Monday, September 24, 2007

which practice?

to fully experience one's desire to cause pain to what's pained you, without acting on that desire, or to no longer feel at all the desire to cause pain to what's pained you? is the latter an exchanging of internal experiencing of pain--you hurt me--for compassion for the agent?

but did we co-opt the agent anyway? in which case, as joseph beuys:

"If you cut yourself, bandage the knife."


dbuuck said...

for me it's both. "no longer feel[ing] at all" is "fully experienc[ing]" it as turned inward, deep into the Interoceptive organs. I bleed so that I can have cut myself, or somesuch abject reversal.

konrad said...

Maybe the only way to fully experience any strong desire is to not act on it.

Sometimes you no longer feel a desire at all in the same way that you wake up from a dream, i.e. nothing has changed.

suzanne said...

yes! yes yes yes. exactly. the only way to fully experience any strong desire is to not act on it. so, all practices at once? bleed, cut, feel, bandage.

konrad said...

hmmm... i'm not sure i could get that excited by the prospect. It's not a cakewalk.

To fully experience a strong desire seems to also mean experience its entire life cycle, i think.

suzanne said...

the life cycle of desire is not dependent on action, is independent of action

Brian Dean Bollman said...

I tend to fully experience things regardless of my actions, whether I like it or not.

konrad said...

yes. what i meant was just that you may also experience the exquisite stages of desire's death if you don't act to satisfy or repress it, or if you are prevented from such action.

But that assumes the difference is clear between acting and not acting. Is fantasizing acting or not?

judy j said...

fantasizing can be an action, when one names that desire - for revenge, especially, as in: i really really want to hurt you, and yet i'm not going to do it, and here's why, and here's what we can do instead.

konrad said...

But Suzanne just mentioned wanting to hurt back. But if revenge hides a wish to reconcile, one could just ask: "Did you mean to hurt me (so much)?"

I'm wondering now about the difference between fantasy as the mental shadow of desire (desire is mindbody, not just a thought), and fantasy as, like judy says, preliminary to action.

sorry to be posting so much but this conversation fascinates me and is helpful ...

suzanne said...

hi konrad, judy, brian

i think the first thing i'm wondering about here, although buried in the middle, is whether or not the receipt of hurt is in part one's own agency of allowing--or using--the agent to cause oneself a kind of pain.

desire to hurt back, in my case anyway, feels less like "revenge" [revenge has intimation of calculation] and more the erotic animal fight response of slap for slap--

i was wondering which experience would be the more generous one towards all parties, and also which the most honest or "true". I feel my desire to hurt the agent, I am human and I withold my desire from action, but I experience it and I learn from experiencing it. But then I thought, if I have allowed or used the agent to hurt me I've in fact wounded the agent, my proper response [this is crazy?] maybe should be repentance. Or, less crazy, compassion. It's no good to be the agent of harm, to cause harm to another so infinitely hurts the self. which in another use is a terrible reforumulation of "this is going to hurt me a lot more than it's going to hurt you"

of course, we are talking about refined emotional hurts and pains of a luxurious kind, we're not--yet--talking about physical or institutional violences. or by extension are we?

when i say 'experience the desire' i mean only that---feeling the desire, inchoate, languageless, not thinking/fantasizing it through in a kind of mental action.

konrad said...

yes well that answers a question i had, which was whether you were referring to lashing out or the more plotted kind of retribution.

I totally agree with your intuition that sometimes being hurt has a dual nature. Like one also takes the opportunity to be hurt or sets someone up to do the duty, for whatever reason. Is that what you mean?

To slap or not to slap, the best thing for all seems to be to simply (and out loud) own that aspect. Which doesn't mean anything about the other's willingness to participate.

I did mean to say that the fantasy is not the desire, but the mental reflection of it. I guess i drift off here into unpacking more long-term things.

suzanne said...

i am referring to desire itself, not to lashing out OR calculated retribution.

yes, that we locate an agent of hurt and by proxy self-injure.

i disagree about the "out loud". to speak is to act. "I want to hurt you" might be just as hurtful as making some kind of action towards.

experiencing the desire to hurt someone is about the relationship with the self, not about the relationship with the agent.

judy j said...

Speaking institutionally, Elizabeth Young-Bruehl wrote of the Truth and Reconciliation forums in South Africa in the early '90s (Why Arendt Matters, 2006), and Jean Hatzfield recorded testimonies from genocidiers in Rwanda (Machete Season, 2005).

As far as the relationship with the self goes, I think it could be more compassionate to fully experience the emotional pain that another has incurred (with or without explicit/implicit permission), so as to be able to better decide - with more knowledge of the consequences - how willing one would be to 'allow' said person to cause similar injuries in the future. This would seem to make it less easy for an (admittedly self-interested) agent to invite others to commit such violences in the future.

suzanne said...


HOW it is i might "fully experience [someone else's] emotional pain"

it is not possible. "I feel your pain" is only that i have felt my own thus i can guess at yours.

what you're describing is empathy, not compassion.

konrad said...

SS, responding to our disagreement point:

It seems to be a different act to express a desire (to enunciate it) than to act on the desire (to fulfill it through speech). And i think an effort can be made to speak in a way that doesn't injure, to just talk about oneself, to own one's feelings, once one knows what they are. I think not acting on the desire helps one develop a relationship to the feeling, which helps one to avoid identifying one's whole being with that feeling. And so to be able to express something more complex like, "i want to hurt you back, but i don't want to feel that way."

I'm wondering is the point of "fully feeling" the desire to hurt back except really to be able to re-name or re-recognize that feeling as "pain," instead of as "desire?"

Brian Dean Bollman said...

Hi all,

Based on my personal experience, I feel pretty strongly that sympathy is a more fundamental and mysterious phenomena. When I feel someone elses pain, it is largely involuntary. I don't necessarily want to feel their pain, nor am I trying to feel their pain. Sometimes I really don't want to feel their pain, because it is too painful, but I can't help but feel it. On the other hand, I wouldn't want to be incapable of feeling other people's pain, because that would isolate me from them. I don't think that the sympathetic pains that I feel are an exact duplicate of the pains of the people around me--I don't think I can fully experience their pain--but I have some kind of direct experience of it that is not just a projection of my own pain.

But to get back to your original question--I don't think that to stop feeling the desire to hurt-in-return necessarily implies compassion for the offender. If I think of the desire to hurt-in-return as an emotion (languageless, thoughtless) then the desire isn't directly connected to the actions that it may provoke. It may be diffused by any number of things--the passage of time, chemicals in the body, intellectual thought, a distracting agent--how can we say that any of these is more true? At most, perhaps, we may have some control over some of them and thereby influence our response to what we feel--Influence over both our active response, and our emotional response.

As for whether or not we are co-opting the agent, I don't think we can answer that without the agents involvement. Doesn't it depend on the agents desires and intentions?

Your initial question was "which practice". I'm inclined to say "It depends".