Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Ronald Fairbairn - Object Seeking vs. Drive Discharging

"In a previous article (1941) I attempted to formulate a new version of the libido theory and to outline the general features which a systematic psychopathology based upon this re-formulation would appear to assume. The basic conception which I advanced on that occasion, and to which I still adhere, is to the effect that libido is primarily object-seeking (rather than pleasure-seeking, as in the classic theory), and that it is to disturbances in the object-relationships of the developing ego that we must look for the ultimate origin of all psychopathological conditions. This conception seems to me not only to be closer in accord with psychological facts and clinical data than that embodied in Freud's original theory of the libido, but also to represent a logical outcome of the present stage of psycho-analytical thought and a necessary step in the further development of psycho-analytical theory. In particular, it seems to me to constitute an inevitable implication of the illuminating conception of internalized objects, which has been so fruitfully developed by Melanie Klein, but which traces its scientific origin to Freud's theory of the super-ego (an endopsychic structure which was, of course, conceived by him as originating in the internalization of objects).

Quite apart from the considerations advanced in my previous paper or various other considerations which could be adduced, it may be claimed that the psychological introjection of objects and, in particular, the perpetuation of introjected objects in inner reality are processes which by their very nature imply that libido is essentially object-seeking; for the mere presence of oral impulses is in itself quite insufficient to account for such a pronounced devotion to objects as these phenomena imply. A similar implication would appear to arise out of the mere possibility of an Oedipus situation being perpetuated in the unconscious; for unceasing devotion to an object constitutes the very essence of this situation. Nevertheless the conception of internalized objects has been developed without any significant modification of a libido theory with which there is no small reason to think that it is incompatible. Freud himself never saw fit to undertake any systematic re-formulation of his original theory of libido, even after the introduction of his theory of the super-ego. At the same time there are innumerable passages in his works in which it appears to be taken for granted that libido is specifically object-seeking. Indeed it is possible to find passages in which this implicit view becomes explicit — as, for example, when he states quite simply (1929): 'Love seeks for objects.' This statement occurs in a paragraph in which, referring to his original theory of instincts, he writes as follows: 'Thus first arose the contrast between ego instincts and object instincts. For the energy of the latter instincts and exclusively for them I introduced the term libido; an antithesis was then formed between the ego instincts and the libidinal instincts directed towards objects.' As Freud proceeds to point out, the distinction between these two groups of instincts was abandoned upon his 'introduction of the concept of narcissism, i.e. the idea that libido cathects the ego itself'; but in the light of the passage quoted it would appear no very revolutionary step to claim that libido is primarily object-seeking, especially if, as I have suggested in my previous article, we conceive of narcissism as a state in which the ego is identified with objects.1

Nevertheless the ever increasing concentration of psycho-analytical research upon object-relationships has left unmodified the original theory that libido is primarily pleasure-seeking, and with it the related conception that 'the course of mental processes is automatically regulated by "the pleasure principle"' (Freud, 1920; 1). The persistence of this view has raised various problems which might otherwise have proved easier of solution. Prominent amongst these is the problem for which Freud set out to find a solution in Beyond the Pleasure Principle(1920) itself, viz. how it comes about that neurotics cling to painful experiences so assiduously. It was the difficulty of accounting for this phenomenon in terms of the pleasure principle that led Freud to fall back upon the conception of a 'repetition compulsion'. If, however, libido is regarded as primarily object-seeking, there is no need to resort to this expedient; and in a recent article (1943) I attempted to show how the tendency to cling to painful experiences may be explained in terms of relationships with bad objects. In the same article I also attempted to show how the difficulties involved in the conception of primary 'death instincts' (in contrast to the conception of primary aggressive instincts) may be avoided if all the implications of libidinal relationships with bad objects are taken into account." (pp. 70-71) 

1 Quite apart from this suggestion, there is no necessary incompatibility between the view that libido is primarily object-seeking and the conception of libido cathecting the ego, since there is always the possibility of one part of the ego structure treating another part as an object — a possibility which cannot be ignored in the light of what follows regarding the splitting of the ego.
Ronald Fairbairn (1944). Endopsychic Structure Considered in Terms of Object-Relationships. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, Vol. 25, pp. 70-92

