Whoever thought our hobbies could be analyzable?

I used to be a camera freak between the age of 16 and 40. Alwyas glued to my camera inside or outside. Would not leave my house without a camera. Wild horses couldn’t drag me to a vacation, or a picnic without my camera. Never!!! I’d rather not go if I couldn’t take pictures. And then suddenly around 40, the feeling took a complete turn around. Now I don’t like clicking pictures. There is this sense of “I should, I must, but hmmmmm….I don’t feel like it.” And often if I have to force myself to take pictures – which I often do, because of my kids – I feel this reluctance, I’d rather not. It is obvious that I would have this need to delve deeper into the causation, of this sudden shift in my patterns of living. I can look at the changes in my life during this time period, and get a fair idea of what was going on before, and what went on after.

As a reflective background, lets start with comparing the camera and a human psyche. Arnold Mindell‘s book Quantum Mind explores some of the brain functionality that is mathematical in nature. The functions of camera are much like the functions of the  mind as well. Like all external phenomenon, perhaps we created the camera out of the need to make manifest externally what was internalized.  In its simplest form, it mimics the functions of the eye of course. In its zoom and telephoto functionality, it mimics the abilities of the mind to zoom into a problem, or take a distant, observer view, looking at the bigger picture. The camera can toggle between the right and left brain functionality (see an earlier blog on the functions of the left and right hemispphere of the brain)  -zooming into and focussing on the individual and a close up, and thus acknowledging and enhancing the discrete differences – and also zooming out and taking the whole scene in, emphasing oneness and nonduality. By changing colors, exposures, speed, aperture, we can distort the external reality that is catured by the camera, in the same way the psyche has the ability to distort reality in response to external pressures. These are few of the parallels just to get you thinking, but lets now analyze why we may be driven to photography…

Jung states that at any time someone has a very strong emotional reaction to any external object or event, we should assume that a complex has been hit. With that bit of advice from my god of psychotherapy, I started exploring my past and realised that during most of this time, from the age of 18, I had a partner who was totally disconnected with life, his mind body connection had  broken down early in life. So apart from my own contributory past, I had been forced into experiencing his broken connection in my own life as well. And most of my life during this period between 16 and 40 was lived at an amazing breakneck speed. Moving from place to place, meeting new people in every place, making friends, breaking friendships, moving again. Add to these vacations, temporary visits to out of town/state friends and family, wedding, job changes, relocations within India, international relocations to five different countries spread on three continents, suburb changes at each location – changes, changes, changes. I remember  working 15 hour days most of my life, a senseless, directionless chase, a constant seeking that got nothing in return. And all those years I wanted to stop “time” and rest a bit by the sidewalk of life that was passing me by. But since I could not slow down my life, I did the next best thing that I could, I captured memories on paper. I couldn’t live life the way I wanted to, but I acquired the ability to collect those unlived moments externally, hoping someday I would connect with them, and experience them more fully. Kinda like the junk we collect in our garage – hoping it will become useful to us someday, if only we keep it long enough.

Avid photography, then, seems to arise of a desire to store the disconnected, unlived, unexperienced part of ourselves in the present moment,  in a hope that one will be able to relive the experience and enjoy it some day.  But what is it that prevents a person from living in the moment to such an extent that one is so compelled to hoard the moment? Now this is where I leave the realm of my personal experiences and examine this part more holistically so a universal understanding may emerge. From here onwards, I will write from my reverie – I write pretty much whatever comes to mind –  an autonomously created piece.

So what is it that may prevent one from engaging in the moment ? Obviously in some such cases there is an impediment, a psychic blockage that probably prevents the person from engaging in the moment, in such a way so as to utilize the moment fully, and exhaust its mystery and possibilities fully. What possibly could that blockage be?

In some cases, as probably it was in my case. it is a disbelief in the present, and a uneasy  dissatisfaction with the current moment. The current lifestyle is not what is wished for, but the person is, for whatever reason, unable to effect the secretly coveted change. And so the psyche intervenes to maintain the desirable status quo. Photography attempts to create an idealised version of the existing reality. In this way consciousness can be manipulated into submission because reality within the picture frame seems to acquire the flavor of perfection. Watching the pictures, the person is fooled into forgetting for a while his inner discomfort, and dissatisfaction with the status quo.

