Friday, May 11, 2012

Jean Knox - The Fear of Love

"In this paper, I have explored the consequences when the development of a fully mature and reflective sense of self-agency is inhibited and how this gives rise to a fear of love and relationship. I have suggested that these linked problems emerge when parents are fearful of their infant's separation-individuation process and need the infant to remain as a psychic mirror for themselves. As the infant grows, he or she then both fears all subsequent relationships as potentially destructive of his or her subjectivity and also that his or her own individuation process will threaten his or her objects.

The underlying fear of allowing oneself to exist as a subject rather than as an object can contribute to any of the patterns of insecure attachment-avoidance, ambivalence or disorganization and to a whole range of clinical problems. Impenetrable defences of the self can be expressed in bland non-relationship or in cycles of intense attempts at merger and fusion with the analyst, followed by violent attempts at separation, often fueled by self-harm in the form of alcohol or drug abuse or self-injury. What I have attempted to show with this particular clinical example is the developmental inhibition of self-agency which underpins the fear of love. It is rooted in the person's experience that relationship is always coercive, that one person is directly controlling and dominating another. This experience is maintained by the predominance of an indexical form of communication, in which words are controlling actions, not truly symbolic communications.

In analytic work, it is therefore vital for the analyst to be demonstrably open to the possibility of alternative meanings in any exchange between analyst and patient, rather than trying to impose a particular view of the patient's unconscious intentions on him. Otherwise an analytic impasse is inevitable, in which analytic work deteriorates into a battle in which both analyst and patient are fighting for survival, the analyst for survival of his or her analytic function and the patient for his or her very psychic existence. Indeed, the analyst's countertransference feeling that his or her own survival as an analyst is at stake can alert him or her to the fact that, for the patient, the analyst is another parental figure who requires total subjugation to his or her needs and the annihilation of the patient's own self-agency.

In spite of the fact that some degree of enactment of this impasse may be inevitable, an analyst who is open to explore multiple symbolic meanings and to understand the material from the patient's perspective, rather than impose his or her own, offers a new experience within which the patient can gradually relinquish his or her defensive mindlessness. The projection of the controlling devouring parent can gradually be withdrawn as the analyst demonstrates again and again his or her own reflective function, the awareness of the patient as a separate psychological and emotional being. This experience is gradually internalized, activating the compare and contrast process of the transcendent function, allowing the patient to begin to relate to his own mind as a separate and symbolic psychic space which can integrate conscious experience, unconscious symbolism and the sense of self."
(pp. 559-560)

Jean Knox (2007). The Fear of Love: The Denial of Self in Relationship. Journal of Analytical Psychology, Vol. 52, pp. 543-563.

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