Friday, November 25, 2011

Polly Young-Eisendrath - Archetype and Complex

"Core states of human life, such as bonding, attachment, separation anxiety, and grief, are expressed among human beings everywhere in similar gestural, facial, and protocommunicative forms and are infused with emotions. Human emotions—first the primary emotions that are recognizable at birth (see Tomkins, 1962, Tomkins, 1963; Izard, 1992) and then the "self-conscious" emotions (e.g., shame, pride, envy, guilt, embarrassment; see Lewis, 1991) that emerge in the second year — create universal motivational and relational tendencies. From those who study emotional memory (e.g., Edelman, 1989; LeDoux, 1996), we know that memories play a large part in the human construction of the so-called present moment. Edelman (1989) referred to our emotionally charged memories as the "remembered present" to emphasize the categorical or metaphorical rather than veridical nature of representational memory. LeDoux (1996) expanded our understanding of memory by showing that emotional memories can be representational or nonrepresentational. For example, he explained that the hippocampus formation of the brain is "well-suited for establishing complex memories in which lots of events are bound together in space and time…. No particular response is associated with these kinds of memories—they can be used in many different ways in many different situations" (p. 224). Representational memories are complex, affective images that I would call metaphors (in Lakoff's 1987, sense) because they map cues from earlier domains of experience to later ones. By contrast, memories that are triggered in the amygdala are "rigidly coupled to specific kinds of responses … wired so as to preempt the need for thinking about what to do" (p. 224). In nonrepresentational memories, we react to immediate stimuli because they have elicited a primitive emotion — usually fear—sometimes without conscious perception of them.

In Jung's later theory (after 1944), he claimed that innate potentials called archetypes (meaning primary imprint) predispose us to form coherent affectively charged images (archetypal images) that are expressed unconsciously in dreams, mythologies, folklore, art, religion, rituals, and literature in similar forms the world over. In Jung's view, archetypal images were "living symbols" intimately connected to emotional life, not "signs" that could be translated through cultural or linguistic systems. This definition of archetype as an action potential was the product of Jung's acquaintance with evolutionary biology and ethology, and comparable to Tinbergen's idea of innate releasing mechanisms. The archetype as core arousal state, connected to affective images, is now supported by Edelman's and LeDoux's work on emotional memory and by Goleman's (1995) model of emotional intelligence.

Psychological complexes form around archetypes and their images, as personality develops. Experiences of an individual's psychic reality—needs, perceptions, fantasy, action patterns, motivations, cognitions—cohere into associated dynamics because of the emotional energy of particular affective images that may be completely unconscious. All complexes are composed of core arousal states and emotional memories (in representational and nonrepresentational forms) that may be either reenacted or remembered. Psychological complexes are both universal and personal, both collective and individual, in that they form around archetypes and express the psychic reality of an individual life.

Complexes are similar to "subjective objects" because they are a mix of "subjective" and "objective" experiences, patterned from emotional adaptation and expressed in dreams, projective identifications, unconscious roles, and other enactments in ordinary daily life. They play out individual adaptations to archetypal themes with survival purpose for our emotional lives, although they may block development as the emotional environment changes over time. Complexes may be enacted between onself and others (e.g., playing the Victim Child to someone's Terrible Father), or within oneself (e.g., the ego complex being constantly threatened by intrusions from a negative mother complex).

In humans everywhere, we find such common complexes as Mother, Father, Child, and Ego. These all have positive (e.g., Great Mother) and negative (e.g., Terrible Mother) expressions because of the dichotomizing tendencies that develop from the earliest distinctions between pain and pleasure, and because our early care was a mix of good and bad. Also, each complex includes a subject pole (originally the experience of the subject) and an object pole (originally experienced as the object), but, after adolescence, we can usually identify with either pole and project the other in an enactment or projective identification.

