The Imagination of Reality

Wallace Stevens, an American modernist poet, in one of his poems says “the magnificent cause of being, the imagination, the one reality in this imagined world” (2019). As we see in this piece there is a blurred boundary between the imagination and reality. In fact, they are interwoven to each other and not distinguishable easily. In this regard, the question is how much imagination could become real? Regarding Wallace Stevens, it could be said that imagination is reality and vice-versa and the first thing we need to do is just to grasp it in the current and bring it into our awareness. But it is not enough to achieve our goals; to do that we need to consider three crucial factors which help us through this process:

1- Imagination:

Imagination is the capacity and potential which can lead us towards creating changes.

2- Body:

We need a physical being to represent and actualise our imagination by being in direct touch with the world of matter through physical activity.

3- Reality:

Apart from the first two factors, there is an external world which surrounds us by matter, time and space. And we only have access to it through our bodies.

The key to success is the harmony and coordination between these three factors, and with the absence of each one, there will be a malfunction in the process. To be more clear, I will explain each factor separately and show how to bring them in harmony.

Imagination

In The Matrix 1 (1999) written and directed by Wachowskis, there is a scene in which Neo (the main character) is going to spar in a ‘simulated reality’ with Morpheus (his mentor) to learn how to apply his Kung fu technics, which has been uploaded into his brain recently. After sparing for a while, Neo gets beaten a lot but in the last round, Morpheus looks him into the eye and says “what are you waiting for? you’re faster than this, don’t think you are, you know you are”. And then after this Neo’s fighting style gets changed. He becomes more confident and faster because of one thing, his mind believes that he is faster than this, all he needs to do is just to feel confident about it by imaging himself being faster.

I think this is the best example to show the power of imagination. As we know, they fight in a kind of simulated reality while in the external reality they are unconscious and their bodies are plugged into a computer. They kick, they punch, they sweat, they get tired, they get hurt, even they die. While their bodies are sitting on a chair in the external reality, their minds are still active somewhere else. So if the mind can be this much productive and continue living in the imagination without needing the external reality, then why would it need a body to co-exist with? Why does not it live separately?

I think to answer this question I would refer to Creative Writers and Daydreaming by Freud. In this article, he brings the work of creative writing in analogy with a child play. He declares that “might we not say that every child at play behaves like a creative writer, in that he creates a world of his own, or, rather, re-arranges the things of his world in a new way which pleases him” (p. 1921). Hence, what is obvious is that to create his imaginary play a child needs his toys (objects) to play with, in other words, a child needs matters from reality to create his images. Thence, he could transform the internalised reality and project it to the external world through anthropomorphism. In order to actualise what is being imagined the other two factors are required, body and reality and without them, imagination is nothing but a phantasy which only exists in the mind.

Body

I used to do amateur boxing for about five years and during that period we were under advanced cardio and core training. One of the training we received was that we had to learn how to rest in the ring while we were sparing. Our coach tried to develop this habit in us that ‘rest while you are on the move’. He used to keep repeating “you cannot actually rest in the middle of the fight by asking the opponent for a minute rest, there is no such a thing. You need to train your mind to put your body into the resting mode while it is moving in the ring. That is how you could regain your energy”. It was really helpful, whenever I got tired in the fight, I started dancing around, keeping my distance from the opponent and put my muscles into a resting position. He was right, we should first train our mind to get the control of our body, and then body automatically begins to cooperate.

As I mentioned, imagination is like a bridge between our inner wishes and our bodies; in other words, it is a potential which can be actualised. and for it to happen, it needs a body, a physical form by which it could represent itself into reality. As humans, our brains’ structure and function are advanced enough to help us to achieve our goals. There are neurones and neurotransmitter with synaptic connections all over the body to perceive and transmit the information from outside to inside or vice-versa. And the centre which has the control over this process is the brain; if we consider the brain as the seat of the mind, then we would have a more comprehensive understanding of how the cooperation between mind and body can result in making changes through their activities.

