Lately, I have been feeling brain dead. I hate it when that happens. This morning when I sat down to write a blog entry, nothing came out at all, so I decided to write on that. I tend to feel that my brain functioning is somehow related to my state of well-being. When I have stuff pouring into my head—like song lyrics maybe—or something I want to say in class, or like this open Letter to the Guv that I was composing in my head a few days back, I tend to feel that while I am far from a-ok I am at least not in agony.
And I have wondered for a long time why I have, at least in the past, actually received some relief, in moments of depression, by reading the abstruse and incomprehensible work of somebody like Hegel and feeling at least a momentary uplift at managing to noodle something out of it. When depressed, I doubt few people would turn to Hegel as a pick-me-up or to JP Sartre’s Being and Nothingness which I noodled all the way through during my period many years ago of maximum depression. Along with of course Heidegger’s Being and Time, though that goes without saying.
Sometimes when I start expressing myself somewhat hatefully about Joan to my shrink, she sees fit to remind me that after all I did get something from here: brains genetically speaking. Not that WB was un-smart. But Joan had less of the practical brain and more of the speculative kind that might help a person do well in school.
But I think there’s more to it than that. The psychoanalyst, DW Winnicott speculates on the “mind as object.” Since Freud at least psychoanalysts have been interested in what might be called the “varieties of thought” and the psychological purposes these might serve. I do believe Freud felt philosophers tended to be very obsessive; and another psychoanalyst suggests that Descartes’ “I think therefore I am” was the utterance of a person suffering a major collapse in his “sense of reality.” Perhaps more technically “disassociation” and “de-personalization.” In all likelihood Descartes was of the schzoid type and had, along these lines, a great deal in common with Robespierre.
Winnicott writes: In one extreme type of case an intellectual overgrowth that is successful in accounting for maladaptation to need becomes of itself so important in the child’s economy that it (the mind) becomes the nursemaid that acts as mother-substitute and cares for the baby in the child’s self…. The result may be gratifying to teachers and parents who like cleverness. Nonetheless the psychiatrist knows also of the dangers and unrealness of everything to an individual who has developed in such a way.
So Joan’s contribution to my particular powers of brain and my dependence upon those powers for a sense of well being may not be wholly genetic but the result of her perpetual absence as a mother.