When unconscious complexes overtake ordinary consciousness, they invite or offer or demand that another participate. Enactments of complexes often become projective identifications that may be acute or chronic, in which one person communicates unconsciously through inviting another to play out some aspect of the first's complex. The receiving person will have fertile ground in her or his psyche to be familiar with the projected material, because of the universal nature of archetype and emotion. Identifying with another's projection, we play a role in another's inner theater that fits closely enough with something of our own. Jung called this participation mystique, borrowing the term from anthropology and describing clearly the mix of the unconscious dynamics between people."
(pp. 427-429)

Polly Young-Eisendrath (2000). Self and Transcendence. Psychoanalytic Dialogues, Vol. 10, pp. 427-441.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Philip Bromberg - A Relational View of Resistance

" 'Resistance' is not a word I ordinarily use, either conceptually or clinically, and when I might hear it inadvertently pop out of my mouth it is usually when I am feeling grouchy with a patient and unaware that I wish to conceal it. Notwithstanding its illusory advantage in a countertransferential emergency, it is a term that I feel has become largely incompatible with the natural evolution in postclassical analytic thought. In effect, it traps us into preserving intact Freud's (1925) formulation of the function of negation, in which the negativity of resistance is viewed as a barrier between depth and surface designed to prevent repressed images or ideas from entering consciousness. In this sense, it is a remnant of our past that I think can be usefully reframed as part-of an enacted dialectical process of meaning construction, rather than an archeological barrier preventing the surfacing of disavowed reality.

Freud (1925, observed that 'the content of a repressed image or idea can make its way into consciousness, on condition that it is negated. Negation is a way of taking cognizance of what is repressed; indeed it is already a lifting of the repression, though not, of course, an acceptance of what is repressed.… With the help of the symbol of negation, thinking frees itself from the restrictions of repression and enriches itself with material that is indispensable for its proper functioning.' This, of course, bears centrally on the concept of "resistance," which in my view, as I shall discuss, is anchored more fundamentally to dissociation than to repression.

My conceptualization of resistance, like that of Schafer (1983, pp. 230–231), addresses the structure of resistance as an account of transference itself, but as a dyadic experience rather than a unitary one — an account of the transference and countertransference matrix, rather than of transference alone. It also addresses the motivation of resistance as not simply an avoidance of insight or a fear of change, but as a dialectic between preservation and change — a basic need to preserve the continuity of self-experience in the process of growth by minimizing the threat of potential traumatization. It is a "marker" that structures the patient's effort to arrive at new meaning without disruption of self-continuity during the transition, and gives voice to opposing realities within the patient's inner world that are being enacted in the intersubjective and interpersonal field between analyst and patient. The negativity of resistance thus represents a dialectic tension between realities that are not yet amenable to a self-reflective experience of intrapsychic conflict and are, at that moment, in a discontinuous, adversarial relationship to each other. Optimally, and most simply, it is a dimension of the ongoing process of negotiation between incompatible domains of self-experience."
(pp. 173-174)

Philip Bromberg, (1995). Resistance, Object-usage, And Human Relatedness. Contemporary Psychoanalysis, Vol. 31, pp. 173-191.


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Michael Vannoy Adams - Comparing and Contrasting Jungian, Freudian, and Post-Freudian Perspectives on Dreams

This is admittedly a rather long entry for this blog, but each paragraph is so concisely stated and informative that I felt compelled to present Adam's introductory comments in their entirety:
"Jungians believe that compensation in the service of individuation is the primary transformative function of dreams. Jung (1916a) classifies dreams in three basic categories: reactive, compensatory, and prospective. Reactive dreams simply reproduce an experience that has had a traumatic emotional impact on the psyche. According to Jung, however, most dreams are compensatory. What they compensate is the attitude of the ego in the present. The attitude of the ego is always partial and prejudicial; in the extreme case, it may be utterly defective. Jung defines the ego as identity. That is, the ego is identified with a certain attitude and is disidentified from other, alternative perspectives of which it is, for whatever reason, unconscious. Compensatory dreams challenge the ego to relate to perspectives to which it has previously been unrelated or ineffectively related. The ego may then seriously entertain, evaluate, and either accept or reject these perspectives.

