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About me

WHO AM I

A failed seeker…

Almicar Herrera, a friend of mine, dreams of a day on which he, by waking up, would have forgotten his name. What for? In order for him to be what he really was. Because his essence was encaged into his name, a name that everyone pronounced. When his name was pronounced, it fell into the trap of everyone else’s wishes, of what everyone else expected from him. In fact, to utter a name is to say what we expect from somebody with such name. The name is a fate.”[1] (Rubem Alves)

 

Inside all of us there is something which does not have a name; this something is what we are.”[2] (José Saramago)

 

  1. ”TURNING MY EYES INWARD”.

This writing intends to shed some light on my emotional, psychic, and mental functioning.

For a long time in my life, I ‘turned my eyes inward’ into my own subjectivity, into that entity many people prefer to call ‘soul’, in my search for my own being[3]. During decades on this personal scrutiny, I studied C.G. Jung, the romantics, and never gave up questioning. Jung was my host and provided a great guidance by allowing me to make an ethnography of the soul. It was also important because, with him, through his experience as an analyst and through his theory, I could understand that it was possible to ”cure oneself” from the psychosis without going through the Oedipus. I feel great love for the social sciences, and especially for the anthropology, which taught me how to distrust the universals, mainly a sort of universal-end called Oedipus.

Jung also offered me a better understanding of psychosis and schizophrenia, and that is why it was not possible to pay more attention to the idea of an individual repressed unconscious. It became mandatory, then, the idea of a collective unconscious. I liked the idea. I liked even more when Jung, here and there, tried to apprehend what he himself named collective unconscious in the animals, in the plants, in the groups, in the Cosmos.

Following this trend, I thought, a collective unconscious in all domains — of course, with such collective unconscious, there is not any domains anymore! — and everything that exists was undergoing individuations: blossoming out of itself new possibilities of being! Heraclitus rediscovered, I thought.

As we know, Jung used to be extremely critical of the rationalist and extrovert Western civilisation — in his own words — a civilisation which turned the man into a ‘fragment of himself’ and so vulnerable to the collective unconscious and to the mental diseases. This idea also pleased me: the Western civilisation was a possible road, but not the only civilizational route available.

Another important concept was the perspectivism that the Swiss psychologist found in William James and Friedrich Nietzsche. I felt a relief with the perspectivism which is in one of the most instigating articles written by Jung “The divergence between Freud and Jung”[4] — an article from the late 20’s. In it, Jung defends Freud and Adler because both had set up their respective schools of thought by using as a starting point the sexual instinct and the power instinct, respectively. He, Jung, founded his own school based on a multiplicity of instincts and hoped that other great analysts, considering other instincts, would engender other psychological theories. It seemed to me that I had found a democratic epistemology and there were legitimate space for everybody in it, without wars between the psychoanalysis schools. A new way opened, presented itself in order to think the difference inscribed in the humane. What a great idea!

It was those four ideas — psychosis, collective unconscious, perspectivism and critique of the western civilisation — which appealed to me and that is why I studied Jung during many years.

Quite a lot of people kept asking me, as I was dedicating an exceptional time to the Swiss psychologist: Why Jung? There are other schools and other authors who think, in an infinitely more sophisticated manner, over these issues that interest you. Why Jung? I knew they were right, but I wasn’t willing to listen to them, and today I know the reason. I did experiences with Jung, and after that with the psychanalysis, and after that with Karl Marx.

I don’t read a book and then take in its cognitive, theoretical model. I don’t function this way! I do experience with a book, with a school of thought, and these experiences are so profound, so visceral, that I don’t step away a millimetre from what I’m living, and that’s why — I learned it harshly. When we are doing an experience, it stops belonging only to us: a true experience does something with us and belong to the time — not to a chronological time, but to an aeonic time[5]. The experience only stops when the time to which it belongs stops — and this, I insist, has nothing to do with the chronological time, an egotistic time.

I lived with Jung an experience, and I just could finish it, with deep gratitude, when the aeonic time allowed me to. I’ve always lived the theories that way: as visceral aeonic experiences. In addition, that’s why, I believe, one day an experience is over, a new aeonic time opens itself up, and a new adventure shows up.

However, by “turning my eyes inward” I didn’t find what I was looking for: an answer to the question about who I was. After a lot of psychic work, I can say that I came across my own un-knowledge — although, nowadays, I know much better how I function.

