A draft of “Part Three: Properties” of Finding Winnicott is now available here with the following content:

  • Contronym
  • Property
  • Intelligibility
  • The Irrelevance of Psychoanaluysis
  • The Psychoanaluysis of Irrelevance

As always, questions, comments, criticisms, and whatever other feedback you may have are more than welcome. The contact info. is on the cover page of the pdf.

Cheers,

Fadi

A draft of “Part Two: Series”  of Finding Winnicott is now available here with the following content:

  • Constructions
  • Series Touching
  • Series Sliding
  • Confound

As usual, questions, comments, criticisms, and whatever other feedback you may have are more than welcome. My contact information is on the cover page of the pdf.

Cheers,

Fadi

Finally, the clean draft of “Part One: Preliminaries”  of Finding Winnicott is available here with the following content:

  • Rational
  • Finding Objects
  • “The Whole Cultural Field”
  • Machines

Questions, comments, criticisms, and whatever other feedback you may have are more than welcome. My contact information is on the cover page of the pdf text.

Cheers,

Fadi

“Finding” is almost always reciprocal, doubled, as the subject is incorporated into the structures that belong to the object it has found and is made to fit that object’s requirements and/or concerns. One is said to be gripped by an idea, defined—for better and for worse—by his or her membership in a family, a group, a profession, an institution, or a nation, and transformed through care and responsibility for or outright servitude to another subject or object.

That the subject finds itself being “found” by the other is no mere intellectual manoeuvre. The reciprocity here undermines the otherwise convenient notion of active autonomy implicit in the very sense that the subject tends to have of itself. In the best of all possible scenarios, such reciprocity opens up for the subject the prospect of finding itself and becoming its own found object, of experiencing itself as neither a self-fashioned hallucination nor a cog in the vast machinery that is external reality, but as a subject that is animated and resilient, even, and perhaps most especially, when confronted with the prospect of its own inevitable diffusion.

It is this reflexivity that distinguishes genuine understanding from simple explanation—in other words, introspection, psychoanalytic and otherwise, from what is merely inwardly directed truth, regardless of whether such truth is grounded in a self-serving delusion or in the presumably most authoritative and verifiable of meta-psychological principles. It is this reflexivity that invests introspection with the quality of an integral, dynamic, and mutative knowledge.

In a frank and frankly irreverent introductory passage to his “Primitive Emotional Development” from the mid-1940s, Winnicott wrote: “I shall not first give an historical survey and show the development of my ideas from the theories of others, because my mind does not work that way. What happens is that I gather this and that, here and there, settle down to clinical experience, form my own theories and then, last of all, interest myself in looking to see where I stole what. Perhaps this is as good a method as any” (145).

Winnicott’s thievery here is hardly unfamiliar to those of us who track the vagaries of the unconscious as a primary process, as, in other words, a process that admits little of continuity (in time and space) or boundary (in property and reason). However, that such thievery also robs the question of provenance of its primacy and instead relegates it to the status of an afterthought, that the thievery may be “as good a method as any” in matters meta-psychological, and, furthermore, that it may eventually seep into and indeed direct whatever may come about as a psychoanalytic intervention is less evident to and significantly less reassuring for those clinicians who stake their professional standing and therapeutic competence on a mastery in matters of aetiology and development.

What I find most interesting about Winnicott’s strategy is that it speaks of a work that is always in progress, a work that has already begun (“this and that”) somewhere (“here and there”), a work that is grounded in neither an overarching theory nor a coherent set of clinical observations, but in a multiplicity of ideas and experiences. Winnicott’s is a porous work that mines in this multiplicity certain connections that may produce new theories, which, in turn, will hopefully serve as the “this and that” and the “here and there” of future episodes of work.

In one sense then, the components (abstractions, techniques, and vignettes) that have been gathered under the heading of “Winnicott” and identified as the benchmarks of what it means to be a “Winnicottian” are multiple and multiply sourced. They are heterogeneous, anachronistic, and sometimes even idiosyncratic. Last but not least, and though in a sense specific to Winnicott, such components nevertheless make themselves available as the potential raw materials of subsequent projects, psychoanalytic or otherwise, that may have little if anything to do with “Winnicott” or “Winnicottians.”

