Thursday, April 5, 2012

Michael Eigen & Primary Aloneness

"D.W. Winnicott writes of essential aloneness made possible by unknown support. The baby is supported in an alone state by a not-quite-cognized presence. In the passages I wish to amplify, Winnicott points to an aloneness that precedes clear self-other cognition. The mother is there helping the baby but the baby may not take in the fact that another being distinct from him is keeping him in life. Among the passages in which Winnicott (1988) feels pressed to convey this paradox are the following:

'At the start is an essential aloneness. At the same time this aloneness can only take place under maximum conditions of dependence. Throughout the life of the individual there continues a fundamental unalterable inherent aloneness, along with which goes unawareness of the conditions that are essential to the state of aloneness. (p. 132)'

Whether or not Winnicott's time sequences turn out to be correct, there is, I feel, an important experience he tries to express. He uses a certain verbal latitude to touch and communicate this experience and I will take liberties too. What is at stake is a psychic reality of great import, a precious piece of our beings that we must take time to live our way into and, simply, to live.

An aloneness that is supported by another one doesn't know is there. A primary aloneness supported by an unknown boundless other. To think that aloneness has in its very core a sense of an unknown infinite other - no wonder Winnicott says so much depends on the quality of environmental being and response. The very quality of our aloneness depends on it.

I personally experience something sacred in this core. I think Winnicott did also. Our lives tap into a sense of holiness connected with a background aura of infinite unknown support. That such an implicit sense exists offers no guarantees about how we use it. When the support basic aloneness needs cracks, vanishes or is threatened, emergent self-feeling veers towards cataclysm.

Chronic self-hardening may be an important part of individuation, but a price is paid. Basic aloneness mutates and splinters, and the cataclysm one hoped to dissolve is embedded in character. We have a lot to say about character and cataclysm in ourselves and in the world. But our concern in this paper is to support a thread of peace that Winnicott calls to our attention."
(pp. 63-64)


"Initially, I spoke of the baby's sense of unknown boundlessness, but in the preceding passages Winnicott writes that the dependence he touches does not sense its dependence. Neither sensing nor perception of dependence arises at this stage. Perhaps there is an implicit rather than an explicit sense of unknown boundlessness. At some point, I feel there is. Yet I take Winnicott to heart when he says that the point of experience he touches here does not sense dependence, even if dependence is present. To be dependent without sensing it and to be supported in being by that unsensed, unknown dependence - this is a radical statement with many ramifications. As I live my way into it, I feel freer. To be totally supported by unknown support includes an area of experience that is exquisitely, thrillingly beautiful. A piece of the peace that passeth understanding.

Winnicott's is a peace that reaches towards and from the aloneness of an incommunicado core. It supports that core by its own incommunicado being. It creates a background for the history of aloneness throughout a person's life. For aloneness, too, has biography. Threads of aloneness reach forward, some of them into a oneness of awareness. Awareness sports immense diversity but shares a common thread. The iteration of being aware, an implicit awareness of being in every speck of consciousness, is a kind of oneness, if only a oneness of something like sameness that unites human being. We love or hate our differences but one mind runs through them. One, that is, if one counts that high. All-one, all alone, all one in aloneness, brothers and sisters, shared humanity.

We grow into shared aloneness as a precious state of being, a privileged state among others, in which sharing is in the aloneness, and aloneness is in the sharing. In dipping in, some of us discover new levels and qualities of caring. For some, dipping in is more than enough.
" (pp. 67-68)

Michael Eigen (2008). Primary Aloneness. Psychoanalytic Perspectives, Vol. 5, pp. 63-68

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