In addition to the above, our deterministic past also impacts the existing moment. Our moment to moment interaction in the present is modelled mostly after our moment to moment interaction in infancy. And disconnection with the present moment, or in the present moment then would indicate some kind of moment to moment disconnection in the past. This disconnection in the past probably creates inner fragmentation and fractures, that causes dissociative phenomenon, islands of memory traces float around disconnected and ungrounded from everything, from the everyday memories . These islands contain memory traces of trapped experiences, and these experiences are inaccessible to the ego, and to the Self. They’re not conscious and cannot be retreived by consciousness but they are live and operational in the unconscious. So often we will react to situations based on these experiences from our past, but we have no awareness of why we are doing what we are doing, because consciousness cannot access these experiences.

If our moment to moment interaction with the environment, or the mother/caregiver, is not engaging enough, then our psyche first learns how to, and then subsequently knows how to overcome that trauma of subsequent disengagements in life. It does so by creating similar pockets of dissociation where momories of the painful moment (painful because the desired engagement with the environment/mother is not possible) had become trapped and unaccessible. By getting trapped and isolated, they cannot cause any damage to the ego and Self simply because the infant has not yet learnt to handle stress, except thru somatic expressions. Such people have a template of disconnected isolated bundles that applies to everything in their life, esp their relationships. They will, for example, have relationships that float around disconnected, ungrounded in feelings that are tethered by bonds, loyalties and commitments, but now I am digressing from photography.

If we examine the nature of photographs, we realise that they are isolated bundles of memory held together in external reality by our conscious effort. They seem to be the external correlates of those dissociated internal islands of experiences. Pockets of memory held in discrete, isolated forms, disconnected from each other and from us. Inaccessible to subsequent experience, except through conscious effort. A little different from the internal islands which are not accessible to conscious effort at all. Perhaps our forays into photography reprsent needs of the psyche. By externalising these unaccessible dissociated pockets of experiences, consciousness can have better access to them, outside of the powerful and sometimes debilitating influence of the unconscious. Photography may thus be a remedial effort put forth by consciousness to delay psychic dissociation which would cause permanent memory loss. Perhaps it represents an intermediate strategy which would make retrieval of the experience – which otherwise would be lost to consciousness – possible? Photographs seem to be externalized memory traces, preserved in the service of consciousness.

Sometimes, due to early experiences of constant disconnection with the mother, a person may lose the ability to connect with the external world totally, and his or her entire life may be spent in defending from that painful reality, and all future connections. Person traumatised in this way would be cut off from their feelings, will not feel close to others, and can understand feelings only cognitively, through learned adaptation. In other words, when they see someone crying, they know they have to comfort them because they remember being comforted, and they have seen others comfort those who cry. Since the psyche is crafted like a language (Lacan) hence their language development suffers as well, resulting in alexothymia, schizoid or autistic personality traits. In some cases people with this kind of trauma may be able to experience an inner sadness when someone is crying, but such sadness may be a response to the deadness, and the memories of inner loss due to that deadness. It may not be an empathic reaction due to mirroring abilities. Such a person will attempt to run away from reality that evokes emotions. For him, photography may become a way to avoid any contact and/or interaction with reality that involves connecting with the moment, with the situation, or with others. Photography becomes a crutch that helps them create and stay at a safe distance from reality. In addition to this, it allows them to have some control over reality  – for objects in the picture may be controlled to suit their comfort level.

Photography, among many professions that thrive on dissociative phenomenon, becomes one possible healing vocation for such a person. The vocation is a survival strategy in an ongoing, tireless effort to bring forth healing. Hence following one’s talent is always the best philosophy when choosing a vocation. Talent for photography in such cases, is manifestation of their constant experience of dissociation in the world. They’re stuck in time as in the psyche, there is no concept of time, the past exists in the now and vice versa. Photography thus becomes a creative adaptation to trauma that was experienced in childhood, and also is experienced constantly due to learned disconnection from symbolic mothers. They’re constantly engaged in an effort to lure the dead mother back, as Andre Green would say. The fruits of such an effort are beautiful and creative, but the compensation always fails to achieve its objective. The need being so intense, the effort is ongoing. This is not to say any and all creative effort is pathological in its etiology, for creativity is a transcendental function and raises a person to their highest potential and beyond. But the will to create, I believe, arises as an adaptive defense strategy; it is a compensatory act much like a dream. In fact, art always represents a mode of psychic healing. And what else is spirituality and religiosity if not a striving for inner perfection and transcendence ?

