Freud y los Estudios sobre la Histeria II – Cúales de sus modelos teóricos sobre la histeria aún son actuales?

2015-09-01 Histeria-Banner

La diagnosis de la histeria, a cual se dedicaba Freud en esta publicación, por varias razones hoy casi ya no existe. La ciencia psicológica, especialmente en las universidades, ya mayormente está ignorando a la teoría psicoanalítica por su preferencia de casí únicamente enfoques cognitivo-conductales. Elementos del concepto de la histeria han sido repartidos en varios elementos e integrados en otras conceptos de trastornos de los manuales diagnósticos de trastornos mentales (los más importantes sean la International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD), publicado por la Organisación Mundal de la Salud, y el Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), publicado por la Asociación Estadounidense de Psiquatría).

La conversión de emociones y conflictos represados en manifestaciones corporales en el día de hoy pertenece a la categorías diagnósticas de

  • los trastornos somatomorfos (trastorno de somatización, hipocondría, trastorno dismórfico corporal, trastorno por dolor)
  • los trastornos disociativos (trastorno de conversión)

Otros elementos de la histeria, como la excitación, los flashbacks, y características de personalidad estan inlcuídos en las descripciónes de

  • los trastornos postraumáticos (trastorno de estrés postraumático) y
  • los trastornos de personalidad del Grupo B (trastorno límite de la personalidad/Borderline, trastorno histriónico de la personalidad, trastorno narcisista de la personalidad)
Freud (c)olafhajek

Sigmund Freud (c) Olaf Hajek (www.olafhajek.com)

Pacientes con este típo de problemas físicas frecuentamente vuelven a consultar a su médico de cabecera, como sus síntomas siguen aunque no se había podido identificar ninguna causa física de sus dolores. No obstante regresan a su médico, como las pacientes no están conscientes que tambien su estado emocional o mental puede influir so bienestar corporal. Muchas veces estas personas tienen un gran miedo de que su doctor les diga que su molestia no sea corporal, sino que nada más imaginado, una declaración que muchas veces les causa mucha verguenza y humillación y que les ofende mucho a paciente: No solo no me puede ayudar mi médico y siguen mis molestia, no, sino tambien dice el doctor que nada más me lo estoy imaginando!

Evidencia para conexiones entre experiencias emocionales y cambios físicos

Afortunadamente, la ciencia psicosomática ya tiene evidencia que las molestias no son imaginadas. Supuestamente ya no se puede distinguir muy claramente entre causas mentales y causas físicas para algun dolor corporal, como ya hay mucha evidencia que indica que nuestra mente y nuestro cuerpo están conectados en varias maneras muy complejas.

  • Si una persona está confrontada con una situación traumática, hoy sabemos que los niveles de la reaccion de estrés en su cuerpo causa que la memoria de esta situación está grabada de manera muy distincta que normalmente en su cerebro. Los aspectos emocionales y sensoriales (emociones, colores, ruidos, olor, toque) están grabados con una claridad excepcional al cerebro, mientras los detalles del contexto (cuando pasaba? En donde pasaba? Porque pasaba?) estan grabadas nada mas de manera muy imprecisa. Por eso, cuando recordado de la escena traumatica, la persona puede sentir las mismas percepciones físicas que tenía durante la situacion de antes, aunque ya pasaron meses o años y aunque no se recuerda muy bien que las percepciones que siente (por el recuerdo) pertenecen a la situación traumatica del origen. Asi que: El volumen del estrés en una situación influye como memorias están grabadas en el cerebro, y tambien influyen al cuerpo cuando nos recordamos (conscientemente o inconscientemente) de la situación.
  • Otra evidencia para la conexión entre la mente y el cuerpo enseña que psicoterápia efectivamente puede cambiar ciertas maneras de funcionar del cerebro. La terápia cambia muestras funcionales de neuronas en el celebro y se puede enseñar el cambio con tecnicas de imagenología como la tomografía de resonancia magnética (IRM) (Linden, 2006; Schauer, Elbert, Gotthard, et al., 2006). Entonces, ya no es ciencia ficción que lo que sentimos y pensamos tiene una manifestación correspondiente en nuestro cuerpo. En ambos sentidos, como consequencia de experiencias emocionales positivas (como en terápia) o negativas (como en situaciones traumaticas), nuestro estado de animo puede causar e influir percepciones reales en nuestro cuerpo.
  • Es muy interesante que otro área de investigación que tambien usa las tecnicas de IRM encontró primeras indicios que la manera en que nuestro cerebro procesa dolor físico tiene entrecruzamientos con la manera en que el celebro procesa el dolor emocional y el dolor social y emocional. En otras palabras, el procesamiento de caer al suelo o empujarse es muy similar al procesamiento del sentimiento de tristesa si otra persona nos rechaza (Eisenberger, Lieberman & Williams, 2003; Eisenberger & Lieberman, 2004, Eisenberger, 2012; Lieberman & Eisenberger, 2012). Los cientificos tambien observan que el hecho de que en varias idiomas describimos las penas de amor con una metáfora de un corazón quebrado puede aludir que aunque alguna emoción sea un sufrimiento emocional, tambien tiene alguna manifestación física. Entonces: Si el dolor físico y el dolor social y emocional están procesados de maneras similares en el cerebro, la presunción que las consequencias de las dos formas de sufrimiento podrían causar algúna manifestación corporal ya parece muy probable.

