Joshua Tree National Park, California
Friday, January 8, 2021
Defecation, Fornication, and Dissociation
A most troubling triad, I know, but here’s the point:
Every single day, unless you’re eating extremely poorly, you poop at some point.
It’s a good thing, ridding the of body waste products. Feces is often the subject of jokes among second graders; apparently, it becomes a more frequent topic of conversation among the elderly.
But, the theme today concerns what people don’t talk about, what they compartmentalize.
Defecation is certainly one of them.
It’s an extremely personal matter.
The experience might be enjoyable; it might be painful, i.e. hemorrhoids.
In any event, and hopefully, it’s followed by wiping your anus using toilet paper or the like. (In case the pandemic finds you in short supply, then a newspaper, tissue, or paper towel may serve as a useful substitute).
Unless you’re weird, you then don’t really think about it.
But, now that we’re talking about it, you (again hopefully) had that experience in the last day or two. After turning on the bathroom fan, lighting a match, or spraying out whatever deodorized cleansing agent you prefer, the experience vanishes from your mind.
Perhaps this is due to its unpleasant smell.
Or, perhaps, this is because it reminds you of your creatureliness, your status as a hominid, as a (supposedly) intelligent descendent of the great apes.
In any event, the forgetting about it is an example of normal dissociation.
It falls away from your typical subjective experience.
Arguably on the opposite side of the continuum, but also concerning private parts, fornication or, more kindly, sexuality, is also something we tend to separate out from our minds.
We might think about it a ton; we might fantasize about it even more.
But do we freely talk about it?
You might discuss your sexual behavior with individuals extremely close to you.
But, more commonly, you don’t.
You might discuss it with a psychotherapist, or a physician.
Much more often, you keep it to yourself.
Because it’s considered private, for one. If you’re having a great time with sex, you might elicit envy or jealousy from friends. If you’re having a tough time, you might feel embarrassed and ashamed.
If you tell some folks, like your parents or your children, then you’re violating social norms.
Your audience will think you are, using the slang word, pervy.
Sexuality also involves our creatureliness—a component of our worlds from which we tend to distance ourselves.
So here we are, traveling through this strange journey called life, and we devote considerable energy to ignoring important parts of our personal experience. Or, at least in the case of sexuality, we keep it private.
My thesis concerns the fundamental dominance of dissociation—a psychoanalytic concept I consider the source of all evil.
Let me be clear.
I’m not advocating for advertising your bowel or sexual habits.
I already explained why it’s private.
But it’s normalcy highlights the ubiquitous nature of dissociation.
Just as common as our propensity to compartmentalize, we also dissociate in problematic ways.
Consider tribalism as just one negative example.
We tend to gather in tribes.
We then spontaneously think our tribe is better than the other.
For example, democrats are better than republicans, monotheism trumps idolatry, and recycling is better than throwing your bottles and cans in the regular trash.
These are fairly benign examples.
Two days ago, we witnessed an extreme example of tribalism. A group of Trump supporters, white supremacy groups, and fascists stormed the capital of the United States. Their actions killed a few, terrified many, and sent a frightening message about democracy’s fragility across the globe.
How does this relate to defecation and fornication?
It’s simply a more extreme form of dissociation, of compartmentalization.
It represents an abject denial—returning now to our common ape-like heritage—that we humans are, quite literally, all related to one another.
When you’re beating up capital police, breaking windows, occupying the offices of congress-people, and threatening to occupy “the peoples house,” you’ve lost sight of, well, who the people are.
You think it’s your tribe. It’s not, because all human tribes are subsets of the greater human one—humanity itself.
The beauty of democracy, as an ideal anyway, is that it addresses our commonality as one human family. It’s flawed and fallible, for sure, as evidenced in the power of lobbying groups, special interests, corrupt politicians, and the like.
Nonetheless, democracy at least tries to serve the greater good, the commonality of the people regardless of race, ethnicity, or tribe-membership.
What’s the takeaway?
To reflect on the normalcy of dissociation, as it occurs with bodily waste elimination, and we do it with sexuality.
But, please also consider its perversion, the risk of dissociation morphing into an outright malignancy.
It’s perverse, malignant presentation nearly broke us, traumatizing liberty-loving peoples around the world.
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