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

Filed under:Sin your Way to Heaven and get Slaughtered — posted by Schizostroller on January 23, 2019 @ 7:34 pm

Having presented two voice-works using at least some of Freud’s techniques, I think it is important to then look at some distinctions between ‘voice-hearing’ and dreams. In a paper looking at the phenomenology of voice hearing Rojcewicz Jr. and Rojcewicz (Journal of Phenomenological Psychology, 28, No.1, 1997) they distinguish between voice hearing and dreams. Starting with Jean-Paul Sartre’s distinction between hypnagogic images and dreams, they note that hallucinations are “an isolated experience, shut off from other images, whilst the dream is ‘a world.’ Despite any seeming nonsensicality, the dream images appear in a rich spatial world. The dream action contains references to a temporal before and after. The dream so carries us into a world that every dream appears to us as a story… The hallucination is limited, fragmented, impoverished, more furtive than a dream. Only a few words occur, not a full narrative or an introduction to a world, however imaginary. The image in a dream may have multiple facets and occur In relation to many images. The auditory hallucination is isolated, has few if any spatial connections, and is experienced as detachment from other sensory modalities… auditory hallucinations lack not only the fullness of normal perception but also the richness, nuances, and multiple facets of the dream.” (p.18). They consider this distinction to be a necessary component of why auditory hallucinations appear as ‘voices’. Before we follow Rojcewicz, Jr. and Rojcewicz’s argument about voices, it might be worth familiarising ourselves with their view of other distinctive aspects of auditory hallucinations. Firstly, they note that they contrast with everyday sensory experiences, for a start the duration of hallucinations is quite limited, “what the patient usually hears is not a sustained argument or a full discussion but a only few words; the patient experiences fragments or sentences, not pages or even paragraphs… as contrasted to everyday sensory experience, hallucinations do not display multiple facets; they are disjointed, fragmented. Normally, an object is perceived from several different perspectives and in multiple facets. In auditory hallucinations, these varied perspectives of normal perception are absent. Instead of a whole object being perceived a voice is heard. This voice, disembodied, is heard in isolation from other sensory phenomena. In normal experience, a person is perceived; the person is seen, experienced, through multiple sense as well as heard. The direct, immediate words of patients are instructive here. These patients do not hear persons, they hear voices. Although the hallucinations are in harmony with the totality of the patient’s psychological life, the hallucinated voice is in isolation: in isolation from the other senses and from the full experience of the sensation of hearing. There is no interplay or variation with other sounds and phenomena.” (p. 17). They quote A. Kraus, stating, “a missing worldly background of the ‘perceived,’ and therefore a missing continuity in space and time, as well as monomodality of perception, all lead to the fact that the hallucinatory perceived world… is not perceived from varied perspectives. As Husserl… has shown, it is precisely the endless shadings of a perceived perspective, possible in normal perception, that provide the surest conviction of its reality.” (p.17-18). They follow up with a statement by Merleau-Ponty saying “If the hallucination does not occur in the stable and intersubjective world, it is because it lacks the fullness, the internal articulation that makes a true thing repose ‘in-itself,’ act and exist by itself. The hallucinatory thing is not, like a true thing, a being with depth, which contracts within itself a density of duration; and a hallucination is not, like perception, my concrete purchase on time in a living present. It glides over time, just as it glides over the world.” (p.18).
Rojcewicz Jr. and Rojcewicz also contrast auditory hallucinations to other symptoms, these include what are often classified as positive symptoms such as visual hallucinations or hallucinations of smell and touch, as well as delusions, paranoia, ideas of reference and bizarre behaviours, and negative symptoms such as emotional withdrawal and inappropriateness of affect. As observed in both the DSM and ISD classification systems auditory hallucinations without other pathological manifestations are considered more benign. They argue that “the significance of hallucinations in pathological conditions is that they are symptomatic of a pathological way of relating to the world, an abnormal way of being” (p.16). They point out that Bleuler saw hallucinations as an accessory symptom of schizophrenia and not a fundamental aspect of the condition. Freud in his study of Schreber saw hallucinations as a secondary symptom, “an attempt at some sort of restitution following the primary symptom of severe emotional withdrawal. The patient initially withdraws his emotional attachment from person and things in the world; this is the primary pathology, the most fundamental symptom. Subsequently in many cases, the patient develops hallucinations or delusions. These symptoms attempt to bring back, to reconstitute in an idiosyncratic way, the emotional attachment to persons and things in the world.” (p.16). Rojcewicz Jr., and Rojcewicz argue that these manifestations of emotional withdrawal can become self-justifying; the phrase ‘J. Edgar Hoover, proving the FBI are after the voice hearer, “derogatory hallucinations, which may occur following some blow to self-esteem, help to reinforce a distorted view of low self-worth… command hallucinations precede acts of violent acting-out.” (p.16). However, they also point out that the negative symptoms are of equal importance, “a hallucinating patient may have little social interaction, speak to few other persons, and spend his time in profound emotional withdrawal. At times the only interaction seems to be talking back to the hallucinations.” (p.17).
To understand this phenomenology of voices, Rojcewicz Jr., and Rojcewicz create a typology of the phenomena associated with voice hearing. After acknowledging benign types of auditory hallucination such as hearing a loved one who recently died, or a solo round the world sailor hearing voices after long time at sea, which we won’t explore further here, they point out that whilst other forms of voice hearing are possible such as whistles, machinery noises, animal noises, even musical sounds, the sound of a voice is the most common. People may attribute the source to all kinds such as God or angels, spirits of the dead, telepathy, AI or aliens, the voice still takes the form of human speech. However, in addition to the type of sound, hallucinations have significant characteristics that follow certain parameters: “extent (frequency, duration), location, degree of reality, sensory intensity, constancy, overt behaviour, control time, cause, experience shared, affect, and content” (p. 12). Rojcewicz Jr. and Rojcewicz investigated each in turn.
