interruption conditions this continuity: it presupposes or defines what it cuts into as an ideal continuity. This is because… every machine is a machine of a machine. The machine produces an interruption of the flow insofar as it is connected to another machine that supposedly produces this flow. And doubtless this second machine in turn is really an interruption or break, too. But it is such only in relationship to a third machine that ideally – that is to say, relatively – produces a continuous, infinite flux… In a word, every machine functions as a break in the flow in relation to the machine to which it is connected, but at the same time is also a flow itself, or the production of a flow, in relation to the machine connected to it. That is why, at the limit point of all the transverse or transfinite connections, the partial object and the continuous flux, the interruption and the connection, fuse into one: everywhere there are breaks-flows out of which desire wells up, thereby constituting its productivity and continually grafting the process of production onto the product.” (p.36-37).
As implied in the title, this series of articles are leading up to a coding problem known as the Byzantine General Problem, this coding problem is a problem of message transmission, or communication, we will get to that in a few more articles, but in the meantime here is Deleuze and Guattari on this issue, “every machine has a sort of code built into it, stored up inside of it. The code is inseparable not only from the way in which it is recorded and transmitted to each of the different regions of the body, but also from the way in which the relations of each of the regions with all the others are recorded. An organ may have connections that associate it with several different flows; it may waver between several functions, and even take on the regime of another organ… All sorts of functional questions thus arise: what flow to break? Where to interrupt it? How and by what means? What place should be left for other producers or antiproducers?… The data, the bits of information recorded, and their transmission form a grid of disjunctions of a type that differs from the previous connections. We owe to Jacques Lacan the discovery of this fertile domain of a code of the unconscious, incorporating the entire chain – or several chains – of meaning.” (p.38).


‘Sin your way to heaven and get slaughtered: A byzantine general problem of the self’ (part thirteen)

Filed under:Sin your Way to Heaven and get Slaughtered — posted by Schizostroller on September 21, 2018 @ 10:17 am

Carrying on with Vygotsky, he argues that “the relation of thought and word cannot be understood in all its complexity without a clear understanding of the psychological nature of inner speech” (p.224). There are several varied understandings on the term inner speech: inner speech understood as verbal memory, such as reciting a poem known by heart, this sort differs from vocal speech only as an idea or image on an object differs from the real object. Vygotsky argues that this type is a constituent element of inner speech but not all of it. Others such as the behaviourist Watson see it as truncated speech – speech minus sound or subvocal speech, according to Ivan Schenov a ‘reflex arrested after it travels two-thirds of its way’; according to Vladmir Bekhterev ‘a speech reflex inhibited in its motor part’. Again Vygotsky suggests these are subordinate interpretations but grossly inadequate alone. A third version Vygotsky finds too broad, the definition that covers everything that precedes the motor act of speaking, he protests that “it is hard to accept the equation of inner speech with an inarticulate inner experience in which the separate identifiable structural planes are dissolved without a trace” (p.225).
According to Vygotsky “inner speech is speech for oneself; external speech is for others. It would be surprising if such a basic difference in function did not affect the structure of the two kinds of speech… absence of vocalisation per se is only a consequence of the specific character of inner speech, which is neither an antecedent of external speech nor its reproduction in memory, but is, in a sense, the opposite of external speech. The latter is the turning of thoughts into words, their materialisation and objectification. With inner speech, the process is reversed, going from outside to inside. Overt speech sublimates into thoughts. Consequently, the structures of these two kinds of speech must differ.” (p.225-226).
As has been discussed Vygotsky, from his observations, thinks that inner speech develops from egocentric speech, so egocentric speech must provide the key to inner speech. Vygotsky sees egocentric speech as a phenomenon of the transition from interpsychic to intrapsychic functioning., speech for oneself originates through differentiation from speech for others, as the course of child development is one of gradual individualisation this tendency is reflected in the function and structure of speech. Egocentric speech “does not merely accompany the child’s activity; it serves mental orientation, conscious understanding; it helps in overcoming difficulties; it is speech for oneself, intimately and usefully connected with the child’s thinking… Egocentric speech develops along a rising, not a declining, curve; it goes through an evolution, not an involution. In the end it becomes inner speech.” (p.228).
Vygotsky notes that if as the quantity of egocentric speech decreases with age, then comprehensibility should decrease too, but he observes in his investigations that whilst the quantity of egocentric speech decreases as the quantity of social speech increases, between ages 3 to 7 unintelligibility of egocentric speech increases (as the quantity decreases). He asks “What does this decrease mean? The structural peculiarities of speech for oneself and its differentiation from external speech increase with age. What is it, then, that diminishes? Only one of its aspects: vocalisation. Does this mean that egocentric speech as a whole is dying out? We believe it does not, for how then could we explain the growth of the functional and structural traits of egocentric speech? On the one hand their growth is perfectly compatible with the decrease of vocalisation – indeed, clarifies its meaning. Its rapid dwindling and the equally rapid growth of other characteristics are contradictory in appearance only.” (p.229).
