narcissistic wounding + transference

Some starting questions from the conversation with David:

  • narcissistic wounding
    ~ what is it?
    ~ how to defend oneself against it?
    ~ is it related to transference?
  • transference
    ~ what is it?
    ~ how to defend oneself against it?

I’ve heard about transference before, and although I don’t understand it exactly yet, it fascinates me and I have some ideas about.

This, for example, from Wikipedia, doesn’t make any sense to me:

Transference is a theoretical phenomenon characterized by unconscious redirection of the feelings a person has about a second person to feelings the first person has about a third person. [*goes cross-eyed*] It usually concerns feelings from an important second-person relationship from childhood, and is sometimes considered inappropriate. Transference was first described by psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, who considered it an important part of treatment in psychoanalysis.

Okay, this helps, from GoodTherapy.org:

Transference is a psychological phenomenon in which an individual redirects emotions and feelings, often unconsciously, from one person to another. This process may occur in therapy, when a person receiving treatment applies feelings toward—or expectations of—another person onto the therapist and then begins to interact with the therapist as if the therapist were the other individual. Often, the patterns seen in transference will be representative of a relationship from childhood.

This makes me think of all the lovers I’ve had who secretly wanted me to be their father, and all the lovers I’ve secretly wanted to mother me, to love me in ways I hadn’t yet learned to love myself. Maybe this is transference ~ I always thought it was more like projection, but maybe these are synonyms. I haven’t fully grasped projection yet either :/

This definition helps:

in psychiatry, the unconscious tendency of a patient to assign to others in the present environment feelings and attitudes associated with significant persons in one’s earlier life; especially, the patient’s transfer to the therapist of feelings and attitudes associated with a parent or similar person from childhood. The feelings may be affectionate (positive transference), hostile (negative transference), or ambivalent. Sometimes the transference can be interpreted to help the patient understand childhood attitudes.

So, a person who was abandoned by their father might expect a male lover to abandon them also? (Or I, who was abandoned by his father, might expect a male mentor to abandon me.) And this fear of adandoment plays out in all sorts of detrimental ways until we see this fear pattern by privileging the unconscious and bringing these fears to light.

I understand this is why I have typically had trouble forming and maintaining male friendships, but that’s changing and I have a lot of exceptional men in my life. I also understand, though, that I have had a tendency to over-share with older men I meet, and I eventually wondered if this was because I want them to know me in ways my dad was never willing to know me. The kind of full-frontal emotional exposure I tend to subject peopel to has frightened a lot of people off, especially barflies, and I imagine it’s the sort of behaviour that would get a bloke arrested in a George Orwell novel.

To my question of whether transference and narcissistic wounding are related, David responded with:

Narcissistic wounding and transference are related in so far as they are both unconscious processes inherent in pedagogical learning. (There is another type called Androgogy, first outlined by Carl Rogers). Rather than resisting either (avoiding) them – we’ll embrace them and make the unconscious conscious.

The word ‘pedagogy’ is one I always forget the meaning of, though it reminds me of the word ‘peripatetic’ because I know it has something to do with ways of teaching and learning. I’d never heard of ‘androgogy’, but I like what it seems to describe after a quick goOgle:

Andragogy refers to methods and principles used in adult education. The word comes from the Greek ἀνδρ- andr-, meaning “man”, and ἀγωγός agogos, meaning “leader of”; it literally means “leader of man”, whereas “pedagogy” literally means “leading children”.

The notion of teaching as a leadership tactic is interesting and illuminating ~ I never felt as though I was being effectively lead by most of my high school teachers, except that I was being lead to believe things they had not really questioned for themselves.

It seems paramount that a good teacher be willing to lead a good student in the process of inquiry, rather than to lead them down the garden path of indoctrination into established beliefs and to then set them ‘free’ as emerging adults into the world, utterly incapable of questioning what they are told.

How-to-Think-About-Weird-Things-coverThe greatest learning experience I encountered in my young adult life was a subject called Argument and Critical Thinking, during my one year of English and Philosophy at Adelaide Uni in 2002. I left after that, for various reasons ~ one being that I felt I had gained enough guidance, from that one subject, to go out into the world and continue thinking for myself. It was very empowering. The textbook was called How to Think about Weird Things, and I always loved the cover.

How this relates to narcissistic wounding, transference, and counter-transference (I’m just riffing here ~ of course, pull me up if I’ve got this utterly arse-about):

as a client might expect a therapist to play the role of their absent father (transference), a therapist might expect the client to behave as a father expects their child to behave, by strictly following their advice (counter-transference);

when a therapist expects this (or makes this expectation explicit), a client might experience narcissistic wounding (it hurts to be told you don’t know what’s good for you), and when a client doesn’t “follow the doctor’s orders”, a therapist might feel narcissitic wounding (because it hurts to have one’s advice discarded, especially if you genuinely care about someone).