Entonces, si ya está explicado todo del fenómeno de la manifestación corporal por razones mentales por el cerebro – para que aún necesitamos Freud y sus ideas de emociones represados o el inconsciente?

La actualidad de las técnicas terapeuticas de los “Estudios sobre la histeria”

En mi opinion, la investigación cientifica por metodos neurobiologicos o la análisis psicodinámica no se excluyen ni se contradicen. Los resultados de la neurobiología aún nada más nos dan indicios, no pruebas, y aun no podemos concluir causalidades. No sabemos si el cambio de algúna estructural neural causa la percepción de alguna emoción o alguna sensación física, o si al reves alguna emoción causa los cambios cerebrales. Todos esos resultados aun son descripciones de acciones simultáneas, pero no nos dejan entender ni la secuencia ni la causalidad.

Además, como terapeuta no nos ayuda explicarles a los pacientes que sus síntomas surgen por alguna connexión en su cerebro. Un tratamiento asi no sirve ni para tener empatía com ellos, ni para curarles, porque no nos da ningúna posibilidad de intervenir. La investigación cientifica de la manera en que percepciones, emociones y funcciones corporales interactuan con mecanismos biológicos no nos capacita para entender mejor como le aparece al paciente su punto de vista de sí mismo o del mundo. Si alguien está represando alguna emoción, tal vez ya tenemos alguna idea del mecanismo de procesamiento en el cerebro, pero para curarle al paciente, necesitamos saber sus razones personales porque una emocion le parecia tan horrible, aterradora e inacceptable que en primer lugar la tenía que represar inconscientemente. Como terapeutas, necesitamos los dos lados de la historia: Como funciona, y como lo siente la persona?

Addicionalmente, fuí sorprendido durante la lectura de los Estudios sobre la histeria, que Freud de hecho propone técnicas terapeuticas que hasta el día de hoy son partes integrales de la practica de psicoterapia moderna, aunque sus observaciones ya llevan 12 años. En la terapia cognitiva-conductal para trastornos traumáticos, el concepto de confrontación (o exposicion) es un paradigma central. En la exposición imaginativa se le pide al paciente conmemorarse de exactamente todo lo que pasaba durante una situación traumática, para entender cúales aspectos le causaron temor, y para procesar el suceso. Es asombroso la manera en que ya Freud explicó el efecto terapeutico de una exposicion, ya en unas de las primeras obras de psicoterapia.

Hemos hallado, en efecto, y para sorpresa nuestra, al principio, que los distintos síntomas histéricos desaparecían inmediata y definitivamente en cuanto se conseguía despertar con toda claridad el recuerdo del proceso provocador, y con él el afecto concomitante, y describía el paciente con el mayor detalle posible dicho proceso, dando expresión verbal al afecto. El recuerdo desprovisto de afecto carece casi siempre de eficacia. El proceso psíquico primitivo ha de ser repetido lo más vivamente posible, retrotraído al status nascendi, y «expresado» después. En esta reproducción del proceso primitivo, y tratándose de fenómenos de excitación, aparecen éstos -convulsiones, neuralgias, alucinaciones, etc.- nuevamente con toda intensidad, para luego desaparecer de un modo definitivo.

S. Freud & J. Breuer – El mecanísmo psíquico de los fenómenos histéricos (comunicación preliminar), 1893.

Lo que expresa Freud en esas observaciones es exactamente lo mismo a que se refieren manuales terapeuticos cognitivo-conductales como la Prolonged Exposure de Edna Foa o la terapia cognitiva de Ehlers & Clark.

En conclusión, aunque los Estudios sobre la histeria por su edad no parecen a una investigación moderna médica, los primeros pasos de Freud a su expedición de acercarse al mundo extraño de la mente aún incluyen ideas muy modernas y útiles para entender y curar ciertas formas de trastornos mentales. Sus ideas no solo aún están elemenots existenciales en tratamientos modernos, pero las complementan con la actitud de siempre intentar de estar curioso y abierto a descubrir el sentido individual y autobiografico del sufrimiento del paciente.

Fuentes

  • Josef Breuer, Sigmund Freud (2011, 7. Ed.). Studien über Hysterie. Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag: Frankfurt am Main (publicado por primera vez en 1895) (traducción espanola aquí).
  • Illustración Freud: (c) Olaf Hajek (http://olafhajek.com/)

El efecto de psicoterápia a cambios en circuitos celebrales:

  • Linden, D. (2006). How psychotherapy changes the brain – the contribution of functional neuroimaging. Molecular Psychiatry, 11, 528-538. (free online copy here )
  • Schauer, M., Elbert, T., Gotthard, S., Rockstroh, B., Odenwald, M., & Neuner, F. (2006). Wiedererfahrung durch Psychotherapie modifziert Geist und Gehirn [Imaginary Reliving in Psychotherapy Modifies Mind and Brain]. Verhaltenstherapie, 16, 96-103 (free copy of german article with english abstract here).

