Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Reik Part 3: Sensical & Nonsensical Thought

In no place did Freud author the often misquoted, and misleading, notion that "biology is destiny". Freud's claim was that "anatomy is destiny," or more importantly, that gender is our fate. In fact, it seems that the struggle that Freud had in the 19th Century, the clashing against popular biological explanations of neurosis, is the very contest that the psychically oriented psychologist deals with today. We live in an age when experts consider mental life to be to be caused by organic reactions. The relationship between organic structures (such as nerve cells and hormones) and behavioral, cognitive, or emotional life, is taken to be cause and effect. There is a problem in thinking that hormones or cells cause emotion, thinking, or behavior. Following this logic, we would say that light waves cause color or that pixels cause video images. Reductionism is a false logic that confuses parsing with genesis. 

This fallacy is a symptom of a certain way of thinking that is prevalent today. The concept of reductive causation is a symptom of logic and a limitation in Western thought since the Age of Enlightenment. The real problem, though, is that reductive causation (genesis) is held as the crowning accomplishment of the Enlightenment -a metaphysical obsession with causation that is the hallmark of all religious thought.

Today we prize this sort of thinking, the logical, formulaic, procedure of science and mathematics. Thoedor Reik points out in Listening With The Third Ear that the IQ examination has become the barometer of human ranking. The sort of thinking that is measured by the IQ test is indicative of the variety of tasks that are found at school and most office jobs. However, Reik points out that as important as this logical might be, it is only a surface layer of intelligence, and that a deeper, often neglected, level of intelligence also exists. This aspect of intelligence is not rational, nor is it logical, and is often experienced as a hunch or a gut feeling. It is, as we know in psychoanalysis, the intuitive pre-notion that springs forth from the unconscious and serves the poet and artist, where as logic serves the scientist.

The important thing to note in Reik's judgement is that the two forms of thinking do not outstrip one another. There is a time for both rational and irrational thinking. Freud, Reik points out, had a hunch. Rejecting the expert view that neurosis and hysteria were organic conditions, Freud went against logic and reason and followed the hunch -that neurosis was a symptom of emotional conflict. In this way, psychoanalysis is not only the new science of the irrational, but came into being through the irrational. Reik tells us:
"It is obvious that the two ways of thinking have separate realms, with a border between them that neither may cross without creating disturbances of one kind or another. A corporation lawyer would reach no satisfactory result were he to follow every fancy in thinking about a difficult legal problem. A poet, on the other hand, would write a very poor poem if he were to examine each metaphor in his love poem to see whether it met the tests of strict logic. One way of thinking is not appropriate in the first case, the other would have no place in the second. The lawyer will do his work best when he thinks and concludes logically and uses all the reason at his disposal. The poet cannot write his verses after long reflection and mature consideration. If he should meditate and ponder about the expression of his feelings, they would lose all spontaneity. The French poet Paul Valery, said that thinking or reflecting means to lose the thread, "perdre le fil." The lawyer thinks he has lost the thread if he follows a capricious idea, a whim, while working on his brief. One man's meat is another man's poison."

The primary rule of psychoanalysis -do not censor yourself- frees the analysand from logical and rational thinking. Censorship of the irrational and the illogical is suspended and in so doing the individual is permitted to come into contact with themselves. This free association, Reik points out, frees us from the kind of thinking that our education has privileged to the neglect of intuition.

Reik seems to be touching here on the very stuff that Martin Heidegger explores in What is Called Thinking? Today we read of neuroscientific explorations of left and right hemisphere brain lateralization that fits with Reik's description of both intuitive and analytical intelligence.