Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Samuel Gerson and the Relational Unconscious

"It may have taken the field of psychoanalysis eighty years to take full note of the "third" so evident to Eliot's (1922) poetic vision, yet it seems that having only recently broadened our purview from a singular focus on the patient, our gaze now moves urgently past the engagements of the dyad and into an opaque space beyond identifiable subjects. For some, this something called a third that transcends individualities is thought of as a product of an interaction between persons; others speak of it as a context that originates apart from us even as it binds us together; and there are some for whom the third is a developmental achievement that creates a location permitting reflective observation of lived experience, be it singular or communal. These multiple meanings indicate that our field is searching for concepts to contain and further the abundant new observations that have stimulated us as we have evolved into a theoretically pluralistic discipline tied to contemporary developments in other fields of study.

In this paper, I hope to further this project by rethinking some of the foundational concepts that originated within a more exclusive intrapsychic orientation and by extending them from within an intersubjective perspective. After briefly considering some premises that inform a relational view of the mind, I will elaborate on these elements of intersubjectivity, with three purposes in mind. The first is to extend the concept of the unconscious and its processes in a manner consistent with intersubjective views of human development and communication of knowledge. In this regard, I will suggest that the concept of the relational unconscious best captures the theoretical and clinical implications of intersubjectivity. Second, I will contrast the concept of the relational unconscious with those that involve notions of thirdness, and in this effort I will delineate three different usages of the concept of thirdness—namely, the developmental third, the cultural third, and the relational third. My third aim is to draw attention to the operations of the relational unconscious within psychoanalytic practice. Here I examine two clinical vignettes in which the work is temporarily stagnant as a consequence of intersubjective resistances; I suggest that the unraveling of such resistances alters both the structures of each individual's unconscious and the patterning of their relational unconscious. I conclude with the view that clinical progress is regularly characterized by analytic discourse that creates the dual therapeutic action of affecting both the individual and relational unconsciouses of both participants in the analytic dyad....

I propose that this reciprocal and mutual influence of unconscious minds upon one another creates a relational unconscious. The uniqueness of each relationship is in large part due to its singular mix of the permitted and prohibited, a mix that is formed from, yet transcends, the individual conscious and unconscious elements of each partner. Imagine the relationship as the offspring of the two individuals, constituted by each of their unconscious material, and, as in the mix of genetic material, having features both recognizable and novel and always containing marks of mysterious origin. The jointly developed relational unconscious affords each participant novel opportunities for the expression of previously unactualized, as well as repressed, elements of subjectivity and experience, even as it contains limitations and prohibitions unique to the dyad, which culminate in a variety of mutually supported defensive processes.

The relational unconscious, as a jointly constructed process maintained by each individual in the relation, is not simply a projection of one person's unconscious self and object representations and interactional schemas onto the other, nor is it constituted by a series of such reciprocal projections and introjections between two people. Rather, as used here, the relational unconscious is the unrecognized bond that wraps each relationship, infusing the expression and constriction of each partner's subjectivity and individual unconscious within that particular relation. In this regard, the relational unconscious is a concept that allows the joining of psychoanalytic thought about intrapsychic and intersubjective phenomena within a theoretical framework that contains each perspective and elaborates their inherent interconnectedness."

Samuel Gerson (2004). The Relational Unconscious. Psychoanal Quarterly, Vol. 73, pp, 63-98


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Edward Whitmont - Personal and Archetypal Processes

"Does the concern with archetypal elements as transpersonal factors sidetrack the dreamer and allow him or her to avoid dealing with affect and interpersonal relationships and therefore make it advisable to disregard them and deal with personal feelings and relationships only? Or are archetypes genuine healing factors, thus perhaps making it unnecessary to concern oneself with personal reduction?

The thesis I propose to explore is that transformation and healing is brought about by being moved and touched by, and by striving to" actualize - that is, to personalize - the significance of the transpersonal or archetypal elements that arise from the Guidance Self. Expressed symbolically, healing comes about through meeting or envisioning one's God or daimon. However, for such an encounter to be effective it must be approached and experienced in personal terms, by means of working through personal symptoms, affects, and relationships as well as by reductive understanding and by reliving the effects of past traumatisms.

