Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sanchez-Cardenas on Analytic Pluralism and Matte Blanco

Abstract: "It can be seen that, although psychoanalytic pluralism is widespread, there is still a spirit of intolerance among the different theoretical schools. Matte Blanco’s work allows us to think about these questions in a fresh way. Direct psychic experience, felt to be an indivisible whole, is characterized by the symmetrical mode (close to the unconscious) and projects itself in a multiple and decondensed manner on to the asymmetrical mode (consciousness, thought). Thus, psychical facts (for example, what the patient says and feels during the session) can be accounted for by multiple conscious representations which, however, are not mutually contradictory (e.g. in different theoretical approaches). Affective factors linked to the hope of reviving ‘oceanic feelings’ of fusion with a unified and unifying theory of the subject–analyst are also explored insofar as they lead to the tendency of analysts to exclude one another."

Conclusion: "Matte Blanco also helps us to see why pluralism poses a problem for the analyst from an affective point of view. We cling to our theories for several reasons (Poland, 2009): the narcissistic investment that we make in them, the pseudo-intellectual mastery that they seem to offer, and the group adhesion that they permit. Matte Blanco allows us to add an additional perspective. If, for the mind, the possibility of having an emotional life and the sense of feeling that we exist are rooted in the symmetrical mode (that of Feeling and Being), it is understandable that maintaining contact with it is essential. There exists a ‘‘desire for the invisible mode’’ (Matte Blanco, 1988, p. 218), to which pluralism runs directly contrary since it supposes by definition a dissection into distinct elements. This desire is based, says Matte Blanco (1975b) in his text, Creativit ed ortodossia [Creativity and orthodoxy], on nostalgia for the time when the baby experienced himself as being one with his mother. There is thus a desire to return to this ‘unitary’ state before the frustrating separation which underlies subject–object distinction and individuation. The fantasy of being able to find a single epistemology accounting for the whole of the mind echoes that of being able to communicate once again with the mythical lost Breast. Melanie Klein (1957, p. 46) has shown that the breast was the prototype of the infinite goodness of the mother and of all creation. This ‘‘unitary’’ desire can be satisfied by ‘‘one’’ single elected theory, by belonging to ‘‘just one group’’. I proposed above that the attempts of psychoanalysts to situate themselves in the Thinking mode made them nostalgic for their Feeling and Being mode. So they have to find a strategy to get around this risk: this may involve cultivating a universal breast-theory. Furthermore, Matte Blanco develops the idea that, once separation from the mother has occurred, the subject has only one choice: either to merge with the lost breast (and so lose once again his individuation, which is intolerable), or to kill the breast and become the breast himself (eliminating the frustrating breast and turning oneself into an absolutely self-sufficient breast). This is the dilemma of the creative person: in having become a creator by attributing to himself the powers of the breast, and by murdering the latter, he has carried out a ‘self-breastification–self-deification’ by means of a ‘breasticide–deicide’ which goes with it. Hence the extreme attitudes when faced with a new creation which is felt to be like the murder of Gods whose breast theories were hitherto venerated. These questions directly concern the reactions of analysts to epistemologies. Very often, they approach them as if they were referring to absolute divinities (psychoanalysis according to Saint Freud, Saint Melanie, Saint Winnicott or Saint Matte Blanco …) and every innovator–protester is regarded as the perpetrator of a deicide who must be silenced (before he himself, eventually, is deified in turn). These affective factors torture psychoanalysts and regularly lead to major crises. They should be identified and explored at the beginning of every analyst’s training process. This would help analysts, knowing from the outset that the unity of psychoanalysis can only be founded on its diversity, not feeling torn apart by contact with theories as different as those that we are faced with and, eventually, avoiding many useless anathemas."

Michel Sanchez-Cardenas (2011) Matte Blanco’s Thought and Epistemological Pluralism in Psychoanalysis, Internaltional Journal of Psychoanalysis, Vol. 92, pp. 811–831

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