There is no imperative for the ego to integrate these perspectives. What Jung advocates is not uncritical captitulation by the ego to the unconscious but a retional dialogue between the ego and the unconscious. This dialogue is a dialectic in which the thesis of the ego and the antithesis of the unconscious have an opportunity through conversation to produce a synthesis—a new and different relation, a third position that transcends the original two uncommunicative or adversarial positions of the ego and the unconscious. Jung (1916b) calls this the "transcendent function." Compensatory dreams present for consideration by the ego alternative perspectives that have been repressed, dissociated, or otherwise defensively excluded from consideration, or that have been ignored or neglected, or that are merely undeveloped or unknown. If the ego is receptive rather than defensive, it may then integrate these perspectives. Jung (1916a) says that compensatory dreams "add to the conscious psychological situation of the moment all those aspects which are essential for a totally different point of view" (p. 245).

Prospective dreams are anticipatory dreams. They anticipate some possibility in the future. They are not prophetic, although they may be prognostic. Jung (1916a) says that prospective dreams "are merely an anticipatory combination of probabilities" (p. 255). He cautions against any supposition that a prospective dream "is a kind of psychopomp which, because of its superior knowledge, infallibly guides life in the right direction" (p. 256). Only when the attitude of the ego radically "deviates from the norm" does the compensatory function become "a guiding, prospective function capable of leading the conscious attitude in a quite different direction which is much better than the previous one" (p. 257).

Jung's definition of the unconscious (as essentially purposive) is different from Freud's. The unconscious functions as if it were an intelligent, creative agent with a compensatory or prospective intentionality. It actively selects certain especially apt images to serve a quite specific purpose. This is what Jung means by the autonomy of the unconscious. According to Jung, the purpose of the vast majority of dreams is a compensatory or prospective rectification of the attitude of the ego by the autonomous unconscious, which, as it were, intelligently and creatively presents to the ego alternative perspectives for consideration. Freud (1900) asserts that all dreams, without exception, are "a (disguised) fulfilment of a (suppressed or repressed) wish" (p. 160). For Freud, dreams are essentially wish-fulfilling, or id-wishing; for Jung, they are primarily ego-compensating. In contrast to Freud, who asks what instinctual (usually sexual) wish has been fulfilled, Jung asks what ego attitude has been compensated.

Freud tends to interpret dreams on what Jung calls the objective level. That is, he interprets the images in dreams as indirect references, or wishful allusions, to objects in external reality. Jung interprets dreams mainly on what he calls the subjective level. According to Jung, the images in dreams are mostly reflections of the Internal reality of the subject—dramatizations and personifications of aspects of the psyche of the dreamer. As Jung (1916a) says:

The whole dream-work is essentially subjective, and a dream is a theatre in which the dreamer is himself the scene, the player, the prompter, the producer, the author, the public, and the critic. This simple truth forms the basis for a conception of the dream's meaning which I have called interpretation on the subjective level. Such an interpretation, as the term implies, conceives all the figures in the dream as personified features of the dreamer's own personality [p. 266].

This conception of the dream as a drama is similar to what Fairbairn (1944) means by "state of affairs" dreams. In contrast to Freud, Fairbairn believes that "dreams are essentially, not wish-fulfilments, but dramatizations" of situations in internal reality (p. 99). He maintains that the figures in dreams personify either aspects of the ego or internal objects and that dreams dramatize dynamic relations between them. As an example, Fairbairn (1931) presents a case in which the dreamer tended "to personify various aspects of her psyche" (p. 216), and he says that the dreams "in which these personifications figured thus provided the scenes of a moving drama" (p. 217). Both Jung and Fairbairn agree that dreams are basically dramatizations and personifications of a certain subjective state of affairs. They also agree that dreams are not essentially wish-fulfilling. They differ only in that Jung also believes that dreams are primarily ego-compensating. That is, Fairbairn regards dreams as an actual representation of a state of affairs in internal reality; Jung regards them also as a potential rectification of that state of affairs.