In other cases, when disconnection in infancy has been sporadic, one may have sporadic periods of disconnections, and may develop a taste for photography as a hobby. Of course there may be hundreds of other reasons why a person may want to become a photographer or develop an interest in photography, but we’re concerning ourselves here with developmentally analyzable cases only.

It is interesting that I would use my camera especially when I was with friends and family, and on vacations.  I seemed to have this inner need to collect everyone around and ensure those memories of being together were captured. Whereas everyone around me liked to be IN the pictures, I think I alone was driven to CLICK the pictures. So I rarely was in the pictures…. 

Knowing myself, the only way I can explain this is as a disturbance in a concept called Object Constancy. The child develops Object Constancy when it understands that even though the mother goes out of sight, she will  eventually return. The confidence in the continual being of the object – the establishment of object permanence – is a developmental milestone. When there are disruptions in continuity of care of an infant, this feeling is not well developed, and the fear of loss becomes a dominant feature of such an adult. Perhaps I had an inner need to make sure everyone was safe, and would always be available. Or perhaps my Mother Complex got the better of  me and I consented to becoming a clucking hen to all those who wanted to be in the picture.

My mother was hospitalized right after I was born, so such a defensive reaction to threat of annhilation in an infant can be a possible template in my psyche, even if I do not have any conscious recollection of ever experiencing object impermanence. And I have felt threatened by object loss only once in my life, and that was very recently. However, even though I had concerned and loving caregivers at home, that disconnection with my mom so soon after my birth must have caused some level of inner fragmentation. I also wonder if such disconnections have any correlation to the way memories are captures, organized and retreived. I wonder if photography may be a way to relieve the psyche from the burdens of rememberance ? It is very possible that the capacity and the processes for memory capturing, organizing and retreiving are developed through early interaction with the mother as the interaction must stimulate the brain, allowing for and enabling growth of brain cells of every kind. As it happens I do have, and always have had a less than perfect memory about certain detail oriented jobs.  It isn’t serious, but I am more forgetful than most in accessing spatial memory, a left brain function. Whether it is the result of my mother’s hospitalization or simply a genetically coded and neurobiologically enabled truth of my existence, a predisposition to such stress, or some vitamin deficiency – I guess I will never know for sure.

This learned strategy of disconnecting from the present – so successful in ensuring survival of an infant – comes to rescue us later at any stage where the psyche perceives the need for such rescuing. As adults, when contact with the present moment is not deemed possible – because of genuine unavailability of the object, or because of impairment in social functioning skill – the psyche longs for, but cannot achieve its heart’s desire, the connection. In order to repress the pain of this need, it accesses the same bag of tricks that had helped it survive earlier. It brings forth the strategy that has been most adaptive. In extreme  cases this may include severe dissociative strategies, but in normal everyday living, within the spectrum of “normal behaviors,” we handle this by pulling out our camera and clicking. This would fulfil many psychic needs – the first : by doing so we are spared any interaction with the current moment – which may be a learned defense towards a psychic threat in infancy. And second : we are also ensuring we meet our needs of object constancy – that the moment, the objects within that moments, will never get out of our sight, it will never be forgotten.  And perhaps as discussed earlier, there may be a third advantage: it relieves the burdens on the storage unit of the psyche, our memory  that may have been adversely affected or weakened,  by early experiences of disconnection, or otherwise.

