ΑρχικήΨηφιακή ΒιβλιοθήκηΆρθραΆρθρα (Αγγλικά)Hogberg, Eli A. - "On Emotional and Somatic Exile"

Hogberg, Eli A. - "On Emotional and Somatic Exile"

On Emotional and Somatic Exile

"nostimon himar"

 Eli A. Hogberg

Abstract: A dream of an analysand conveyed me to the Greek concepts "nostos" and "algos" and eventually to the Greek drama of Electra and Clytemnestra. The analyst’s thoughts, bodily sensations, her free associations reflect the understanding of the dream of the analysand as an attempt at repair. Nostalgia as an emotional and somatic exile is discussed as an experience of being without a "place/space" ( the mental representation of the inner and outer place has been relinquished). The object’s desire decides the effects of the exile on the subject, a movement between absence and possession. The objects absence is replaced by the subjects "no place"; the absence as the incorporated bad object, an oscillation between presence and absence (nothingness).  With that as starting point, the analysand and the analyst reflect upon the analysands´s dream once more and thereafter understand something more of the analysand’s psychic structure/organization, landing on the Homer expression "nostimon himar". The dream indicates a new beginning, a cyclic movement with a new scope.

 Key words: dream, counter transference, nostos, algos, somatic symptoms, myth in the Greek drama.

The analysand is a young woman in her mid-twenties, born in Sweden of Mediterranean parents, who separated soon after the analysand’s birth. Let us call her Zoë.

In the interviews, she is presenting diffuse somatic symptoms as well as apathy, tiredness, feeling tense most of the time, diffuse anxiety, more or less asthenia symptoms. In her previous history there are two suicidal attempts in the last four years.

She is coming to me mostly with her somatic suffering and her curiosity over possible psychological connections to her suffering. She is presenting herself without anxiety. She talks about her somatic symptoms in a nearly affectless way. She definitely wants an analysis. She has a feeling that she needs "help" but she can’t define what "help" would be.

The analysis is for her a journey, thinking of the journeys her family used to do, something that has engaged and occupied her for many years now.

The dream I am going to discuss is from her second year in analysis:

"It is like I am on a journey, but at the same time, I feel stuck. Eventually I got tired and I fell asleep, I am not sure if it is at a shadowed spot or if I am floating…Well, I don’t remember more…"

It’s quiet for a couple of minutes. The air in the room feels quit.

A: (I drift away in thoughts; images come to me……… stuck with me? The analysis?  Traveling with me? To the Aegean Sea?)  

I hear her saying: "In the summers, I enjoy floating in the warm sea….I’m a good swimmer…I let my body float… This feeling of freedom…I can only feel it there, in the warm sea… I’ve done a lot of traveling by boat in my days…Mostly with my mother…I like it and hate it at the same time…it still gives me nausea and it makes me sad…I feel tempted by the sea to take a swim, just jump in it…instead of having the boat between us. My mother has done a lot of traveling by herself as well. Often to the same place…I never understood if she was happy with it or not…it seemed so complicated….she was speaking about those trips with such enthusiasm….spoke about "pathos" and "nostimades"…. I always felt so sad, listening to her …I understand now that I was confused.

 Quiet for a while again.

Then I hear Zoë saying: I went with her many times but I never felt completely at home there….There I was with my "nostalgia", she said and laughed a little…..on the other hand I don’t feel at home in any place. I don’t really know what I want… I’ve been like that all my life...never knowing anything for sure (the unpredictable object?) I remember I used to stay at home from school just by saying "I don’t feel well today, I don’t know…" and I remember the frustration around me when I was not able to be more specific about my "not feeling well". I remember vividly how I just wanted to be left alone and at the same time – not!

Quiet again.

A: (I am gliding away in my own thoughts. It was probably only a few minutes. But it felt like a long time. An early loss of mother, the gratifying libidinal object?? The French expression "le retour éternel" comes to me and I feel for a minute stuck with it. Is there a connection to nostalgia?)

We didn’t say much for the rest of the hour….

The air felt thick. I noticed the intensity of the quietness, my body resting heavily in the chair. The hour was over. In a soft voice she said "thank you". Afterwards, I remembered that she said something in the beginning of the hour about her stomach being upset again, something we often had in focus. I had a barely perceptible feeling that something was not right in the apparently good work that we were accomplishing.

In the evening, when I did some writing I noticed that my body felt diffusely upset…Zoë came to my mind. Suddenly it occurred to me that my bodily sensations right then reminded me of her somatic symptoms. I wondered about the harmony of the hour and its meaning. And what about the non-harmonious parts, where did they disappear? Then, I remembered that she had spoken about the Elektra play she had seen the other day, a modern version of Sophocles´ play, where Elektra was portrayed as a very self-destructive character. Before, she had commented with force on the Clytemnestra character in the play. She now came back to that when she talked about her mother, who had a new male friend. Then I had commented on that focusing above all on the mother daughter relation, trying to get that into the transference.