Jung solicits associations, but they do not have for him the singular value that they have for Freud. He proposes an additional method. "To understand the dream's meaning," Jung (1934a) says, "I must stick as close as possible to the dream images" (p. 149). The method is to instruct the dreamer to suppose that Jung has "no idea" what the image means and then to ask the dreamer to describe the image in such a way that, Jung says, "I cannot fail to understand what sort of a thing it is" (pp. 149-150). In contemporary Jungian dream interpretation, "Stick to the image" is a methodological dictum that Hillman (1979) has emphasized. To the extent that Jungians stick to the image, they employ a phenomenological, or imaginal, method. Jungian psychology is a "fifth" psychoanalytic psychology in addition to the four psychologies that Pine discusses (1990). It includes drives, ego, objects, and self, but, as an imaginal psychology, it emphasizes images.

In contrast to Freud, who believes that the images in a dream mean something (usually something sexual) other than what they seem to mean, Jungians believe that the images mean what they apparently mean. That is, Jungians rejects the distinction between manifest content and latent content. Jung (1934a) protests that there is no facade, or disguise, to the dream and that what Freud calls the manifest content is nothing but "the dream itself and contains the whole meaning of the dream" (p. 149). The phenomenological method is a descriptive method that respects the integrity of the specific dream image. In contrast, Freudian dream interpretation is reductionistic. It assumes, Jung (1916a) says, that a dreamer "could just as well have dreamt that he had to open a door with a key, that he was flying in an aeroplane, kissing his mother, etc." (p. 245). From the Freudian perspective, "all those things could have the same meaning" (p. 245). Jung notes that "the more rigorous adherents of the Freudian school have come to the point of interpreting—to give a gross example— pretty well all oblong objects in dreams as phallic symbols and all round or hollow objects as feminine symbols" (pp. 245-246). He observes that a dreamer "may dream of inserting a key in a lock, or wielding a heavy stick, or of breaking down a door with a battering ram" (p. 246). A strict Freudian might interpret all of these images phallically. Key, stick, and battering ram are, however, qualitatively different images, irreducibly distinctive. They are the images "of choice" that the unconscious on this occasion has selected to serve a specific purpose. That the unconscoius of the dreamer "has chosen one of these specific images—it may be the key, the stick, or the battering ram—is also of major significance," Jung (1964) says. "The real task is to understand why the key has been preferred to the stick, or the stick to the ram" (p. 29). He says that "sometimes this might even lead one to discover that it is not the sexual act at all that is represented, but some quite different psychological point" (p. 29). Rather than translate the dream image, as Freud does, from what it apparently means into what it presumably really means—into instinctual or sexual terms, into what Adler (1916) criticizes as "organ jargon" (p. 176)—Jungians stick to the specific dream image and attempt to define it through a precise phenomenological description. They try to ascertain what the "essence" of the image is—that is, what the image essentially means. Jungians apply what I call the method of phenomenological essentialism.

The Jungian theory and method of dream interpretation are consistent with the revisions that Fosshage so persuasively proposes to the Freudian theory and method. Fosshage argues that the function of dreams is not primarily to fulfill wishes but to regulate, maintain, develop, restore, or creatively reorganize the internal reality of the dreamer; that the Freudian emphasis on disguise and the manifest-latent distinction is untenable; and that phenomenological description and definition of dream images are preferable to a reductionistic translation of them into other terms. Fosshage (1987) says, "The primary dream interpretive task from the vantage point of this model is to remain with, as closely as possible, the phenomenology of the dream: to understand the meanings of the particular images and experiences as they are presented in the dream" (p. 32). Or, again, as Jung says, "To understand the dream's meaning, I must stick as close as possible to the dream images." Virtually the only differences between Fosshage and Jung is that Fosshage uses the verb "remain," while Jung uses the verb "stick." Both advocate close, phenomenological interpretation by strict adherence to the specific dream images. Fosshage would remain with the image; Jung would stick to it."
(pp. 127-131)

Michael Vannoy Adams, (2000). Compensation in the Service of Individuation—Phenomenological Essentialism and Jungian Dream Interpretation. Psychoanalytic Dialogues, Vol.10, pp. 127-142