Of course these are simple, logical deductions that I make. I have no empirical proof, no neurobilogical findings that I have attempted to find. I have not looked for writings that may support or prove my thinking process..it is just an interesting exploration….I did not wish to turn it into an investigation…

However, if photography represents an adaptation, if it is a symptom of a deeper psychic phenomenon, what happens when that adaptation is redundant, when the psychic phenomenon does not exist ? An interesting fact, that which lends validity to my line of thought, is the massive change in me over the last 10 years. I first started meditating in 2002. In 2003 my life changed for the better and the pace of my life slowed down significantly. No longer was I working for 15 hours a day round the year. Time became a precious commodity, I could allow it to slow down, to come to a standstill. For the first time in my life I could smell the metaphorical roses. In 2004 I started my Master’s program where the assignments were personal reflections and writing of them. At the same time I entered analysis/therapy. This multi-pronged strategy may have worked well as these processes – meditation, writing, analysis, slow pace of life – all cohere the psyche, healing the inner fragmentation.  In addition to cohering the psyche, the greatest gift of meditation is its ability to allow the person to remain fully engaged in, aware of and alive in the current moment. And I believe it is this, more than anything else, that may have led this change within where the symptoms – my obsession with photography – underwent a drastic change. The symptoms of inner discontent simply dropped off. I no longer wished to capture the moment, but to be aware of it, to experience it, and to live it fully. My now repaired psyche probably rebels against any dissociative strategies. What was ego syntonic – in clinical terms – has now become ego dystonic. It is distressing for me to dissociate myself. turn away from the symbolic mothers of nature that are always engaged with me. I find it difficult to turn away from the moment that I am experiencing and that which is experiencing me fully, even long enough to click a picture. I always feel photography takes me away from my experience of the moment that I seem to be enjoying at the time – the touch of air against my skin, the gaze that takes the beauty of the surroundings in, the smell of the surroundings – it feels alive, and into such aliveness enters the thought of handling the camera, that would turn my attention away, transforming me into a robot, forcing me to capture the sunset rather than experience it, for example.  In the past I would spend looong time composing, and selecting the right parameters that would enable a perfect photograph, but unlike then, now I click quickly, not caring about the picture quality, or composition too much. I would spend hours selecting the albums, and creating scrap books. Losing a scene, or a photograph, or losing a photo shoot opportunity meant being wounded. Handing over my picture to a friend or a family member for keeps made me feel horrible. It seemed like an irretreivable loss. I probably was handing over my dream to them, a dream that I would someday overcome the inner deadness. How could I not have felt sad? Now I never bother to print the photographs, and am not overly bothered if I lose a few, or even many. If I forget to take a camera on a vacation, or forget to charge its batteries, I am ok (even relieved!) because I know I will carry the images, the experiences in my heart, I will have lived every moment, and I have faith that there will be other opportunities to take more pictures. And if not, it is still ok. The world will not come to an end. I don’t need pictures to remind myself, and the world, that I exist, that I am alive, and happy. I live that existence and happiness within. every single moment.

This transformation feels extremely powerful, and indicative of significant internal change – positive, fulfilling, life validating and enhancing growth. After years of struggle, I now experience what it means to be alive in the moment ! Life finally flows in now, not as a tomorrow.

Whoever thought our hobbies could be analyzable? But I know that the psyche is very frugal and economical in its allocation of resources. It never does anything unless the internal cost benefit equation is positive. There is always, always, always a reason why we do what we do!

27 responses to “Whoever thought our hobbies could be analyzable?”

  1. http://www.nature-photo.co.uk The difference between TAKING and MAKING a picture. For me it is the vehicle of transcendence, the way in which I can condense my inner grace into an objective medium of self expression. http://www.xyris.co.uk – It is the soul that is offered or refused. A Persona, a shield, a vehicle for the ego, a compensation for the Logos. I am it, it is me – photography.

    1. Hi Rodeny,

      What a surprise to see you on this long forgotten post!

      Agree with your comments completely. Yet, there is something there, something, that propels me towards photography. I had managed with a Minolta 7000 till now, but had to bow to the popular pressures to go digital, and bought a Cannon EOS recently.

      I can only write from personal experiences. And I think you know the story… 🙂


  2. Minecraft Guide Avatar
    Minecraft Guide

    It’s interesting to see this point of view. I can’t say fore sure if I agree or not, but it is something I will think about now.

    1. The blog is about meditation on the nature of life….it is meant to stimulate thinking. Thats all. Thanks.


  3. Jamboree In The Hills Avatar
    Jamboree In The Hills

    Awesome post. Do you mind if I ask what your source is for this information?

