18 June 2007

Attuning Self-as-Portal

Filed under: Culture, Psychology — ktismatics @ 6:20 am

Previously I put forward two metaphors for the self. Structurally the self is a membrane, passing vectors of information, desire, and intent and between inside (genes, desires, passions, memories) and outside (phenomena, other people, experiences, culture). Procedurally the self is a portal, actively transforming everything that passes across the membrane, continually creating the self and reality by embedding experience in dynamic networks of meaning. Therapy proceeds by decentering the membrane (as discussed yesterday) and by increasing the power and flexibility of the portal.

Culture and society actively territorialize the world and the selves that occupy it. The self, immersed in culture and society, conforms itself and its awareness to this externally generated territorialization without being consciously aware of it. The territories and their boundary markers operate outside the threshold of conscious awareness in activities like watching television, going to work, driving, participating in ordinary social discourse. Territories are marked by strands of meaning like money, communication, power, pleasure, anxiety, love, respect, lack, choice. Therapy should help the client become attuned to the territorialization in which they’re embedded. It should also help the client understand his/her complicities and resistances to the territorial markers.

The self too is a territorializer, marking phenomena and experience with indicators of meaning. Some of the strands of meaning are transferred across the membrane from the world into the self; other strands assemble themselves from inner drives and desires working their way outward across the membrane into the world. But the self also actively assigns meaning to inner and outer experiences. The self also refines the strands of meaning, converting inner desires and outer affordances into interests, preferences, values, careers, families. These refined strands become integral to the conscious portalic apparatus by which an individual transforms experience into self and reality, but these conscious transformative procedures are themselves shaped and modified by unconscious transformations on both sides of the membrane. Therapy should help the client become aware of how self-as-portal is always transforming the world and is in turn being shaped by phenomena and experience.

Selves are enmeshed in strands of meaning that do not originate in the self. Culture itself is a portal, actively transforming everything and everyone all the time. Therapy should help the client attune to how the cultural portals operate — the trajectories of desire and power and morality, the affordances transmitted by the world and other people, the flows of information and intentionality. In this way the client increasingly recognizes how s/he is always already embedded in the meaning systems stretched across the world, connecting self to world, self to other. At the same time, the client comes to recognize that as an individual s/he has distinct portalic capabilities, able to discern and to assign meanings to experience that are different from those of other people and the larger culture.

Through the therapeutic process the therapist encourages the client to make these identifications and differentiations, alternately enmeshing and separating the self from the culture. By becoming aware of the vast web of unprocessed territorial markings in self and world, as well as the multiple portalic procedures that generate and sustain them, the client may acquire greater facility as a portalist of meaning. Both in forming and in breaking personal territorializations and in actively cooperating and resisting collective territorializations, the self moves through the world more interestingly, more uniquely, perhaps also more dangerously.



  1. Ktismatics, I frankly can;’t follow the speed of your production, this is why I am not commenting more. Wait til I have read all the new texts.

    I wish I could somehow take away the tension that is following this difficult trip. All I can say is I understand exactly what the price is of migration – le petit mort!

    If it lightens you up any, Chabert came up with a piece of such malevolence that even the Parody Center was shaken to the roots:

    ”…and I am explaining to you that just because mommy walks out the room doesn’t mean she doesn’t exist anymore.”

    Consider for a moment the multi-layered assault here: on the one hand she’s addressing my Vigotskian and Lacania beliefs, about the acquisition of the symbolic function; on the other hand she is attacking my Oedipus complex; and finally, she is casting me in the role of the whimpering TV consumer / mama’s boy who is too infantile and dependent to perceive reality. This all in the service of accusing me of bigotry and racism vis-a-vis the plight of oppressed populations in Bolivia (I don’t acknowledge that they exist).


    Comment by parodycenter — 19 June 2007 @ 4:24 pm

  2. Sadly I’ve missed the most recent adventures of the Cultural Parody Center. I agree that profound psychological forces are in play, but like you I’ve not read the texts adequately to comment.

    Regarding the migration, the sheer physical brutality of it all is crushing. These last three posts were my commitment to myself finally to converge on what my practice might actually be like when I arrive back in my homeland. They have been the source of both my self-confidence and my self-doubt as with grave ambivalence I prepare for the Westward voyage. It’s important to me that I consolidate the ideas I’ve been writing about for the past 3 months, and that I transform them into something INTERESTING. I’ve been appropriating more of Lacan, but I’m afraid the Oedipus complex must be completely CUT OFF. And I think there’s a lucrative practice to be had among infantile TV consumers. However, reality is a psychosocial construct, and there are many realities. In this regard I greatly appreciate Lynch: his ability to show alternate realities. On the other hand, via Chabert’s intercessions I must hold either that (a) Lynch is creating a simulated subconscious for us to explore, which is littered with a lot of unprocessed TV images and stereotypes that derive from capitalist fascistic racistic sources, or (b) Lynch has consciously created a capitalist fascist racist discourse. I prefer (a), shifting the conscious creation of meaning to the viewer. Which suits my psychology well, since I think most middle-class Americans’ subconsciouses are cluttered with a lot of the same junk that Lynch’s is.


    Comment by ktismatics — 19 June 2007 @ 5:07 pm

  3. “They have been the source of both my self-confidence and my self-doubt as with grave ambivalence I prepare for the Westward voyage.”

    I’ll be honest there Doylomania…I think you have more reason to be confident in your future psychological practice than do most dreamingly future practictioners in your field.

    “And I think there’s a lucrative practice to be had among infantile TV consumers.”

    Uumm…that’s sort of funny. But also tragic. I’m realizing that I’m one of those, even though I hate the whole situation. That I am one is why I hate it, I think.


    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 19 June 2007 @ 5:12 pm

  4. (a) Lynch is creating a simulated subconscious for us to explore, which is littered with a lot of unprocessed TV images and stereotypes that derive from capitalist fascistic racistic sources

    Ah shaiks, ultimately I disagree with her. Twin Peaks worked through these stereotypes and elevated the material to stratospheric heights for daytime TV and I’m sure this only had positive effects on the working classes and the underprivileged. Chabert understands literature much better than the visual arts.


    Comment by parodycenter — 19 June 2007 @ 7:25 pm

  5. Awareness is indeed a very dangerous thing. Awareness can shake the old ‘centers’ and destabilise them leaving a person really lost. I wonder though whether some such lostness is not itself an essential part of the process of bringing both awareness and ultimately healing as one enters a whole new reality? This may be at the heart of the Kierkegaardian leap of faith as well as the nothingness of reality that forces one to leap in the first place.


    Comment by samlcarr — 24 June 2007 @ 4:51 pm

  6. Sam –

    I think you’re right on target, that a sense of lostness is essential. It’s hard giving up a false or outdated sense of security, even if it’s not working for you. Part of the sorting-out process is trying to decide whether the failing is in yourself or in the purported source of security. Self-blame we’re more familiar with, because it at least preserves our view of ourselves and the world. To shake the old center is probably more unnerving.


    Comment by ktismatics — 25 June 2007 @ 7:34 pm

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