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

 

integrative psychotherapy + Vedic destiny

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but what we make?

In a twist of what Vedic philosophy might describe as destiny (involving a Kafka-esque turnaround in the Australian welfare system), I find myself now pursuing a Bachelor of Integrative Psychotherapy at IKON Institute, a dinky-di and very cute, progressive and holistic private university near the Valley in Brisvedas. (I was told by one person at Centrelink that the Bachelor was not supported by Austudy, and then, when I called again, I was told that it was.)

Integrative psychotherapy “is the process of making whole”, and the Canadian Institute for Integrative Psychotherapy describes it further:

Integrative Psychotherapy embraces an attitude towards the practice of psychotherapy that affirms the inherent value of each individual. It is a unifying psychotherapy that responds appropriately and effectively to the person at the affective, behavioral, cognitive, and physiological levels of functioning, and addresses as well the spiritual dimension of life.

The term “integrative” of Integrative Psychotherapy has a number of meanings. It refers to the process of integrating the personality: taking disowned, unaware, or unresolved aspects of the self and making them part of a cohesive personality, reducing the use of defense mechanisms that inhibit spontaneity and limit flexibility in problem solving, health maintenance, and relating to people, and re-engaging the world with full contact. It is the process of making whole. Through integration, it becomes possible for people to face each moment openly and freshly without the protection of a pre-formed opinion, position, attitude, or expectation.

This bachelor is the perfect coalescence of all that I’ve been wondering about for a very long time, and I feel extra-ordinarly fortunate and grateful that I have this opportunity to pursue my own wholeness so that I might be able to help others do the same.

Integrative psychotherapy is basically the entheotropic process, or the holosophic process ~ the process of realising wholeness through experiential wisdom of our being a part of the whole, as a water droplet is an integral part of the ocean.

In the Bhagavad-gita it is said that each living entity is qualitatively the same as Krsna (the Supreme Personality of the Godhead), and the only difference between the living entity and Krsna is a quantitative distinction, as the water droplet is qualitatively, but not quantitatively, the ocean.

What Osho described as oceanic consciousness may be the same as fully realised Krsna conscious … but I’m not sure. I’m not sure how I feel about the Gita just now, except that I enjoy how it’s giving me a broader context in which to place Buddhism, which was my go-to source of spiritual succour for nearly a decade. In this sense, Vedic philosophy is a container that is even more broad and encompassing than Buddhism or Christianity or Islam or Judaism or any of the other religions that might have grown from Vedic philosophy.

I have to stop here now, lest I enter a rabbit hole I cannot escape from. The only other thing I would add is I am excited to be learning that maybe Gautama was an avatar of Krsna, and that there is almost certainly a cultural link between the likes of Gautama and Jesus.

I know that’s a can of worms … but I’m a boy!, so I love eating worms 😀

 

the emerging awakened humanity

I was watching DMT: The spirit molecule again; I’ve been reading some stuff about ego and the spiritual universe, and I’m starting to see that maybe we haven’t lost our connection with Spirit after all.

We tend to blame our modern malaise of technological enslavement and mechanistic reductionism on our lost contact with the spiritual part of ourselves, or we say that science has displaced Spirit. We hark back to an elusive Golden Age when our ancestors were more spiritual, an age when people were less concerned with consumerism and material wealth, with worldly concerns, when the richness of our spiritual life was felt more fully.

It is certainly true that our preoccupation with external things ~ with objects of consumption and salvation … with materialism, politics, economics and technology … leave us oriented in a direction that is not holistic. We need to reacquaint ourselves with the spiritual aspect of our existence, find more soul, live more from the heart … we need to stop deriding the immaterial as unreal and the nonrational as absurd or illogical. But we also need to stop seeing our misdirection as a decline, and start seeing our evolution as being exactly where it needs to be, ascending as always.

The stories we always told ourselves, about the cosmos and our place in the world, were and are products of the culture of the times, and we can’t be sure about how people in history thought or felt. We can deduce things about their beliefs and stories, but we can’t know for sure there were more people who were more spiritual. We look at some isolated Amazonian tribe and we assume they’re more spiritual because they’re less technological. We say that the technology of civilisations and the worldview it springs from has displaced our connection with Spirit, but how do we know earlier generations were more connected?

During periods before, say, the invention of the printing press, it could even be reasonably assumed that the general population was less spiritual because the scriptures were kept from them by the priesthood ~ the general population’s relationship with God and the spiritual realm was mediated by the priesthood. In the last few thousand years in what are now developing countries like India and the regions of Asia, the daily grind to survive before industrial mechanisation might have been such that there was little to no time for the average person to even contemplate, let alone experience, spiritual realities.

Even with teachers like Buddha and Jesus coming on to the scene millenia ago, it seems that few have realised enlightenment, and we are still in the mess from which they started trying to save us 2500 years ago ~ for millenia before that, people were striving to know the truth, yet here we are.

Many people may have realised enlightenment, but they are neither the majority of people nor the minority of government ~ politicians and business leaders often seem the least enlightened, yet they wield such control and power in our communities. The minority, our leaders, may not be very much awake, seeking satisfaction and pleasure only from the finite material realm, but many othes among the majority are highly enlightened people, serving the world with compassion, and striving from all angles to realise direct experience of the true nature of things and pass on spiritual insight in their community.

In deed, there is a major spiritual revolution underway, and millions are growing more and more disillusioned with the dominant material paradigm of economic growth and environmental irresponsibility, the empty power struggles and the pursuit of happiness in all the wrong places. The world is waking up at a rate of knots we have no precedent for.

The premise of many a self-help book and many a cultural critique is that we have lost connection with Spirit, but I think this premise is based on a misconception of previous cultures and times we can only know through deduction from secondary sources. I think there is a tendency in our culture, and maybe in all cultures before us (maybe it’s a quality inherent in the human condition), to assume that our modern times are somehow lacking. Maybe that inherent quality is the motivating force that drives all of our metaphysical enquiries, all of our endeavours to know more about our true nature and to facilitate our evolution. Without that tendency we would soon fall into complacency and our evolution would stall, if not our survival.

There is evidence to suggest that we are actually more connected with Spirit today than we have been at any other time in our history. Michael Talbot’s book The Holographic Universe is a good example, a proposal that many ‘paranormal’ phenomena like out-of-body experiences, telepathy and remote viewing may be understood as normal when viewed from the holographic paradigm.[1] Another profound proposal is in the book Ego: The Fall of the Twin Towers and the Rise of an Enlightened Humanity by Peter Baumann and Michael W. Taft ~ the authors contend:

we are not falling into the grip of a new dark age at all; rather, we are on the verge of a much brighter one as the Darwinian process of natural selection continues to advance humankind

It’s inevitable that when we first become disillusioned by Western materialism and start looking for alternatives, we are going to think our culture has lost connection with Spirit. I was always saying that ‘in the West we have no sources of spiritual succour’. So, like countless others before me, I travelled to the East, where I found, instead of spiritual succour, a train wreck where Eastern and Western culture are colliding.

It has only been in the last year that I have been coming to realise that our culture is brimming with spirituality ~ once you start looking for it, it starts looking for you, and pretty soon we start to realise that where no spiritual culture exists yet, we must create it, attract it for ourselves.

That’s how spiritual culture existed in the Golden Ages we imagine ~ it wasn’t some self-generating meme that just one day emerged from the walls of caves in the form of rock art. It was created, nurtured and develop, the same as it continues to grow in the lives of those who cultivate a Connection.

Rest assure, if you found yourself here in your search for ideas about spiritual awakening ~ the world is becoming more and more alive and aware. If you know of other signs we are waking up, please share in the comments below.