It is exactly like what my boxing coach tried to teach me. To develop the capacity of our mind so that it could create a habit in our body to rest while we are on the move. What I have learned from boxing was gaining the mastery over my mind and body. In fact, I learned how to bring my body and mind into harmony through the constant adjustment of the relation between them. I came to this point that there is no rest in life unless I keep moving. Moving is resting, moving is the road towards success, we need to constantly work on our imagination and let it flow into reality with the help of the body. To achieve this, we need to train both our mind and our body. Reading and learning are the best training to strengthen the mind and exercising is needed to strengthen the body. That is how one could improve the coordination between them and actualise his imagination. I also should add that by ‘moving’ I mean to progress rather than moving around and repeating the same mistakes. That is where imagination could help us. Imagination gives us new ways of looking, new angles toward the reality by which we could be creative and productive. Yet applying these skills needs some material which could be found in reality or external world.

Reality

In Civilization and Its Discontents, Freud said that:“Every man must find out for himself in what particular fashion he can be saved. All kinds of different factors will operate to direct his choice. It is a question of how much real satisfaction he can expect to get from the external world, how far he is led to make himself independent of it, and, finally, how much strength he feels he has for altering the world to suit his wishes…success is never certain, for that depends on the convergence of many factors, perhaps on none more than on the capacity of the psychical constitution to adapt its function to the environment and then to exploit that environment for a yield of pleasure” (1930, p. 83–84).

I think this quote is the short version of what I have tried to say about the power of the mind and its capacity to bring alteration to the world for gaining satisfaction. Consequently, we previously mentioned about how to use the imagination and coordinate it with the body towards achieving our goals. But talking about reality is a bit more philosophical and complicated, and I am not going to go that far and end up using a lot of jargons to describe what reality is. In simple, by reality, I mean the external world which is two-folded. The first fold is the one which forms parts of our perceptions and we have access to it as cognitive subjects; while there is another fold of reality known as thing-in-itself which means the reality on its own without being recognised by a cognitive subject. We do not have anything to do with the second part, therefore, we mainly focus on the first part of it. In this case, the reality we perceive is highly influenced by our life-experiences and psychical functions and that is why it feels different from person to person. Some people find life very exciting and pleasurable and some others find it so stressful and difficult to survive. We need to consider that such variation is not only influenced by our perceptions but also it is under the influence of the second part of reality which is beyond our control, which sometimes we call it as destiny, in fact, we are not fully capable of doing anything about it but to accept it, such as death or diseases, etc.

Talking about the reality which we have access to, one could say that it is flexible and could be bent towards our will. There is no better proof than the history of humanity that shows how the man took control over nature and built its civilisation utilising the materials and resources. We are in direct touch with the world of matter and we could change its forms to create the world in the way we want. Hence, our body is a matter, on the one hand, it is in connection with an organic materialistic reality and, on the other hand, it is in touch with our non-organic (psychical) existence. Thus, Achieving a goal needs activity, both physical and psychical. Perhaps the psychical is the most important one because due to its non-materialistic characteristic it could take numerous forms and be applied on the matter with the help of the body. What we need to understand is that how to achieve enough mental capacity to increase our patience and activity to get the favourable result. Of course, we cannot have everything at once, but we could determine some goals and work on them throughout the lifetime. I remember that my boxing coach used to tell me “focus on your jab when you do a jab just think of the jab and nothing else. All of your muscles should deliver themselves into that one jab because that could be the most effective punch you would do in the moment of delivering it into the target”. Well that is it, and I think his words do not just apply for the jab, but for anything else I want to do in my life. It is exactly the same as when Neo began to imagine himself being faster.