How this relates to education:

in our dominant educational model, teachers are frequently offering advice about what to believe (rather than teaching a student how to arrive at their own beliefs and how to discard them as new evidence emerges);

this is hurtful to any individual who feels they are able to think for themselves ~ perhaps this is how mainstream education quashes creativity;

there is apparently a five-year attrition rate among teachers in this system ~ it is presumably hurtful to dispense advice to classfuls of unruly students (who are unruly because they are being preached to rather than educated).

How this relates to therapy:

a good therapeutic environment should be an educational experience, in the true (Aristotelian?) sense of the word ‘education’ ~ a truly good therapist should be educating an individual about self-regulating their own wellbeing, lest the individual become dependent upon the therapist for fixing their problems;

a good therapeutic environment should be andragogical in the sense that it leads or enables an individual to become their own, whole, fully integrated, adult human being.

How this relates to my own experience:

throughout my school career (before university) I was something like a good-bad student ~ I cared about learning, but I guess I was deeply reluctant about being told what to think, so I fell in with the ‘wrong’ crowd, skived a lot, and occasionaly derided my teachers for being idiots, but instead of just going down the creek to smoke bongs, I went down the creek to smoke bongs and read books;

I was an avid reader from the moment I learned how to read, and I maintain to this day that I learned more (of positive value) from gorging on books that I ever learned from my teachers;

I see now that perhaps I experienced a kind of narcissistic wounding by having my individual creativity and intelligence disregarded by the public school system (and also in 50 per cent of my home environment), so perhaps it was this pain that I was trying to self-medicate against by developing a massive marijuana habit;

I did not want to be dependent upon fools for what was being passed off as education, so I became a stoner-autodidact;

one of my earliest memories of using marijuana is from a time I was high in my cousin’s tinny on the Murray River ~ I remember reporting, to one my primary-school peers, how wonderful it was that my thought processes changed and I was able to think of things I had never before imagined;

years later, while at Adelaide Uni, one of my favourite pastimes was to take my uni readings to the River Torrens and get high while I read them;

George Carlin has a great sketch about how this might be a positive method initially, but once we develop a tolerance for such a substance we begin chasing the dragon and, before long, the sacred herb becomes a drug of dependence and leads to all sorts of negative consequences (I thought it was a sketch, but what I found on goOgle was this interview;

it’s the autodidact part of ‘stoner-autodidact’ that is more relevant (and I’ve started to discuss my experience of addiction elsewhere, so I’ll leave that aside for now);

I became an autodidact because, despite (or perhaps because of) the hopefully unconscious attempts of others to discount my intelligence and creativity, I believed in myself (and I had enough people in my life who also believed in me);

for this reason I consider myself to be a survivor of the industrial education system, but not everyone yet has access to the internal resources required to resist the indoctrination so omnipresent in the mainstream school systems of the neoliberal Western world.

How this might relate to my experience as an emerging therapist:

if we can enable and empower clients to access their internal resources (their own inner wisdom), we can help individuals to emerge in the world as self-reliant masters of their own destiny;

my limited understanding of narcissism comes from what I learned in Classics during that time at Adelaide Uni ~ Narcissus fell in love with his own reflection and died from hunger and dehydration (from ego-attachment leading to the self-neglect of his basic needs);

basic needs (as well as food, water, shelter, clothing, breathing and sex), include learning how to maintain a healthy degree of self-love ~ instead we are taught (in the industrial education system) how to martyr ourselves for the economy, and this feels something like anti-narcissism, which might explain why there are so many narcissists in positions of power (we have been dragged away from our self-reflection and taught to serve the state, in a way that is couched in terms of self-interest … which is all very confusing and convoluted and seemingly counter-intuitive);

by pursuing and offering truly good therapy we might hope to, in the words made famous by Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song”,

emancipate [y]ourselves from mental slavery,
none but ourselves can free our minds.

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via Marcus Garvey

 

our bodies are the temple

Dieta

I am beginning to learn, through research and experience, just how important our body is to our mental, emotional and psychological wellbeing, and what follows from this is the importance of diet.

I call it dieta because: 1) that extra a, from the Spanish, seems to lift the seriousness from the idea of dieting; 2) I picked up the word watching a documentary about shamanism, and the main motivating force behind diet for me is to have a cleaner body so I can be more in touch with what’s going on internally (in terms of digestion, but also and moreso in terms of emotions and psychic movements … pun intended 😉

I also think of all this as more like a yogic diet than just a diet diet, because that for me carries connotations of this being more about dietary choices that I hope will persist over a lifetime rather than about a few austerities I will observe temporarily as though my life were nothing more than a series of passing fads.

One of my early bosses (who was an alcoholic and chain smoker) used to say (ironically), ‘My body is a temple.’ I never really understood what this meant, but since then I have had some divine/mystical experiences that were the consquence of clean-eating and dedicated spiritual practices, so I know the body~mind partnership is capable of some truly transcendental stuff (holy shit), and I really want to begin to honour that some more.

