Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Mark Winborn - Watching the Clouds: Analytic Reverie and Participation Mystique

Reverie is opening to one’s own internal stream of consciousness – to ideas, thoughts, feelings, sensations, memories, images, urges, and fantasies. According to José Ortega y Gasset, "So many things fail to interest us, simply because they don’t find in us enough surfaces on which to live, and what we have to do then is to increase the number of planes in our mind, so that a much larger number of themes can find a place in it at the same time." In sympathy with Ortega y Gasset’s observation, reverie involves being receptive on many levels to the experience and communication, both explicit and implicit, of the other person’s presence in the room. It also includes a sensitivity to the emerging potentiality of the ‘analytic third’ - the mutually constellated but indeterminate creation of the analytic dyad which comprises 'something more’ than the combined individual contributions of the analytic partners. The potential range of reverie stretches from the ordinary to the transcendent. For example, Ogden describes reverie as, "an experience that takes the most mundane and yet most personal of shapes…They are our ruminations, daydreams, fantasies, bodily sensations, fleeting perceptions, images emerging from states of half-sleep, tunes, and phrases that run through our minds, and so on." Working from a different vantage point, Marilyn Mathew articulates the connection between reverie and soul: "Reverie is both a process and a state of mind…it is reverie that extends psyche’s vision beyond the door and windows of our minds into the cathedrals of our souls."

Reverie isn’t simply allowing oneself to daydream, where there isn’t an interaction with the flow of thoughts, ideas, and sensations. The stance adopted is similar to Jung’s active imagination191 in which a relationship or stance is established with the internal flow. Active imagination, which has been described as "dreaming with open eyes," is a technique developed by Jung to facilitate the engagement and assimilation of unconscious processes while in a relaxed but waking state. It is important to note, however, that Jung saw active imagination as an activity primarily engaged in by the analysand which, at times, might be facilitated by the analyst. While Jung did engage in the active imagination to facilitate his own process, as documented in The Red Book, it doesn’t appear that he saw active imagination as something that was engaged in with another person as it is typically conceptualized in the case of reverie.

Davidson offered Jungians an initial conceptual step towards reverie by proposing that the patient’s transference is a "lived through form of active imagination." Later, Schaverien built on Davidson’s offering by suggesting that active imagination is a method the analyst can use to understand some forms of countertransference. Schaverien proposes that active imagination can be thought of as nearly synonymous with reverie. However, I would argue that active imagination is a concept which has been predominately utilized and thought about from an intrapsychic or one person theoretical framework. Therefore, there are limitations and pitfalls, from an intersubjective perspective, with re-purposing active imagination as a dyadic (two person) or triadic (i.e. the addition of the analytic third to the dyadic perspective) concept, even if it is more familiar to Jungian readers. Attempting to use the concept of active imagination to discuss the two-fold and three-fold influences of the analytic encounter is rather like the biblical parable of putting new wine into old wineskins.

In contrast, analytic reverie, which has been a dyadic concept since inception, has been referred to by Gabbard and Ogden to as "a waking dream," but one which is dreamt with another person rather than alone. In this vein, Ogden sees reverie as both a personal/private event (i.e. intrapsychic) and an intersubjective one. To put it another way, he acknowledges the presence of two subjectivities that can experience their interaction as being both individual and collective (i.e. as an inter-connected and emergent entity). Ferro also highlights the reciprocal, dyadic nature of reverie:

There is, I believe, a constant baseline activity of reverie… which is the way the analyst constantly receives, metabolizes, and transforms whatever reaches him or her from the patient in the form of verbal, paraverbal, or nonverbal stimuli. The same activity of reverie is at work in the patient in response to every interpretive or noninterpretive stimulus from the analyst. The purpose of analysis is first and foremost to develop this capacity to weave images (which remain not directly knowable)…there is no communication that cannot be seen as having to do with and belonging to the field itself.(pp. 71-73)

Chapter excerpt from Mark Winborn (2014). Watching the Clouds: Analytic Reverie and Participation Mystique, Chapter 3 in Mark Winborn (Ed.). Shared Realities: Participation Mystique and Beyond. Fisher King Press, 2014.
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Full sample chapter available at the Fisher King Press link.

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