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.

0273ccf75b2bcd0738087f644b67d4cb
via Marcus Garvey

 

a statement of Mission

after Snowden

I was watching a documentary about Snowden recently, and I was inspired again to start educating myself about a basic truth that our culture hides in plain sight: our government is not serving our best interests.

Maybe I can’t stop/change this entirely or totally, but I can inform myself enough that my complicity is minimised, and perhaps I can be involved in some community project that undermines the elite’s power over us, the ~pawns~, like maybe a community bank or helping to organise and distribute organic food from independent growers ~ Monsanto would hate that, right? Even publishing this website and blog is an act of dissidence, a way of challenging the fear-mongering of mainstream media, which the doco refers to as ‘the corporate media’.

I shared a video on Facebook recently, by a guy called Rob Dial, who explains that any piece of information we absorb is ~brainwashing~ us, which means that we can choose to watch the nightly news and scare the crap out of ourselves, engendering distrust of our fellows, or we can choose to watch … well, videos like this one, which explains that, contrary to what we are told by the corporate media, the world is actually a profoundly safer place today than it ever has been in history:

As a somewhat-serious student of psychology and as a human being who desires understanding of and a modicum of control over his own mind, I am fascinated by the very concept of brainwashing. I’m somewhat reluctant to indulge the subject because it sounds so conspiracy-theory-ey, but the reality is that brainwashing is happening to us at all times, whether it be through advertising, news media, unscrupulous religious leaders, or even just the things we unconsciously choose to give more of our attention to, whereby we brainwash ourselves. So it’s definitely somethig I’m trying to keep my eye on.

It’s a curious thing though, that making ourselves aware of these unfortunate realities can sometimes have an adverse effect before they have a positive one ~ a scene from the Snowden doco that I could especially relate to, is where he says that the more he learned, the more the anxiety mounted up.

This is a normal and healthy response to the dawning awareness that our so-called leaders, who we hoped and believed were serving our interests, are actually serving theirs. It’s not fair that we are treated like pawns in the elites’ game of chess. And something I find especially distressing about the whole situation is I know they are seeking refuge in the wrong object.

Seeking refuge is an idea in Buddhism that can be understood as ‘seeking happiness’ ~ we seek refuge, from suffering, in all sorts of things we believe will give us lasting pleasure or contentment. Some people seek refuge in power, control and unnecessary wealth, by brainwashing and exploiting the weak or disadvantaged ~ such ‘leaders’ are causing (or contributing to) the suffering of others, and ultimately they are doing this to perpetuate their own suffering by pursuing happiness/refuge where it doesn’t exist. As well as people, this kind of misguided behaviour exploits the planet, our habitat.

Distressing, no?

When we begin to understand this, anxiety is a natural response because anxiety is a natural response to threat, to the perceived danger of, say, immanent ecological collapse ~ called ecoanxiety. In Snowden’s case, it seemed the anxiety came from becoming aware that our own governments are spying on us, and not for the sake of our safety, as they would have us believe.

Whatever the case may be, I’m interested in understanding how to raise awareness of these realities without catalysing massive panic attacks or debilitating depression ~ much of my own experience of depression has come from feeling disempowered in wanting to make positive change in the world. So I’m interested in how to minimise the psychological damage of becoming increasingly aware that our greatest threat may come from within our own culture.

I feel a strong duty to inform myself and to help others free themselves from a system that does not have their best interests at heart ~ well, rather than free ourselves from “the system”, it’s about healing ourselves so that we, as aspects of that system, can begin to improve the system from within. It’s not enough (in fact it’s not healthy) to blame “the system” for all of our suffering ~ to do so is an abnegation of individual responsibility, and an expression of Ignorance.

What we need to do is liberate ourselves from psychological enslavement to the systems of power that control us, which is an entirely internal process ~ we don’t need to change the system externally, but change ourselves so the control mechanisms of culture no longer have any power over us.

So I’ve come here to declare the nature of my Mission, which I choose to accept in pursuit of a Vision:

I imagine a world characterised by harmony and diversity in unity, a world where each and every individual has realised the true nature of reality and therefore is happy to serve the collective interests over their own ~ imagine a world where everyone was watching out for everyone else … we wouldn’t need to worry about anything, there would be no cause for regret and we would all be free to enjoy the present again.

It’s been bouncing around in mind lately that my mission is to

help people heal so that our world doesn’t continue down a path where it’s okay for governments to spy on their citizens people and for businesses to plumb the earth to line their rubber wallets. Entheogens are being used to evolve consciousness and of course modern-day shamanism and other ancient soul-healing methods exist (they have survived the onslaught of scientific materialism), and I yearn fiercely to be involved with such transcendental forms of transpersonal psychology so I can 1) heal myself and, in doing so, learn how to 2) help others to heal the will to power.

If we can help each other to experience the divine connectedness that is at the heart of these ancient traditions of psychotherapy, we can begin to eradicate ruthlessness from the world. Call me an idealist, but I believe we create our own reality and we define our own meaning ~ if we can imagine utopia, then utopia will cease to mean ‘no place’ and instead come to mean ‘our place’.

If we can help each other to experience the profound empathy and compassion that is our nature, the world will begin to transform, which is already happening ~ we are very fortunate to be alive and working at this time, cresting a wave in the evolution of human consciousness and the planetary consciousness supporting such diverse forms of life.

I declare that I accept the mission to ride this wave along with the other awakening individuals I am beginning to encounter in the community. I declare that I will honour the powerful potential I need to fulfill by helping to create a world characterised by harmony and diversity in unity, a world where each and every individual has realised the true nature of reality and therefore is happy to serve the collective interests over their own.

In my burgeoning role as a transpersonal psychotherapist / shaman I imagine treating individuals who are operating at three levels:

  • the ~underdog~ who feels disempowered, so they might come into their own and realise their potential to contribute improvements as grassroots leaders within their communities
  • the ~average~ who is coping, surviving, but beginning to look for ways to pursue thrival instead of just survival
  • the ~leader~ who already has power, so they might wield it more compassionately and for the genuine benefit of all

I feel I am making the journey through these levels, having started out life as an underdog, raised myself to an average level of success and wellbeing, and begun to aspire to being a true leader in my community ~ when I say ‘leader’ above, I do mean ‘politicians, businesspeople, teachers and other heads of institutions’, but what I envisage is that in this millenium we will see a shift away from leaders and those who are lead, from elites and pawns, to a far-more-decentralised way of living and governing ourselves.

I am also interested in what I learned were the original aims of psychology ~ I don’t have the source with me here, but I recall from a textbook of positive psychology that the original aims of psychology were:

  1. the treatment of pathology
  2. the maintenance of wellness
  3. the nurturing and harbouring of talent and genius

Oh, I found the textbook!

In Positive Psychology: The Scientific and Practical Explorations of Human Strengths by Charles Richard Snyder and‎ Shane J Lopez, there is a quote from Martin Seligman saying the above three missions were the original aims of psychology, so, yay, I remembered!

What I definitely remembered (because I was especially impacted by it) is the idea, as described in the same quote (a breakout quote from the main text), that the second two were neglected throughout the twentieth century for reasons I don’t need to go into here, because the point is that I want to get behind the move in positive psychology to start focusing again on the other two objectives of psychology.

More than that, I would add that the fourth objective of psychology (or what I am starting to call ‘holosophy’ and what others might call ‘entheology’) is:

4. facilitate conscious evolution (the evolution of consciousness)

BAM! Homo evolutis.