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Hans Loewald - The Discovery of Objects and Development

A classic article in the psychoanalytic literature on the nature of change in analysis:

"We know from analytic as well as from life experience that new spurts of self-development may be intimately connected with such 'regressive' rediscoveries of oneself as may occur through the establishment of new object-relationships, and this means: new discovery of 'objects'. I say new discovery of objects, and not discovery of new objects, because the essence of such new object-relationships is the opportunity they offer for rediscovery of the early paths of the development of object-relations, leading to a new way of relating to objects as well as of being and relating to oneself. This new discovery of oneself and of objects, this reorganization of ego and objects, is made possible by the encounter with a 'new object' which has to possess certain qualifications in order to promote the process. Such a new object-relationship for which the analyst holds himself available to the patient and to which the patient has to hold on throughout the analysis is one meaning of the term 'positive transference'." (p. 18)

Hans Loewald (1960). On the Therapeutic Action of Psycho-Analysis. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, Vol. 41, pp. 16-33

Friday, November 11, 2011

James Hillman on Other as Music

James Hillman - Jungian analyst, author, and teacher - died Thursday October 27th, 2011 at the age of 85.   Jim Hillman was a unique and complex individual who could always be counted on for a lively and contrarian dialogue.  His influence on the world of Analytical Psychology and beyond was immense.  In contrast to the complexity of the man, this acknowledgement of his departure will be marked with his simple but beautiful description of the analytic interaction.

"We receive the other as if he were music, listening to the rhythm and cadence of his tale, its thematic repetitions, and the disharmonies." (p. 22)

James Hillman (1979) Insearch: Psychology and Religion, Spring: Dallas.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Madeline Baranger - The Intersubjective Analytic Field and Interpretation

"There is no such thing as perception without an object, or without another subject. It is only by an effort of abstraction that we can ask ourselves what passes through the mind of the analyst between listening and interpretation. The analyst's internal process which leads him to interpret belongs from the beginning to an intersubjective situation, however structurally asymmetrical it may be.

Similarly, analytic listening is directed in advance towards an eventual interpretation, whose content is not yet known at the time of listening but which gradually takes shape up to the moment when the interpretation has to be formulated to the analysand. The intersubjectivity of the analytic dialogue, while describing an essential aspect of the processes with which we are concerned (what happens in the analyst), conceals—and sometimes reveals—another intersubjective type of structure, just as the visible–audible is superimposed on the invisible–unheard of. This second structure, sometimes called the 'intersubjective field', underlies as something unsaid or unsayable both the analysand's material as presented and the analyst's formulations; in the latter, it determines both the content of the interpretation and the feeling-conviction that the interpretation must be formulated....

The conscious and unconscious work of the analyst is performed within an intersubjective relationship in which each participant is defined by the other. In speaking of the analytic field, we are referring to the formation of a structure which is a product of the two participants in the relationship but which in turn involves them in a dynamic and possibly creative process.

The psychology of the last part of the nineteenth century, whose concepts were broadly adopted by Freud, had an objectivising tendency. Freud's 'complementary series' (1910a) were descended directly from this tendency. However, in laying the foundations of analytic technique, he gave up the opposition between an observing eye and an observed object. Freud thus implicitly accepted a new conception of the intersubjective relationship, which was to be made explicit by phenomenological psychology in the concept of the field, particularly in the work of Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1945).

Freud's discovery of the countertransference (1910b) was an advance compared with the objectivising approach. But even if we take account of the countertransference together with the transference, or regard the transference-countertransference as a unity, this is not the same as what we mean by the concept of field. Let us start with intersubjectivity as a self-evident basic datum. Freud described one aspect of this intersubjectivity in referring to communication from unconscious to unconscious (1912), which he stated to be bi-directional. The field is a structure different from the sum of its components, just as a melody is different from a sum of its notes.

