The verificationist

3monkeyGlenn‘How can you know anything?’ Peter asks.

‘How’d you know when you know?’ I reply.

‘Good point. But then you just go round in circles.’

‘Ripples on a pond,’ I suggest.

‘That metaphor doesn’t work; ripples emanate from the centre.’

‘Could that be knowing? Finding the centre, the origin?’

‘Maybe … That’d be convenient; you’re free associating, right? Isn’t that what you therapists call the Royal Road to knowing or whatever? Anyway aren’t you suppose to know about knowing?’Peter replies in an accusing tone.

‘I’m not that interested in knowing,’ I reply.

‘That’s convenient too.’ Peter smiles.

‘How so?’

‘Well you therapists have “privileged” knowledge. It’s hardly democratic. Sure we can all free associate, but analysts have just that bit more knowledge and insight than us humble lay people.’

‘So it wouldn’t feel equal if we free associated together?’ I ask.

‘No it wouldn’t … But go on – I’m game.’ Peter readies himself.

‘Sex,’ I say.

‘Wow, aren’t you meant to start with “window” or “book” something innocuous? Build up to sex. Start with “mother” perhaps,’ Peter exclaims.

I smile.

‘Ah come on, you’re not going link “mother” with “sex”? That’s too easy! Let’s start again,’ Peter appeals to unknown rules.

‘Peter, you made the link! “Sex” was the first word that came to mind,’ I reply.

‘Hang on … this is meant to be my analysis, not yours. Anyway, I thought I was meant to be the one obsessed with sex! Find your own therapist!’ Peter starts laughing.

When he stops I reply, ‘You said it wasn’t democratic. So I joined in.’

‘Yes, but you’re meant to interpret my words,’ Peter exclaims.

‘I thought we were free associating together,’ I reply.

‘Well what’s the point, if there’s no interpretation?’ Peter appeals to my reason.

‘To be free enough to say whatever comes,’ I offer.

‘Yes, but that’s not the point. It’s not why I pay you; you’re meant to interpret what I say.’

‘Well “sex” was an interpretation. Whatever was going on in that moment the word that came was “sex”. I can interpret an interpretation and then we’re back to circles again.’

‘Okay.’ Peter sounds puzzled.

‘So you brought up payment and why you originally came me to see me,’ I recap.

‘I don’t want to go back there. I want to stay with this, with free association,’ Peter insists.

‘Yeah we’ll stay with free association, but I think your relationship to women is related.’

‘Ah I see, you said “sex” because you want to get back to talking about my infidelity!’ Peter points at me.

‘Maybe. I don’t know. It’s a reasonable interpretation, although you’re assuming my motivation. You assume it’s why I said “sex”,’ I respond.

‘But isn’t that how everyone thinks? Anyway, how does that relate to me and other women?’

‘Okay. So if you see a woman you’re attracted to, you want to have sex with her. You interpret your desire to mean: “I want sex”; on one level that makes sense, of course.’

‘So?’ Peter asks.

‘You see arousal as a “thing-in-itself” rather than what it is; an interpretation.’

‘I assure you when I have an erection it’s definitely an erection,’ Peter smiles.

‘Of course. And it is an interpretation,’ I say.

‘Wait no! My erection isn’t an interpretation … It’s a projection! It’s definitely a projection, ha.’ I can’t resist smiling with Peter.

‘Am I making sense at all?’ I ask.

‘Uh yes … I’m not sure. What’re you actually saying?’

‘Curiosity is like an erection: it needs maintaining. If you’re curious about desire, women, your wife … your marriage, you’ll open up other possibilities. Unlike having an erection you’re responsible for your curiosity. It seems to me when you have an erection you don’t maintain curiosity. So if you see your arousal as causal you blame yourself, and if you see attractive women as the cause you blame them. More circles.’

‘So how do I escape?’

‘Maybe you can’t, at least not on that level,’ I reply.

‘Well that’s not much help!’

‘See it for what it is: a dream.’

‘That doesn’t help either. Wait, what does that even mean?’ Peter asks.

‘Dreams are strange. You’ve lost the strangeness of your everyday life; you can only see “things”. If you become curious about desire, arousal, about women and particularly yourself, you’ll gradually stop objectifying them. You need to stop objectifying everything and everyone, including yourself. Remember the mind is always interpreting; what you see is an interpretation … You need to arouse your curiosity.’

‘Okay.’ Peter nods slowly.

‘For example, if you ask “What’s the point of this conversation?” you objectify it. Instead, think of it as a dream; you then open up endless possibilities.’

Peter lays back and pretends to snore: ‘Zzz, zzz …’

I whisper, ‘Peter you’re dreaming of pretending to be asleep!’

Peter opens one eye, winks at me and we both start laughing.

 

Glenn recommends …

… ‘The Gay Science’ by Friedrich Nietzsche

 

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