El procesamiento de dolor físico y dolor social y sus similaridades cerebrales:

  • Eisenberger, N., Lieberman, M., & Williams, K. (2003) Does rejection hurt? An fMRI Study of Social Exclusion. Science, 302, 290-292. (free copy here)
  • Eisenberger, N., & Lieberman, M. (2004). Why rejection hurts: a common neural alarm system for physical and social pain. TRENDS in cognitive sciences 8 (7), 294-300. (free copy here)
  • Eisenberger, N. (2012). Broken Hearts and Broken Bones: A Neural Perspective on the Similarities Between Social and Physical Pain. Current Directions in Psychological Sciences, 21 (1), 42-47. (free copy here)
  • Lieberman, M., & Eisenberger, N. (2012). A pain, by any other name (rejection, exclusion, ostracism) still hurts the same: The role of dorsal anterior cingulate cortex in social and physical pain. In: Cacioppo, J., Visser, P., & Pickett, C. (Eds). Social Neuroscience: People Thinking About People (pp. 167-188). Massachusetts: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press Book. (free copy here ).
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Freud y los Estudios sobre la Histeria I – Como se convierten emociones represadas en dolores corporales

2015-09-01 Histeria-BannerImagínese que sea un médico al comenzar del siglo 20. Llega una paciente de 21 años y le reporta de una parálisis de su brazo y todo su lado derecho, varias alucinaciones (por ejemplo confundir cepos de arboles con serpientes) y trastornos visuales. Otra paciente llega y se lamenta de la perdida de su olfato con la excepción de la presencia de un olor de una comida dulce quemada que ella reiteradamente de repente huele. En el examen físico de las pacienties no se puede encontrar ninguna forma de daño corporal en las partes respectivas de su cuerpo. Como su médico – que haría?

2015-08-30 hysteriefischerEn mi formación profesional para volverme un psicoterapeuta psicodinámico, recientemente hemos iniciado a leer y discutir la obra de Sigmund Freud, el inventor de la técnica psicoanalítica y hemos empezado con Estudios sobre la histeria. El libro está considerado un documento historico de los inicios de la psicoanálisis, porque incluye reportes detallados de los primeros intentos de Freud de investigar síntomas emocionales, perceptuales y conductales, que hoy llamariamos „trastornos mentales“, y implica algunas primeras sugerencias para curarlas.

La lectura del libro no se lee como un reporte médico formal, sino que parece mucho más el género literario de la ficción detectivesca como Sherlock Holmes. Freud se encuentra confrontado con pacientes que le cuentan de varios síntomas que el aún no puede entender ní saber su causa, y así, el Detective Freud, aún un poco desprevenido, emprende camino juntos con sus pacientes para buscar alguna otra explicación.

Freud empieza con una anamnesis extensiva y interroga a las pacientes sobre las molestias, su biografía y su historia clínica. Especialmente se concentra en preguntarles, cuando y bajo cuales circunstancias aparecieron las sintomas mencionadas por primera vez. Durante estes anamnesis el desarrolla la teoría que las síntomas no representan algún malfunción física, sino que tienen su origen en la confrontación con alguna situación traumática en el pasado de sus pacientes.

Mientras escucha a a sus pacientes, Freud desarolla la teoría que ciertas emociones que occurrieron durante situaciones traumáticas, que, por alguna razón no pudieron estár expresadas o vividas suficientemente por la persona, se graban de manera muy profunda en la memoria y en el inconsciente de la persona. Por ejemplo si nos enojamos en algún momento, podemos

a.) expresar el sentimiento directamente a la frente de nuestro adversario, o
b.) procesar la emocion racionalmente („Relájate! No vale la pena! Sabes que tienes razon“), o
c.) nada más olvidar lo que pasó.

Esas emociones pueden constituir la base de una histeria, según Freud, si las pacientes no encuentran ninguna forma de manejo o expresión de la emocion correspondiente. Razones por eso podrían ser

  • la situación del trauma (por ejemplo durante un amenazo no hay ningun tiempo para manejar el miedo porque es prioritario actuar para sobrevivir),
  • condiciones sociales (en ciertas situaciones sociales puede causar miedo, verguenza, o penalización expresar sus emociones) o
  • el simple deseo de la persona de querer olvidar lo que ocurrio, para evitar sentirse tan vulnerable de nuevo y para seguir adelante.
  • Otra razón podría ser que las emociones se formaron en una situación de choque, miedo, sueño, parálisis o disociación, así que el protagonista no tiene ni la chanca de sentir, expresar o manejar las emociones.

El problema en los casos de histeria o de emociones conectadas a situaciones traumáticos es que la emoción no simplemente desaparece. El afecto se busca una forma diferente de expresarse – y encuentra el cuerpo.

Con cada sesión más, Freud puede reconstruir las escenas que causaron las síntomas de la primera paciente, la famosa Anna O.: En un tiempo en que ella se encargaba de cuidar a su padre enfermo, se había sentado en un sillón cerca de la cama de su padre, con el brazo derecho puesto sobre el ladillo. En un momento empezó a adormecerse, cuando vió un serpiente acercandose a su padre. En el intento de espantar la serpiente se dió cuenta que su brazo se le habia dormido a causa de su posición arriba del ladillo, así que sintió una gran desesperación por no estar capaz de proteger bien a su padre. Cuando más al rato su padre le preguntó por la hora, ella aún estuvo tan movida que le salieron las lagrimas de los ojos. Ella intentó de esconderlas, pero no obstante su vista fue desvaída.

