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

Filed under:Sin your Way to Heaven and get Slaughtered — posted by Schizostroller on June 6, 2018 @ 12:45 pm

To illustrate elusion Laing uses Sartre’s example of the waiter in a café, who Sartre charges with playing at being a waiter. He is both ‘a waiter’, it is his job, but he has to play a social role, there are certain accepted behaviours expected of a waiter, and he tries to emulate them in order to do his job. According to Laing, “there is the sense in which no man can ever be entirely what he is. However, the man who is actually impersonating himself assuming a role, is assuming a relationship to himself which is a very ambiguous one, in that he is both pushing himself into what he is doing, and at the same time not doing what he is doing.” (p.28). The sociologist who examined this dramaturgical game most famously is Erving Goffman in his book the Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. In this book Goffman argues that the best way to understand human action is by seeing people as actors on a ‘social stage’ who actively create an impression of themselves for the benefit of an audience and, in the sense that we are discussing similarities between elusion and the creation of the idealich, ultimately themselves. When we act in the social world, we put on a ‘front’ in order to project a certain image of ourselves (call this part of our ‘social identity’ if you like) – we create a front by manipulating the setting in which we perform (e.g. our living room), our appearance (e.g. our clothes) and our manner (our emotional demeanour). In these social settings we are called upon to put on various fronts depending on the social stage on which we find ourselves and the teams of actors with whom we are performing – the work-place or the school are typical examples of social stages which require us to put on a front. On these social stages we take on roles, in relation to other team-members and carefully manage the impressions we express in order to ‘fit in’ to society and achieve our own personal agendas. Managing the impressions we portray in everyday life involves projecting an ‘idealised image’ of ourselves, which involves concealing a number of aspects of our performance – such as the effort which goes into putting on a front, and typically hiding any personal profit we will gain from a performance or interaction. Unfortunately because audiences are constantly on the look-out for the signs we give off (so that they can ‘know who we are’) ‘performers can stop giving expressions, but they cannot stop giving them off’. This means that we must be constantly on our guard to practice ‘expressive control’ when on the social stage. There are plenty of things that can go wrong with our performance which might betray the fact that we are not really the person who our act suggests that we are – we might lose bodily control or make mistakes with our clothing, or as is often the case in mental health lose our sense of controlled emotional expression.
In the documentary the Pervert’s Guide to Cinema, Slavoj Zizek takes the architecture of the scene in house in Psycho and applies it to psychoanalysis. The basement is the id, where his mother’s body is, the ground floor is the ego, and the upstairs, first floor, where he hears, or even ‘becomes’, his mother, is the superego. In the example we are setting here in our portrayal of idealich and eleusion, this is the relation of self to self, this is its dimension. Vertical. In the Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, Goffman also architecturally describes the stage, as acting out social roles is quite demanding, in addition to the front-stage aspect of our lives, we also have back-stage areas where we can drop our front and be more relaxed, closer to our ‘real selves’ (true/real ego), and where we can prepare for when we again need to go back front of stage and act in the world. In this sense the back stage is our unconscious and the background feelings we have, and the front of stage is our ego. This dimension is the relation of self to others, and is horizontal. Or transversal as Felix Guattari would argue in the Three Ecologies.