 I was thinking myself that Clytemnestra never forgave Agamemnon for sacrificing their dotter Iphigenia to free the Greek ships (one woman was sacrificed for another, for Helen). Agamemnon had also killed Clytemnestra ´s first husband and their child. I also thought of Electra, driven by her love-hate relationship to her mother and of an idealization of her father.

Next day she was upset with different "realities". I tried in various ways to connect that to our previous hour. Without success. I thought of the smoothness of the hour the day before and wondered about the fusion-defusion processes taking place. I also remembered my feeling of closeness the hour before. I wondered if Zoë’s fear of closeness to me had something to do with me as maternal object perceived as rejecting.

Zoë:  "I don’t want to play with my life". Then quiet.

I said: is there any connection to yesterday’s hour?

Zoë said: I don’t know….Quite again. I’m not sure if I want to travel with my mum this summer…

I said:" You don’t want to play with your life, including playing with your mother…with me... (Clytemnestra??…) and said: longing to play and at the same time having to be alert to "Clytemnestra".

Zoë was silent first, then I noticed tears on her cheek, she didn’t try to wipe her face, I didn’t say anything at first, just noticed my body feeling calm and heavy in the chair again.

Zoë: As a child I had, time and again, dreams that started pleasantly and ended almost always in horror…I never understood that…

I said: As mother who becomes a Clytemnestra?

Zoë goes on with lots of memories of a frustrating kind.

 I say: You are scared and at the same time longing…for a person to whom you have to be on the alert and long for…there is the confusion….

We were quiet for the rest of the hour, Zoë was lying on the couch more relaxed and she said quietly: "Oh, my stomach ache had…I’ve got rid of it...kind of...somehow…"I noticed that it was another quality in the silence of the room, the feeling of closeness was gone.

Discussion

How was Zoë invested by her mother, her object of desire? I presume that Zoë’s mother have had invested in Zoë mostly of narcissistic reasons. The men that come and go in the mother’s life replace Zoë as mother’s narcissistic object. In their mother-daughter narcissistic relation: "I need you so  I/you can survive and vice versa", the men have to be idealised. But the idealisation leads to a non object relation.

Why did she have to deny the perceived painfulness in the dream?  Is it a consequence of the object’s absences and failures in its function of binding the drives? I believe so.

I believe that my "forgetting" my analysand in the hour, opened the way to traumatic traces of her childhood; a way to reveal the real meaning of the value of the transference-countertransference.

  1. The dream

Let’s start with Zoë’s dream.

The dream is a setting of Zoë’s inner reality, the same reality that marked her two suicidal attempts; a retreat and a regression to a narcissistic state to go to sleep in and even die.

My identification with the images that come to me, become my dream. I think of Zoë’s dream as an illustration of her unconscious urge in handling the love and hate impulses, seeking presentation and representation. The memory and desire in her dream appears in my counter-transference as my dream. My free associations to her material are, of course, over determined by my own unconscious. So, her dream and my dream become our dream, expressing something of the power in the process we are engaged in.

Her saying: "I can let my body float… This feeling of freedom…I can only feel it there…" Does it capture the longing for the imaginary safety in her mother’s lap? 

Zoë said: "I feel tempted by the sea to take a swim, just jump into it…in stead of having the boat between us". I asked myself if that was an expression of an inner conflict of hers, a conflict between maintaining a distance (the boat) on the one hand and of surrendering to her mother, the analysis/me (the sea) on the other. "Le retour éternel"? Is that about dying as a journey, always including the Eros as well? A sensorial journey into the other? As a necessity and a condition? Does the boat symbolize the body, the body that makes us live, sail, migrate, exist. The boat as the common body of the mother-daughter; mother and me; Zoë’s body and my body? A body for two? As a resistance? I believe so.

   2. The somatic symptoms

So what about her somatic symptoms?

When Zoë tells me that she has got rid of the stomach ache, I perceive that as a transference communication: receiving life - being able to produce serotonin and the pain is vanished. The stomach pain is an interesting physical symptom; we know that there are more nerve cells in the stomach and in the oesophagus than in the spinal cord, that quite a lot of the body’s serotonin is manufactured in the digestive system and that the digestive system can operate totally independent of the brain. 

I perceive Zoë’s somatic symptoms as experiences that have never reached the level into words, a primitive alternative to dreaming; mirroring her difficulties in symbolizing her own body as an object. Her somatic symptoms reflect her difficulties in giving a mental representation to her pain; as a missing work of internalization, integration and mentalisation. At the bottom-line there is vulnerability and a traumatic experience that reactivates previous narcissistic wounds.  

The changeover from the physical to the mental corresponds to a change from narcissistic investment of the subject, to investment of the object, an attempt at repair of a break in the internalisation of the mothering function.