The advantage of being able to think in terms of a field is that the dynamics of the analytic situation inevitably encounter many stumbling blocks which are not due to the patient's or the analyst's resistance but reveal the existence of a pathology specific to this structure. The work of the analyst in this case, whether or not he uses the field concept, undergoes a change of centre: a second look (Baranger et al., 1983) is directed at one and the same time to the patient and to oneself functioning as an analyst. It is not simply a matter of allowing for the analyst's countertransference experiences but of acknowledging that both the transference manifestations of the patient and the analyst's countertransference spring from one and the same source: a basic unconscious fantasy which, as a creation of the field, is rooted in the unconscious of each of the participants.

The concept of basic unconscious fantasy is derived from the Kleinian concept of unconscious fantasy, but also from the description given by Bion in his work on groups (1952). For instance, in discussing the basic hypothesis of 'struggle and flight' in a group, Bion is in our view referring to an unconscious fantasy which does not exist in any of the participants outside this group situation. This is what we mean by the basic unconscious fantasy in the field of the analytic situation.

The field is thus structured on three levels: (a) the functional framework of the analysis; (b) the analytic dialogue; and (c) the unconscious dynamic structure underlying this dialogue. Viewed as movement, the field manifests itself as the analytic process."
(pp. 15-16)


Madeline Baranger (1993). The Mind of the Analyst: From Listening to Interpretation. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, Vol. 74, pp. 15-24

Friday, November 4, 2011

Warren Colman - Imaginal Capacity and the Idea of the Third in Analytical Psychology

"The idea of the third has often been used in psychoanalytic thinking to describe the emergence of a new level of mental functioning that is essential for psychological development. Winnicott called this the third area, an intermediate area or potential space that exists between internal and external reality and is the location for play, creativity and cultural activity (Winnicott 1971). Ogden (1994) has applied this idea to the analytic situation in his proposition of an ‘analytic third’ arising out of the intersubjective field between analyst and patient but not reducible to either of them. He sees this area as the locus of potentially creative transformation, especially if the analyst can become aware of it through his or her reverie. From a different perspective, Britton has developed the idea of a third position that arises out of the coming together of the parental couple in the mind of the infant and enables the child to observe and reflect upon relationships in which he or she is at the same time a participant (Britton 1989). Britton's ‘third position’ has much in common with Fonagy's concept of reflective function, the capacity to reflect on one's own mind and the minds of others and to recognize intentions and motivations that can be differentiated from action and behaviour (Fonagy & Target 1996).

The idea of the third is also a key element in Jung's concept of the transcendent function which he described as facilitating ‘the transition from one psychic condition to another by means of the mutual confrontation of opposites’ (Jung 1939/1954, para. 780). Jung discovered that this active confrontation between conscious and unconscious often resulted in the emergence of new symbolic forms which transcended internal conflicts leading to a greater psychic wholeness. However, the idea of the transcendent function has a much wider application as an abstract formulation of the many different forms of internal opposition that issue in the emergence of a third.

In this most generalized and abstract form, the third (area or position) may be described as a representational space for the occurrence of emergent meaning. In this sense, the transcendent function is an attempt to describe the psychic function that is involved in the creation of meaning —it is an account of the meaning-making function of the psyche that suggests meaning to be the outcome of a process of opposition between two or more opposing elements that are somehow transcended in the creation of a third with a new level of complexity. The third is thus an emergent phenomenon, having properties of a different order from its constituent parts. This brings the idea of the transcendent function and, more generally, psychoanalytic thinking on the idea of the third, into congruence with the theory of emergence in other disciplines, such as biology and consciousness studies. Emergence theory offers an alternative to reductionism by explaining how the conjunction of elemental phenomena can produce properties which are not reducible to their constituent elements (Cambray 2006, p. ).