    1. Hi J,

      There isn’t one particular source. Its been pieced together thru several readings on dissociative phenomenon, and class discussions during my PhD program a few years ago. I had picked a specific movie for my reflection paper back then – I forget the name of the movie – a real life story about a school teacher on the East Coast who was convicted and served a jail sentence for pedophilia. He died in the prison. His elder son used to capture everything on camera, including the trial, the sentencing, the family fights, arguments, everything. The guy lived with a camera and later became a professional clown. It had fuelled my interest.

      Hope this helps.


  4. Hi Madhu,
    Me again, a week later, a synchronous experience and my earlier words on your blog come back to haunt me. Someone I went on a walk with last summer created a video made of pictures of this walk and other walks, and put it on their website last week. I came across it and watched all the pictures – some where I’d been and some of places I hadn’t been, many with people I’d been with (I’d only been there for part of the walk) – with great fondness and pleasure. I was shocked when a photo of me suddenly came up in the middle. I had mixed feelings about the video, initially I wondered why they had gone into retrospective mood so long after these experiences, then as a day passed I noticed the residue of my feeling was positive. This led to me taking some action and also I think influenced a dream I had last night which disturbed me. Only a few moments ago did the penny suddenly drop and did I think – ah! Now I have had an experience where photos captured a moment in time for me that stays alive and perhaps will turn into a new moment in the future. Just wanted to share that.

    Be well,

    1. Karin,

      Yes, the moment returned and you experienced it again with a different perspective, it most probably was a different experience. Who says time travel isn’t possible? In fact who says time exists at all? In that moment of contact, you lived in a different time, if only for a moment, which had an impact on your present. Because these impacts are not of the current reality, our cognitively oriented mind tends to ignore them. All the more reason why we ought to pay more attention to it.

      Thank you for sharing. Hope you are able to always ignore what you have learnt in the world, and remain aware of what the ultimate reality feels like….



  5. Hi Madhu

    Interesting comments. The last para completely chimes. Not so sure about the second para. Lots more to every story of course. I have talked to you about connection here and now, this was many years ago, and in this specific case I am not sure I WANTED to connect with this person. I remember it more as an obligation than a desire. She was connected to me through a friend. Lots of other stuff there.

    I am idly interested in my own pictures, I look at them very rarely. I have ended up with them rather than sought them out. I don’t have scrapbooks. I feel a kind of non-attachment to most things including photographs even when I also simultaneously feel a strong appreciation, liking for some.

    Since writing my initial comment, two other friends who have been drawn to photography have sprung to mind, and I really do think your conjectures in your post are highly relevant to both of them, their pasts, and their relationships with their mothers!

    I have also thought more about going to sleep – as you say, the ultimate defence!


    1. Karin,

      It is great to see you make these connections ! That is the purpose of my writing…


      1. So it seems, Madhu, we write for similar reasons, yet still individual. We are both engaged in the pursuit of reflective connections! That must be what fuels the connection….


      2. Karin,

        Perhaps. And I thought further on your response to my comment about silences. I think the universe gives us what we really really want. If so many people commented on my blog, if there was toooo much conversation, the introvert in me would probably just stop writing. Silences invigorate me. A few deep connections, a few deep thoughts, a few deep conversations…..thats all I am capable of….and hopefully thats all I will be given 🙂


      3. Hi again

        Your comment is very interesting for at least two reasons: first, I was reflecting before reading it that maybe you were more of an Extravert than I am, you have mentioned having many friends in many places and certainly seem to have strong connections. Second, I could have written what you wrote in your last comment about silence – I am not clear how I feel about a flurry of online conversations, my responses are still emerging. I think I am still taken up by the novelty of it and my real Self response will emerge in time. I have something to post on Silence that I wrote a long time ago.

      4. Karin,

        I am a paradox. Many friends because I lived in many places. But at any given time, only a few are connected. I am a chatterbox who adores silences. And my criteria for knowing someone well is : If I was homeless today, who could I count on ? The rest is just the icing on the cake. I just left a group on LI that I had been co-facilitating. Too much unfocussed and senseless chatter. Too many people trying to do too many things there.

