psychic origins…

Been somewhat busy of late engaging with a massive restructuring of my garden – involving the moving of many tonnes of earth and the building (by stone masons) of some rather lovely retaining walls of local stone… but that’s for a future blog – when I shall attempt to express my delight in natural materials and the skill and craft of human hands…

Now I would like to share what I believe about an aspect of the origins of the individual psyche… This goes to the roots of what I understand about my own psyche.

It could be the case that a psyche is like soup – to which experience is added as ingredients that constantly change its flavour. By this reckoning, it should be possible, by adding a little pinch of this, a little pinch of that, to sweeten the soup if it is to bitter; to add a dash of bitterness if it is too sickly – and thus to transform the psyche to a perfect balance…

Alas, my experience of therapy suggests to me that this is not possible. Instead it seems to me that the psyche is like a seedling that grows into a tree. At any point in its life, the form this tree takes is the sum of all its experiences: the sunlight of love that has fallen on it, the nurture that it has been able to draw up through its roots from the soil in which its seed fell, the storms it has endured. But it is clearly the case that the further back to the seed we go, the more fundamental are the influences on its future form. In its adult form, the psychic tree will need a gale to tear off one of its branches. By contrast, as a seedling, a glancing blow might be enough to take that branch off in its embryonic form…

No form of healing can hope to replace a branch lost in ‘seedlinghood’. What therapy can do is to bring awareness of how small that injury was – though it came to have such massive and lasting consequence – and thus a psyche can come to understand, accept and value the shape it has, without regret, as the natural consequence of its life experiences…

Posted by Ricardo

writer and blogger

11 Replies to “psychic origins…”

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  2. Conceição Sousa (São) 5th June 2010 at 10:26 pm

    Hum, I’m not sure if I should comment on this, I’m not as erudite as you are. Just want to say that the human nature is, in all aspects, very complex to understand by simply analyzing it, not because we were born like that but because we made our selfs like that throughout our evolution. Everything has an influence in our life. For me, it’s a question of accepting myself as I am, regardless what others may think about me. It’s difficult, specially in a society that demands us to live up to certain standards but it’s more difficult when it’s our selfs that don’t accept what we have became in the end. And, like Daniel says: we are always acting upon what is done to us…


    1. I agree completely! As you say, the most difficult thing is to accept who we are… In the end, the best thing we can possibly be is that – after all, it is impossible for any of us to be anyone else AND who could do a better job of being you than you yourself? *grin*


  3. […] the dandy who makes of his body, his behavior, his feelings and passions, his very existence, a work of art. Modern man, for Baudelaire, is not the man who goes off to discover himself, his secrets and his hidden truth; he is the man who tries to invent himself. This modernity does not ‘liberate man in his own being’; it compels him to face the task of producing himself.
    – Michel Foucault, “What is Enlightenment?


    1. this also (if I understand it – and I’ve not read this text by Foucault) seems to me a process of becoming. Jung and other ways of understanding the psyche would seem to suggest that the substrate can be built upon, but not itself be transformed…


      1. Daniel Cardoso 4th June 2010 at 1:26 am

        Yes, it is. A neverending process of becoming, the question posed by queer theory: what can we do with what was done to us?


        1. and what are the kinds of answers given to that question?


          1. Daniel Cardoso 5th June 2010 at 1:25 am

            From lesbians who fall in love with men, to straight men who enjoy wearing a skirt, the list would be endless. As it has now become famous: “We’re here, we’re queer; deal with it!

            But more broadly speaking, anyone is a filter and an interpreter for what one passes through. Wether we do it reflexively and consciously, or not, we are always acting upon what is done to us.

            Our essence is the lack of an essence.


            1. hmmm… that’s what the Buddhists say, I think – that the ‘self’ is an illusion… that it doesn’t really exist… and that it is holding on to this mirage that causes us so many problems…


  4. nice 🙂

    which is why i suggest that if anyone actually wants to alter some deep aspect of who they are
    i point them in the direction of buddhism

    it could be a complex system
    and the more recent additions to the personality orbit at a higher level
    and those experiences from childhood at a deeper level
    it is all dynamic
    and though it might be tricky if not impossible to budge one element
    it might be possible for massive transformative or systemic change
    ala landmark education, the work, hoffman process
    or perhaps even born-again experiences
    where the entire system alters rather than just a part of it…


    1. my understanding of what Buddhism offers is a ‘dissolving’ of the self… this then would not be so much an ‘unkinking’ of accidents occurring to the sapling, but the transformation of the tree into something else… I was never claiming that the past determines the future, but rather that the past cannot be undone…


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