As a means of unifying personal and transpersonal, archetypal dimensions I propose an overall view of life in terms of a dramatic story or myth that 'stages' psychic evolution in alternating phases of dynamic quantum leaps of creation and breakdown: birth, death, and rebirth."
(p. 4)

Stewart Whitmont (1987) Archetypal and Personal Interaction in the Clinical Process, pp. 1-25, in Nathan Schwartz-Salant and Murry Stein (Eds.) - 'Archetypal Processes in Psychotherapy: The Chiron Clinical Series.' Wilmette, Illinois: Chiron Publications.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Changes in Views on Termination between 1984 and 2009 - Estelle Shane

In this article, Estelle Shane is reviewing the changes between 1984 and 2009 in her thinking/position about issues in termination of an analysis.  The original article (Shane, M., and E. Shane (1984), The end phase of analysis: Indications, functions and tasks of termination. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn, 34:739–772) was co-authored with Morton Shane.
"This marks one important difference in my thinking about the concept of termination today that I will address shortly. I will argue, and attempt to illustrate, that psychoanalysis is a potentially continuing process. It entails an important relationship evolving over time between two people, two people committed to one another, and who doubtless may come to love one another in the course of their work together. This is a kind of love based in profound and mutual respect, concern, and caring for the other’s well being. In fact, Jonathan Lear (2003) has concluded that psychoanalysis itself is a manifestation of love. So I would argue that if the relationship that is formed in treatment has such deep and enduring meaning, in one sense it cannot, and in some cases, perhaps, should not, be terminated. . . I would emphasize now the individualistic and idiosyncratic nature of the entire analytic enterprise, including the way in which it ends. The attempt to generalize across dyads in this (or almost any) regard by establishing normative criteria seems highly mistaken. Although I imagine that the idea that treatment ends may exist either in strong central focus or as a silent background presence for both participants throughout their engagement, how that ending is thought of, whether as a date that, once established, should not be veered away from, or as something that inevitably must happen in some absolute way, or, alternatively, whether it may be thought of as a question to be kept open and open-ended, all of this should depend, as I will attempt to exemplify, upon the needs and proclivities of both members of the dyad. In another sense, of course, a more realistic sense, an analysis must end sometime, even if that time is reached only upon the death of one or the other participant (Hoffman, 1998). But short of one or the other’s demise, I think of criteria for ending treatment as being unique and specific to the dyad."
(p. 168-169)

Estelle Shane (2009) Approaching Termination: Ideal Criteria Versus Working Realities, Psychoanalytic Inquiry, Vol. 29, pp. 167–173.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Six Month Status Update

After six months of operation The Psychoanalytic Muse has been viewed over 3000 times (roughly 500 views per month) from 50 countries around the world.  Thank you for your continued interest in this cross section of ideas from Psychoanalysis, Analytical Psychology and Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy.  Hopefully, over time, these posts serve to highlight the rich diversity of thought within depth psychology as well as the themes and issues held in common by all schools of analytic therapy.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Susan McKenzie - Individuation and the Symbolism of Gender

"Mythologized and ritualized masculinity and femininity have varied from culture to culture and from ancient times to present time. All such myths and rituals have sought to express something elemental in our understanding of ourselves as conscious beings and the internal process that engages in the emergence of mind. Assigning roles in myth and ritual according to sexual anatomy is ubiquitous. It isn’t how these symbols are played out that is important to individuation; however that might be to women, the transgendered, and the homosexuals in recent history. What matters to the growth of human consciousness is that we are aware of the fluidly embodied nature of our gender and sexuality. We must differentiate the individual’s personal experiences with their gender and sexuality from a culture’s need to find symbolic expression and containment of such powerful aspects of human experience (see Douglas above, p. 99). Just as mind is not in us, we are in mind; gender is not in us, we are in gender. We are investing gender with meaning." (pp. 108-109)

Susan McKenzie (2010) Genders and Sexualities in Individuation: Theoretical and Clinical Explorations. Journal of Analytical Psychology, Vol. 55, pp. 91–111


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Jay Greenberg - A Relational Perspective on the Analytic Situation

"I will outline what I see as an emerging theoretical vision of the nature of the psychoanalytic situation and of the analyst's participation in it. Four premises, I think, are largely accepted by all relational analysts:

Far more than the early theorists could let themselves know, the analyst influences the analysand's experience in a myriad of ways. Much of what the patient thinks and feels is responsive to what the analyst does and even to who he or she is (Hoffman 1983; Mitchell 1988; Aron 1991, 1996). Everything the analyst says (and a great deal of what is not said) will affect the patient deeply. This bears heavily on the relational view of the analyst's authority, which is seen as even more powerful than previously imagined (Hoffman 1996; Mitchell 1998). Freud's early idea (1937) that incorrect interpretations will simply be ignored by the analysand is widely rejected. Suggestion and personal influence, once the base metal of the despised and disdained psychotherapies, have become both coin of the realm and a prime area of psychoanalytic investigation.

Despite its power to affect everything that happens in an analysis, the impact of the analyst's behavior can never be understood while it is happening. In contemporary terms, enactment is ubiquitous (Hoffman 1991; Renik 1993). A great deal of the work in every analysis is to understand, after the fact, what has transpired in an unexamined way. On this last point, different relational analysts hold quite divergent positions. Some claim that enactments can eventually be understood and that the dyadic unconscious can be made conscious. Others believe that one enactment simply folds into the next, with systemic change developing even in the absence of any privileged insight into what was intended or even into what happened.

Following on this second point, and contra Freud and his followers, there is no technical posture the analyst can adopt that will guarantee the creation of a predictable atmosphere in the analysis. Neutrality and abstinence, keystones of classical technique, are mythic and therefore empty concepts. More contemporary stances, like empathy, are equally mythic. Effective analysis can be conducted only in fits and starts, as a result of negotiations within each individual dyad. The aim of these negotiations is to find a way of working, unique to the dyad, that will suit both participants (Pizer 1992, 1998; Greenberg 1995).

While the first three points address the analyst's role as a participant in the process, a fourth addresses his or her role as an observer. Even as an observer, the analyst's subjectivity is a ubiquitous presence in the consulting room (Aron 1996; Mitchell 1997). Opinions differ on the extent to which the patient brings somethingan unconscious thatcan be discovered and known, or whether all meanings are constructed within the dyad. But regardless of where the theorist stands on that point, there is a broad consensus that detached objectivity is a mythfor some relational analysts, because there is nothing to be objective about; for others, because the analyst's memory and desire can never be avoided or barred. Our countertransference is the air our patients breathe."
(pp. 362-363)

Jay Greenberg (2001). The Analyst's Participation. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, Vol. 49, pp. 359-381

Friday, September 9, 2011

C.G. Jung - Hermeneutics and the Irreducibility of Phantasy

"The phantasy . . . is the creative soil for everything that has ever brought development to humanity. The phantasy as a psychological function has a peculiar non-reducible value of its own, whose roots are in both the conscious and the unconscious contents, and in what is collective as well as in what is individual.

But whence comes the bad reputation of the phantasy? It owes that reputation chiefly to the circumstance that it ought not to be taken literally. It is worthless if understood concretistically. If we understand semiotically, as Freud does, it is interesting from the scientific standpoint. But if it be understood hermeneutically, as an actual symbol, it provides us with the cue that we need in order to develop our life in harmony with ourselves.

For the significance of a symbol is not that it is a disguised indication of something that is generally known1 but that it is an endeavour to elucidate by analogy what is as yet completely unknown and only in the process of formation. The phantasy represents to us that which is just developing under the form of a more or less apposite analogy. By analytical reduction to something universally known, we destroy the actual value of the symbol; but it is appropriate to its value and meaning to give it a hermeneutical interpretation.

The essence of hermeneutics — an art that was formerly much practised — consists in adding more analogies to that already given by the symbol: in the first place, subjective analogies given by the patient as they occur to him; and in the second place, objective analogies provided by the analyst out of his general knowledge. The initial symbol is much enlarged and enriched by this procedure, the result being a highly complex and many-sided picture, which may now be reduced to tertia comparationis. Thence result certain psychological lines of development of an individual as well as collective nature. No science upon earth could prove the accuracy of these lines; on the contrary, rationalism could very easily prove that they are wrong. But these lines vindicate their validity by their value for life. The chief thing in practical treatment is that people should get a hold of their own life, not that the principle of their life should be provable or ‘right’." (pp. 468-169)

C.G. Jung (1916/1920) ‘The conception of the unconscious’. In Collected Papers on Analytical Psychology, London: Ballière, Tindall & Cox.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Joyce McDougall on Psychosoma and Psychoanalytic Process

With sadness we note the passing of Joyce McDougall on August 24th, 2011.  She was a renowned French psychoanalyst and author of many books, including: Theaters of the Mind, Theaters of the Body,  The Many Faces of Eros, and Plea for a Measure of Abnormality.

"The inherent difficulty facing the infant in his task of becoming an individual is of a more global, more 'psychosomatic' nature than the problems encountered in coming to terms with sexual realities. Failure to sort oneself out from the 'not-me' environment and so to create a sense of personal identity produces more catastrophic results than does a similar failure in the acquisition of sexual identity and the rights which belong to it. Yet such catastrophic failure does not necessarily result in a startling psychosis. It may go unnoticed while its insidious effects continue, silently, like the Freudian death instinct. When this occurs, body and mind have somehow lost their connecting links.

In the earliest attempt to deal with physical pain, frustration and absence psychically we have the first 'mysterious leap' from body to mind. We know very little about it. Considerably more knowledge has been garnered by psychoanalysis about that still more mysterious leap in the other direction, the leap from mind to body which underlies hysterical conversion and the various inhibitions of bodily functioning. Long before such complicated psychic creations are absorbed the baby must first have been seduced to life by his mother, for herein lies the initial movement which stirs the first glimmerings of psychic life.. This much we know: the structuring of the psyche is a creative process destined to give each individual his unique identity. It provides a bulwark against psychic loss in traumatic circumstances and in the long run in man's psychic creativity may well lie an essential element of protection against his biological destruction.

This brings me to the first point of my paper: the importance of man's innate capacity for symbolic activity and psychical creation, and in particular, the heterogeneous character of these creations. In the attempt to maintain some form of psychic equilibrium under all circumstances, every human being is capacle of creating a neurosis, a psychosis, a pathological character pattern, a sexual perversion, a work of art, a dream, or a psychosomatic malady. In spite of our human tendency to maintain a relatively stable psychic economy and thus guarantee a more-or-less enduring personality pattern, we are liable to produce any or all of these diverse creations at different periods in our lives. Although the results of our psychic productions do not have the same psychological, nor indeed the same social value, they all have something in common in that they are the product of man's mind and their form is determined by the way his psyche has been structured. They all have inherent meaning in relation to his wish to live and to get along as best he can with what life has dealt out to him. From this point of view it is evident that the psychosomatic creations appear the most mysterious since they are the least appropriate to the over-all desire to live. If their psychological function is conspicuous by its absence, their biological meaning also eludes us. In many respects they are the antithesis of neurotic or psychotic manifestations. Indeed it is frequently when the latter cease to function that psychosomatic (as opposed to psychological) illness declares itself. My reflections on this particular phenomenon have been much enriched by the extensive research into psychosomatic illness carried out by my colleagues in the Paris Psychoanalytical Society. I refer in particular to the works of Marty, Fain, David and de M'Uzan. My personal interest in psychosomatic symptoms and their relation to symbolic processes has come from a different direction which I hope will become clear.

My second point is that man's irrepressible psychic fertility of whatever order is coexistent with life itself. If we admit that something like psychic death may occur then it is possible that when psychic creation faulters or comes to a halt man may be threatened with biological death. The psychic processes that create and maintain psychic health as well as those responsible for maintaining psychic ill-health are nevertheless on the side of life. When we, for any reason, fail to create some form of mental management to deal with psychic pain, psychosomatic process may take over.

This brings me to my final point. The psychoanalytic process is itself a creative one in that it re-establishes separated links and also forges new ones. Like our psychological creations, these links too are of a heterogeneous nature: liaisons between past and present, conscious, preconscious and unconscious, affect and representation, thought and action, primary and secondary processes, body and mind. I would suggest that psychoanalytic processes are the antithesis of psychosomatic processes. Psychosomatic transformations pose special problems in the course of an analysis and it may be that they demand a different approach from that required to understand the neurotic parts of the personality. I do not wish to suggest that there are special 'techniques' for dealing with man's different psychical manifestations but simply, that further insight into the processes at work may alter our way of listening to our patients. Itten, in his remarkable book on colour and painting (1961), writes of artists in words which might equally apply to the intuitively creative aspects of the analyst's task: 'Doctrines and theories are best for weaker moments. In moments of strength problems are solved intuitively, as if of themselves.' So is it with analytic work. Itten goes on to say. 'If you, unknowing, are able to create masterpieces in colour, then un-knowledge is your way. But if you are unable to create masterpieces out of your un-knowledge, then you ought to look for knowledge.'
"(pp. 438-439)

Joyce McDougall (1974). The Psychosoma and the Psychoanalytic Process. International Review of Psycho-Analysis, Vol. 1, pp. 437-459.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Hester Solomon Discusses Archetypes as Deep Psychological Structures

"The second important concept, that of psychological deep structures, has a long philosophical history from Plato to Kant to the modern day. The concept has been further explored by the philosopher and psycholinguist Naom Chomsky in the last three decades in America.. Chomsky demonstrated the universality of underlying deep structures in languages, the inheritance of which is innate rather than learned. These deep structures are subsequently converted into surface structures by applying a set of transformational rules which are acquired. Thus have developed the various different languages.

My thesis is twofold. Firstly, it is possible to think of the archetypes of the collective unconscious as psychological deep structures against
which the infant's experience of their real parents builds up dialectically, over time, into an amalgam of fantasy and reality experiences. This amalgam is constantly under review, both consciously and unconsciously. Secondly, the Kleinian notion of unconsciousfantasies can be viewed in the same way as the archetypes, as deep structural categories which mediate the experiences of the real baby and his mother.

Support for this view will be offered from philosophical and psychological sources including clinical evidence. Other disciplines, too, can be consulted. For example, ethologists such as Tinbergen and Lorenz also posit theories concerning innate structures that exist prior to learned behaviour. These can be observed when a member of a species, in the presence of a stimulus (an ‘innate releasing mechanism’), is observed to perform stereotypical and ritualised behaviours. Courting behaviours in certain animals including human beings are a typical example, but we could refer to the whole series of stimulus and response behaviours between the nursing mother-baby couple that ensure that a nurturing, good-enough mother is available to look after the needs of her dependent baby.

The connection between the concept of the archetypes of the collective unconscious and concepts from object relations theory about unconscious phantasy and internalised objects can be understood to be related through the common core principles outlined above. Clinically and introspectively, these are conceived thus: in all of us there are certain fundamental psychic structures through which the primal self mediates its inner experiences and its earliest relationships; the interactions between the primal self and inner and outer experiences with their multitudinous imageries build up over time to make up the person who we are: a kind of inner and outer family. Through a dialectical statement of this kind, we can avoid apparently contradictory theoretical statements where the acceptance of one would seem to preclude the other. For example, Fordham's notion of a primal self and Winnicott's notion that there is no such thing as a baby, but rather a nursing couple, can be synthesised by applying the dialectical model. The dialectical model would provide that the child build up experiences of himself and his others that can be plotted on a spectrum of greater or lesser amounts of fantasy and of reality, of internality and externality. This is also true for the mother, albeit at a level appropriate to her adult status.
(pp. 308-309)

Solomon, H.M. (1991). Archetypal Psychology and Object Relations Theory. Journal of Analytical Psychology, Vol. 36, pp. 307-329