Vygotsky’s explanation of the development of inner speech proceeds as follows “The structural and functional qualities of egocentric speech become more marked as the child develops. At three, the difference between egocentric speech and social speech equals zero; at seven, we have speech that in structure and function is totally unlike social speech. A differentiation of the two speech functions has taken place… If the developing structural and functional peculiarities of egocentric speech progressively isolate it from external speech, then its vocal aspect must fade away; and this is exactly what happens between three and seven years. With the progressive isolation of speech for oneself, its vocalisation becomes unnecessary and meaningless and, because of its growing structural peculiarities, also impossible. Speech for oneself cannot find expression in external speech. The more independent and autonomous egocentric speech becomes, the poorer it grows in its external manifestations. In the end, it separates itself entirely from speech for others, ceases to be vocalised and thus appears to die out… but this is only an illusion… in reality, behind the symptoms of dissolution lies a progressive development, the birth of a new speech form… The decreasing vocalisation of egocentric speech denotes a developing abstraction from sound, the child’s new faculty to “think words” instead of pronouncing them. This is the positive meaning of the sinking coefficient of egocentric speech. The downward curve indicates development toward inner speech… We can see that all the known facts about the functional, structural, and genetic characteristics of egocentric speech point to one thing: it develops in the direction of inner speech. Its development history can be understood only as a gradual unfolding of the traits of inner speech.” (p.230-231).
Vygotsky’s experiments convinced him that inner speech must be regarded as an entirely separate speech function from external speech, “its main characteristic trait is its peculiar syntax. Compared with external speech, inner speech appears disconnected and incomplete.” (p.235). He continues “observing the evolution of the child’s egocentric speech step by step, we may discover that it becomes more and more peculiar and ultimately becomes inner speech. We applied the genetic method and found that as egocentric speech develops, it shows a tendency toward an altogether specific form of abbreviation, namely: omitting the subject of a sentence and all words connected with it, while preserving the predicate. This tendency towards predication appears in all our experiments with such regularity that we must assume it to be the basic form of syntax of inner speech.” (p.236). Vygotsky goes on to use examples from Tolstoy, specifically Kitty and Levin from Anna Karenina, and Pushkin’s poem of the deaf judge and two deaf men. The Kitty and Levin example exemplifies “the mutual understanding that can be achieved through utterly abbreviated speech when the subject is the same in two minds” (p.239) whilst the Pushkin example exemplifies “total misunderstanding, even with full speech, when people’s thoughts wander in different directions. It is not only the deaf who cannot understand one another but any two people who give a different meaning to the same word or who hold divergent views” (p.239). Vygotsky points out that whilst such is the occurrence of abbreviation in external speech, in inner speech the phenomenon is not an exception but the rule. In writing, communication “relies on the formal meanings of words and requires a much greater number of words than oral speech to convey the same idea. It is addressed to an absent person who rarely has in mind the same subject as the writer. Therefore it must be fully deployed; syntactic differentiation is at a maximum; and expressions are used that would seem unnatural in conversation” (p.239-240) “Written speech and inner speech represent the monologue; oral speech in most cases dialogue… dialogue always presupposes in the partners sufficient knowledge of the subject to permit abbreviated speech and, under certain conditions, purely predicative sentences. It also presupposes that each person can see his partners, their facial expressions and gestures, and hear the tone of their voices.” (p.240). This includes modulation of voices as shown by Tolstoy’s story of the drunkards changing the tone of expression of a curse word and understanding a larger meaning. “The speed of oral speech is unfavourable to a complicated process of formulation – it does not leave time for deliberation and choice. Dialogue implies immediate unpremeditated utterance. It consists of replies, repartee; it is a chain of reactions. Monologue, by comparison, is a complex formation; the linguistic elaboration can be attended to leisurely and consciously… In written speech, lacking situational and expressive supports, communication must be achieved only through words and their combinations; this requires the speech activity to take complicated forms – hence the use of first drafts. The evolution from the draft to the final copy reflects our mental processes. Planning has an important part in written speech, even when we do not actually write out a draft. Usually we say to ourselves what we are going to write; this is also a draft, though in thought only… this mental draft is inner speech… inner speech functions as a draft not only in written speech but also in oral speech… [except with] a tendency toward abbreviation and predication… This tendency, never found in written speech and only sometimes in oral speech, arises in inner speech always. Predication is the natural form of inner speech; psychologically it consists of predicates only. It is as much a law of inner speech to omit subjects as it is a law of written speech to contain both subjects and predicates… Those factors responsible for abbreviation in oral speech are inevitably present in inner speech. We know what we are thinking about; i.e., we always know the subject and situation. And since the subject of our inner dialogue is already known, we may just imply it… Piaget once mentioned that we trust ourselves without proof; the necessity to defend and articulate one’s position appears only in a conversation with others. Psychological contact between partners in a conversation may establish a mutual perception leading to the understanding of abbreviated speech. In inner speech the ‘mutual’ perception is always there, in absolute form; therefore a practically wordless ‘communication’ of even the most complicated thoughts is the rule… the predominance of predication is a product of development. In the beginning, egocentric speech is identical in structure with social speech, but in the process of its transformation into inner speech, it gradually becomes less complete and coherent as it becomes governed by an almost entirely predicative syntax. Experiments show clearly how and why the new syntax takes hold. The child talks about the things he sees or hears or does at a given moment. As a result, he tends to leave out the subject and all words connected with it, condensing his speech more and more until only predicates are left. The more differentiated the speech function of egocentric speech becomes, the more pronounced are its syntactic peculiarities – simplification and predication. Hand in hand with this change goes decreasing vocalisation. When we converse with ourselves, we need fewer words than Kitty and Levin did. Inner speech is speech almost without words. ” (p.242-244).
