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Northeast Corridor Train, New York to the Left.

Cahn Stadium? Reading the letters backwards as they fly.

Flag at half staff. For whom?

Gray bridges and brown skyscrapers in late afternoon fog.

Soundtrack: Glenn Gould (1932-1982), Bach toccatas.

Today’s reading: Excerpts from an interview with Adam Phillips, a psychoanalyst.

[P]sychoanalysis starts from the position that there is no cure, but that we need different ways of living with ourselves and different descriptions of these so-called selves…

What psychoanalysis, at its best, does is cure you of your self-knowledge. And of your wish to know yourself in that coherent, narrative way. You can only recover your appetite, and appetites, if you can allow yourself to be unknown to yourself. Because the point of knowing oneself is to contain one’s anxieties about appetite. It’s only worth knowing about the things that make one’s life worth living, and whether there are in fact things that make it worth living.

Cos Cob train station.

Dingy water with thin marshes.

I like the counterintuitive feel of this: Self-knowledge seeker, heal thyself. Not because ignorance or lack of reflection is good, but because limiting who you are in very specific ways gives you a seemingly deterministic justification for repressing your capacity for strong feelings, for undetermined creative energies. Phillips says he cringes whenever anyone begins a sentence I’m the sort of person who…

[E]verybody is dealing with how much of their own aliveness they can bear and how much they need to anesthetize themselves… We all have self-cures for strong feeling. Then the self-cure becomes a problem, in the obvious sense that the problem of the alcoholic is not alcohol but sobriety. Drinking becomes a problem, but actually the problem is what’s being cured by the alcohol. By the time we’re adults, we’ve all become alcoholics. That’s to say, we’ve all evolved ways of deadening certain feelings and thoughts. One of the reasons we admire or like art, if we do, is that it reopens us in some sense — as Kafka wrote in a letter, art breaks the sea that’s frozen inside us. It reminds us of sensitivities that we might have lost at some cost. Freud gets at this in Beyond the Pleasure Principle. It’s as though one is struggling to be as inert as possible — and struggling against one’s inertia.

Where does civilization end and discontent begin? You end up on Phillips’ couch because the resource-management story you’ve expressed all these years is making you one big Salton Sea.

[I think psychoanalysis is really about] showing you how much your wish to know yourself is a consequence of an anxiety state — and how it might be to live as yourself not knowing much about what’s going on.

Everything in the corporate, therapeutic, consumption-driven world fights tooth and nail against this model, a model which aligns perfectly with one of UD‘s heroes, Henry Miller of The Tropic of Cancer. And with her first, much-loved boyfriend, David Kosofsky. On the verge of another new year, of what Stephen Spender called ‘one more new botched beginning,’ UD reflects on her many passionate, appetitive, teachers.

There [is in my favorite writers] a sort of blitheness that I love, a pleasure in the recklessness of one’s own mind.

Margaret Soltan, December 23, 2015 3:24PM
Posted in: snapshots from home

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One Response to “Northeast Corridor Train, New York to the Left.”

  1. dmf Says:

    been shrinking heads for decades now and must say a “wish to know yourself” isn’t really on the list of reasons that brings people, frankly we aren’t as interesting as these sorts of Romantic accounts would suggest.

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