La segunde paciente, Lucie R., era un caso un poco más facil. Ella trabajaba como educadora de dos niños en una casa de un señor, y en algun momento tenía la impresión que su patrón podría sentir algo por ella, así ella se enamoró de él. A continuación tenía varias peleas con los otros empleados de la casa, que sintieron que Lucie ya actuaba como si fuera la señora de la casa. Esas peleas, y el entendimiento, que el señor no sintía por élla en la misma manera, le humilló tanto que planeaba de despedirse de la casa. Mientras aún contemplaba su futuro, le llegó una carta de su mama, a quien le había prometido que iba a cuidar los niños del señor, como la madre de los niños, que habia muerto, habia sido una gran amiga de la mama de Lucie. Le llegó esta carta de su mama en el momento en que preparó una comida dulce en el horno, y su emoción de estar destrozado entre su obligación a su madre y los niños del señor, el intento de apartir de su mente su amor para el patrón y la humillación por los otros empleados se conectaron con el olor de la comida quebrada.

2015-08-28 egocompletoEn los dos casos se dejan identificar ciertas emociones que parecián inaceptales a las mujeres: A Anna, le pareció inaceptable sentir el agotamiento (de cuidar su padre) o la culpa (si el serpiente le hubiera dañado a su padre.). Como no pudieron entrar a la consciencia de Anna por su contenido tan inaceptable, se manifestaron en limitaciónes físicas. En momentos en que Anna sintía miedo, o culpa, de nuevo su brazo pareció haber dormidose, y su vista parecía desvaída. A Lucie, a un lado es inaceptable despedirse de la casa, por la promesa que habia dado a su mama y a la mama de los niños. Al otro lado es inaceptable quedarse en la casa, porque es inaceptable sentir su amor por su patrón, pero tampoco aguanta apartarlo de su mente. Su idea de „Estoy decepcionando a mi mama, si no cuido bien a los niños“ occurre en el momento en que llega la carta de su mama, y porque no puede entrar al consciente de ella, se manifesta en una alucinación olfatoria.

No importa que insólito y irracional las síntomas pueden aparecer a primera vista, con el saber de la historia y el contexto en que ocurrieron por primera vez, uno puede entender que las síntomas tienen un sentido, el sentido de servir como expresión sustitutiva de una emoción represada.

El enfoque de Freud de tratar las síntomas consiste de trés partes.2015-08-28 mecanismos de cura1.) Durante hipnosis, descubrir la historia de origen de las síntomas, su significado y las emociones represadas. Darles instrucciones positivas instrucciones positivas („Ya no tengas miedo de serpientes“) para llegar a su subconciente.

2.) Ordenar y animar a las pacientes a verdaderamente sentir, vivir y expresar la emoción de atrás.

3.) Reflexionar juntos con las pacientes sobre una manera racional de entender y manejar sus emociones. („Ya sabemos los dos que los serpientes verdaderamente representan el miedo y la culpa de no haber cuidado suficientemente a su padre enfermo.“).

En un segundo blog post, voy a reflexionar sobre la actualidad de la teoria de Freud sobre la histeria y compararé los planes de tratamiento de Freud y del presente.

Sources

  • Josef Breuer, Sigmund Freud (2011, 7. Ed.). Studien über Hysterie. Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag: Frankfurt am Main (publicado por primera vez en 1895) (hold the copyright for the book cover above).
  • Se puede encontrar el texto completo de Estudios sobre la histeria de Josef Breuer y Sigmund Freud en traduccion castellana en la Biblioteca del Instituto Nacional de Bienestar Magisterial de la República Dominicana
  • You can find the whole text of Studies on Hysteria by Josef Breuer and Sigmund Freud (first published in 1895) in english on archive.org in pdf or txt  format.

Is Anakin Skywalker suffering from Borderline Personality disorder? / No kidding, this article actually exists!

Are you just as excited for the upcoming first part of the new Star Wars Trilogy starting in December? Well, then this is fun for you: In 2011, Eric Bui, an Italian psychiatrist from the Toulouse University Clinic, published a letter to the editor in a serious psychiatric journal, in which he applied diagnostic criteria for mental disorders on none other than Anakin Skywalker, also known as Darth Vader. Bui stated that Skywalker fulfiled various criteria sufficiently in order to get a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). The symptoms Ani fulfilled included

  • impulsivity
  • anger issues (Patience you must learn, young padawan…)
  • sudden changes between idealisation and degradation in relationships with close persons (could be applied on his relationship with Obi-Wan Kenobi, his Jedi Master),
  • an incomplete sense of identity, an incapacity of feeling his inner self (indicated by sudden changes of personality – the changing of his name might count as an indicator)
  • an excruciating fear of losing his partner (talking of Natalie Portman Padme Amidala here)
  • experiencing dissociative episodes due to stressful events (dissociative episodes refer to a condition in which patients can’t feel their body or experience their surroundings as not feeling “real”. The article e.g. interpretes the moment when Anakin kills a whole tribe after discovering the death of his mother as an dissociative episode.).

As a conclusion (and justification for it, if you ask me), the essay lists three reasons why this investigation might be helpful in real life: 1.) It might explain the appeal of Star Wars to adolescents, as (sane) adolsecents are known to show a lot of these symptoms due to their normal development. 2.) It aims at reducing social stigmatization of people suffering from BPD. 3.) It might be useful in order to illustrate the main features of the illness and to train future psychiatrists and psychologists.