Vygotsky continues “with syntax and sound reduced to a minimum, meaning is more than ever in the forefront. Inner speech works with semantics, not phonetics. The specific semantic structure of inner speech is no less original than its grammatical syntax… The first and basic one is the preponderance of the sense [smysl] of a word over its meaning [znachenie]… the sense of a word [according to Frederic Paulhan]… is the sum of all the psychological events aroused in our consciousness by the word. It is a dynamic, fluid, complex whole, which has several zones of unequal stability. Meaning is only one of the zones of sense, the most stable and precise zone. A word acquires its sense from the context in which it appears; in different contexts, it changes its sense. Meaning remains stable throughout the changes of sense. The dictionary meaning of a word is no more than a stone in the edifice of sense, no more than a potentiality that finds diversified realisation in speech.” (p.244-245).
Vygotsky uses the translation of Krylov’s ‘The dragonfly and the ant’ to illustrate the difference between sense and meaning, he shows that the statement ‘Go and dance!’ can both mean ‘Enjoy yourself!’ and ‘Perish!’ “This enrichment of words by the sense they gain from context is the fundamental law of the dynamics of word meanings. A word in a context means both more and less than the same word in isolation: more because it acquires new context; less, because its meaning is limited and narrowed by the context. The sense of a word… is a complex, mobile, protean phenomenon; it changes in different minds and situations and is almost unlimited. A word derives its sense from the sentence, which in turn gets its sense from the paragraph, the paragraph from the book, the book from all the works of the author… the relation between word and sense…are much more independent of each other than word and meaning. It has long been known that words can change their sense. Recently it has been pointed out that sense can change words or, better, that ideas often change their names. Just as the sense of a word is connected with the whole word, and not with its single sounds, the sense of a sentence is connected with the whole sentence, and not with its individual words. Therefore, a word may sometimes be replaced without any change in sense. Words and sense are relatively independent of each other… in oral speech, we move from the central and permanent meaning of the word to its soft fringes and ultimately to its sense. In inner speech, this prevalence of sense over meaning, of sentence over word, and of context over sentence is the rule.” (p245-246). There are, however, other semantic peculiarities of inner speech, both of which concern word combination. One is agglutination, “when several words are merged into one word, the new word not only expresses a rather complex idea, but designates all the separate elements contained in that idea… the egocentric speech of the child displays some analogous phenomena. As egocentric speech approaches inner speech, the child uses agglutination more and more as a way of forming compound words to express complex ideas.” (p.246). the other basic semantic peculiarity of inner speech “is the way in which sense of words combine and unite – a process governed by different laws from those governing combinations of meanings.” (p.246). this is called ‘influx of sense’. “The sense of different words flow into one another – literally ‘influence’ one another – so that the earlier ones are contained in, and modify, the later ones.” (p.246-247). For example when a word that keeps recurring in a book or poem “sometimes absorbs all the variety of sense contained in it and becomes, in a way, equivalent to the work itself.” (p.247). “In inner speech, the phenomenon reaches its peak. A single word is so saturated with sense that… it becomes a concentrate of sense. To unfold it into overt speech, one would need a multitude of words… no wonder that egocentric speech and inner speech are incomprehensible to others. To understand a child’s egocentric utterance, one should know beforehand the subject of the child’s speech and the circumstances of the child’s communication.” (p.247). Vygotsky then mentions that there is one further factor contributing to the peculiarity of inner speech as reduced sound, idiosyncratic syntax and semantics that further adds to the opaqueness inner speech. This is argot or initiated dialects, “in inner speech, the same kind of idiom develops – the kind that is difficult to translate into the language of ordinary communicative speech.” (p.248).
“Actually, any attempt to impose multifaceted sense on word results in the creation of an original idiom. In inner speech, one word stands for a number of thoughts and feelings, and sometimes substitutes for a long and profound discourse. And naturally this unique inner sense of the chosen word cannot be translated into ordinary external speech. Inner sense turns out to be incommensurable with the external meaning of the same word.” (p.248). Vygotsky concludes “all our observations indicate that inner speech is an autonomous speech function. We can confidently regard it as a distinct plane of verbal thought. It is evident that the transition from inner speech to external speech is not a simple translation from one language into another. It cannot be achieved by merely vocalising silent speech. It is a complex, dynamic process involving the transformation of the predicative, idiomatic structure of inner speech into syntactically articulated speech intelligible to others.” (p.249).


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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace