Sunday, January 18, 2015

Francois Martin-Vallas: The Transferential Chimera and Neuroscience

Chapter excerpt from Francois Martin-Vallas  (2014). The Transferential Chimera and Neuroscience, Chapter 9 in Mark Winborn (Ed.). Shared Realities: Participation Mystique and Beyond. Fisher King Press, 2014.

In this chapter, I will examine the question of the participation mystique in neuroscientific terms. Recent developments in neuroscience now enable us to start creating links between our clinical practice, especially the analysis of the transference, as Jung conceptualized it in The Psychology of the Transference and my concept of the transferential chimera.

In Greek mythology, the chimera is a composite beast, born of Echidna and Typhon, as was her sister, the Sphinx. With a lion’s head, a goat’s body and a snake’s tail, she is a devastating monster who spews out flames and devours any humans who fall in her path. In science, specifically in biology, the chimera is an entity or piece of tissue made up of two cell populations of distinct genotypes, arising from two distinct zygotes: thus within one individual here is the coexistence of cells with alien DNA baggage. In everyday language, be it in English or French, the word chimera denotes an illusion impossible to attain in reality. Finally, in the field of psychoanalysis, Michel de M’Uzan uses the word “chimera” to denote the inter-space of the transference as an autonomous dynamic born of the analytical encounter. It is in this last sense that I propose to use it in the field of analytical psychology, to emphasize the autonomous dynamics of the transference, as well as the fact the it emerges from the encounter of the analyst with the analysand as a new psychic reality. That is also why, in this text, I talk about it as a neo-reality or a neo-system. These points are developed in my 2006 and 2008 papers.

Jung’s original intuition about the analysis of the transference was to highlight the deep role the analyst plays in the treatment process. It was probably his misadventures with Sabina Spielrein which gave rise to his painful awareness of this, as witnessed in his correspondence with Sabina and with Freud. It caused him to ask Freud to include a period of personal analysis in psychoanalytic training, which was granted. At the root of the affair was obviously his realization that the transference not only unfolds in the patient but also in the analyst; hence, his use of the notion of participation mystique, a term coined by Lévy-Bruhl.

My argument for the concept of a transferential chimera was motivated by the perceived need to add a further dimension to Jung’s approach. It seems to me that the phenomenon of the transference is not only largely unconscious, but it is moreover, independent in part, both of the analysand and his analyst. It appears from my clinical experience, that the encounter between the analyst and the analysand may in fact be the basis of an emergent psychical neo-reality, with its own logic, its own evolution and its own way of functioning relatively independently of the two protagonists involved in the treatment. Put another way, if participation mystique is an essential part of the transference as Jung predicated, then it is likely to be the source of an emergent psychical dynamic which will have a considerable bearing on the direction that the relationship between the analyst and analysand might take.


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