. . . . . . . Supervalent Thought

The experience that made me start this blog.

I was in a Walgreens last night, on the way to picking up dinner for the cancer family I’m staying with, the family of my partner, and the whole experience of it is so noisy aurally and emotionally that my hypervigilance feels both sharp and dull. The father needed a stress ball to squeeze, to raise his blood pressure, which is scarily low. Orthostatic hypotension, qu’est-ce que c’est? You stand up, your blood rushes to your feet, the rest of you crumbles or tumbles. The man in front of us in line was arguing with the cashier about whether he was allowed to use a credit card to buy a phone card. The cashier was a very tall, deep-voiced African-American man–eloquent, ironic, combative, and really patient. He wore a black vest and shirt with a small American flag decal. The argument flustered both men, and the consumer left without his card or his receipt. The aggrieved cashier saw this and panicked, and ran out of the store after the man. We heard him get outside and whistle quite loudly, the kind of whistle that you know requires your fingers. When he returned, I gave props to his volume, and asked him how he learned to do that, as I’d spent my childhood trying to and faking it, and my adulthood not trying it. He told us a story about elementary school. He said, he had a math teacher who insulted and shamed him. One day she was using him as an example, and he just put his fingers in his mouth and blew.

Supervalent Thought

Think about a phrase that resonates. A supervalent thought is a thought whose meaning resides not only in its explicit phrasing, but in the atmosphere of intensity it releases that points beyond the phrase, to domains of the unsaid. It’s a pressure. A supervalent thought produces an atmosphere, disturbs modes of apprehension, consciousness, and experience. It wedges things while inducing leaking. It’s a resource and a threat.

It’s a concept from Freud’s Dora. Freud uses it to describe an expressed thought (I don’t love you) that covers up a concealed thought that is its opposite (I love you). But the spirit of the concept is that in the penumbra an ideation, a sensed concept, generates all kinds of contradictions that can be magnetized to induce an impact beyond what’s explicit or what’s normative.