Psychoanalysis

Map of the Unknown World

I have been thinking a lot recently about this idea of a Map of Unknown Worlds. It was triggered by some work with a patient whom I have been seeing for sometime. At one point this patient suffered a psychotic breakdown which left him hurt, bewildered and determined that it would never happen again. To this end he has shut off those parts of himself that he sees as vulnerable in any way. The problem is that, like the Higgs Boson particle, these parts still exert their influence on him.

The explorer John Wesley Powell wrote about his exploration of the Grand Canyon “We have an unknown distance yet to run, an unknown river to explore. What falls there are, we know not; what rocks beset the channel, we know not; what walls ride over the river, we know not. Ah,well! We may conjecture many things.” My patient is aware of this new continent but is uncertain about how to approach it His preference is to ignore it altogether, rather like an illegitimate child who is a constant reminder of a time one would prefer to forget. Unfortunately this child insists on making itself known from time to time, presenting as a psychopathic thug with a gang of mercenaries following close behind. The conflict for my patient is that he is ambivalent about this gang. Mostly he wishes to deny they exist, much less that he has anything to do with them. But occasionally he is relieved to have them to help him when he feels under threat.

As his counsellor I have a responsibility to remind him of  the existence of this gang and that they do have a homeland of their own. This is a painful process for both of us because we both have to make our own map of an Unknown World. And we neither of us can be entirely sure of what this country might be like. Will the ” natives” be friendly? Can we make any meaningful mutual contact? Will it be  possible to create a trade agreement that does not exploit either party? As Powell put it “We may conjecture many things.”

 

 

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