Trailing closely behind an investment in Winnicottian playfulness is the inevitable question of responsibility. What might be the risks of such playfulness sinking into either a “playing fast and loose” with the poignantly existential moments in the life of an individual or a form of intellectual gymnastics of interest only to its practitioner and, at best, a handful amongst his or her audience? Surely, the objection will be raised, the efforts of a theorist attempting to contribute to the understanding of the human psyche or of a clinician charged with the responsibility of alleviating another person’s suffering must outweigh, in both subtlety and impact, the playful meanderings of a mere child.

A healthy degree of reservation, if not indeed suspicion, seems well justified in response to any equivalence drawn between the impromptu squiggles of a two-year-old and the meta-psychological cogitations of, say, a fifty-two-year-old, unless, obviously, the latter are as easily reproducible, as superficial, and, ultimately, as inconsequential and dispensable as the former.

My response to this objection is twofold.

First, I do not consider the qualities of superficiality or dispensability, no matter how difficult it has been to generate the products they qualify, as markers of intellectual and/or clinical inadequacy. Winnicott recommends that psychoanalysis is best served by a practitioner who can curb the wish to dissect and catalogue and who can relinquish the need to have the final word, a practitioner who can occupy the position of an instigator of play rather than of a technician of truth. Such a practitioner must not only be intellectually and affectively agile, he or she must also tolerate the fact that, within the context of any particular analysis, his or her every experience and thought is potentially dispensable and the theories and strategies that guide that analysis, no matter how firmly grounded, are forever subject to a startling upset. Such precariousness is hardly a detriment to the practice of analysis; on the contrary, it propels it. For better or for worse, the analysis that has little room for surprise, and even less for curiosity, is no longer an analysis.

Second, the playfulness I am invoking here is hardly the carelessness that is of legitimate concern to the advocates of clinical sobriety. Rather, it is a playfulness that operates somewhere between objective reality and private fancy, between an abiding faith in the laws of causality and an utter disregard for consequences, between truth and myth, linearity and chaos.

Desire is neither an innately differentiating marker (as Soul or Drive) of what it means to be a subject, nor a predicament suffered by that subject in accordance with the demands of a pre-existing superordinate law (as History or Structure).

Rather, the relationship between subjectivity and desire is one of simultaneity, both logical and chronological. When individual and experiential—when, in other words, lived—desire is the use (qua both mode and effect) the subject makes of the broad spectrum of physiological, discursive, affective, ideological, as well as psychological objects it finds*; it is in such a finding that the operations of desire lie.

Furthermore, the subject is neither the vessel or voice of a discernible will that may one day come to recognise its unconscious origins and/or ideological determinants, nor a will that, in the best of all possible worlds, may manipulate and consume the objects that animate it, the same objects it previously lacked but has since been fortunate enough to locate and acquire—to find.

Rather, it is the finding that constitutes the subject, for the subject is not only that which finds but also that which is found and is available to be found, repeatedly, by the object, by other subjects, and, most poignantly perhaps, by the subject itself.

________
* as per Winnicott’s use of the term.

I want to invoke Deleuze and Guattari’s double-sided interrogation: “Given a certain effect, what machine is capable of producing it? And given a certain machine, what can it be used for?” (Anti-Oedipus, F8, E3).

Such an interrogation has fed its authors’ insistence on the primacy of a “machinic production” for human nature, a production for which the greatest threat is the distorting transformation of its status from a fundament into a goal, from a process that deploys its productions, registrations, and consumptions along typically unpredictable lines, which is to say, from a process that plays, dreams, and associates, as Winnicott understood these terms, into a stagnant and interminable “wreck” (AO, F11, E5) that can only “fantasy” and “dissociate” in its struggle for self-perpetuation and propagation.

This is one of a number of links and relays that I would like to pursue between the presumably post-Freudian project of Winnicott and the supposedly anti-Freudian project of Deleuze and Guattari.

My investment is not in a history of psychoanalytic ideas that hopes to bridge the divide between the French and the British, each a tradition that, for the most part, has thrived on recognising its other only to dispute its legitimacy as fantasmatic and/or mundane, on, in other words, dissociating itself from that other, a history, and by extension a methodology, that would invariably, righteously, grant itself the status of an integration or incorporation that is greater, wiser, or truer than both.

Nor is my investment in exposing and clarifying the ways in which each of these two traditions is, after all and presumably, a metaphor for, or, better still, the metamorphosing outcome of the other. I would much rather spare both my Winnicottian and Deleuzo-Guattarian readers the disappointment and/or irritation of witnessing their distinctive perspectives and strongly held convictions dismissed as the derivatives of some previously or elsewhere more convincingly elaborated views.