Paradoxically, the more I knew about myself, the less I knew myself! I became more mysterious to myself. I felt something that doesn’t allow itself be deciphered: Jung called this point the Self — despite the fact that he had named it, nobody knows what it is. The only connection I have today with this quest are my dreams which, during this experience, changed themselves and, presently, it seems to me that those dreams are ‘staged’ on some indecipherable point, a point that is, actually, unnameable as so well described Jose Saramago. When I “turned my eyes inward”, and there staying for a long time, I failed, even though this pilgrimage have been so rich for, as I already said, I didn’t find what I was looking for and that was exactly what prompted me into the next experience.

  1. ”TURNING MY EYES OUTWARD”

With the psychoanalysis, “I turned my eyes outward”, especially to those bonds I’ve always tried to establish. A personality is a bunch of bonds; I learned it with W. R. Bion. He also taught me that a baby would only become a thinker if her mother provides her with revêrie — lending her her own mental apparatus to take the baby out of the horror without name, by naming it. The environment and the importance of the motherly figure in the making-up of the psychism and in creativity have become decisive to me when I started to study Donald W. Winnicott and, with him, definitely, my eyes “turned outward”. All this new apprehension, gained through the new psychoanalysis, changed considerably my understanding of the psychotherapeutic clinic.

I also had a joyful encounter with Christopher Bollas, an avowed disciple of both D. Winnicott and W. R. Bion. Through Bollas, it made much more sense for me an anthropology of the person in the psychoanalysis: the true self, the personal idiom, read and understood from the choice of objects (books, films, exhibitions), from the experience of happenings, ideas, experiences. “What is this thing called Self”? — this is the title of a chapter in the book Cracking-up — written by C. Bollas[6]. There, Bollas asserts that we cannot describe our Self, but we can feel and have some notion that we are peculiar, guided by an intelligence, which, at the level of the unconscious, envelops us. It is particular of the man to have, then, this sense of Self. Here, the sense tries to name what is unnameable.

It was enriching for me, and I believe that for everybody around me, to think of the psychoanalysis as a way to bring to the surface this anthropology of the person and, with it, a sort of extrovert Self. For Bollas, “each patient is an idiom, and this idiom creates, in fact, its objects and chooses its particular objects — mental, human, and inanimate. This is the intelligence of choices, and it is also peculiar culture — derived from these choices — and that must be studied. In this sense, the psychoanalysis is a kind of anthropological work.”

The Self expresses itself and reveals itself to Bollas, at every moment, through every situation and every concrete objects in our daily life. The patient as an object uses even the analyst. It is by referring to such creation of objects and to the use of the analyst as an object by the patient that Bollas claims the existence of an “invisible anthropology, which was never seen, never was written, never was found, and, nevertheless, such anthropology does exists.” For Bollas, the child, the baby, and especially the adult use all the objects in the world as a sort of lexicon for the liberation of the self: it is, then, of a way to use the objects that can liberate the singular idiom of each person — thus liberating the Self.

Each incipient emotion — that springs up from the body, from the Self, from the O — seeks for objects, people, experiences to express itself. I pursued, for a long time, the emergence of such incipient emotions, their binding with the objects, with the other and with the world, and then their making of their expression. Many writings in this blog, if not most of them, were thought of in this fashion: writings-experiences-of-the-self. For Bollas, the true Self is what he names — and it suits me well — personal idiom. Therefore, this blog is an idiomatic one!

When I “turned my gaze outside” once more, I found myself in hot waters for the more I learn about myself in this way, the less I know about myself, and the more mysterious I become to myself. Again, after many years of experiences, I was forced to recognize my own failure.

I was left, again, with the blooming of this mysterious and actually unnameable point, even though we call it ‘Self’ — because it is from it that all our emotions apparently come into being.

  1. SUSPICION AND THE LOVE FOR THE WITNESSES

A suspicion has always been through my thinking life, taking several paths and demanding to be expressed through my own resources, once I coudn’t be functioning the way I do and, simultaneously, following a ready-made path which were offered to me. The point is that I’ve always been suspicious of the universals, and together with them, of the precedence of the subject over the object: the legislative reason and the silence of the witnesses. The legislative reason and the modern I as a lawgiver have silenced the objects of investigation — whether is it the nature, the society, the man, the body, the soul.

I’m going to use now a metaphor that shows us the silence of the object and the chatter of the ‘subject of knowledge’. In modern times, reason has been gone to the court: the court of reason. This court has forged a metaphor that expresses the modern spirit — I’m talking about the judge and the witnesses[7]. The judge (the subject of knowledge) query the witnesses (the objects of knowledge). As in a courtroom, the witnesses can only answer what the judge asks. Let’s then consider that the subject of knowledge is the judge who formulate absolute answerable questions, and the witnesses — the objects of knowledge — must solely stick to such questions!