        Never believed in having a fb account but did finally open one a couple of months ago and found some OLD friends on fb recently and unashamedly cried online at some of those reunions. Still an introvert though…

        Used to be extraverted. Now I dream of buying a small cabin on an isolated mountain top ! Reality necessitates that I live somewhere between these two extremes.

        Silences. I hope to read more on silences in your writings. When my kids refused to go to sleep at bedtime, I would tell them : “you grow tall only during sleep”….which is true anyway. And now its : “the psyche coheres amidst silence.” I’m sure you’ll find your thing and settle into it when its time. Every moment carries its gifts and right now your blog is a fiesty place. I’m sure you enjoy these moments as well. Whatever is, is, because thats the only way it can be.



      5. Hello again

        I feel an identity and connections in writing may be, unintentionally, very different from in person. I love to write. I feel I can be very open in writing. I am by habit, profession and inclination more of a listener than a talker. I often feel little understood when talking! I need questions to answer when talking, when writing I ask and answer my own questions. I think I am an extravert virtually and really an introvert.

        The whole thing about virtual connections perplexes me though – easy come easy go. Maybe there’s no real commitment. Had been feeling a little bereft by someone whose blog inadvertently got me into this world, who seems to have abandoned their blog, just stopped. Does that matter? Is the connection as real, important, lasting etc as an embodied one?

        As you say my blog has lots happening sometimes, and yes, I enjoy it. So many questions……………………..

      6. Karin,

        Interesting question – Is the connection to a blog the same as connection to the person who wrote the blog ? I’d say it is like a connection to your professors at college, or your doctor, or psychotherapist. Or even an author whose book you like.

        I am currently in dialogue with a famous artist whose work I simply adore, so this is very synchronistic and self reflective for me too. And it is what we make of it. In the East, these connections are mutual and permanent. Both sides are obligated to hold the relationship sacred, for there is no work of art unless there exists someone who acknowledges that art. But we don’t live in the East anymore. So will we ? Out here in the West, there is no connection hence no obligation. He’s got a product to sell, and I pay for that work. There is no relationship between people, only with the product – the artwork. And since both of us live here in the West – I often wonder what will it be like for us? Both are valid perspectives. Its interesting how parallel the individual worlds are and how eveyone encounters the same problem, disguised differently.

        I think the boundaries are set when you enter any relationship. It seems you developed a relationship with the person instead of a blog and, metaphorically speaking, feel betrayed. If you eliminate the concept of time from this episode, it becomes an area of inner exploration….

        Be well.


    2. Madhu,

      your response is very interesting, I’ve reread it a couple times because my response to it initially was just as interesting! I really felt very cold when I read it. It sounded clinical what you said about a relationship with a blog resembling that with a doctor, professor etc. Having reread it, I know that was me and you do say it’s what we make of it.

      The idea of having a connection to a blog not a person leaves me cold – unless I am reading that blog for a defined purpose or task, eg helping me sort out my technology or whatever. I don’t regularly read the same blogs for that kind of purpose. Many of the blogs I dip into leave me cold (I notice that’s the third time I’ve used that word!), I may read them to fill an idle moment. That is not true of your blog nor was it true of this other person’s – your two blogs are HUGELY different from each other’s. The inner exploration to which you allude has been and is ongoing.

      I like what you say about the sacred nature of the relationship in the East. I don’t know if I think it is true or not. I have possibly contradictory evidence from my own experience (not from you). Maybe I am from the East!

      I think that, for me, the strength of the connection/relationship is related directly to the depth of the exchange.


      1. Karin,

        The coldness is a fear of loss. The blog is. What you make of it, is what you make of it, is what you make of it. And if I haven’t emphasized it enough then well, remember you are the author of your imagination. Everything exists in your own mind. My relationships with doctors, employers, professors etc in India have been warm, family oriented. But if you did not have that experience, my statment would leave you cold.

        I modified my last response, adding more details. Hope you read the modified version.

        I think the problem with the individualisation is that it leaves people cold. For example, if I know you don’t follow the norms that I follow, then I will be confused about your reaction to me. Only fear and mistrust could exist. There is no predictive validity for anything if each one of us is an indidual…imagine if the sun or the moon and the rivers were individualised and could do whatever they wanted whenever they wanted. The East removes this uncertainty from relationships by prescribing codes of conduct. Yes, it takes away personal freedom, but it leaves one more grounded in many ways. Again, its a matter of perspective.

        Individual experiences vary. Especially when we are acculturalised. When I say something about East, I mean it in a generic sense. More people will behave like that then not. Of course not EVERYONE will, for we -including myself – are rapidly discarding our traditional values because they beget pain and discomfort when response is not as expected.

        I experience your need for perhaps some kind of reassurances on the contents, continuity and the depth of these blogs, and exchanges. It is an internal struggle that you alone can process and work thru. Anything I say would be antithetic to the process of growth…

        Be well.


      2. Madhu,

        It is interesting to me that you seem to be concluding or suggesting that my relationships with doctors, professors, employers have not been warm. Some have been (well, maybe not with doctors but certainly with professors and employers). This is not the issue. Something about these labels or titles jarred with my experience of blogs. There is more magic in blogs than these labels conjure for me.

        I read the modified version – very interesting.

        I don’t think I am seeking external reassurance – but maybe I am. Maybe I sound like I am.

        I remember your post on the pain of not having the response of Eastern values when you travelled to the East Coast.

        Interestingly my confusing example of the East comes via a Westerner steeped in the East who is I think conflicted for a number of reasons and projects his inner conflict onto the world outside.

        Warm wishes


      3. Karin, I am sorry I assumed that, but I did so only because I could not see any other way you could have experienced coldness. My apologies for jumping to conclusions. My own relations with my doctors, and professors here have been impersonal, limited to business environment. I can’t dream of calling my son’s doctor, or his teacher, or my professor to my son’s birthday party, for instance. Perhaps I was projecting that experience of mine into your words.

        I didn’t say you were seeking reassurances. I said I experienced it such. There is a big difference. My experience may have nothing to do with you at all. But life offers no assurances. Holding to such a detached neutrality is growth inducing for both. This is the integration of Vipassana in daily life.

        Very interesting and precious dialogue Karin. Thank you for engaging in this


      4. Madhu,

        It is hard to explain why but putting professional labels on the (VERY few) people who I don’t know (= haven’t met) yet with whom I have/have had deep exchanges with in this medium, really jarred with me. More to reflect on and yes, something about my needs definitely. And making me think about boundaries.

        Your reflection on reassurances, whoever it may be about and maybe both of us in different ways, is extremely valuable, and intuitively I feel it links for me with other feedback, other situations.

        The link you have made with Vipassana is hugely valuable too because it perhaps illuminates to me why my interactions with a friend (who interestingly I should have phoned today but just couldn’t bring myself to) who has pursued this path, have changed. This is not meant to sound negative – it’s hard when a style of interaction with a friend changes for reasons that are unclear. I like ‘detached neutrality’, and a few other things are falling into place with that descriptor.

        Yes, this right now is a very precious exchange.


      5. Karin,

        I think you use the word “need” very derogatively in your post. Needs, I find, are interesting shifts in personality that are dynamically allocated. Depending where you are in regressed time. I must touch a template from the past to evoke such a jarring response. But thats all it is, a ditch that was dug up in the past and into which we keep falling. Non existent except in the psychic landscape. For that moment, you weren’t present here with me, you were somewhere else in time. The past and the present co-existed for that moment, and the emotion that belonged to “then,” became “now.”

        What do reassurances mean? They’re not worth the internet blogspace they are written on. Just delusions of our minds. What is, is, what will be, will be. My profession requires me to clear such delusions of permanence. With Vipassana, the interactions don’t change. In fact if anything there is more love and compassion. Only the clinging nature of interactions undergoes a change. It has unfolded in my relationships with my children as well. It makes one more present, selfless, and generous. The reassurances, my dear Karin, would be my way of making demands on your affection, for example. To make myself indespensible and important to you, or to my kids. The real strength of our selfless interaction lies, for example, in helping my kids to learn to exist without me.



      6. Yes, and I think now that you’ve mentioned it I recognise a template from the recent past but there’s something deeper too. I like your description of ‘need’ – very enlivening. Easier to do this/see this for someone other than myself, I find.

        Your second para is lovely – thank you. I am going to stop here but I am not going away! Looking forward to our next exchanges.


      7. Laughing at your dig about my problems with object constancy. It isn’t quite as bad as I projected it to be. It wrecks havoc only when there is uncertainty and chaos in family relationships. An insight into it, of course, always helps. What also helps is if the other person is caring and considerate enough to take the problem into account. So thanx for letting me know 🙂

        Goodnight !


  6. Hello Madhu,

    what an interesting post. There is so much in it and it helps me make sense of my one-dimensional response throughout my life to friends’ photography. I think your comments about some of the needs or spaces a desire to take pictures may fill, and its link to early experiences as well as memory, the desire for enduring relationships etc – all of this is spot on for me.

    While I love well-constructed photos of nature or special places, I have never ever had any particular desire to take photos. I don’t want this response to be all about me, but it is in me in context of and contrast to what you’ve written which may add further substance to your reflections.

    When I first travelled to Europe at the age of 18 I was travelling with several friends at different times, and one of them in particular, a Korean girl who had moved to the US at about 12 years old, took photos of absolutely everything. She did this on ever trip she went on. She had left her homeland and she seemed to want to capture everything out of a fascination with novelty and history. She then organised photo viewing sessions which I absolutely dreaded! Not only did I not share her desire or need to take these pictures, but something deep inside me resisted and rebelled against an enforced viewing – to the extent that I would physically start to drop off to sleep if it went on for more than five minutes (and they usually lasted one to two hours!). Having read your post, I now articulate more clearly (though I have before internally) that it was as if being forced to live in these past moments captured in the photos (even if I had been part of them – it was indifferent to me if I’d been there or not) was killing the present and so I was sleeping by viewing the photos and therefore I might as well really sleep.

    This physical reaction was a real problem to me as you might imagine. I did not want to seem rude or unkind to my friend (not a close friend), and I also felt in some way I might be rejecting her culture since I did notice amongst the Asian community there seemed to be a huge energy around such photography. (Any cultural observations you have to offer?) But I simply could not help or stop my bodily reaction! So I found ways of avoiding these meetings, trying to suggest others instead which was difficult, and gradually we grew apart.

    Later in life I have found I have this same bodily response – struggling not to fall asleep – when I am in a one-to-one situation with someone I am working with who I feel is not totally there in their present, in our present – and is not wanting to ‘wake up’. Do I feel inexorable drowsiness coming over me out of a misplaced empathy, a failure in my professional capacity to snap them out of it (be their rescuer!), or is it instead a failure of empathy (or even a replication of the response others have to them) and/or just the fact that I’m tired? These are questions I have to ponder from time to time since this phenomenon happens to me now, as it did many years ago when I was in a room forced to look at photos of what to me were dead moments of time.

    Thanks for this, Madhu.


    1. Karin.

      Thank you for your kind words. I have been meaning to write about this for years, ever since it first arose in my mind, but the piece only comes when it comes. I begin to wonder what prompted this. Why now? Your responses are all about you anyway, conscious or unconscious. So don’t worry so much about the use of the word I and my. We only make sense of the world thru the use of personal pronouns.

      It would be wrong to categorise every person who is fond of photography to be working to overcome dissociative phenomenon, and only that. I will concede that such a strategy must be a part of the entire process that led the person to photography, but people are more complex than that. So your Asian friend may have other thngs going on in her unconscious. And clicking pictures and looking at pictures are different things.

      You had an interesting reaction in that you had a strong resistance to relocating into HER past. Do you have similar reaction to your own scrapbooks and picture albums? Sleep is an extreme in defensive strategies. Think how amnesia blocks us off completely, and how death is the final defense. You have mentioned how important connection is to you. Here you were, wanting a connection in the present, and there she was, not present to you. Disconnection from the mother would cause the infant to become progressively cranky, fall asleep, eventually die – I wonder if you were falling into a preverbal pattern of behavior. 🙂 We seem to live in the past as well in the present simultaneously….

      The drowsiness with others too may be due to the feeling of being blocked off from connecting? Since they are asleep to their present, they put you to sleep too, a temporary death ! 🙂

  7. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Madhu Sameer. Madhu Sameer said: Whoever thought our hobbies could be analyzable? | Madhu Sameer http://lnkd.in/WvD7Rp […]

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