Monday, August 20, 2012

Jean Knox - Attachment Theory and Contemporary Jungian Views

"In the introduction I pointed out Jung's interest in dissociation as opposed to Freud's focus on repression as the mechanism whereby material is kept out of consciousness. I will now turn to attachment theory again to discuss the concept of defensive exclusion and its relationship to the formation of internal working models.

I am aware that I have not yet satisfactorily dealt with the question of the discrepancy between events or people in the real world and the representations of those people or events, which often seem such distorted images of the real world. Drive theory accounts for this quite easily with its model of instinctual phantasy, out of which arise internal objects which do not reflect the external world.

However an alternative model can be derived from attachment theory. Separation anxiety is constantly activated in childhood, activating fears of abandonment and annihilation based on the growing child's sense of dependence and vulnerability. Separation, narcissistic and Oedipal anxieties are defended against by omnipotent and grandiose fantasy and experience is filtered through these defences, so that unbearable fears or events are excluded from conscious attention and awareness. However this does not prevent the fears and the defences from being inextricably bound up with the internalized image or memory of the event, so that the defences become part of the schematized patterns which are being formed in implicit memory as well as the events themselves.

The internal working model (or complex) therefore reflects these fears and defences and so may take a very different form from the person or event in the real world; the degree of distortion probably reflects the relative contribution of fear and defensive fantasy to the internal working model. This provides us with an alternative way of conceptualizing unconscious fantasy from that of instinctual drives.

Internal working models which reflect threatening past experience lead to further defensive exclusion of any encounter which activates the schema, so that there is a withdrawal or avoidance of engagement and relationship. This leads to an inability to learn from new experience and a failure to modify the internal working model, which remains encapsulated and split off from the rest of the psyche, just as Jung described complexes being dissociated ‘splinter psyches’.

Conclusion: Internal psychic reality is formed from the internalization of accumulated past experience of key attachment figures and is not an expression of innate instinctual drives. The concept of implicit memory provides us with an experimentally-based account of the way in which experiences are internalized and stored in a generalized schematic form which is not available to recall or conscious awareness, but which patterns our expectations of, and perception of, present attachments and relationships.

These schematized patterns are equated with the internal working models of attachment theory; the contribution of defensive exclusion to the formation of internal working models is discussed. I also suggest that internal working models have many features in common with the Jungian concept of complexes and a new view of complexes is therefore being proposed."
(pp. 527-528)

Jean Knox (1999). The relevance of attachment theory to a contemporary Jungian view of the internal world. Journal of Analytical Psychology, Vol. 44, pp. 511-530

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