Sunday, May 31, 2015


facial muscle and prosody recognition during sublimation

As we make the choice between independence and dependence a tension develops in us that can only be resolved by imagining the destruction of the object of our dependence.  On both side of this tug-of-war is a resulting sense of emptiness.  The emptiness of being alone; or the emptiness of being subsumed by the ‘other’. As humans, we must delude ourselves to believe we have overcome our emptiness.  The vacuum at the core of our being is intolerable to us.  We find or create signifiers of support.  Our going-on-being depends upon a reflected sense of ourselves, accomplished in a felt sense of attunement.

The hole of the feeling of emptiness needs to be seeking an existing and desirable 'love object', which is unreachable (and therefore experienced as something missing).  All of this is dependent on our subjectivity's expectation to re-find the lost object in the mistaken belief it will continue to satisfy us.  The urge to destroy becomes an assertion of autonomy. Seeing the deep brain/body patterns of this assertion of autonomy is nearly impossible. The fact it is nearly impossible does not change the level of the importance of its exploration.

An example of health would be the imagined, relational meaning-making of a four month-old girl by her easy and varying facial muscle expressions. “Her gaze has an objective quality, which she transforms to a broad array of interactive expressions after settling on me, Mom or her cousin.  Today’s gazes were by far the most numerous and the least intense.  We had had a few low meaning visual and auditory connections in the past, however today was full of them.” Maier (2014).  I have observed this baby once a week for an hour since two weeks old.

In relation to facial muscle recognition, sublimation has many intriguing aspects.  The prefrontal cortex is exquisitely attuned to minor fluctuations in facial muscles of people around us and our own.  Patient’s is looking to see if the therapist will wound them in the way their parents did.  It is likely some facial twitch can be interpreted as seeing them as flawed.  Healthy sublimation will always include both a sense of fear and an awareness of the developing sense of connection.

What of the child/mother who has trouble with latching during breastfeeding?  The defensive patterns needed to cope with the fear of the day-to-day survival struggles can quickly form into rigid patterns. Fear of starvation is related to our death wish or killing desire. This fear, and the tension it creates, can exacerbate any physical challenges of the baby and mother. Helping train the muscle of the baby’s tongue to press toward the roof of the mouth is facilitated by relaxing the muscles around the mouth and head. Helping the mother to learn to relax and enliven her face, and to establish eye contact, are a highly worthwhile exercises even if they do not lead to nursing.  I see infant/mother dyad, and the facilitator, as sublimating the multiple, complex urges in a manner which can lead to a rhythm and timing conducive to the dyad.

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