Nor do I hope to facilitate a triumphal coupling of the two sets of disparate texts and strategies with the aim of producing a clinical and/or meta-psychological offshoot—-a strange beast indeed—-that is part Winnicottian and part Deleuzo-Guattarian, part post- and part anti-, forever honouring, which is also to say forever hemmed in by, its provenance and heritage.

Nor, lastly, is my investment in a utopian “in-between” that has gripped much of the imagination amongst contemporary readers of both Winnicott and Deleuze and Guattari, an “in-between” whose advocates, I suspect, must forever struggle to keep from drowning in the treacherous waters of the Oceanus Britannicus. On this score, and though the notion of a topographical “in-between” seems to be precisely what brings both projects in line with one another, I find the Winnicottian transitional and the Deleuzo-Guattarian intermezzo, when considered primarily as psychological topographies, to be particularly sparse and unyielding. Moreover, and just as the found object for Winnicott is an experience rather than an “object” that needs to be itemised and localised, I would like to suggest that the transitional and the intermezzo are a playing and a bricolage, a basic form of living (“Playing: A Theoretical Statement”, 50) and a handyman’s tinkering (AO, F7, E1) that have little to do with spaces or locations that ought to be mapped, striated, and/or bound, and everything to do with events, processes, and experiences that are lived. Ditto for the “in-between.”

My investment is primarily in re-posing the question of found object and play and of machine and effect, while doubling its data, so to speak. Given two machines, each with its specific set of clinical and theoretical procedures, what can their juxtaposition be used for and what effects can that juxtaposition be made to produce? At stake here is a process that treats of dynamic effects as much as it treats of developmental causes, of potential products as much as of hidden aetiologies, and of eventual deployments as much as of retrograde analyses. Ultimately, my hope in posing this question is that these effects, products, and deployments may not only communicate to us hitherto unexplored yet constitutive theoretical and/or clinical components about either Winnicott or Deleuze and Guattari, but that they may also shed a new light on, if not indeed instantiate desire, and, in the process, allow us to do with that desire, or do with it differently, as much as it does with us.

In positing this reflexive implication, I take my cue from the “machines” I am considering, insofar as each, in its own way, has more or less relinquished as artificial and ineffectual the distinction between the functions of theory and practice, observer and observed, analyst and analysand. Indeed, by the end of his career, Winnicott was quite unequivocal when he declared that psychoanalysis “has to do with two people playing together” (PTS, 38), that such a doing takes place “in the overlap of the two play areas, that of the patient and that of the therapist” (“Playing”, 54), that, in other words, psychoanalysis has little to do with one subject developing, interpreting, or correcting another subject’s experience according to some externally pre-elaborated path toward truth or health, and everything to do with the playing that occurs “in between” these two subjects. Winnicottian psychoanalysis is therefore as much a practice as it is a theory of transitionality; it is therefore as invested in consolidating and legitimising an Ego, a Self, or a Subject, be it true or false, as a found object could be said to consolidate or legitimise a reality, be it hallucinatory or concrete.

Similarly, and equally forcefully, Deleuze and Guattari identified the principal task of their analytic orientation (which they termed “schizoanalysis”) as the dismantling of the distinction between a subject that emits a statement and a subject about or on behalf of whom, or which, a statement is emitted (AO, F323-324, E271). In schizoanalysis, there is no subject that imparts to another its accomplishments in knowledge, health, or experience; there is only an analytic machine that is neither an imaginary projection, as phantasy, nor a real projection, as cure, but a recurring factor of production among parts (associations, syntheses, subjectivities) functioning alongside one another and under specific clinical conditions. These are the gears that create new gears alongside preceding ones, indefinitely, even if, or even as they seem to function in discordant or opposing ways. As Deleuze and Guattari have summed it up, “That which makes a machine [the schizoanalytic sine qua non] are connections, all the connections that operate the disassembly” (Kafka, 84).

That something may be gained from elaborating a relationship between these Deleuzo-Guattarian connections and the Winnicottian transitional, between, in other words, the machine and the found object, that such a relationship can be productive precisely because it is as fractious and abrasive as it may be smooth, that, in other words, the friction between the presumably incongruous concepts and orientations may set off a spark capable of shedding light on hitherto unexplored territories, these are the principle assumptions motivating the project.

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