April 14, 1999

Flatliners and Naikan

"Flatliners" (1990) by chance it yesterday and thought it rather good and very synchronous with the conversation about "Naikan" ("inner sight/seeing") therapy that I had been having with a local therapist the night before. I claim that Nakain is a visual version of Freudian psychotherapy.

"Naikan" patients are asked to sit in a smallish room from 6am to 9pm and remember episodes in their childhood (and to a lesser extent their present life) particularly those for which they might feel grateful and particularly with their mother. In short, they *imagine* the relationship with their mother, rather than speak about the one with their father.

Naikan is said to work well on alcoholics and smokers and others that are affecting their physical health (and body-image, presumably). They do little in the way of speaking about their memories but do report minimally. The act of "Naikan" rather than the report afterwards is considered to be curative. The doctor is a facilitator who says "thank you" and encourages the mental act. There is a Naikan group in Austria apparently but mainly it is carried out in several hospitals/clinics in Japan. In my own view it is only really effective on Japanese and those of other nationalities who have a primarily visual self consciousness but I may be wrong.

Thinking Lacanianly, the symptom is a signifier that has been repressed from (or at least not expressed in) the linguistic symbolic and, makes itself heard, manifests itself in the body, behaviour or, at the very least, gaps in the speech of the patient. Could the symptom also be an image repressed from the imaginaire of the patient? When suppressed must they be said, or can they be curatively seen, relived, remembered?

In the film "Flatliners" four medical students stop their heart, and EEG, so that the line on the cardiograph goes flat. Purportedly they experience death. These experiences were dream-like, collages of visual and audio memory. The problem is that they bring back their memories as visual hallucinations to haunt them even once they are back to the world of the living.

Joe Hurley/William Baldwin (the playboy's) and Rachel/Julia Roberts' (the only woman's) flatline experience were particularly visual. In reality Joe had been taking videos of women that he seduced during sex. He had effectively conned women into giving him images of themselves during sex. After his 'flatlining' he saw the the videos that he had taken, now distorted to contain their accusative gaze, in TV sets and windows as optical hallucinations.

Rachel had seen her father shooting heroine as a little child but had blocked the memory, her forgiveness of her father, and his forgiveness of her (for looking). As a result of "flatlining" her memories returned to her and she hugged and made up with a fantasy-father.

Whatever the reality of (near)death experiences, in effect the flatliners underwent Naikan therapy they re-inspected the images within themselves and allowed themselves to see them all. They re-saw things they had not allowed themselves to see. The experiences are "very difficult to verbalise". They were not verbalised. "I am sorry" is about all the words that they needed re-seeing the vision, and the accompanying release, seem to bring about a cure.

I don't recommend flatlining. Sitting in a small room and going over your past is probably much better for you but it may only work on Japanese.

On the other hand, a near death experience once cured a schizophrenic of his illness I am told, as I have written elsewhere.

Posted by timtak at 12:05 AM | Comments (0)