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.