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The Inner Is The Outer1

David Cooper

Those apparently indispensable verbal conveniences, the inner and the outer, and their consequent psychoanalytic conceptualizations, introjection and projection, have finally to be dispensed with. Firstly, because they are merely linguistic conveniences lacking any ulterior reality. Secondly, because they are intellectual constructs, derived from a narrow physical scientific conception of space, that are imposed on experience and distort experience; although it is true that skilful psychoanalysts use language in the 'talking cure' in a way that seems to avoid these concepts, they in fact remain implicit in the thinking behind such language. Thirdly, because they are an intrinsic part of a whole system involving such notions as 'the self' and 'the unconscious' - that is, one mode of reflection on experience rather than the direct encounter of experience with experience - an immense distance being thus imposed between the experience of one person and that of another in their free interplay.

I admit however, to using constructs such as internalization and externalization in this book but this is the only way I could find, as a temporary expedient, to get a less conventional way of thinking things out to meet with a more conventional, and now antiquated, way. The antiquated way is oppositional and anti-dialectical.

Everything in experience has to be put inside or outside certain selves. This convenient model breaks down when the specific nothingness of the self is realized - nothing can contain nothing, much less an 'internal object'. There is nothing left of the self but its specificity which is defined by specific experiential acts which are all in the world. But the differences implied by inner-outer language can be experienced as very real (that is, they happen in the sense of being acted into existence); for example, the difference between torturer and tortured. The interdependence of torturer and tortured demonstrates the unitary character of being: one cannot exist without the other, but the otherness is the index to change within the unity. My earlier account in this book of experience as non-spatio-temporal direction, and action on experience as deflection of experience, will, I hope, help get rid of the particular meta-level of thinking in terms of self, conscious and unconscious self and hence notions of 'projection' and 'introjection'. Projection is pure, though deformed, action in the world and so is introjection. Projection is not an act 'in' someone that passes out into the world and then ends up 'in' or 'on' someone else. Projection falsely modifies the experienced and actedon world, and introjection falsely modifies the apparent 'actor' in the world. All is out in the world - there is no reality behind the manifestations of reality, but although I say all is outside, all is also inside the outside. It is true that there is a personalizing factor but this factor is defined by directions as I have described them. The question is why the differentiation of the inner and outer has arisen. The answer is that it is a way, a necessarily false one, of understanding human experience from a point remote from that experience. It has nothing to do with the unitary act of experience experiencing itself - that is non-mediated experience. The remoteness is convenient, since closer touching of experience by experience induces a terror of the nothing that is where the substantial centre of the experiencing self is supposed to be.

It may be necessary to give some examples: A man fears his homosexual wishes and fears that another man wishes to rape him anally. Here the man deflects his wish into the more or less experienced wish of the other man. Certainly the `projecting' man in question effects this deflection of experience - into the supposed though possibly actual experience of the other. But in any case it is a matter of pure action in the world. The illusion of interiority. All action and acted-upon experience happens out in the world where action after all belongs. The same is the case with `introjection'. Say one introjects one's mother or an aspect of one's mother. This means nothing more than that one acts like one's mother or aspects of one's mother in the world. This purity of experience, acted-upon experience and action achieves a unitary plenum of existence.

Reductive interpretations of projection are a way of getting the person to conform with the normal, conventional world but some sort of interpretative attitude is present in most cultures. Whether the interpretation be psychoanalytically explicit or culturally implicit is a matter of indifference. The social effect of understanding actions in terms of projection is the same. Once again the world is all that is inside the outside. Similarly, interpretation of introjection that overlooks its sole reality as action in the world lacks the essential dimension of externality in opposing inner to outer: no introject has meaning apart from its expression in the world. The world, that is inside the outside, once again is all that matters.

The therapeutic implications of this way of thinking things out are immense. Instead of reflecting on the experience of the other and then commenting from the base of one's reflections, one has a situation in which experience meets experience and deflected experience; 'projection' and 'introjection' are returned to the point from which directions were misdirected - not necessarily by verbal messages. This may entail accepting projections without interpretation, since this apparent quietism may effect the redirection (not into or out of anything) much more effectively than any verbal interpretation. The emphasis is on comprehension without the compulsive expression of one's comprehension. By definition I can give no examples of this attitude - one either 'has it' or does not.* The disciplined restraint implied by this mode of being with the other is, to say the least, considerable. There is no room left for the compulsive interpreter. Such a compulsion is as severe as any harddrug addiction and can only be broken by a lengthy training, or rather untraining or anti-training. Just as hard drugs are a disguised method of control, destructive control, so is compulsive interpretation. A successful decontrolling operation is required, along with the acquisition of a true personal discipline.

