Author: Jacob Winkler, LCSW, CGP

What is the ‘Here-and-Now’?

There’s a story about a fish who went as a prophet among the fish folk, speaking of an almost mystical, all-pervasive substance called water. Of course she was scorned for her teachings, her piscine friends and family too busy with their swimming to entertain fantastical ideas. Talking about the Here-and-Now, I feel like a little as that prophet fish must have felt. What is the Here-and-Now? It is simply what’s going on between people who are in contact. In other words, it’s interpersonal mindfulness.  Mindfulness has become a very sexy word, a catch-all for a quality of awareness, paying attention to one’s physical sensations, noticing the thoughts and images passing through one’s mind, attending to emotions, etc. The Here-and-Now refers to all of that, especially as it corresponds to being in the presence of other people. In individual therapy, it refers to the underlying, often unspoken dynamic between the therapist and the client. In Group, the Here-and-Now may refer to what the group is doing as a whole, or any dynamic between any members and/or the leader. For example, someone comes 15 minutes late to an individual appointment with me. During those 15 minutes I have all sorts of thoughts and feelings as I wonder what may be going on with the client and with the treatment. Did I say something they didn’t like last week? Perhaps they were...

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Santa Claus and the Narcissistic Defense

Have you seen the film, A Miracle on 34th Street? It hinges upon whether people will accept Kris Kringle’s claim that he is in fact Santa Clause… But what a strange preoccupation! Why does it matter so much whether or not people believe in the material existence of something that seems so clearly to be mythical? The answer, I suggest, is the Narcissistic Defense. When I say the Narcissistic Defense, I’m using Dr. Hyman Spotnitz’s definition, not to be confused with a lot of other psychological writing on narcissism. Rafael Sharon has written succinctly and eloquently about this term: The idea is that a baby is frustrated, can’t communicate, needs the mother (the object) to fulfill its needs. It’s guess work much of the time. What starts to happen in certain cases is the baby will have the feeling from the mother that the mother can’t handle the aggression, the crying, the screaming, so they turn it inward to protect the mother. They turn it on themselves.  This is the narcissistic defense and we all do it to some extent. We blame ourselves for what’s going on around us.  The ultimate example is schizophrenia. I think it’s both biological and it’s nurture. I don’t think just anyone is going to suffer from schizophrenia. That’s the ultimate narcissistic defense where you disable your brain so you won’t do anything disruptive to...

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