Together with the subject-judge, and with the muted witnesses, we also watch the endless despise of modern science for the domain of life: the common sense, the daily reality. Science has become domineering. The domain of life, the counterpoint to the scientific world, has been, since long date, regarded as a breeding ground for ideologies and false consciences. It was precisely there, in the domain of life that the scientific project should focus on, transforming it; in the place of a false conscience a true conscience should emerge, I mean, a scientific one. In other words, the reality should be fabricated, moulded, yielded, and opening space for a new order, a planned and transparent order.

However, when I started the studies for my master’s degree I did my field research with industrial workers from the ABC metropolitan area (surrounding São Paulo city) and I didn’t have a clue about what I’ve just written above. The social sciences do not emphasize the question of ‘how to know’ and which are the base of such knowing. We go on for an empirical research after a generic and very little elucidating course called Methodology — but let’s not forget that there are few honourable exceptions. So, there I went, in the end of the seventies, during the dictatorship, to a working class neighbourhood; but, more than the questions proposed by the methodology course, I took with me, to the field, as a main item in my own research method, my ability to suspect.

I talked with hundreds of workers, with no script, no questions, and no theory. I believed to have been, in that survey, a par excellence ‘anti-lawgiving I’, for I ‘ve always been more a listener than an interpreter. The workers talked, talked, and, not so rarely, they had ready-made theories on their situation, because there wasn’t a lack of militant workers keen to speak out. I would listen to, and listen even more, and more I started to realize that I was completely overturning the clumsy methodological propositions I had previously learned. I gave voice to the witnesses! I never stopped doing it since then. I took the side of the witnesses, not of the judge — and it has been wonderful! Henceforth I had a new proposition: the witnesses became questions and they were invited to talk, to talk a lot and without any script! When that happens, the judge, the subject of knowledge, just listens, gets stunned, gets lost and… fails in playing the law-giving ruler.

Now, this is a shortcut for anyone willing not to succeed in a great university such as Unicamp, because both the University and its Financing Institutions (FAPESP/CNPQ/CAPES) do not give much value to any research whose ‘subject of knowledge’ ‘gets baffled’, and whose ‘objects of knowledge’ are absurdity talkative. These institutions also do not have any affinity with any research that springs from an incipient emotion, with unthought thoughts that emerge from the body, from the dreams, and only build links with the aeonic time!

I do research in this way. In addition, I taught my students to use this same approach to researching. I only write an article inspired by a rising emotion, a dreamlike emotion that seeks for objects, for ideas, for theories to express itself. Rising emotion multiply themselves, they search on books, other written materials, all kinds of encounters, in order for them to articulate themselves through writing. Afterwards, when I engage myself in the composition, the article is magically ready, and if I make any mistake concerning this invisible script that is guiding me through the writing process, I stop for a while, and I synchronize myself with this sort of inner daemon who, in the Socratic fashion, only knows how to say ‘no’, with such a great force!

As if it wasn’t enough, this approach to researching interweaves many theories so that it can enunciate itself through writing. I mean, in my attempts to build a line of research, I came across many obstacles at the University, and only in the last years it has become possible, since a professor invited me from my Department, someone to whom I make use of this opportunity to thank very much for her contribution. I remained in the university, all this long, because of the verbal interchange with my students, master’s degree and doctorate I tutored, and everyone else who filled my classroom with hope and enjoyment and because they knew that, with me, no one’s question would meet opposition and we could think everything over and over. With this non-rational way of doing research — at least it didn’t have a rational starting point — I found something precious: personal idioms, I mean, the difference among people — and with that, I endeavour to leave the imprisonment of the universal man.

  1. FAILURES AND A NEW ADVENTURE

I took all this biographical walking to tell how I let go with the question ‘who am I?’ and finally I am free of it! Besides, I was only able to do it steadily because I’ve failed many times. I dont’t understand well why people so eagerly repel failure. To fail and to give up are the driving forces for the emotional transformation inasmuch as they open spaces, and it is possible to recreate worlds in these open and empty spaces. Surely, I’m not talking about a common failure, which is as if rising up to an impossible peak because one doesn’t have the true dimension of one’s reality and subsequently falls down in a calamitous way. No, I don’t fail that way! I fail in a Jungian way!