Even though I am very fond of the whole Star Wars universe, and enthusiastically enjoy to apply psychological knowledge to popcultural phenomena and characters, I still see the danger of hurting the feelings of people actually suffering from this horrible and excruciating disease. It might be received as offensive, either because it apparently makes fun of symptoms that severly impede their everyday lives or by apparently declaring them as morally flawed by comparing them to one of the worst villans of all movie history. But this is just one side of the story.

If you read the article closely, you’ll realize that there’s not one sentence in it that makes fun of people with BPD, but that it is driven by the desire to understand what the subjective reality of this people has to look like. It also states possible traumas in the autobiography of Anakin Skywalker, as shown in the movies, that are known to be vulnerability factors to BPD (lack of a father, early seperation from the mother, not to mention growing up in poor and dangerous surroundings, and having been sold as a slave). Furthermore, I feel like, if anything, the whole point of the Prequel Trilogy is for the audience to identify with Anakin, even though he does all these terrible things – in order to allow the audience to relate to him. Why does he do this? It’s probably not right – but you still can relate to it. And, in my opinion, this is exactly the attitude sane people need in order to be able to understand subjective realites and perceptions of people with mental disorders, even though they don’t experience the same feelings as these people.

Obviously, various pop cultural magazines picked up on the article. There even is a professional reply to the investigation in the same journal that questions the diagnosis, stating that other Cluster B personality disorders as narcissistic or antisocial personality disorders might have a better overall fit to Skywalker. The article I liked the most (from Wired) concluded with a statement by Carolyn Kaufman, a clinical psychologist from Columbus, Ohio, who said, probably with a winking eye:

As for the 30-year-old Star Wars series, “We’re probably lucky nobody has started analyzing the lightsabers as phallic symbols,” said clinical psychologist Kaufman. “Come to think of it, someone probably has.”

Sources

I’m a bit broken and a bit messed up” – Darren Hayes on growing and accepting personal flaws

When reflecting on recurring schemes or patterns in your life, we’d often love to apply a very pragmatic approach: Something doesn’t work. We analyze it. We have an hypothesis. We fix it. Everything’s fine. Bad news is: Experience shows that it’s normally not that easy.

There are things that can be fixed, and other things that will probably follow us through the rest of our lives. There is a saying that even 20 years of psychotherapy won’t change a penguin into a giraffe. Obviously, you can recommend to the penguin that he might feel better leaving the ecosystem of giraffes in order to find something more comfortable for himself. But, nevertheless, both patients and therapists normally agree on a lesson learned by experience: By analyzing your patterns, you do not learn not to fall into the same hole over and over again. Normally, you just learn how to get out of it quicker and how to try to avoid it.

At first sight, this might seem a bit frustrating and disappointing. But actually, it’s not that bad, because in the moment we accept it, we feel the relief of not having to fight for change any more, and the sensation of a burden lifted can be enormous. Therefore, almost every form of therapy concentrates on two aspects: Acceptance and Change. Or, as my father used to tell me: If you can’t root out your neuroses, pour them some water.

To illustrate the point of acceptance, I’d like to quote one of my favourite Pop Singers, Darren Hayes.

2015-08-24 ttmabIn both, his career as the lead singer and songwriter of 90’s pop band Savage Garden and as a solo artist, Hayes used music and his lyrics to express feelings like alienation, solitude, anger, depression and longing. One of the first hits of his former band, To The Moon & Back told the story of an alienated lonely girl escaping herself in Science Fiction fantasies in order to express the wish to run from her bleak and desolate reality (which might even include an allusion to suicide). I have already mentioned Two Beds And A Coffee Machine, a song from Savage Garden’s second album Affirmation that describes a mother escaping from her home after experiencing domestic violence, caught between the responsibility to protect her children and the reality of not being able to provide them on her own. Especially his second solo record The Tension And The Spark dealt with many of these topics in a very blunt way: The lyrics to Unlovable illustrate how a recent rejection experience can reanimate 2015-08-24 ttatsold schemes of self-accusation, anger, aggression, shame, blame and self-hatred (You make me feel like my mother, she abandoned me / You make me feel like the act of love is empty / Am I so unlovable? / Is my heart unbreakable? / Do I remind you of a part of you that you despise?)

During the campaign of his third solo record This Delicate Thing We’ve Made, Darren consciously decided to disclose how his personal background and the way he grew up influenced him and caused a lot of these emotional turbulences:

“My whole career as a big commercial pop artist was fed through self-hatred, basically. It was all about escapism in a fraudulent way. I became a pop star because I knew I had to become something extraordinary to escape”.

If you trace a line through the work of both Savage Garden and Darren Hayes solo, there is a recurring theme of being unloved and unlovable. It is part of what connects him at his most popular to a mass audience. If Darren is a master at articulating the simple sentiment of what it feels like to be rejected, it does not come without its own poignant back-story.

Darren grew up in the working class suburbs of Australia’s Brisbane. In the early 80s, on the run from his Father’s violence and alcoholism he was just 10 when his Mother took him and his siblings to live in a caravan to escape regular scenes of violence. His relationship with his father has been both the making and undoing of Darren Hayes. His father having long since recovered and redeemed himself (sober for 25 years) – the childhood clearly left an indelible mark on Hayes. It was his need to please that propelled him to invent a life as a pop star. The fame came but could not fill an emotional hole.

