Saturday, April 12, 2014

Mark Winborn - Participation Mystique: An Overview

Excerpt from - Introduction: An Overview of Participation Mystique

"As we can see, as a concept, participation mystique has a rich background. A review of the participation mystique literature allows us to recognize that the projective and identificatory tendencies, which are at the heart of participation mystique, can sometimes be acknowledged, recognized, or reduced. However, these processes are always a part of our intersubjective interaction and communication in all facets of our lives, and particularly in analysis. Participation mystique does not function like a light switch – to be turned off or on depending upon the situation – regardless of whether one has been cautioned about its potential dangers. The degree of influence from participation mystique is distributed as a continuum of experience and is ever present in our interactions with others and our environments. These influences will likely never be eliminated, nor would it be desirable to do so if we could. In fact, to blindly attempt to restrict participation mystique experience is to reduce the depth to which we are able to connect with others and our surroundings, or to reduce the available ‘field knowledge’ in the analytic setting. At this point, given our current relationship to psyche, we might wonder about the motivation behind a desire to limit such connection rather than develop a relationship to such experiences.

The intent of this book is to provide a new look at participation mystique - coming at it from various points of view: from personal narratives, theory, clinical experience, cross-cultural exploration, and archetypal dynamics. Ultimately, my hope is that these chapters paint a picture of participation mystique as a broader umbrella term for a wide variety of intersubjective phenomena. In its traditional usage, the clinical utility of the term is limited because the term often hasn’t been used in a differentiated manner. Hubback finds it, “regrettable that the anthropologist Lévy-Bruhl should have had his phrase over-used and distorted, when the perhaps rival psychological concepts of projection, introjection, identification and the transcendent function really serve us better. Identifying with those structures in the analyst which have developed as a result of her working on instinctual ‘animal nature’ in herself, can and does happen within the therapeutic relationship; projections and introjections can be discerned and described. I think they are marvelous, but not mystical.”107 The term becomes useful when used to describe a class of interactive experiences. When the various component constituents for the class are seen as being related, i.e. having a similar underlying process, then participation mystique acquires usefulness – somewhat like how the term ‘particle physics’ defines and delineates a particular area of inquiry within physics. 

Participation mystique evolves, just as psyche evolves, and we are now at a point of greater receptivity to what participation mystique offers than we were a century ago when depth psychology was in its infancy. We are at a significant juncture in the development of psychoanalysis in general and analytical psychology specifically; a time of convergence and crossfertilization in which we have the opportunity to re-examine established or accepted theories and concepts based on cumulative clinical experience, developments in others fields, and shifts in our culture - all of which ultimately impact how we practice as analysts and analytic therapists. Just such an exploration is undertaken in the chapters that follow." (pp. 24-25)
Passage from Mark Winborn (2014). Participation Mystique: An Overview, in Mark Winborn (Ed.). Shared Realities: Participation Mystique and Beyond. Fisher King Press, 2014.
Order from Amazon or Fisher King Press
Full sample chapter available at the Fisher King Press link.

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