Mental Patterns: Creativity and Psychopathy 1

All the possible sounds of the world’s languages are available to babies, but some atrophy as they do not belong to the particular baby’s cultural world. Consider the chinese “r”, essential in saying “ren, 人”  which is the word for person, and the mess made of this sound by westerners learning chinese. Or hear the tones of tonal languages, or the th of English, speakers who have not used these sounds as babies will be forever marked as having a foreign accent however language proficient they become.

Suppose that similarly all the possible processes of mental development are available to babies, but the circumstances of their interactions allow some to atrophy, some to strengthen. Some become “templates” or fixed patterns of mind. Within individuals some unconscious patterns are so strongly set that the neuroscientists have referred to them as “hard wired”. However we now know (neuroscience, psychoanalysis, psychiatry, socio-cultural studies, anthropology) that, possibly, hard wiring is changeable, the mind and its patterns have more plasticity than was thought earlier in the exploration of this complex science. (Nature/nurture is of importance in learning how to make development better for individuals and for society, but does not affect what can be understood about the characteristics of different states of mind nor the mental processes that brings these states about.)

I am interested in thought process. Or, the states of mind that lead to categorically different kinds of thought process, and different kinds of thinking. Further, I would like to understand why so many mistakes in thought flourish and influence the communities and organizations we live within. Why is change for the better not easier to achieve? Why is destructiveness, of people and planet, apparently so evident, not stopped?

The Nature of Thought is fraught with the complication that what we have to think with is the mind itself, the thinker is thinking about itself. To examine thought is to be by default subjective, and to know this as one thinks. There is no either /or in this study that allows rational to be separated out from the unconscious emotional origins of the thinking. (Panksepp et al). To be authentic, the work has to be both emotionally aware and rationally explored. Neither can take precedence.

For now, I am using the word “thought” to indicate the whole variety of mental patterns that end up as a ‘thought’ that can be articulated, or an idea, or impression, in consciousness.

Freud’s great discovery was the identification of a way in which this dilemma could allow moving forward. By acknowledging that one is IN the system one is in, and also that one can perceive parts of that system  by feel, by reaction, by bodily and mental sensations, one can then at the same time observe oneself as a subject to the system and begin to tease out the characteristics that belong to it. Solms and Turnbull (2002) say that the mind is knowable (though certainly not yet known) in two different ways: as experienced by itself as subject, and as a physical organ, an object viewed from outside.

Applied to analyst and analysand, the “system” is the two people in the analytic relationship, and the result is understanding of the nature of each. Applied in any other field, the same principle of exploration brings partial knowledge of the truth of the system. If this knowledge is accepted, new thought can emerge. (See history of science,  a Faraday or a McClintock, and many others. These two to my knowledge, gave credit to emotional awareness. See psycho-social studies of organizations, or politics, etc.and everywhere that “systemic thinking” is now acknowledged).

My work in Emotional Education was based on Wilfred Bion, who, following the insights of Melanie Klein, developed a theory of thinking. I have written about this elsewhere.

Basic**: PS ->D stands for “paranoid schizoid position” can move to “depressive position”. I have referred to this often as two different kinds of thought, the PS kind that might be benevolent prejudice or paternalism or other forms of ideology, akin to “Super-ego” thinking, using patterns that have gone before, so cannot be new. I have thought of this as Bion’s “lie”, the person in this state of mind cannot be open to new thinking or perception (see also Waddell, Inside Lives ). Or, as Faraday for example did when he experimented, observed and brought forth the wave theory of electricity and magnetism, the state of mind for thought can be in a depressive position, able to bear uncertainty, as Keats’ definition of negative capability. The mind is open to revelation, this is Bion’s “truth”, and the scientists capacity to discover.

But, when I am trying to explain, especially as in Emotional Education power point presentations, I refer to PS-> D as a process in itself, consisting of parts that are necessary for both survival and development. Martha Harris considered the process a dynamic spiral in which one endlessly traversed a) perception of other, b) split to cope with perception, c) feedback of split off item d,i) if feedback has become bearable, it is accepted and proceed to e) the depressive position and knowledge of ‘other’, d,ii) if feedback is still unbearable, splitting is maintained and knowledge of ‘other’ cannot be accessed.

I am just now thinking of a new to me thought. Coming from Will Black‘s work on psychopaths, one question is “how can people not know?” (is the answer not d,ii above?), Also from my own previous thinking around the idea of ‘twist’ or the person who is like the ‘mobius strip’ with only one surface (Anne MacDonald*), I am thinking there is a different reaction if the PS splitting has NOT coped. Suppose the perception has impact resulting in a break, rather than a split, and survival in a break forces a rejoin without feedback from ‘other’. Such a rejoin would have to twist so that there is no other existing in the mental state. The template for future development is that everything perceived is claimed for the self, and interactions in the world are always first brought in to the claustrum where the mind exists. To an outsider, it looks as if the person interacts, but for this person, there is no interaction, no other. [Is this is that Black calls “psychopath”?] Here instead of PS-> D the process could be PS -> T where T is this response to splitting that did not work.  From psychoanalytic writers such as Steiner or Meltzer and their concepts of psychic retreat and claustrum, I start to see that I have indeed seen this process but not recognized it, as I thought of it as being a reversal, or a being stuck, a sort of D-> PS or PS standstill. My daughter-in-law calls it “living in a bubble”.

And, I have written about it before!! At that time I was thinking about ideas like “institutions in the mind”.

Now I want to write a post: Develop the idea of The Twist, a kind of mind set where “other” is never real, so the person floats through the world as if – always as if – in a bubble. Will update when I have written it!

*referenced in this previous paper, p. 62

**Process described here, also in a previous post that now seems a bit muddled:







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