(from the official promo biography 2007 written by Paul Flynn, source below)

In a blog interview during this promotional campaign, Hayes was asked about whether his view on these topics has changed thorough the years, and he gave some remarkable answers.

Do you feel that your prior concept of being “unloved and unlovable” is still a melancholic reality for you? I think there will always be a part of me that feels hideous. I am very lucky that I am in a really gorgeous relationship – I am loved by someone that just sees me for all my strengths and weaknesses and accepts me whole. I never thought I would find that, I always thought I would end up alone. (…). The fact that I can’t lie about my insecurities is my thing. I’m a bit broken and a bit messed up. Thankfully, I’ve worked out how to put one foot in front of the other one and get through life and smile.
(…)

What’s the symbolism behind the paper crane that features on the cover artwork? It seems complicated, but it’s not. It’s an album about relationships and how fragile we all are. The paper crane is a metaphor for being alive. When you unfold it, you can see all of the creases representing the scars and choices that we have made, whether they are good or bad. That’s our life, that’s what 2015-08-24 tdtwmmakes us who we are. The idea of This Delicate Thing We’ve Made is just my way of saying that everything that happens to us, creates us. Essentially you see a whole life unfold when you unwrap the bird. [Darren then begins to fold a paper crane for me.]

Sources:

On Amy, the Development of Eating Disorders and the Influence of Societal Ideals of Beauty

In response to the recent press cycle around the promotion of the current movie biopic / documentary Amy about Amy Winehouse, both acclaimed and notorious music magazine Pitchfork and feminist-theory orientated film critics blog Btchflcks recently have published pieces on Winehouses life, her mental problems and the influence of the society on this. While especially the article on Pitchfork is pretty well researched concerning the general facts on eating disorders and while I really support its general criticism and questioning of societal beauty ideals, I still feel that it still stays a bit superficial on a.) what the problem is in eating disorders and b.) where they come from. Of course the rationale of saying that Amy Winehouse died of exhaustion means that she died from drug overuse and reduced calory intake means that she died from an eating disorder is true. But it doesn’t help to really understand the dynamic of a mental disorder and its roots.

Symptoms are not the roots of an illness (even if the standard definitions of disorders by symptoms, as practiced by the WHO’s International Classification of Diseases (ICD) and the APAs Diagnostic-Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), might suggest this idea). Symptoms represent a coping style for resolving an inner conflict, and usually they are the best possible way of coping that was availiable to the individual in the moment of crisis. That doesn’t mean that this is the best (or sanest, or most functional) way of coping. Just the best possible way availiable to the individual in the moment it needed a solution.

It’s like rain pouring down on a soil. The stress, the internal object relations, the negative ideas about other people and the self – all this is the rain. The most exciting question is: in which direction is the rain going to pave its way through the soil when it hits the ground? How is the structure of the soil – how will it give way to the rain forming a stream? In other words – in which external form will these internal conflicts find an expression, an outlet on the outside of the individual?

This evokes the question: How does it appear to a person (rationally or emotionally) to be a valid and helpful solution to stop eating? And how do societal ideals and values influence this idea? Why not become depressed? Why not an anxiety disorder? Why not other ways of expression?

As always, the possible answers to this questions are numerous again. Some ideas:

  • a genetical, epigenetic or neurophysiological disposition.
  • the significance of eating and food in the family (e.g. in conflicts of autonomy: „i won’t it what you serve me, because if I eat that, I’ll have to take in all the other stuff you’re giving me, too! And I’m not doing that any more!“).
  • the symbolic idea of wishing to disappear (shame!) and therefore reducing your physical appearance („I don’t want to be here any more!“).
  • the magical idea that not eating will serve you feeling a sense of autonomy, success, self-efficacy in a way you can’t feel these things in other contexts (which it actually does – but only in the short run).
  • AND – last but not least – societal ideals.

Societal ideals implicitly suggest and explicitly propose, that
being thin means being happy.
being thin means being disciplined, attractive, having a high social status, having a partner, receiving attention, being successful.
Sounds like a perfect remedy, doesn’t it?ED-3

There are a lot of routes in which societal norms and believes influence us: Via our upbringing and the beliefs of our parents (Route a), via social learning and feedback on our behaviour (Route d), etc. I want to especially highlight two other routes that might have an effect on developing an eating disorder. Route b.) directly influences the development of a low self image by comparison to others – do i fulfil the demands of the ideal? Am i good enough, is my body good enough? Is it my fault, if my body is good enough? Is this the reason why I am not happy?– and therefore constitutes a risk factor.

The second route (Route c.) is at the very point of trying to solve the internal conflicts. As the subconscious is looking for a form of expression, an outlet, as the dealing with the actual conflict appears overwhelming, it is influenced by all the factors mentioned above: genetical heritage, strengths and weaknesses, symbols in the family, but it also is influenced by the suggestion that society makes:
Maybe I can’t control certain interpersonal dynamics and fights and discussions in my family.
Maybe I can’t control symptoms of depression.
Certainly I can’t control what society thinks about the ideal female body.
But what I can control is – my body!

