Category Archives: self

Kitty Psychoanalysis

As I was writing one of my recent posts relying on mirror images of creating the self, the article I was reading was heavily laden with Lacanian concepts, including the mirror stage. Further, there was talk of Freud and his analysis of the Fort-da game. For those of you unfamiliar with this study, he observed an infant playing with a toy. The child would throw the toy, perplexed and dismayed by its disappearance, and then retrieve it to find satisfaction. Freud took this to symbolize the child’s yearning for the mother – the toy was a representation of the mother and the child was coming to terms with the fact that even as she leaves, she returns.

Freud obviously didn’t have children.

I have two, and have watched them play that exact game multiple times. How could they miss their mother when I am standing right there?

Which makes me further question Lacan and his mirror stages. He argues that the infant, looking in the mirror, contextualizes himself apart from the mother, realizing for the first time that he is a separate being. First of all, how does he know this? How can he possibly know what an infant is thinking?

I have seen infants looking in the mirror, and if you ask me, they just look confused. I have also seen cats looking in the mirror. Is the cat for the first time realizing it is not human? Has this cat been looking at me this entire time thinking that it was my replica only to be bitterly disappointed by the recognition that it is a different entity? Is the cat’s meow its agonizing realization of this fact? Or does it just want food?

And what if the food is placed in front of a mirror? Does the cat then have to accept the fact that it is not really eating human food but rather a simulacrum in the form of kibble? If so, then each time my cat throws up on my carpet it is due to the cat’s dissatisfaction with the reality of self, as it rebelliously states “take back your faux chicken cutlets!”

The cat’s cleaning habits are then due to its obsession towards reclaiming the self, a purifying process arising from the death of contamination and a return to the innocence denoted by unknowing. The cat is trying to recapture its state prior to gazing in the mirror.

Unable to complete this process it makes peace with the new knowledge through a complete submersion into the hegemony of the home microcosm. Its subservient role lends itself to a dependency upon the master and thus begins the preoccupation with kitty Fort-da. The cat toy becomes a symbol of the caretaker, and as the cat begins to panic as to whether it will be fed that day, it retrieves the toy mouse, momentarily assured of the master’s return.

My God, I should get this published somewhere! Theory courses around the country would be so much more interesting! How has no one else jumped on this already?

Forming the Other

Several days ago while trying to help a friend with a research paper I read an article that has now inspired this post. She ended up not using it for her paper, but since we both took so much time discussing it (seriously we were on chat for like four hours with this thing), I felt I should do something productive with it, even if just a blogpost.

To love your own reflection is narcissistic, and to love another that is a mirror image of yourself is a diluted form of self love (which I think I established in a post on a similar topic a few weeks ago). But to mirror yourself in the image of another is absolutely destructive – you lose yourself in the echo of their image, sometimes to the point where you can’t find yourself ever again. When you are at this point, the only alternative is not to keep searching, but rather reconstruct yourself from nothing through the eyes of the other – a false reconstruction at best.

In other words, what once may have started as a creative process, where you create the other in your image and consequently construct the other in your eyes, while you also created yourself, ends in a chain reaction of misrecognition.

In Lacanian terms, in the mirror stage, once an infant is able to perceive himself in the mirror and identify himself through his various parts, he is able to separate himself from the notions of unity with the mother and form his own identity. This identity depends on lack, in that the infant, in finding himself, is no longer a whole with the mother. Similarity as the lover and the love object unite to create one cohesive point through mirroring each other from two different perspectives, they are each further torn from themselves. As the lover looks in the mirror at his love he sees the similarities between himself and the image, but these similarities are highlighted through the differences, and it is these differences that alienate him from the image.

The article demonstrates this point through the Petrarchan sonnet, which operates in two ways, both leading to a series of misrecognitions. First, the Petrarchan lover must continuously pine for a woman he cannot, and will not have, and in the process elevates the woman onto an imaginary pedestal – he strips her of reality and builds a figure comprised of only her positive attributes, many of which are reliant upon himself.

Secondly, in the process of pursuing the unattainable woman, the Petrarchan lover also becomes elevate to a higher spiritual plain, as the love is considered pure, untainted by the physical, or the erotic. Even when the focus is upon the physical beauty of the woman, by virtue of her unattainability the love is for a higher order of beauty, the unadulterated idea of what the woman represents.

Except by creating her in his image he is essentially participating in an autoerotic act that nullifies his own purity, while maintaining hers. She remains untouched, especially since her image is not actually her own, but rather one superimposed upon her in an attempt to mediate the alienation caused by their differences.

This way of regarding her is unnatural, placing her into an ideal that she may not necessarily embody, and one that she arguably cannot embody. She is the perfection the lover wishes to be. Once she is cast there, to fulfill her role, she must first acquiesce to this image, and then play the part.

Her only means to properly form herself to her role, is through echo, mimicking back to the lover what she is essentially told she must say. She confirms and denies his existence. She is the Echo to his Narcissus.

He formed her while forming himself. She was formed by him, and then formed him. By loving her he loses himself in the false image of her.

And in the process neither can fully recognize the other, or themselves.

Pinterest and Vonnegut… Who are you?

I was on Pinterest tonight and I saw this pin:

While I am sure that sounds terribly encouraging, what does that mean? Always be a first rate version of yourself instead of a second rate version of someone else. How do you know the difference? At what point can you differentiate that this is you, and this other part of you is not really you, but rather a copy of someone else?
Aren’t you a copy of your parents? (deny if all you want). Aren’t you a compilation of everything you have been exposed to, including other people?
I have also seen other such inspirational quotes that promote having your own unique style. Okay, what does *that* mean? Sure, the majority of my outfits are mix and match throw togethers from thing I saw in Vogue and Vanity Fair, but does that mean the style is any less mine? Besides, unless you live under a rock and make all of your clothes from scratch, there is no such thing as a “unique style” considering every article of clothing is mass produced, knocked off, branded, and rebranded.
But that is all appearance based. What about who you really are. Who is that? Yes, everyone has their own quirks, likes and dislikes, but I am talking about the deeper meaning, asking the question “who are you?” Do you have an answer?
One of my co-workers is teaching Vonnegut this semester. I have never been a very big fan, but that is mainly because I was introduced to his later works in all of their post-modernist glory. Now that I have had a chance to read some of his earlier pieces, I can see the appeal. I was looking at “Who Am I This Time?” from Welcome to the Monkey House.
A casting director comes across an actor and immediately starts using him in every play due to his rare talent. He doesn’t rehearse, or even really read the play, but rather, in merely a few minutes, become the character he needs to be. His entire person embodies the new character, bringing the story to life (Kafka would have liked to read this). He never questions or refuses the assignment, simply asking “Who am I this time?”
At one point he meets a fellow actor, a woman, who falls in love with him. However, he cannot interact with her outside of the stage setting. As long as she plays his opposite in a production she can take in glimpses of him outside of the character, brief moments of lucidity when he is no one except himself. However, these interactions are so fleeting she attempts to find a way to connect with him outside of “work,” and off stage. He refuses all contact with her until she presents him a play. She hands him Romeo and Juliet. Immediately he sinks into his part (Romeo), and she plays Juliet. Unlike on an actual stage that requires he wrap up his performance within a few hours, here the two of them draw out the play day by day until the death scene. It worked.
As times goes on the two actors get work on several productions since it has become well known that their onstage chemistry is good. In between work projects the woman continuously hands him scripts. One day, some time later, she runs into the casting director. He asks how she has been, and she tells him that her and the male actor are quite happy together. He asks how it is going outside of work. She replies that they have done quite a bit, running off an entire catalogue of plays that they have lived out. Neither of them could interact with the other outside of playing a role, and their entire relationship has been a series of love stories acted out back to back.
He says he is looking for actors for another play, and she replies “Who are we this time?”
Yes my little Vonnegut synopsis and the pinterest portion of this blog are related. However, it is the middle of the night, so I am going to let you make those connections.