The issues that divide us as a nation these days are fueled by strong feelings: they may be ill-defined, unconscious, denied and discounted, but they drive our actions none-the-less. We fight each other – verbally and otherwise – from a relational position that I associate with psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan's notion of the “imaginary register.”
Whatever we enact in the imaginary, it is perhaps better than to get stuck in the “real” where we experience the raw, unmediated horror of personal and collective traumas: war, environmental disasters, racial oppression, sexual exploitation, cultural genocide.
But these kinds of re-enactments perpetuate trauma. If we want to heal as people and nations, we have to find a way to bring our experience, our hate, rage and pain into a more "symbolic" order. We need more peaceful and cooperative ways to live with one another, as well as with those of the non-human world, if we are to thrive.
"Knoxville is for All of Us": Activists stage a counter-protest at a Neo-Nazi rally for stronger immigration laws. [Photo by Cathie Bird]
I think for this to happen, at least for it to begin, our heart-mind-world has to stop. Just for a second or two. Just one little gap to open a window into a universe of limitless possibility. In that gap we can – as persons and groups – download huge chunks of crucial information we need to change, heal, grow.
Dreams can make us aware of gaps, and
so can mirrors. In many ways, our lives and our world present many opportunities every day to explore what we dream and what -- of that which is hidden, denied and unspoken -- we see the world reflecting back to us.
I’ve played with this idea a lot. An experience I had last week gave me another chance to play. In my next post, I’m going to illustrate the dream and mirror idea by telling you about this experience as if it had been a dream. In a third post, I'll share what this experience mirrored for me in relation to my anti-racist journey.