1. Type of Speech. As observed earlier it is rare to get a ‘whole sermon of speech’, rather “usually each episode of a hallucinated voice is usually relatively short-lived, but there may be many episodes in the course of one day. Nevertheless, there is often a very complex structure to some auditory hallucinations. The patient may here several distinct voices, the voices may engage in dialogue or debate with the patient or with each other, the voices may offer a running commentary on the patient’s activities, and so forth. At times the auditory hallucinations are associated with visual or other hallucinations, with paranoid ideas of reference or with delusions.” (p.13.)
2. Constancy. “In this context ‘constancy’ refers to a global measure of overall variability, not to minor changes on a given hallucination. While some patients have rapidly changing hallucinations in reference to content or to intensity, other patients may have the same hallucination at the same level of intensity over and over.” (p.13).
3. Duration. Rojcewicz Jr. and Rojcewicz quote Minkowski who points out that “hallucinations tend to be more or less ephemeral; to come into existence and then vanish suddenly; to succeed one another rapidly, without crystallizing into something stable or unchangeable. In general, each episode of a hallucination is relatively short-lived.” (p.13). As noted before Bleuler observed that “the usual occurrence is in short sentences or abrupt words, nor paragraphs or long speeches. These occur intermittently, even if in rapid sequence; it is rare that the voices are constant or continuous.” (p.13).
4. Content. According to Rojcewicz Jr. and Rojcewicz, “the usual emotional content, especially in the early stages of schizophrenia, is critical, threatening, or otherwise negative. As the illness progresses, the hallucinations can become less negative… Often the content ids of the patient’s own thoughts, acknowledged by the patient as such, but now audible.” (p.13-14). They continue “the precise, word-by-word verbal content has been studied in a few patients… over a period of time, the words were found to be non-random. Semantically related themes tend to recur, such as the same adjective or verb in different contexts every day, or the recurrence of words all related to food.” (p.14).
5. Identification. Rojcewicz Jr. and Rojcewicz state that “in a pseudo-hallucination [a voice considered to be more internal rather than external], the patient has some insight into the fact that the hallucination is not real or is created by the self (“my mind is playing tricks with me”), while in a true hallucination the experience is attributed to a real outside the self. Many individuals with schizophrenia retain a high level of conviction in the reality for this external source of their voices… At times, the hallucination is specifically identified with certainty (as the voice of God, of an FBI agent, etc.), at times it is identified in a vague way (as the voice of some unknown enemy), at a times it is not identified at all. Patients may identify the voices as coming from parts of their body, from their clothing, from material surroundings, or from persons, agents, or technical equipment that cannot be seen.” (p.14).
6. Intelligibility. Rojcewicz Jr. and Rojcewicz point out that “the voices can be mumbling, can be clear and distinct, or can be a changing combination of these features… the voices can be so loudness of the voices can vary, more or less independently of the other features listed… The voices can be so loud that other sounds are drowned out, or they can barely be perceived at all. Several voices may talk at once, so the intelligibility is diminished, or the words themselves may be fragments or neologisms without an overall sentence structure.” (p.14).
7. Spatial localisation. “The voices may occupy an indeterminate position without special localisation, or they may be more precisely situated. Patients may localise the source to a considerable distance away, to a relatively far but still within ordinary sensory range, to a distance relatively close to their body (sometimes at the same constant distance), or to a space inside the body. The voices may move between one location and another; in individual patients the change in location may have some considerable significance” (p.15) It has been noted that closer voices are sometimes more comforting and supportive. Other patients are able to describe different spatial localisations that may, say, be divided as ‘left’ good and ‘right’ bad.
8. Control. “Patients have greater or lesser degrees of control over the occurrence and effects of their hallucinations… The most extreme issue of control consists in the obeying of command hallucinations… An individual patient may be able to resist commands at one time, yet, act out on them at another time. Some patients continue to have command hallucinations without ever obeying them.” (p.15).
With regards my own voices I have had at least a few similar experiences from each parameter in the list. But with regards the examples from the last two posts then it might be a good idea to explore some. The first example was clearly in line with the argument around duration, the second was slightly different in that a narrative arc was formed. It is here that Rojcewicz Jr. and Rojcewicz’s distinction between dreams and auditory hallucinations may seem to differ. There are different arguments for this, one is that the voices occur in tandem with other symptoms. But is it right to call it purely delusional or paranoid? One way to look at this is the point made about content, in that semantically they are non-random and there is a recurrence of themes, and words, or signifiers. I use the term signifier here rather than word, as the term indicates that the ‘words’ can change their relation to signified or even referent, I would argue in much the same way that Freud interprets dreams. This though still leaves the question of the difference between manifest and latent content and whether, there are what are called ‘wish fulfilments’ (although this can, although not always necessarily, be related to past traumas, something that is acknowledged by Freud but has been further explored by people such as Romme and Escher) that cause a latent content of the duration of the ‘illness’. The relation to emotional withdrawal is related to an idea in phenomenology that Rojcewicz Jr. and Rojcewicz call the intentional arc, and I will be coming back to this, and then looking at an issue neglected by Rojcewicz Jr. and Rojcewicz which is what leads to the slackening of the intentional arc, where I will be returning to Bateson’s cybernetics. Before that in the next post I will look at a similar typology of features identified by Lisa Blackman and will be briefly acknowledging her work on what I have written about in this post, which she calls the ‘problem of hallucination’ and its place in the history of psychiatry. Before returning to the problem of the ‘slackening of the intentional arc’. And then I will return to Freud’s dream interpretations and then back to Deleuze and Gauttari on machines.


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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace