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July 15, 2006


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Jodi, I find your observations here fascinating. I don't have anything particularly profound to say with regard to what you describe, but I have worked with people who have had a very poorly developed ability to *name* their own emotional states. In one particular instance, the person I was working with recounted a story about the first day of school, where they experienced all sorts of discomforts on the drive there such as dizziness, cold sweats, and upset stomach. The person's mother responded by saying "you're just nervous", which produced a profound relief.

What I mean to emphasize is that the emotional state, in this instance, didn't emerge from within but issued from the Other. It was the Other, in this instance, that was able to produce the affect, which indicates a way in which the subject is dependent on the Other for the constitution of their interiority. Indeed, throughout much of the analysis there were requests for this sort of activity of naming. The person had spent much of their adult life in therapy in one form or another, without suffering from any particularly severe symptoms, which indicates that they were situating the analysis as the Other that names. This was peculiar as the analysand was an obsessional, which usually involves a sort of renunciation of the Other.

I'm not sure why these thoughts come to mind in relation to the story of your daughter, except that when your daughter says "I don't feel like you feel" I get the sense that she has a strong identification with you and is experiencing a sense of the uncanny in encountering a divergence between your excitment and her own contrasting emotional state. That is, the story you relate suggests that she is encountering her difference from you, which then produces a sense of anxiety as she's discovering her aloneness or independence in the world. This, of course, is all wild speculation on my part, but the remark "I don't feel like you feel" is just so curious at the level of the imaginary, as if it expresses a certain surprise or the discovery of a possibility that wasn't hitherto there.

Lacan, of course, describes trauma/tyche as a "missed encounter", which could just as easily be described as an encounter for which one was not prepared. In this regard, the discovery that others have minds could very easily be experienced as a trauma. I still remember, very vividly, the first time I intentionally told a lie at a very young age, and how my heart beat hard, wondering whether or not my parents could read my mind. I'm not sure what was more traumatic to me in this experience: The discovery that others had minds that were opaque to me or which were always hidden behind the veil of words, signs, and gestures, or getting away with the lie, thereby discovering that my mind is a private, opaque space.


Levi--thanks so much for your comment. I also appreciate the story of the person with whom you were working which I take as a reminder not to name my kids feelings or states but rather to encourage them to name them. I, too, was struck by the oddness of 'I don't feel like you feel'--it was quite specific.

Also, your account of your first lie reminds me of my son's first lie, which was a white lie to protect the feelings of a friend, he was completely in tears, totally upset. My first thought was: wow, he has encountered the Symbolic.


I'm also taken by the "I don't feel like you feel" - I sense it is very important, but I also don't know exactly what she is trying to express.

Part of growing is confronting gaps, encountering choices and learning to manage/create your own gaps and choices. Moving from one real to the next, knowing the world will be different after you jump and can't go back.

I think a lot about this encountering gaps and how we address them. We have to prepare ourselves, for success and failure. I think there is this binary simplicity we construct prior to jumping - we will either fail or succeed, and when there is a process - like riding a bike, the frustration that it doesn't come immediately - or that the failure is not absolute creates a different, unexpected anxiety.

Maybe it's less the fear of independence, but realizing that gaining independence is work - I don't feel like celebrating, I'm not there yet.


Pe Bird--so much of your comment is really interesting and insightful. I like very much the image of gaps and choices (it adds a lot to a simple account of choices). And, I appreciate as well your notion of the problem of a binary and then being struck by a process or unfolding or long term effort. It makes me think of how the Bush administration--and likely too many Americans--think in terms of on/off, yes/no, win/lose and not about the long haul.

And I love the end: the realization that gaining independence is work. That is great--both with regards to my daughter, and, well, larger questions of freedom.

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