As the last word, I would say Imagination is powerful, but it needs the convergence of other factors among which self-awareness, psychical, and physical activities are the most important ones. With self-awareness, we need to learn ourselves, we need to discover the different parts of ourselves which we have never experienced before (or we have forgotten about them). When we have a good level of self-awareness, then we know what exactly we want and what exactly we do not want, so we will invest the right amount of energy into our body to move towards our goals. We are the creator of our lives but sometimes, due to the inaccessible part of the reality, we cannot do what we want and all we need is to postpone our goals. But it does not mean that we should not try another way, it does not mean that we cannot start again. Sometimes our body is stuck in reality, but I do not believe that there is a deadlock for the imagination.

Reference List


A Short Note on Latency

After going through the storms of pleasure/displeasure experiences during the infancy, there is a period of delay or pause known as latency, which according to Freud  starts around age seven and continues until puberty (2010). However, it should be noted that the age range is affected by childrearing practices, culture and environment.

This phase takes place during the phallic stage in which a new organisation of sexuality develops and the Oedipus complex begins to dissolve. In simple, the ego is about to form its boundaries and defences in order to step inside a larger society than family and prepare the individual to become more independent and industrious; “He  has  mastered  the  ambulatory  field  and  the  organ  modes.  He has  experienced  a  sense  of  finality  regarding  the  fact  that  there  is  no workable  future  within  the  womb  of  his  family  and  thus  becomes ready  to  apply  himself  to  given  skills  and  tasks,  which go  far  beyond the  mere  playful  expression  of  his  organ  modes  or  the  pleasure  in  the function  of  his  limbs.  He  develops  a  sense  of  industry  —  i.e.  to  adjust himself  to  the  inorganic  laws  of  the  tool  world.  He  can  become  an eager  and  absorbed  unit  in  a  productive  situation” (Erikson 1950, p. 258-9). 

In Lacanian sense, latency is a gateway from imaginary to symbolic order when the child comes to the recognition and admission of the name of the father as the figure of law and society. That is how the child enters the realm of language where senses such as shame, loathing, and morality come to play. As regards, it is believed that this is the best age to send the children to school where they can learn more about social life and how to utilise their potential capacities into work and production for the society. Thus, what is crucial at this phase is the way of parenting. As parents, it is really important to help the child to develop his social skills and learn about his talents in order to develop them later on in adolescence. .

Hence during the psychosexual development from infancy to puberty, the mechanism of defence and resistance goes through lots of changes to get to its final form. As regards, the fixation of libido in each of these stages is an inevitable fact, but if in this process the libido gets fixated in latency stage it is going to be a different story. Freud theorised that some humans may develop psychological fixation due to one or more of the following:

  1. “A lack of proper gratification during one of the psychosexual stages of development.
  2. Receiving a strong impression from one of these stages, in which case the person’s personality would reflect that stage throughout adult life.
  3. “An excessively strong manifestation of these instincts at a very early age [which] leads to a kind of partial fixation, which then constitutes a weak point in the structure of the sexual function” (2013).

As we know, latency is like a limbo in the psychosexual development. In this stage, the child is about to get to know himself and the world around him. He is distinguishing his ego from the external world and developing his social skills, consequently, he has not still gained enough mastery to find the balance between his feelings and the reality principle and most of his libidinal impulses need to be adjusted before being represented into the outer world. In this case, getting fixated in latency, is quite a challenging situation for the individual, because he cannot really adjust his place among  others and transform his sexual impulses into the social skills and means of communication. He might be isolated and receive a huge amount of rejection from others because his superego has not fully formed to regulate his moral standards and judgmental processes. 

But latency is not all about negativity and incapability. We should note, It is at this very stage that the child learns how to combine his world of imagination with the reality through play. He begins to build up his identity by identifying himself with different role-models which form his super ego and moral standards. In this period, the child begins to learn how to become independent of his parents and family by distinguishing his ego from others and also learns how to use the language (symbolic) to bring about changes in reality.In short, latency is a gateway from internal to external, it is a bridge which links the  pleasure principle to the harsh reality principle and provides the individual with enough tools to learn how to achieve the external objects through physical and psychical activity and represent his feelings into a more advanced form into the society, rather than crying for the mummy’s breast. 

