The Department of Psychology in the University of Delhi has a unique paper – Self! It is supposed to be an inquiry into, of all things, our ‘selves’. When I came to the department and got a bit used to the horde of girls surrounding me all the time, some of them a testimony to beauty, I was happy enough to be in Delhi, a city full of history and in a University which boasts, among other things, a ridge forest and flurry of interesting interactions with some of the finest minds in the world. Before completing a year here, I have heard or at least seen from close quarters, HH The Dalai Lama, Jaggi Vasudev, Thich Nhat Hanh , Sudhir Kakar, Ashish Nandy and the like. But far more important for me has been the interactions I have had with my classmates about, to use Bollas’ phrase, ‘the thing that is self’.
That we all exist and possess a ‘self’, a consciousness of being is too evident to need any assertion. Yet, what is this ‘self’. I am sure that I am conscious but how can I be sure that anybody else in the world is conscious? I can’t perceive anyone’s consciousness save mine. The consciousness of other beings is inferred. I supposed that if I have an internal conscious space beyond merely perceptible behavior, presumably, others too must possess it. But from an experiential standing, all other sentient beings are merely projections of my being; they exist because I Am! Indeed the universe exists because I Am! Perception needs a perceiver and the perceiver manifests as the self. While this abstract articulation of the epistemology of Self is important enough, here in psychology, we have been more concerned with the phenomenological self, the personal, the uniquely experiential narrative. Theorists have come and gone through the year. And some novelists and tellers of stories found their way in the motley crowd. Bollas and Philips with their nets woven around the edifice of Freudian psychoanalysis, Winicott with his fables woven around teddy bears, the absurd and disturbing Kafka, the contemplative Herman Hesse and even the sublime Upanishadas, all enriched the garden, some as flowers, others as interesting weeds. Many rebelled with Camus at the idea of an academic appraisal of their ‘selves’, others found it too abstract and some cherished it and were happy fodder for draining workshops on narratives woven around their psychically intense moments. What I couldn’t reconcile with initially was the dark, the absurd, the seemingly futile colors in the painting, the irrational fears and endless repetitive patterns. But it seems what Existence blesses with being can never be put besides any carpet of absurdity. What IS can be, lived, enjoyed, suffered, analyzed but not glossed into spontaneous oblivion.
After coming here, I have become more accepting of the black holes inside me. For now I see that they have devoured many bright stars and going deep into them would reveal the buried effulgence. And that has been the fruit of psychology in first year!