The psychosomatic defusion that leads to a regressive disorganisation with somatic manifestations can be understood as a manifestation of the death drive, viewed as a tendency to achieve peace, striving for peace. One can say that a part of the death drive is used for self-calming purposes, as for example, anguish calmed by physical activity.

  3. The counter-transference

I perceived my somatic reactions as a resonance with Zoë’s inner conflicts (even her mother’s and grandmother’s??), expressed as a projective identification, including my (and hers?) sensing my own conflicts. By interpreting my inner processes, I tried to articulate what was going on, to create meaning. I remember thinking of the risk of an idealisation of the stillness of the hour, keeping the time still, as an agreement between us, as a mean to avoid pain.

 Nostos, algos

Zoë’s using the words nostimades and pathos awoke in me Homer’s words: "Nostimon himar" (Homer: Odysseus). "Nosto" as a return, a travel back to homeland; nostimon is referring to someone that had journeyed and arrived, has matured. Nostimo means tasty, delicious.

The expression "nostimon himar" refers to the sweetness, the yearning and desire and at the same time the sadness and longing felt in the thought of coming back to the homeland, an oscillation between pleasure and pain.

"Algos" means pain in soul and body, also burning desire (kaimos). Nostos and algos together is nostalgia. Nostalgia is the desire with burning pain, nostalgia to journey; a bodily and emotional pain including spiritual and somatic exile to maturation. Nostalgia as an emotional and somatic exile is an experience of being without a place/space, where the mental representation of the inner and outer place has been relinquished. The object’s desire decides the effects of the subject’s movement between absence and possession. The desire as a longing for the listener, the condition for the place/space to be established. That is in Greek called "topos"; topos personifying the body and its suffering as traces on the body’s "topos". 

The objects absence is replaced by the subjects "no place"; the absence as the incorporated bad object as a compensation for the absence, an oscillation between presence and absence (nothingness). When the living now is some place else and the living here is different, the exile becomes the Greek word "xerizomos". I believe that a part of the progress in this particular analysis was due to our meeting point on this concept.

I perceive Zoë’s nostalgia, as a longing for the "eternal return", as an attempt at identifying an absence and a desire; mostly as an expression of Eros, like an affect that helps her gain an identity. Her journey includes, as for all of us, a longing to a return to origo, to the source.  The destination is always catharsis and repudiation from the object. But is there such a thing as going back to the source/origin? Rather as an eternal return, achieved via inner transformation, protecting oneself from the transformation of pain to nostalgia; there is no utopic island, there is only the art of creating it.

  4. Mythology

What about the myth in the Greek drama?

Mythos, as the mast we have to be tide up, to be able to complete our cruise on the infinite sea of thoughts and images, up to our limits. Odysseus as in "odyssomai" meaning being angry, furious, unsatisfied but also the one who is self-searching and self-fulfilled, always in solitude.

Electra, as her mother Clytemnestra, makes a sacrifice for her own sake, in their own search for love, taking care of their narcissistic wounds after the symbolic abandonment by the husband/father. The mother-daughter relation is hard, merciless, they are continuously occupied by each other, guarding, covering each other all the time, in an attempt of quiet approach and as an acted out avoidance. The mother, jealous, offended and violated behind a surface with no traces of weakness or forlornness; the daughter complaining all the time about her loneliness, in a quiet approach and a struggling to give up her childhood fantasy of the omnipotent mother.

In a way, we are all invited to become co-writers to the myth in the Greek drama of Electra and Clytemnestra, and by that create our own myth, including the investigation of one’s inner experience of loneliness, pressing us out to our psychological limits and simultaneously safeguarding the survival of the hope.

CONCLUSIONS

The fantasy behind Zoë’s psychic conflict, as a primal fantasy[1] needed for the creation of the subject is a primal fantasy close to the body ego, to a cathexis, originally derived by sensory images. The inner relationship with the maternal image, served as a source to her difficulty to handle the objects absence, as well as herself as non-invested by the object, leads to a distortion of reality, creating the desired object as a necessity, as a way of avoiding the narcissistic nothingness and the distress that comes with it.

My state of mind and my surrendering to my own preconscious, allowed us to establish a deeper nonverbal communication. Via a non-verbal perception, I was "experiencing" Zoë’s non-represented trauma. I perceive this process as a regression along the axis of representation-perception of the enactment that occurred in the interpersonal field between us, introjected by me and metabolized via my own psychism. Her dream indicates a new beginning, a cyclic movement with a new scope.

Eli A. Hogberg

Stockholm 23 aug 2006


 

[1] Primal scene fantasy as part of organising fantasies, throughout life, reflect the shaping of oedipal sexuality (protofantasies of the sexual parents used to work out sexual libido). Ikonen, Rechardt 1984

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