Lacan argues that the eleusion from the real ego to the Ichideal and the attempt to return is the relation of the imaginary to the symbolic. But with regards this structuration of the ego, and the relation of the Ichideal to Goffman’s theory of presentation of self in everyday life I want ot bring up an idea sometimes used in analytic philosophy and game theory, Common Knowledge. Common knowledge is understood as form of knowledge shared amongst a particular group of actors. There is common knowledge of something, that could be an idea, or a belief, or set of facts p amongst the set of actors G in that all the actor members amongst the set G know p, they all know that they know p, they all know that they all know that they know p, and so on ad infinitum. The reference to Goffman here is that this is associated with convention, whether in argumentation, rules of games like chess, or social behaviours. In computing, the Two Generals Problem is a thought experiment meant to illustrate the pitfalls and design challenges of attempting to coordinate an action by communicating over an unreliable link. It is related to the more general Byzantine Generals Problem (particularly with regard to the Transmission Control Protocol where The General Problem shows that TCP can’t guarantee state consistency between endpoints and why. A key concept in epistemic knowledge, this problem highlights the importance of common knowledge. I will be returning to this with regards the Byzantine General Problem, but before that I want to consider Axel Honneth’s theories of Recognition and Disrespect, which requires looking at the concept of alienation, as well as problems of discursivity in the knowledge base which will return us to Lacan’s understanding of the Reality Principle. In looking at common knowledge I want to look at the possibility of the imaginary affecting common Knowledge, especially art’s place in this, returning to Foucault’s portrait of Baudelaire as Modern flaneur and De Certeau’s Practice of everyday life. De Certeau argues in what he calls Reading as Poaching. In this chapter De Certeau contests the idea that consumers are passively guided and moulded by the media-products that are imposed on them. The assumption that the public is a passive recipient of the text is rooted in the Enlightenment’s ideological goal of the necessity of educating and reforming the public. The book was thought of as the perfect instrument to instruct. One can think of the significance of being able to read for the purposes of manumission in Henry Louis Gates Jr’s Signifying Monkey. Today the message of the book is no longer of primary importance. Rather, it is the book as a means to read that garners significance. De Certeau argues that “every reading modifies its object” (p.169). As such De Certeau opposes the image of reading as being a passive matter and states that reading is also a process of creative production, for the reader must actively construct a meaning on the basis of a collection of signs that the text presents. In spite of the normative power and conventions of the literate elite, a common poetics is practiced behind closed doors, if we think here of Goffman’s back-rooms. This is a creative and transgressive reading by means of which the reader deterritorializes him- or herself by traveling through invented, unknown lands that exist between self and image, between text and the reader’s social milieu, between the text that is read and other texts that are brought to the imagination through the reading process, and we can think here of Lacan’s idea of the Ichideal, and Laing’s idea of elusion. The emergence of this sort of reading has come hand in hand with the change from reading aloud to silent reading. Even though in silent reading the bodily activity has been reduced to the mobility of the eye, paying attention to the body as it responds to the practice of common poetics might help us explain the dynamics of this type of reading, and here we can think of Vygotsky’s discussion of the child’s development of inner speech.

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

Filed under:Sin your Way to Heaven and get Slaughtered — posted by Schizostroller on June 5, 2018 @ 5:26 pm