Reference list


  • Freud, S. and Brill, A. (2010). Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality. Las Vegas, Nev.: Lits.
  • Erikson, E.H. (1950) Childhood and Society. New York: Norton.
  • Freud, S. Ed by Hall, G. (2013). Five Lectures on Psycho-Analysis. Stilwell: Neeland Media LLC.

Falling in Love

Due to the “object relation theory”, there is an inseparable bind between the mother and infant during the infancy and when it is detached, the infant would go through an awkward experience with a mixture of feelings representing themselves as pain and pleasure. Later on, through the development of language, there will be more meaningful clarifications between these feelings which could be interpreted as hatred, love, depression, aggression, etc. and the child can distinguish them from one another by entering the symbolic order and using the language. Hence, this detachment and entering the symbolic is a crucial stage for the development of the infant’s psyche because it is the moment that reality imposes its presence to the child’s world of phantasy. But what interests me is when we fall in love as grown-ups; It is like we go through this traumatic experience of getting detached from the mother once again with the reintegration of all those mixed feelings which do not let us to decide wisely and logically. In fact, when we fall in love, there is a revision of our feelings to their primary form when there was no separation between the infant and his/her love-object. Yet what is painful is re-experiencing the trauma of separation with a slight difference, that this time the the phantasy imposes its presence on reality…

The Object of Desire

Striving for the object of desire is both pleasurable and painful. It is pleasurable because it gratifies the primal narcissistic tendencies and it is painful because there are limitations in reality on the way of achieving that object; limitations such as moral standards, money, distance, time, people, differences, etc. Otto Fenichel says “the first acceptance of reality is only an intermediary step on the road to getting rid of it. This is the point at which a contradiction of basic importance in human life arises, the contradiction between longing for complete relaxation and longing for objects (1996, p. 35). Therefore, there is no complete relaxation because there is always a longing for objects which cause us more physical and mental activities.

Accordingly, we could say that contrary to what is commonly believed, gaining satisfaction or relaxation is tied up to endeavour. Most of the people look for an easy way to earn money or get what they want regardless of the fact that ease comes out of discomfort and hardship, or simply put, no pain no gain. But the question is why we are constantly looking for ease and comfort?

Well I believe there are two reasons for this. The first one is that this is our nature, our biology to discharge the psychical and physical excitation to bring about relaxation. In fact, the notion of discharge refers to an outward release of the energy produced in the psychic apparatus by excitations, whether these are external or internal in origin, “the basic pattern which is useful for the understanding of mental phenomena is the reflex arc. Stimuli from the outside world or from the body initiate a state of tension that seeks for motor or secretory discharge, brining about relaxation” (Fenichel, 1996, p. 11). So our body needs to discharge and invest its energy into something (objects) to gain relaxation.

The second reason is related to the process of developing a psyche in relation to other objects in the childhood environment, which is known as object relations theory. In this regard, the infant does not distinguish itself from the external objects in early ages and there is no sense of ‘inside/outside’ or ‘me/others’ exists for him. Freud in Civilisation and its Discontents describes this sense as ‘oceanic feeling’ which indicates the period in which the infant is regularly breastfed in response to its crying and has no concept that the breast does not belong to it. Therefore, the infant has no impression of a ‘self’ or, rather, considers the breast to be a part of itself. The ego (or sense of self) comes into existence when the breast is taken away, and involves the infant’s recognition that it is separate from others. Later in life, as adults, there remains some parts of this ‘oceanic feeling’ in our mature egos which drives us to that primal stage when we were once united with the objects and everything was managed by others to give us comfort and relaxation. 

