Visceral Body

If you want to experience our modern version of spectating people who gleefully eviscerate one another, you can do no better than the Depp/Heard trial. As entertaining as that prolonged spectacle may be for the millions who are watching, a message suddenly penetrated me through all the blood and gore, as I watched the short segment of Depp’s account of his drug withdrawal experience. He was graphically describing his withdrawal symptoms when he began to tell us the very worst moment for him. It was not the “heebie-jeebies” or Mr. Shakey”. No, it was the humiliating moment when for the first time in his life, he says, he had to ask an other to give him something (namely the meds to reduce the symptoms). It is well-known of course that refusal to admit any dependency on others for anything is the signature of drug addiction. So there was something else in Depp’s described “worst moment” that had penetrated me. But it was still unconscious.

Until I dreamed that night!

I find myself in an inner city area, No possessions, money, job, place to stay etc. Alone, I don’t know anybody, no connections. I am in an inner city rundown house with people going about their business, they have purpose, direction. I have none. I start to clean the shower, clean the mould off for something to do. Fear grips my belly. All my concerns: safety, connection, food, shelter, the basic needs have emerged into the foreground. In the dream. I suddenly realise that all of it has to do with having a body—a visceral body! 

This is the new insight for me—the message coming through Depp’s description! Over decades I have endured variations of this dream, featuring homelessness, wandering, poverty or lack of resources to take care of basic needs. Great literature has portrayed the wandering, homeless protagonist, isolated from love, friends, comfort. Homer’s Odyssey exemplifies this culturally informing literature. So, I exercised due diligence in my studies and inner work in order to integrate relevant aspects of this cultural myth, as indicated by my repetitive dream, into my personal life. But still the dreams relentlessly approached. And here was another version, but now with a different message, or facet of a deeper meaning underlying them all. And this one is a message to us all. All thanks to the stimulus of Johnny Depp’s testimony.

The new detail in my repetitive dream is the visceral nature of my dream experience. Fear had not gripped my belly in previous versions. Anxiety yes, but not belly-gripping fear—the kind of fear that Depp experienced in his withdrawal. That visceral reaction in my dream is the new piece, the message. I previously had not made the connection between wandering homeless, with no money, no shelter, no friends, unfamiliar surroundings, etc. with being viscerally embodied! Being viscerally gripped with fear in the dream now makes that connection explicit. I am not talking phenomenologically about the body (Merleau-Ponty’s “I am able”).  I am not talking about perception at all. I am talking about some visceral facts, the kind that Frida Kahlo knows about: “I don’t paint dreams or nightmares, I paint my own reality”.

My visceral body needs to eat, drink, eliminate, sleep, exercise, move about, wash, attend to ailments—our visceral bodies call out for this attention. As some wit said, a hint from the bladder is more imperious than a royal command! All these facts may seem like obvious “facts of life” so why the message in my dream? What are we not getting? I say “we” because not for a moment do I believe that I am getting an idiosyncratic personal message from an angel, concerning no-one else. To hold that belief is to make me kind of special. No, I just don’t think I am special. Rather these dream messages are permeating our times, they belong to our times, not to any one individual. And some dreamers, as receivers, pick up these messages as dreams.

Our entire modern culture today is geared towards eliminating the obvious facts of the life that our visceral bodies, well, embody. Our entire culture makes us forget the fundamental fact that we are each viscerally embodied! As Cipher says in The Matrix, he will kill and betray as long as the AI agrees to re-insert him into the Matrix  where he can once again live a simulated life while his actual visceral body remains cocooned in a bubble. Depp’s statement of his worst moment concerns his being dependent on a body that is no longer obeying his will, in its agony of withdrawal. Any reminder from our visceral bodies today can easily and quickly be addressed by a multitude of social mechanisms designed only to silence the voice of our visceral bodies—from simple reflux to stress reduction to major surgery.

We simply want our visceral bodies to go away! Or, at best, once again to return to a mode where the will is the master, “the measure of all things”.  The slave then retreats once again into silent anonymity.

My dream is telling us that the master-slave struggle between the free will and the visceral body is reaching a climax and an enantiodromia is taking place. The position of master and slave is now reversed. With the continuing breakdown in our culture’s resources, all geared towards comfort and painlessness, i.e. resources aimed at suppressing the claims of the visceral body, we are now witnessing the Johnny Depp process of “withdrawal” on a world-wide scale, a painful, even excruciating process that can awaken in us the sober realisation that we come into this world beholden to, not hampered by, our visceral bodies.

We are being reminded of the claims of our visceral bodies 

See also: Dreams & The Ineluctable Body (revised 2020)