I want to focus on the Idealich and Ichideal for a while as it is one of the central components of this thesis looking at the formation of the subject described at the beginning of this series who projects a sense of self onto the Other. For the moment I want to raise a trope of the Hearing Voices Network that ‘the voices are real’, this particular phrasing was first raised by Ron Coleman in his book Recovery: An alien concept, but a similar phrasing , as has been mentioned, was mentioned by RD Laing (credited to a Dr Isaacs) in the 1961 book Self and Others, in which the phrase is ‘the phantasms are real’, RD Laing then deals with this dialectically and puts the phrase into a more social context, and I will be coming ot this in future articles, but suffice for now to acknowledge the egoistic nature of this Freudian concept is challenged elsewhere, and now to understand the ego’s share of this phenomenon, let us return to the Ichideal and Idealich.
Dr LeClaire states that according to Freud the sense of self has three origins: 1. Primary narcissistic satisfaction, 2. The measure of success, the satisfaction of the desire for omnipotence and 3. The gratification received from love objects. Leclaire isolates one of these for consideration “the development of the ego consists in an estrangement from primary narcissism and gives rise to a vigorous attempt to recover that state. This departure is brought about by means of the displacement of libido on to an ego-ideal imposed from without satisfaction is brought about from fulfilling this ideal. So the ego experiences a kind of estrangement, passing via a middle term, which is the ideal, and returns later to its primitive position.” (p.135-136). O. Mannoni remarks that this would be the structuration of the ego. Leclaire goes onto explain the this ambiguity of Freud suggests that this displacement of the libido onto an ideal can be either a displacement onto an image of the ego, an ideal that is dissimilar to the one that is already there, or it is a displacement onto something going beyond the form of the ego, something quite properly an ideal, a form. O.Mannoni argues that there is a distinction between the structuration of the ego and the development of the person, “because it is truly an ego that structures, but within a being that is developing” (p.137). Lacan concludes that this is quite properly structuration and it is this point that is the joint between the imaginary and symbolic.
It is that this point that I am minded again of Laing’s idea of elusion. Let us return to it again. Laing mentions ‘the complicated elusive relationship to one’s actual position’ in a chapter on ‘pretence and the elusion of experience’, he describes a thought experiment
1. One is sitting in a room
2. One imagines or pretends that the room is not a real room. But is a room that one is cinjuring up by one’s own imagination: (A-> B).
3. Having pretended this point almost to convincing oneself that the room is an imaginary toom, one then starts pretending that the room is a real room and not an imaginary room after all: (B -> A1).
4. One ends up, therefore by pretending that the real room is real, rather than perceiving it as real.
We can see here a relation to Lacan and LeClaire’s discussion of the ‘true/real ego’s’ relation to the ichideal. Where the phrase: “So the ego experiences a kind of estrangement, passing via a middle term, which is the ideal, and returns later to its primitive position”, is a description of an ‘elusive relationship’. Laing writes “In elusion, everything becomes elusive. Its symbols are will-o’-the-wisps, feathers, dust, fluff, straws in the wind – all that is difficult to grasp, grip, hold with one’s hands, pin down, control, handle, manipulate, define, catch. Not only the content of the situation but its qualities and modalities are eluded also. It evades being categorised as real or unreal imagination or phantasy. Beulah, the realm of the moon, under Chinese lanterns, rather than under the naked electric bulb… One finds that person who is entirely given over to a phantasy of something that can be searched for and found. He is only his very own searching. What one has is always not what one wants, and yet it is precisely the elusiveness of this want that one is unable to say what one wants, lacks, has not got, because what one wants (lacks) is precisely what one has not got… what is, what one is, what other people are, facts – this is not what is wanted. Those brute facts that cannot be eluded are repellent if not nauseating, disgusting, and obscene.” (p.30-31). This is Laing describing, what he labels, a hysteric’s relation to the reality principle as opposed to the idealich. This is as elusion is both a relation of self to self, and a relation of self to others.
One finds oneself thinking of Alvin Lucier’s sound-art performance I am sitting in a room. The performance involves Lucier (or the performer) speaking a few lines (“I am sitting in a room…” and so on) into a tape recorder in a room with a particular echoic effect. Thiese lines are repeated and then played back, and recorded again, and played back, over and over, the repetition creates an out of synch effect, and the intensity becomes an overwhelming noise or cacophony.
Laing continues “But if a person’s whole way of life becomes characterised by elusion, he becomes a prisoner in a limbo world, in which illusion ceases to be a dream that comes true, but comes to be the realm in which he dwells, and in which he has become trapped. To be constantly sustained, elusion requires great virtuosity: the dissonances of phantasy-imagination-reality can have great charm if kept implicit, but if too explicit they become cacophony.” (p.31). With regards the psychotic Laing argues that “the main-in-the-street: for instance, that he has a body which has an inside and an outside; that he has begun at his birth and ends biologically speaking at his death; that he occupies a position in space; that he occupies a position in time; that he exists as a continuous being from one place to the next and from one moment to the other. The ordinary person does not reflect upon these basic elements of his being because he takes his way of experiencing himself and others for granted. However the schizoid, and still more the schizophrenic, has a precarious sense of his own person (and other persons) as adequately embodied, as alive, as real, as substantial, and as a continuous being, who is at one place at one time, and at a different place at another time, remaining the ‘same’ throughout, and a sense of himself as an agent of his own actions (instead of a robot, a machine, a thing), and as the agent of his own perceptions (someone else is using his eyes, his ears etc).” (p.35). A state Laing describes as personal disintegration, as ontological insecurity. Laing paraphrases Winnicot when he says a hysteric is trying to get TO a madness. “Madness indeed seems to be sought by some hysterics as a way out of the elusiveness of everything. Madness would be something definite, an arrival, a relief. But although the hysteric may succeed in getting a certificate of insanity, it remains a counterfeit, a fraud which is tragic enough. The counterfeit can engulf the person’s life as much as the ‘real thing’. But ‘real’ madness eludes him as much as ‘real sanity’. Not all who would be can be psychotic.” (p.37).
Baudrillard discusses in Simulacra and Simulation the counterfeit. With regards the counterfeit he discusses money, a counterfeit that was the perfect copy in every way, is understood only in concept as a counterfeit, as it was not produced by the sovereign mint. The question for sanity is what is this sovereign guarantee? That Laing’s hysteric so desperately wants? If it exists at all? Is it the Master Signifier? For the psychotic in Laing’s description it is disintegration in the face of it. I want here for a moment to bring up a book that devoted itself to disintegrating Freud, alongside Marx and Nietzsche, and that is Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus. In it, as with Laing and Winnicot claiming the ‘hysteric’ is trying to get to madness, and that ‘not all who would be can be psychotic’, so Deleuze and Guattari state that “A schizophrenic out for a walk is a better model than a neurotic lying on the analyst’s couch.” (p2).