I have also begun to notice that my general wellbeing is profoundly influenced by what I do and do not put into my body.

At the time of this writing I am 34, born 1983 in the Australian outer suburbs. Since that time the basic food pyramid has been turned on its head and, among other correlates, the gut~brain connection has been researched up the wazoo. We now know there are neurons in the heart and gut, not just the brain, and people are starting to use ‘second brain’ to refer to the gut.

When I was learning how to eat, it was mostly through mimicry in the suburbs, and my diet was (relatively) fine for the last 30 years or so, but I put that down to having been blessed with a profoundly strong constitution (physical and psychological), which is now beginning to show signs of wear and tear:

for a long time I was able to get away with eating a halfway-healthy diet, even though that included indiscrimate consumption of meat and other animal products, processed foods like commercial bread, plus wanton amounts of dairy and sugar, not to mention the various poisons of alcohol, commercial tobacco, caffeine and the hydroponic ‘biker bud’ I found myself smoking, which constitutes something of a segue to a sidenote:

It’s been 34 years since I started learning how to eat and feed myself, and it’s been about 19 years since I started scoring and smoking ganja. This was in the mid~late-90s and the Australian suburbs … skip forward to 2015 in c://maine (Castlemaine, VIC), which is essentially an outer suburb of Melbourne, where I asked my friend and dealer where our ganja was coming from ~ bikers, he said.

This was the year I first began to realise that maybe I was suffering depression and that the anxiety I was feeling maybe wasn’t normal. It was also the year I had my first major spiritual emergency. It was around then I started to realise that something needed to change if I wanted to ever feel like contentment, satisfaction, meaning and purpose were conditions I might feel frequently and consistently, and that something was gonna hafta to be me.

This tangent is getting a bit out of hand, when the only really important point is that the profound suffering (mixed with moments of transcendental joy and awe) that characterised that year were catalytic in promoting a search that lead to two realisations:

1) what I had absorbed about diet was no longer serving me, and food production had most likely changed radically in the preceding 30 years, but more (or less) importantly, 2) drug production had most likely changed radically in the last 20 years as well.

In the suburbs of the 90s I was probably smoking mostly homegrown or maybe some hydro that someone had come across. Now that I think about it, I do remember that ‘hydro’ was kind of a big deal back then, a new thing that was only just beginning to reach new levels of accessibility.

Skip forward again to c://maine, where the buzz was bush bud: whereas my buddies at high school would get excited because they had found some hydro that would get us really ‘whacked’, my friends in c://maine would get (mildly) excited when they came across some homegrown that would give us a nice, easy-going high.

So, things/times have changed, and the point of this long-winded tangent is that many factors influence our mental health, not just drug (ab)use: food, for example, is just another vehicle for chemicals that effect our mental states via the gut~brain, and as Dennis McKenna says anyway, “All experience is a drug experience” [12:33]:

Whether it’s mediated by our own [endogenous] drugs, or whether it’s mediated by substances that we ingest that are found in plants, cognition, consciousness, the working of the brain, it’s all a chemically mediated process. Life itself is a drug experience.

Apart from wanting to bust the myth that ‘marijuana causes depression’, I want to experiment with and illuminate experience and ideas around how everything we put into our bodies (including information) may cause depression (et al) if we are not wise about our choices.

The most illuminating experience I have had so far, experimenting with eliminating grains, is that both times I did this I suffered extreme bouts of insomnia. [12:36] I learned / was reminded of my own experience that eating grains has a profoundly soporific effect on the body, a great enabler of sleep.

It took me two of these experiments and a not-uncanny encounter with a friend to learn, from her, that if we want to just straight-up drop grains from our life, we need to be sure we have melatonin supplements, along with other herbal sleep supplements like valerian and hops, which I have now bought for any future experiments.

For these reasons and myriad others I am not yet aware of, I am documenting here the nature and contents of the dieta I am experimenting with, the details of which can be found on the sub-page, Dieta Detailia. [1:39]

psylocibic mushrooms and depression

Compared with SSRI anti-depressants (which tend to numb our emotional receptivity altogether), according to this article, psilocybin may actually increase our capacity for equanimity.

I’ve never used pharmaceutical anti-depressants, and it’s always seemed a bit strange to me that we should treat depression with an anti-anything … surely the trick is to promote greater acceptance of all emotions, especially the “bad” ones, using either mindfulness or … this:

The researchers don’t know for sure why that is, but after the experiment the patients reported “a greater willingness to accept all emotions post-treatment (including negative ones)”, whereas they felt their previous depression treatments [with SSRI anti-depressants] worked to “reinforce emotional avoidance and disconnection.”
“I believe that psychedelics hold a potential to cure deep psychological wounds,” Roseman told PsyPost. “And I believe that by investigating their neuropsychopharmacological mechanism, we can learn to understand this potential.”
It’s time we anti-demonise the shroom and learn how to use it wisely as the medicine it has always been, a medicine that grows in poo, as the lotus does.