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

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