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

Filed under:Sin your Way to Heaven and get Slaughtered — posted by Schizostroller on June 3, 2018 @ 9:00 pm

There is an interesting point in Book I of Lacan’s seminars discussing ego-ideals and ideal-egos between LeClaire and Lacan in which they bring up paranoiac delusions of being watched, as was discussed in part 6, it is worth going over Lacan’s observations to further illuminate this experience, but first let us distinguish between ego-ideal and ideal-ego.
In a not to dissimilar vein to Attachment theory (although Bowlby denies the existence of the Freudian death instinct) Lacan argues Freud locates what he calls narcissism in the need for support (Anlenung) of the child (His Majesty the aby), as an exchange in this care giving role to the dependent, the parents project their ideals onto the child. Freud isolates ‘the fixation of love’ (Verliebtheit) in four forms of love: 1. What one is oneself, 2. What one was, 3. What one would like to be and 4. The person who was a part of oneself – the caregivers of childhood (amongst others). This is the Narzissmusttypus. There is a reversal where the subject takes its bearings from the woman who feeds and the man who protects. One can argue looking at the less theorietical and more evidence based attachment theory, that we can to an extent degender these roles, but still see them as bearings. And of course any failure as a consequence will also add to what, as was discussed later, tends towards the subject’s relation to the later fully formed Superego. However at this stage we are talking ego development and at this stage Freud’s argument according to LeClaire is that the parents projection of their ideals onto the child dictates the form the narcissism takes, and its relation to the fourfold typology above. One can think of Charles Fernyhough’s book on memory, ‘Pieces of Light’, where he notes that some of our earliest memories when they are in the third person are most likely memories made up of stories told to us throughout our life, and less memories of actual events that develop later, around 3-4 years, where the ‘I’, the ego takes centre stage and those memories are more likely to be first person (although if played with repeatedly such memories can sometimes take a simulation of first person narrative).
With regards the adult ego, they question whether it gets subsumed in object investments. However it seems in Freudian analysis one of the purposes of repression is the ego’s ethical and cultural requirements in that “the same impressions, experiences, impulses and desires that one man indulges or at least works over consciously will be rejected with the utmost indignation ny another, or even stifled before they enter consciousness” (p.132-133) LeClaire then goes on to say that Freud formulates the issue such as “We can say that one man has set up an ideal in himself by which he measures his actual ego, while the other has formed no such ideal. For the ego the formulation of an ideal would be the conditioning factor of repression. This ideal is now the target of the self-love which was enjoyed in childhood by the true [veritable/real – Das wirkliche Ich] ego… Narcissism seems to make its appearance displaced onto this new ideal ego, which finds itself in possession of all the ego’s precious perfections, in the same way as the infantile ego was. As always where the libido is concerned, man has here again shown himself incapable of giving up a satisfaction he once enjoyed… This ideal ego is now the target of the self-love which was enjoyed in childhood by the true[/real] ego… He is not willing to forgo the narcissistic perfection of his childhood and… he seeks to recover it in the form of an ego-ideal.”(p.133).
If we go back to the first article on Gombrich and Paredoilia, we can get a sense of what is projected. But we also have to bear in mind that this is an individual’s relation with the world, what Husserl would call a life-world, as well the reality principle which is the social, economic and discursive organisation of the lifeworld plus aleatory effects that are beyond the individual’s control, somewhat similar to Lacan’s Intrusions of the Real. From this we can see the individual is situated in many overlapping cybernetic dynamics that some theorists call a network, however some of these dynamics are closer to the individual for longer periods, such as family, school, work, including the intense time period of childhood especially up to the age of four and during puberty. This later adult then has this relation to a more worked through ideal-ego that has a history. However these dynamics that haunt the individual through memory and sometimes trauma can stem from dynamics that were authoritarian nexi, and these formations will remain if not worked through.