As a conclusion: Can societal norms be the reason for the development of an eating disorder? I would say no.
Can societal norms influence and contribute to the development, perpetuation and deterioration of an eating disorder? Absolutely, yes. Should these norms therefore not only be questioned, but criticised? Absolutely, yes.

I’m not trying to minimize or whitewash the influence there is – I still am convinced that as a man I can’t even fully grasp the excruciating effect the images of women, the concepts of beauty and the daily comparison to these societal rules and ideals have on girls an women. I am sure that this effect is very powerful and very dangerous and influences people on a daily basis. I’m just saying that in the context of Eating Disorders, it’s even more complicated. The problems people with depression, a low self-esteem, bad experiences in growing up or bonding have, are probably as old as humanity. The forms of expression of these conflicts are an appalling and alarming sign of our modern times.

2015-08-14 amy btbReturning to the case of Amy Winehouse, one can not only find the routes of influences of a society found above. The fact of her being a person of public interest, a star, in some ways depending in her job on the attention of the press make her (apart from her personal conditions) even more vulnerable to influences from society and/or press or public opinion. The Btchflck article points out very clearly in how far the greedy press (and public!) interest in the deterioration of Amy Winehouses condition had a devastating effect: Mainstream media loves to watch when a famous woman–Courtney Love, Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan–breaks down in public. Btchflcks, who always have been mindblowing at identifying and analyzing cultural stereotypes and tropes (e.g. the Manic Pixie Dream Girl) also mention the myth of the depressed and mentally destroyed artist who actually needs the suffering in order to make great art, and if he/she succeeds in that, it’s even therapeutic. What kind of lesson does this idea teach to a young, confused, uprising musician, with an already conflicted background?

If one really wants to get to the root of societal influence on the development of mental disorders and the role of the media, one has to ask oneself, in how far the public interest in Amy Winehouse was responding to individual needs and desires. Society is not an isolated object. In how far did we create, maintain and reconstruct these societal ideas?

It’s not the press. The media. The society. It’s us! Who bought the records of Amy Winehouse? How did it happen that a song like Rehab, that celebrates the resistance of seeking professional treatment, became something like an anthem of independence? Who reads, even still now, the articles on the documentary, or comments on them in blog posts? How did we, the audience, and still do, repeat and corroborate the medial attention, the desire for information on an individual tragically suffering and dying from it? Aren’t Eating Disorders always associated with a certain sense of innocence, of innocent suffering, of the victim under the pressure of the society, images we all want to identify with?

We probably want to see people suffer, because we either identify with their suffering or we’re glad that even though we feel our inadequacies so strongly in our daily life, there are still people who are worse off than us – so hey! As Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes) once put it in his song Road to Joy (sic!): Well I could have been a famous singer // If I had someone else’s voice // But failure’s always sounded better // Lets fuck it up boys, make some noise! And it raises the pretty awful question: Would we really would have been as interested in seeing a clean, mentally stable, self-empowered Amy Winehouse? And what does that say about ourselves?

Pitchfork: We Need to Talk About Amy Winehouse’s Eating Disorder and Its Role In Her Death

Btchflcks: ‘Amy’: Our Love Didn’t Do Her Any Favors

Tl, dnr: The post aims at distinguishing various ways in which societal beauty norms influence the development, perpetuation and deterioration of Eating Disoders. Pathways include model learning from parents, subtle suggestions from society about the effects of being thin and adapting to an ideal of beauty and social feedback on trying to stay thin.

Me & My Shadow // Albert Hammond Jr. – Momentary Masters (Album Review)

Albert Hammond Jr. (c) [PIAS] Germany

Albert Hammond Jr. (c) [PIAS] Germany

There is one specific moment that has shaped my first impression of Albert Hammond jr. as the rhythm guitarist of the Strokes. During one of their first appearences on Letterman (check it out here, starting from 0.22 ), Nick Valensi had just rattled down the first intro chords of “Take It Or Leave It, and except for Julian, all band members still stood there with their backs to the camera. Then, there was a change of perspective, showing Albert Hammond jr.s front, still facing the drums and waiting to begin main lick of the song, with an almost childlike, anticipatory expression on his face. When it’s his turn, it‘s almost like lightening strikes him, he turns around with a twist of his hips and feet, and starts playing and dancing along, almost lost in the sound, effortless, very cool. He almost resembles a marionette of the sound he is creating himself, an impression of naive openness and kindness, but also introversion. And obviously, not to forget: The hair. The Eyes. The Suits. All in all an appearance way more inviting than the frustrated, lethargic vampire on Benzodiazepines, as which Casablancas sometimes appears.

As it was extensively reported, Hammond jr. is a recovering alcoholic, in the sense that every person who once had a serious problem with drinking will be a recovering alcoholic for his whole life, no matter how much time has passed since the last drink. Hammond must be aware of the fact that there are a few lines on Momentary Masters, his third solo record, that will be perceived in reference to that (but if you’re pleasantly drunk you can’t hear a sound in “Power Hungry”, or the whole controlled abuse chorus in “Razors Edge”), but you’d do wrong to read these isolated lines as confessional statements. They rather contribute to the bigger lyrical context of the album, that aims at including, integrating the dark facets of character into a whole picture that is mainly characterized by acceptance.