Carl Jung, in The Secret of the Golden Flower[8], devised a proposition which has guided my steps since I first learned of it, he says that it is very important to have problems — and, I would add, to have questions — not because one day we will reach a solution; the problems are important because when we deal with them for a long time, we come to the conclusion that they, the problems which made us sleepless, they turn out to be unimportant once we’ve broadened our mind and our conscience in the process of looking for solutions, and, one day we realize that such problems don’t vex us any longer because they have become small problems. I failed in this way: the question that distressed me for decades and at which I looked for multiple solutions, with the passing of time, with the quests, with the incomplete answers I went on collecting, everything contributed to make the question uninteresting, even petty, I should say. Who am I? It simply doesn’t interest me anymore.

I left this question behind, I did this because the recurring failures taught me that such question doesn’t make any sense: there isn’t a ‘who’ in the ‘I am’. I ‘am’ is just enough! Better yet, I’m being. Being. Now I don’t cast my eyes ‘to the inside’ or ‘to the outside’. This separation, previously so telling, between the interior and the exterior, also lost its meaning for me. All the roads taken throughout the decades were used up and I found myself without anything else to take. It was at this crossroad in my lifetime that a new rising emotion presented itself to me.

I was happy because life generously invited me, once more, to a ‘new beginning’. It was a new beginning that isn’t sponsored by those questions which modelled a whole proposal of world: the inner and the outer, the interior and the exterior — something that, as you can imagine, was the reality for me, a reality that nowadays doesn’t guide itself by the idea of subject, of identity; a reality that doesn’t guide itself by the idea of anthropocentrism any longer. As Eduardo Viveiros de Castro would say, although I’m not sure if this is exactly so, but the meaning is this, he would say then, that it is necessary to open room for the other. It is necessary that the Man, old, exhausted and overburdened by his overwhelming eagerness to be the centre of the world, making it revolve in accordance to his will, now it’s time for that man to take a rest, and to get rid of his chores and tribulations, and finally open space for all the other beings.

For this time on, the posts in this blog will deal with other topics.

_______________________

REFERENCES

BOLLAS. Christopher. Cracking up — the work of unconscious experience. London. Routledge, 1995.

DESCARTES, René (1983). “Meditations” (Three First Meditations). In: The Thinkers. São Paulo. Abril Cultural.

JUNG. C. G. Freud and the Psychoanalysis. Petrópolis. Vozes, 1989.

JUNG. C.G. WILHEIM. R. The Secret of the Golden Flower — The Chinese Book of Life. Petrópolis. Ed. Vozes, 1984.

KANT, Emanuel (1997). “Preface to the first edition” (1781); “Preface to the second edition” (1787). In Emanuel Kant, Critique of the Pure Reason. (4th. Ed.). Lesbon: Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian.

SARAMAGO. José. All the Names. S.P. Planeta De Agostini, 2003.

___________________

NOTES

[1] The House of Rubem Alves/Room of Accessories XLII. www.rubemalves.com.br

[2] SARAMAGO. José. All the Names. S.P. Planeta De Agostini, 2003.

[3] I’m going to use the verb in the present tense throughout this post.

[4] Chronos and Aeon are two words in the Greek language that were used to define the idea of time. Chronos is linear time we live in our everyday life; Aeon is the original time, being the very source of Chronos. Heraclitus recognizes Cronos as the dimension of gratitude that shows the way how Aeon creates the time: “Aeon is a child playing, being a child, toying around in a child’s realm” (fragment 52) cf.: BEUQUE. Guy Van. Experience of the Nothing as World Principle. Rio de Janeiro: Mauad, 2004, page 101, note IX. Aeon, time of creation, and, as such, time of the unexpected event, of unpredictability. I cite van de Beuque: “With the Greek gods, more than with eternity, Aeon has in common the form how ‘they play with the world’, imposing their will oven men’s will to control their (the men’s) fate. Aeon is the time of fate, of the fate, which rules the mortals’ ruling, establishing the order of every thing. Fate, fortune, chance — the unexpectedness that, by being indeterminate, determines the route of living” (op. cit. p. 180).

[5] Other works by Bollas: The Shadow of the Object (Imago, 1987), Forces of Destiny (Imago, 1992), The Infinite Question (Artmed, 2012), The Freudian Moment (Roca, 2013), etc.

[6] Descartes did not believe that reason and thought were synonyms.

[7] The metaphor of the judge and the witnesses is in the Preface of 1787.

[8] The Secret of the Golden Flower — The Chinese Book of Life.