Building upon the symbolic representations signifying the birth to three Attachment-Separation/Individuation process, the core Experiential State holds in a highly condensed form one’s total relationship history.
This largely unconscious core picture is composed of three elements: an image of one’s self, an image of one’s important other, and the primary affect associated with what has just transpired. The experiential state captures in composite form the defining scene of one’s entire emotional life with regards to expectations for intimacy.
To get a feeling for this, practice a few deep relaxation breaths and when you are ready, call for a memory of an overwhelming childhood experience. Take a look around. Picture the expressions on the faces of the participants as they reflect the emotion, or what we call affects, generated by the episode. What do you see?
Primary affects include fear, helplessness, humiliation, shame, rage, disgust, sadness, envy, love, joy, awe, or gratitude. The individual scenes, as they comprise the “representations averaged and generalized over time,” inform the primitive invariant organizing principles. The experiential state is, as if, the arche image, reflecting the source, origin, or root of future self-other relationships (Wikipedia).
In this context the image of “self” reflects all of one’s “me-ness” while the “other” is a composite picture, beyond gender, of all those who have been in proximity, emotionally.
The challenge to think in terms of (experiential) state versus states helps us to understand something of how unconscious processes reduce experiences to core patterns. The D. H. Lawrence poem “Healing” recognizes the singularity of this detail in regards to healing wounds to the soul, the deep emotional self: one must become aware of “life’s mistake, and the endless repetition of the mistake, which mankind at large has chosen to sanctify.”
While our ego consciousness works to negotiate a positive adaptation to life here and now, the unconscious, guided by the core experiential state, sounds alarms based on how we have organized our developmental history. We tend to project on to relationships.
The Experiential State offers a way to begin to think about transference and counter-transference. Life is a series of corrective experiences. Each interpersonal success today contributes to the gradual healing of the Experiential State.
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