In everything about this record (press campaign, artwork, lyrics), there is a multitude of references about coming to terms with formerly disliked, repressed, threatening aspects of one’s personality. On his instagram page, Hammond jr. quotes russian writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn,saying: „The line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?“. The whole cover design plays with these aspects of repression, of the search for an integrated self-image, to build something from the stripes and the black-and-white contradiction into something more complete, integrative, and therefore probably more realistic. It’s no coincidence but a conscious move to provoke associations with psychoanalyst C.G. Jung’s concept of the „shadow“ of one’s personality.

Momentary Masters (c) [PIAS] Germany

Momentary Masters (c) [PIAS] Germany

The little short stories in his lyrics depict these conflicts more practically then all these theory might imply. When he finds himself left in his apartment after the ex has left, asking is the moment gone? (…) all the things we said, taking back yesterday? (“Born Slippy”). There are various scenes of parties and/or high society lifestyle where the protagonist finds himself confused, lost, out of place or simply disgusted by what he sees of the shadows of others and himself (“Power Hungry”). Allusions to leading a life in material abundance and wondering about still feeling a need so unsatisfied, that it’s just not enough. (have you been in a house so big, where some rooms don’t exist? from “Caught By My Shadow”). And always the tension between knowing that your decisions aren’t the best, but feeling the attraction and the need, seeing it in other people as well, but not being able to save them, either (“Losing Touch”, “Razors Edge”, “Drunched in Crumbs”). The placement of his version of Dylan‘s “Don’t Think Twice” right in the middle, the heart of his record, is a statement of self-impowerment: I can do all of this negative crap. As long as I can get out of it again and accept that and why it happened.

Nevertheless, these stories and hints are crafted into the record in a very unobstrusive way, so that Hammond Jr. still leaves it up to the listener whether (s)he wants to get involved with this personal stuff or not. Apart from that, you can still get a professionally recorded hi-fi and fun hype rock record, showing a lot Hammonds trademarks and signature sounds of his day job band, making it the probably most strokes-y record for a long time (including Casablancas project with The Voidz). This is new, as his previous brand of lo-fi pop almost seemed to intentionally bury the hushed, washy vocals below the lush singer-songwriter hippie arrangements and therefore set explicit boundaries to the comparison with the Strokes. In contrast, Momentary Masters dares more to rave musically, even if it sometimes is comparable to the Strokes, resulting in, contradictionally, a record that feels a lot more like a statement of independence, exactly because it doesn’t categorically try to avoid something.

Albert Hammond jr. (c) [PIAS] Germany

Albert Hammond jr. (c) [PIAS] Germany

You will find them all here, the famous ingrediences: The lead guitar lines that parallel the vocal melody. The geometrical guitar lines, rather referencing cold simplicit structures of modern architecture or the form of skinny jeans than a howling feedback rock’n’roll guitars. The melodies and zigzaging riffs, so rich on staccato-played notes spiraling upwards that one could almost get dizzy following them winding their way through the otherwise solid and almost static instrumentation. New are his experiments with his singing style: There is the distanced spoken word part, there is the falsetto that sometimes reminds me either of Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig or Take That’s Mark Owen, there are various sound and editing effects, but not anymore with the intention to hide the voice, but to vary the pronunciation.

There is a very charming video interview on Youtube (min: 6:54) of Hammond jr. talking very modestly about his guitar skills, and at one point, as the interviewer asks him about any recommendations for people who just picked up a guitar, he compares himself with other players he knows and replies that his specialty is not the left hand who’s playing the strings, but the right, strumming or picking hand:

“They just can’t keep it (the strum) steady. Almost the reason why i even fit in the band was that I could even just play straight. There were some people who could do solos that i couldn’t do, but they just couldn’t play straight on a chord.”

By not hiding his shadow, by accepting and integrating: Albert Hammond Jr. is ready, willing and able to strum. Steadily.

Tl; dnr: Albert Hammond jr.s third solo effort is musicially the closest to his dayjob as the rhythm guitarist of The Strokes. Lyrically, he deals with philosophical and psychological allusions to accepting darker shades of ones personality and relationship storylines in the context of a certain lifestyle.

Darren Hayes on Depression

As the people who know me will know, I always have a very soft spot for Darren Hayes, the former singer of 90’s Australian Pop (yes, with a capital P) Group Savage Garden.

Is it because one of his songs was the soundtrack to me falling in love for the first time, at the beginning of high school? (You know – this will always stay with you, deeply engraved in your DNA.)

Or was it the heartbreakingly devastating song he co-wrote about growing up in a family with an alcoholic father in an environment of domestic violence?

Or (as I’m still convinced today) his incredible way of putting emotional issues into words? Probably all of it.

Anyway, the man just posted an in-depth and honest essay on the effect of Major Depressive Disorder on the perceptions of your everyday affects and emotions, and also touches an the pro’s and con’s of antidepressant medication.

He delivers an authentic recount of the constant battle of dealing with a psychological condition on a daily basis, in both the short and the long term.

In addition, it also portrays the confusion and disorientation it causes when somebody realizes the disconnection of his self from his emotions – i.e. that his emotional reactions not only don’t work the way they usually do, but stopped responding to his will completely.

It’s definitely worth a read. You can find the whole essay here:

tl;dnr
Former Savage Garden-frontman and now solo artist Darren Hayes wrote a candid Facebook Post about his experiences with depressive episodes, dealing with disconnection and the use of antidepressant medication.