Considering what has been said, one could see that there is a shift, or a transition from pleasure principle to reality principle (Freud, 2018). A transition from a fantastic world, where there is no distance between the ‘self’ and ‘object’ and everything is new, exciting and pleasurable, to a harsh reality in which we are condemned to work constantly to get to the object of desire which is not fully achievable because it is partly real and partly phantasy. That is why striving for the object of desire is both painful and pleasurable, because no one has a complete access to it, there always remains a gap between the ego and objects which requires both physical and psychical activities in order to develop enough capacity for gaining more satisfaction. Yet there is no guarantee to it but each person should finds its own way towards gratification.

Bloody Superego

As a counsellor, I meet a lot of people in one to one sessions in the therapy room and they bring up different subjects to talk about. The stories are differ from person to person yet there is something in similar among all of them and it is the presence of the other In their stories. It is always about their relations with their partners, families, friends, colleagues and so on. However, my concern is not only the physical presence of the other, but rather it hugely is about the internalised symbolic other in one’s super-ego.

I am recently visiting a client who is homosexual but keeps repressing his sexual tendencies because he was not accepted in his traditional society. He was arrested a couple of times while he was having intercourse with someone and since then he was banned and ignored by his family. After about 10 years from that, he immigrate and now is facing so many difficulties due to his visa status. Regarding the fact that, now he could freely choose a partner and continue being a homosexual yet he resists himself. When I asked him what is the reason that he is doing that, he replied “because I want to be a better human, I want to change and make a new person out of myself. I do not want to lose my family anymore”. I told him “but you said that you have not been in touch with your family for 10 years except your older brother, so how would you lose them again?” He said “yes, I know, but there might be a chance. I talked to my older brother and he talked to my father and told him that I am a good person now. You know I miss my family a lot”.

What is obvious in his utterances is a sense of self-reproach and guilt, which he wishes to undo them by ‘making a news person out of himself’. In fact, he wants to change himself not only because of his own sake but because of the other’s desire, or better to say to be accepted and approved by the other. Hence, such a self-reproach is deeply connected to the internalised parents’ moral standards which came to being during the formation of identification. In this regard, Freud says “The child’s super-ego is in fact constructed on the model not of its parents but of its parents ‘super-ego’” (1933, p.67). What I can analyse from this is that there is a contradiction between the ideal-ego (moral standards) and ego-ideal (idealised self image).As we know, ideal-ego and ego-ideal are closely intertwined yet with a slight difference. Ego-ideal is the internalised parental imago which has formed the conscience while ideal-ego, on the one hand, is the recipient of the self-love that ego enjoyed in infancy, and on the other hand, it is a part of the idealised parental image, “the ‘ideal ego’ stands for the idealized self-image of the subject (the way I would like to be, I would like others to see me); the Ego-Ideal is the agency whose gaze I try to impress with my ego image, the big Other who watches over me and propels me to give my best, the ideal I try to follow and actualise” (Žižek, 2006, p. 45).

Considering this fact, now we can have a more comprehensive understanding of the self-reproach and guilt in my client. On the one hand, the pleasure seeking part of his ego looks for ways to satisfy his sexual needs, and on the other hand, his moral standards push them back and keep them away from direct gratification because his ideal-ego does not fully fit into his ego-ideal’s standards. I believe this interpretation is the simplest way to explain the function of super-ego as a moral agent in our psyche. The bloody super-ego always brings us to such contradictions in our everyday decision makings. The internalised other’s voice is always in our head keep criticising or persuading us in every moment of our lives. I am not sure that we have to get away with it or accept it as a part of reality. But what I am sure about is that every single individual needs to find its own way towards gratification, there is no common rule for everyone. Sometimes the moral standards are good and sometimes they are not necessary and it is for us to find a critical view and come to this point that when they are required and when they are unnecessary. At least, that is what I have always been engaged with in my life, when to obey and when to disobey…


Bibliography

  • Freud, S. (1933). New introductory lectures on psycho-analysis. S. E., 22: 1–182. London: Hogarth.
  • Žižek, S. (2006). How to Read Lacan. New York: W. W. Norton Company.