LeClaire then discusses sublimation sought out of the relations of the formation of the ideal. “Sublimation is a process involving object libido. In contrast, idealisation deals with the object which has been ennobled, elevated and it does so without any modification in its nature. Idealisation is no less possible in the domain of ego libido than that of object libido” (p.134). Freud places the two libidos on the same plane. It is possible for the idealisation of the ego and a failed sublimation to then coexist. This formation of the ego-ideal intensifies the demands on the ego and as a consequence of the ethical and cultural needs of the ego mentioned earlier that have to interact with other egos who may not desire to be the object of sublimation so brings repression to the full. Lacan then points out that one of the libidos is on the plane of the imaginary and the other the symbolic – the law. “the demand of the Ichideal takes up its place within the totality of demands of the law” (p.134) Leclaire adds that “Hence sublimation opens up the expedient of satisfying this demand without repression” And Lacan responds that “That is successful sublimation”

We are left with the relation now of sublimation to psychosis. And from there we can look at how Foucault’s modern man’s life as art is relevant. Leclaire notes the relation of a psychical agency that ‘performs this task of seeing that narcissistic satisfaction from the ego-ideal is ensured and which, with this end in view, constantly watches the actual ego and measures it by that ideal” would ultimately lead to the formulation of the Superego. Here we can refer back to Freud’s comments on subjects who feel they are watched discussed earlier

It is here that I want to reference Bowlby again and recognise that he notes that Freud had a major turning point in his theory where he rejected early abuse and took his argument back to the child’s fantasies. But as Bowlby acknowledges violence and abuse can have major impacts on upbringing. Much of attachment theory is the importance of providing good enough parenting to create a reasonable ego-ideal. Trauma can negatively affect this. There is much research under the auspices of the Hearing Voices specialist institute Intervoice (Marius Romme, Sandra Escher, John Read and others) that links trauma to voice hearing, in some meta-analyses 65% of voice hearers have some kind of CSA or CPA. It is also woth noting that the subject of Freud’s research on psychosis, Schreber, had a father who was an inventor of equipment that was used to physically restrain and discipline children and Schreber’s father used it on his son.

One of Lacan’s students Maud Mannoni in her book the child and his illness, argued that the child developed symptoms threw the language ‘between’ the parents, in their relation, this creates a symbolic law that projects an ideal onto the child, the child learning through the phrases said what is expected of him/her, whether spoken directly to or spoken about the child. We can see here the beginnings of an authoritarian nexus and a cybernetics as described by Bateson and Laing. It is also worth noting that in the gestalt therapy of the Stones used in the Talking With Voices therapy, one of the ‘alters’ or personalities, that closest to the SuperEgo, is known as the Inner Critic, Hal and Sidra Stone argue that this protective alter develops more effectively my watching how others’ are treated and creating precautionary injunctions to prevent the subject getting into similar trouble. We can also understand this as listening to descriptions of character by third party witnesses that are between other rather than to the subject.

We can now imagine the situation post-2010 (or even earlier see my article Return of the Poor Law) where an increase in narratives of scroungers and welfare cheats, ‘skivers and strivers’ repeated in the media in a sustained propaganda attack on the welfare system would affect psychotics and other people with mental health issues who are already paranoid. What affect does this have on the sublimation of the ego-ideal?

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Here comes everybody. A play in 3 Acts

Filed under:Random notes — posted by Schizostroller on June 1, 2018 @ 9:21 am

A play in 3 acts

Act 1:
Here comes everybody.

Act 2:
Here comes everybody’s friend, superlative.
They create a Weltanschauung together.

Act 3:
Consequently superlative leaves
Everybody depressed

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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace