Several reasons led me to choose this case to present at this meeting. But perhaps the most important of these is the fact that we started together, George and I, 4 years ago, each one in his own parallel, a great effort of singularization: me in my clinic, he in his life.
Two weeks ago, in a kind of celebration, we recalled the story of our meeting one another and even now I wonder how from that tangled knot of pain, panic, despair, it was possible to unravel the thread and gradually weave a progressing story.
In January, 1992, he came to my clinic, referred by an osteopath disbelieving in the possibility of helping him, a strange man, sloppy, sinisterly contrasting with my elegant, newly opened office on the twenty-first floor of a medical building in Perdizes. He is immersed in total lack of control. Between sobs, tears, phlegm and vomiting, I am led to think that he can’t find a way of being in his own body. He feels an incredible pain everywhere, and is under violent compulsion to incessantly seek sex in the streets, cinemas and saunas, and has just taken vow in Candomblé, which imposes 21 days of sexual abstinence.
When I say he sinisterly contrasts with my beautiful office I refer to the sudden anguish I felt, a kind of bad feeling, as if at that time of my life when I had envisioned, to paraphrase Virginia Woolf, “A Room of My Own,” a place just for me, in the safety of my space, alone up above, where I could refresh my views of people, try out other authors, other clinical choreographies, the Excessive itself had crossed my path.
I could have not accepted him, have sent him to someone else, but I believe the intensity of that chaos, thinking retrospectively, presented itself as an oracle, like the third hexagram of the I Ching, “Difficulty in the beginning”: “The times of growing are attacked by difficulties. They are like a birth. But these difficulties arise from the profusion of all that is struggling to take shape. Everything is in motion. Therefore, if one perseveres, there is a prospect of great success. When one’s destiny is to undertake a new beginning, everything is still formless and dark. Therefore, one should wait because any premature move might bring disaster. ”
That moment, from today’s perspective, shows up as a “middle ground” in Keleman’s language, a “deterritorialization” in Guattari’s language, for me and him.
For me, in the sense that I’m starting in ’92, with my reading of Guattari, a process of attempting to grasp the polyphonic dimension of subjectivity, trying to understand its multiple causation and at the same time trying to overcome the classical opposition between subject and society. Right now, I’m trying to temporarily put into parenthesis my psychoanalytical references and try to understand what it means when Guattari says: “Psychoanalysis is not ready to face the contemporary subjective cocktail in its way of reducing social facts to psychological mechanisms. Under these conditions, it seems appropriate to forge a more transversalist conception of subjectivity that allows for responding at the same time to its ties to particular existential territories and their openings to value systems with social and cultural implications.”
And there, studying Keleman at that time fit like a glove, in the sense of providing a vision and a clinical tool box that could address the formative process of the subject in its ethological and ecological dimensions, besides both coinciding in a constructivist view of subjectivity: formative, in Keleman’s words, autopoietic, in Guattari’s.
Little by little, supporting Jorge here and there, in a manner somewhat like a nurse, armed with my sociological spirit, I started collecting fragments – the gay world is convulsed by the explosion of AIDS, its existential territory is adrift.
My eye as an ethologist and Keleman scholar makes its first finding: the animal, Jorge, finds itselfs under the violent action of a response from the brain stem facing the threat of extinction to its existential territory, not exactly because of the virus, but rather because of the media.
His mesomorphic constitutional body, square shaped, like a Portuguese villager, under the violent action of the startle reflex, is grinding its joints and tendons, with its powerful muscles.
The compulsive repetition of sexual rituals, in a hardened “ritornello,” was at that level the only way to stop, from time to time, the dizzying, drifting flows.
Quickly, the therapeutic sessions become established, twice a week, in a ritual of relief and connection. I would lay him down on the floor and help him have convulsive discharges of muscle tonus.
And little by little, I was able to gather and sociologically weave narratives of how as a young man of modest background, graduating from a high school attended by children of the intellectual bourgeoisie left, he has no place of social belonging, and he starts, disoriented, first in search of beautiful men, masculine and proud of their own image, trying to absorb them into his body, and then, for several years, finds his place in the then thriving gay activism.
Slowing down the first layer of panic that would completely take him away from contact with himself, we could find a body layer entirely built of pain. In our recalling it a few days ago, he tells me: “the therapy at that time made me touch myself and see how everything was very painful.” Literally, he and I were touching his physical and psychological pain while his stories were emerging: his family lived in a small town, his parents go to work, the older brother, good-looking, the mother’s favorite, is left in charge of the house and violently beats the smaller brothers, amongst the neighborhood children he seeks protection from the older, better looking boy and is “caught” being “fucked” by him – that scene of the “little faggot” for many years fed both his humiliation as well as his erotic fantasies.
In fact, these early recollections are the disqualified vision of his origins compared with his idealized friends who he lost at the end of high school.
Then, we could discriminate between the experience of pain produced in the intercostal muscles by the stiffening of the rib cage and the experience of pain produced by the shrinking of the pelvic muscles. The chest tells of the impotent rage of the smaller animal when facing stronger animal and the pelvis tells of the shameful social impulses when facing the humiliating environment.
We then began to activate the Keleman accordian by compressing and decompressing this spastic layer. We proceeded by embodying the gestures and attitudes of his powerful brother, and organizing his repressed anger and revengeful feelings from when his brother died violently at a young age.
The next step was revisiting his boyhood.
On a train trip to his hometown, Jorge revisited these childhood years. Avalanches of memories brought back the fear, the lonely games, the smells, animals, colors: he experienced for the first time what Keleman calls “long-body,” the body that has always been there, a flavor of oneself, the feeling of “keeping on being,” as Winnicott says. He seems to have constituted, at that time, a trust in no longer being annihilated.
As this layer becomes more flexible with the experience of fragility, we begin to tune into fundamental aspects of his formation: the father’s absence seen as having no function, the familial world completely filled by the mother as teacher and provider, the compulsive search for masculine bodies, and the strength of the first erotic relation interrupted by getting caught.
And for the first time in many years, he gets involved in a relationship with a very poor guy, nearly a prostitute.
It is very important to mention here how much the writings of and my personal contacts with Nestor Perlongher, an Argentine poet, anthropologist, and gay activist, also known by Jorge, helped him to legitimize this micropolitics. This fueled our discussion of the “becoming-gay,” about the formation of a gay subjectivity in the social fied and about the quality of his personal homoerotic search: his lust for the characteristics of the masculine body, the intimacy of a masturbatory relationship, the pleasure of being penetrated.
Along with the discussion about normality and his melancholic idealization of happy people, we began to explore issues of inferiority and superiority contained in his inflated chest.
Then, we revisited the whole pantheon of masculine figures: the practically illiterate store clerk father, the military uncle, the mayor’s son in his hometown, the handsome young man with whom he had sex for the first time, and in more detail, the two best friends from the left-wing bourgeois families who had such different destinies than he after high school.
At this stage, we drew somagrams of all these masculine bodies, in order to body them up, experience them again, in an almost anthropophagic ritual of these identities.
The absurdly spastic and painful legs do not accompany the plastic process through which his trunk undergoes.
We decided to try a Rolfing process, simultaneously with the therapeutic process, now happening once a week.
At the same time, we wonder, how did this mother, a small-town teacher, have the power to put her son in the best, most modern high school when moving to São Paulo?
And also, why not women?
It is important to say that Jorge, when finishing high school, as his friends were heading for music and cinema, fields that only children of wealthy intellectual families can afford, goes college to study language, which would open the teaching profession, the leading thread of his entire maternal family tradition.
Spastic legs that refused to put down roots in some psychosocial soil slow down. Beneath the external stiffness of his trunk, already worked many times, finally a deep body made of inflated and expanded tissue shows itself.
And with this layer, the mother is shown, and the history of interactions with the maternal world.
In the context of this relationship, even more than the theoretical understanding of the bonds of dependency, my fondness for film was of the utmost value. There I learned to recognize the family sagas and institutional lines that act as vectors for desire-as-future-producer.
Who is this powerful mother who gives everything and demands everything?
One of the São Paulo countryside’s middle class’s greatest organizers was the tradition of teachers.
Precursor to the feminists, girls left home to study in Sao Paulo, at the Teaching School Caetano de Campos, and then, starting their professional lives in small towns in the countryside.
The image of the working mother, severe, identified with the excellent ethics from São Paulo’s classical teachers, the one who provides the home, a mother and teacher of her children, the one whose life is always a struggle, emerges in our sessions with all its force, as we access this inner layer.
The mother who appears here is the mother who wants everything for her son and angrily punishes him at school, stepping on his education; which later puts him in a school beyond her means, even beyond their social class; which provides him with money for adventures in Europe as young Brazilians do in the ‘7Os.
Where did this woman get her money, God knows. Probably a combination of public employee insurance with the dignity of the teaching profession, first of all, certainly sustained her in her determination.
We can say that as teachers become poorer in the Brazilian social process the more this mother feeds her children to get some place.
We say that an effort to be somebody dominates Jorge’s existential realm – being a man in the world of men, bringing forward the family, the lower middle class, the teachers world, rescuing their dignity, maintaing its old beauty in the current socio-political landscape.
It must be said that Jorge is a teacher in a public neighborhood school: he started a graduate school course, he has a contract with the public school system, is dedicated to working with lower class children, becoming involved with their difficulties.
However, this inflated layer tells us that the mother, the excessive provider, raised a child unable to sustain frustration, with a lot of difficulty organizing himself when facing situations that require time, rhythm, one step at a time.
It is revealed, at this point, the person who is extremely messy, gluttonous, excessive, who acts on impulse, loses his own things, including money, who panics at the idea of sustaining an effort like a master’s thesis, who exposes himself to dangerous situations such as getting involved with sex in the street, who is deathly afraid of being without a another body to relate with, does not take the time to be selective.
Together with these findings, the inflated body begins to be tamed, also organizing degrees of pulsation.
At this stage of his process, cries of helplessness and fear of growing predominate.
Coincidentally, at this phase in therapy, the mother became severely ill, and Jorge has the opportunity to organize a few things:
– A donor body for the ailing mother;
– A body of closeness for his father.
For the first time when he dreams of his elderly parents having sex, like in the movie “Chuvas de Verão,” he can see a great love between them and tells me how they met in a country town where his mother was a teacher: his father rough, gallant, romantic, a salesman, son of farmers, almost illiterate, wins the heart and the lust of our proto-feminist, dedicating his life to follow this determined and enchanting woman.
With the episode of illness, the family, previously dependent on the centralizing strength of the mother, is organized in a much more cooperative way.
We could ask ourselves at this time, through which conjunction of flows, the younger brother and sister who directed themselves to heterosexual choices and got married.
The legs, now less spastic, begin to ground themselves in their existential reality, his chest moving with amorous feelings, the inner layer retracting so that the Other begins to exist for him.
In the interface of the inflated layer with the rigid one, we discover a curiously dense body that belittles and attaches.
At that time, he has a dream in which he is walking hugging his mother and someone asks if they are boyfriend and girlfriend.
His mother says “no, he’s my son” and gives him to the person who asks the question, a construction worker, friend of the family.
We exercise many degrees between attaching and letting go.
He decides to learn how to swim and resumes his master’s thesis which was one of the panic factors at the time when seeking therapy. That is, the self-builder begins to organize the compressing and decompressing of the dense body and the motor coordination job of creeping and crawling.
In our two person journey, as Jorge takes possession of his somatic and existential layers, I theoretically appropriate the kelemanian vision of the constitution of the somatic emotional self in multiple layers of tissues, at different compulsatory rates.
In this phase, the mess and binging come in full force. His notebook on dreams and somagrams is complete garbage: an authentic notebook from the worst student in the class.
Through his empathy with his students, we could work on his despair when facing writing, resuming an interrupted evolution in his learning processes.
His love life after a short relationship with the poor somewhat-prostitute guy and a more cautious tour around the world of saunas, he stabilizes in a relationship with a mechanic who claims to be heterosexual, at the time engaged and later married.
Over the last year and a half, the process of weaving bodies and languages has intensified. The recognition of his methodology with students in the outskirts was allowing him to make his theoretical framework; his dreams led him to identify conflicts with his uncles, also teachers, who imparted to him the professional model but also sexual malaise, along with bitter moralizing about the manifestations of adolescent sexuality towards girls. With his boyfriend, he continues appeasing his neediness, while he starts putting together a sort of sexual friendship, with appropriate distances and mutual help, among two people from such different worlds.
As he continues to build his thesis he lives through conflicts of authority with his advisor and he is terrified over the idea of failure.
He feels the progressive link between his chest and belly with the softening of the diaphragm.
He dreams of his sister’s newborn baby and sees himself fulfulling desires of paternity, in protecting his students, and maternity, in the pregnancy of his thesis, experimenting in his chest feelings of softness and tenderness.
In the session immediately before the recollection which allowed me to write this text, he showed up saying,
“You know, the relationship with what’s his name has great stuff, he is less macho, he touches me more, he enjoys with me my fantasy of the first guy who fucked me, the story of the “little faggot,” as if he were the older boy who teaches me to use my masculine body. But I have a suspicion because every time he shows up, he always end up asking for some money.” To which I ask: “How much?” He says: “Thirty bucks.” I tell him: “If he was a prostitue you think he would come all the way by bus from the east side to your home if he is as beautiful as you say he is, for only thirty bucks?” To which he responds laughing, for the first time: “I’ve always been ashamed to tell you, but I’m really fucking cheap.”
Finally, with this discovery of the perverse that wants to be the only one who takes advantage, the idea of accepting my invitation to continue his process in group therapy becomes a viable and desirable thing.
Probably, after these four long years of formative stage, we will enter an ending in respect to our dual relationship and Jorge will start another middle ground, this time in a process of socialization with his peers in a group.
ÁGORA- Institutional Workshop, l995.