One version of projection is like turning a non-existent coat inside out so that the inner lining of oneself shows itself to the world. Thus, what is understood by 'projection' is a state of extreme vulnerability, a form of nakedness or exposure. Certainly it is a 'defence' against 'greater dangers' (I have to use inverted commas to express sufficient irony about the use of these terms that have been conventionalized out of any original sense). The greater dangers are the realization of the presence of the projected characteristic in oneself. The vulnerability of projection resides in the fact that the language that expresses it cannot be literal - otherwise the 'game' would be given away. The language has to be metaphorical because the truth would be totally unacceptable socially, and metaphor exposes one to the danger of being regarded as a psychotic person.

I should point out here that I am talking about 'projection' in the case of individual persons. If the ruling class en masse resorts to projective systems it can get away with it for a while, to the immense cost of everyone else.

The central point I want to make is that, far from being pure error, what has been called projection is a groping deflected way of arriving at a new and difficult truth. Projection is human experimentation that takes a risk. This emphasizes my point about accepting projections - not only does one have to accept projections but one might have to confirm the true centre of projections.

Much is entailed in this transvaluation of psychoanalytic values. It certainly entails a radical break with all those elements of the psychoanalytic process that induce conformism. I say 'process' because as a rule it is a process and not a mode of action on experience. The free interchange of experience breaks all the rules of the psychological game, and that seems to be dangerous enough both ways. But unless one takes this risk nothing of any import happens - nothing except the tricky induction of a due conformism.

Introjects are not quasi-substantial lumps of otherness in the middle of some supposed self. They are directions, in my previous sense of direction, that are powerfully redirected back towards where they came from after a moment of contact with their target. For example the good breast or its substitute are experienced and then there is a powerful return towards the one who experiences, the source, the non-substantial initiation of direction. The power is in the very nature of the direction. The determinant of the degree of power lies in the target or mode of termination of the direction. The good breast may be more powerful than any other aspect of the other - or it may be less powerful. Personal liberty, to relapse into the old language, depends on the powerful expulsion of the introject - a power that is greater than that of the process of introjection. After induction into the bourgeois family way of living, the power that generates liberty becomes increasingly difficult to achieve.

I have said that in principle nothing can be said about a compulsion-free analytic procedure of responding to experience by experience, but perhaps this is not quite true. At least in a negative sense there are ways of describing the procedure. For the therapist it is a matter of resolutely refusing to be the target of 'projections'. This certainly does not mean any non-acceptance of the other person's statements but it does mean an end to any inviting collusion with the other. Such collusions are contrived only too readily by both parties since there is nothing more secure and non-changing than a collusive symbiosis. It takes a lengthy process of intimidation, over years or centuries, for an oppressed race to fall into a collusion with its oppressors. What has to be achieved is the difficult work of refusing to be altered by the deflected directions of the other. In micro-political but never in macro-political terms:

Stand still and let it happen around you.
Don't take into yourself anything you don't need.

This, however, is a counsel of perfection, since the conditioning of any person brought up in a typical bourgeois nuclear family makes the urge to symbiose blindly with the family, and then later to involve others in similar symbioses, almost irresistible. The only answer is to see the essential identity of the 'inner' and the 'outer' family and to confront this identity with a fully justified counter-violence.

I am writing about a trap into which even the most experienced people repeatedly fall. After the fall there develops a hard lastingness. The best way out of the trap is never to fall into it. Falling into the trap is based on the convenient illusion of quasi-substantial selves that have a sort of semi-permeable membrane through which some 'objects' selectively pass both ways.

The age of this lying metaphor has been passed.
Perhaps now we have to begin to talk about what you do to me and I do to you.


* One can learn much about this attitude, however, by being with someone who 'has it'.

"The Inner is the Outer"
by David Cooper
from The Grammar of Living (Allen Lane, 1971)

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