20 March 2015

Thinking aloud

Christopher Bollas defines the self not as a unitary entity but as a capacity: self is the capability of perceiving the self.  In this formulation, self becomes process. My self is unknowable but can only be experienced. Self cannot be immutable else what’s a heaven for? Were the self to be inflexible it would suffer unending frustration as the external world forever alters and education would be pointless. The same actions will rarely produce the same result.  In the encounter with objects ‘I’ becomes the question: who am I? what is that? who is that? what next? etc. Bollas states, “as we move through our life we do so as a personality, a unique set of evolving theories generating insights and new perspectives, but meeting up with experience that turns our self as theory increasing sets of questions.” The self in this sense is all possibility; in reflection self becomes but is never fully known. In reflection I become me, but the me I become is then a new theoretical construct; as the me moves the intellect raises new questions that continues to form the self that the intellect perceives. New questions arise from the theory.
     I have in the past considered that our Desire is unknowable, and we can know only its satisfactions: to know our desire would reduce it to mere appetite. I am not sure I would equate Desire to self, but perhaps that is a direction into which I am heading. Our desire, perhaps, is “the force that through the green fuse drives the flower/That drives my green age . . .” Our experience is driven (?) by what Bollas refers to as ‘our idiom’: “the aesthetic of being that is driven by an urge for its articulation, its theory of form, by selecting and using objects so as to give [those objects] form.” I equate that ‘idiom’ with the force that drives the flower and that might be my Desire. That idiom is the force in me that demands expression, that requires some form and structure in order to be realized, and that seeks out in the world for those objects (or it makes such objects of that which it finds) with which I can play- establish relations and use that become psychic relations as well. I think the world contains illimitable objects for my use. Idiom starts as theory and becomes experience that develops new theory that inspires new experience. Bollas rhetorically asks that if an individual has “an appreciative sense of the self’s experiences, isn’t it likely that the organizer of such inner constellations will be unconsciously aware of introspective delight,” and continue to enjoy reflection and the pursuit of insight. Wouldn’t the pleasure of perceiving the self (and therefore of having a self) offer unconscious pleasure and inspire continuance. Objects chosen from the influences of my idiom possess their own integral form, and my use of them gives to those objects idiosyncratic form that leads to delight. I can go on. I want to go on. Going on is the pleasure. Where once was id—Desire—now there are objects. Bollas says that, “In play the subject releases the idiom of himself to the field of objects, where he is then transformed by the structure of that experience, and will bear the history of that encounter in the unconscious.” Thus, to be a character (not equivalent to being the self) is to “enjoy the risk of being processed by the object.” Since my engagement with actual objects is limited by space and time, and since I can carry about only my psychic relations to the objects to which I relate, then I understand my self when I recognize my participation in the world of objects.
      One of the places where I release my idiom into he world of objects is in writing. As I sit here trying to make sense of what is above I am content. And when I read books (not just any books, however, only ones to which my idiom leads me—and that idiom comes from somewhere—I am at play.


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