The emergence of the third could also be described as the development of a capacity for symbolic imagination or simply imaginal capacity. By this I mean the capacity to formulate and creatively explore images of one's own psychic life and the world in a way that feels fully real yet distinct from the actuality of the external world. It refers to something more than the capacity to symbolize since it also involves the capacity to relate to symbols as significantly meaningful, having multiple referents that remain distinct from the form in which they are represented. I have previously described this as the recognition of the absence of the symbolized in the presence of the symbol, arguing that a capacity to bear absence is a sine qua non of a capacity to make creative use of symbols (Colman 2006). It is equally the case that absence can only be tolerated by means of early representations that eventually lead on to symbol formation. I am thinking here of Bion's formulation that thought develops as a means of tolerating the absence of a realization (Bion 1962b, pp. 111-12). For example, the conception of a breast may enable the infant to tolerate the absence of a breast (which would be a realization). For this reason, an intolerance of absence and an incapacity to symbolize tend to go hand in hand."
(pp. 565-566)

Warren Colman (2007). Symbolic Conceptions: The Idea of the Third. Journal of Analytical Psychology, Vol. 52: pp. 565-583

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Kohut & Wolf - Summary of Self Psychology

"During recent years the psychoanalytic investigation of certain frequently encountered patients led to the recognition of a definable syndrome which at first appeared to be related to the psychoneuroses and neurotic character disorders. It was clear from the outset that these patients are characterized by a specific vulnerability: their self-esteem is unusually labile and, in particular, they are extremely sensitive to failures, disappointments and slights. It was, however, not the scrutiny of the symptomatology but the process of treatment that illuminated the nature of the disturbance of these patients. The analysis of the psychic conflicts of these patients did not result in either the expected amelioration of suffering or the hoped-for cessation of undesirable behaviour; the discovery, however, that these patients reactivated certain specific narcissistic needs in the psychoanalytic situation, i.e. that they established 'narcissistic transferences', made effective psychoanalytic treatment possible. The psychopathological syndrome from which these patients suffer was designated as narcissistic personality disorder. The narcissistic transferences which are pathognomonic for these syndromes were subdivided into two types: (1) the mirror transference in which an insufficiently or faultily responded to childhood need for a source of accepting-confirming 'mirroring' is revived in the treatment situation, and (2) the idealizing transference in which a need for merger with a source of 'idealized' strength and calmness is similarly revived. As the understanding of the symptomatology, core psychopathology, and treatment of the narcissistic personality disorders increased, in particular via the investigation of the narcissistic transferences, it became clear that the essence of the disturbance from which these patients suffered could not be adequately explained within the framework of classical drive-and-defence psychology. In view of the fact that it is a weakened or defective self that lies in the centre of the disorder, explanations that focused on conflicts concerning either the libidinal or the aggressive impulses of these patients could illuminate neither psychopathology nor treatment process. Some progress was made by expanding the classical libido theory and by revising the classical theory of aggression. Specifically, the weakness of the self was conceptualized in terms of its underlibidinization—as a cathectic deficit, to speak in the terms of Freudian metapsychology—and the intense aggressions encountered in the narcissistic personality disorders were recognized as the responses of the vulnerable self to a variety of injuries. The decisive steps forward in the understanding of these disorders, however, were made through the introduction of the concept of the selfobject and via the increasing understanding of the self in depth-psychological terms. Selfobjects are objects which we experience as part of our self; the expected control over them is, therefore, closer to the concept of the control which a grown-up expects to have over his own body and mind than to the concept of the control which he expects to have over others. There are two kinds of selfobjects: those who respond to and confirm the child's innate sense of vigour, greatness and perfection; and those to whom the child can look up and with whom he can merge as an image of calmness, infallibility and omnipotence. The first type is referred to as the mirroring selfobject, the second as the idealized parent imago. The self, the core of our personality, has various constituents which we acquire in the interplay with those persons in our earliest childhood environment whom we experience as selfobjects. A firm self, resulting from the optimal interactions between the child and his selfobjects is made up of three major constituents: (1) one pole from which emanate the basic strivings for power and success; (2) another pole that harbours the basic idealized goals; and (3) an intermediate area of basic talents and skills that are activated by the tension-arc that establishes itself between ambitions and ideals.

Faulty interaction between the child and his selfobjects result in a damaged self—either a diffusely damaged self or a self that is seriously damaged in one or the other of its constituents. If a patient whose self has been damaged enters psychoanalytic treatment, he reactivates the specific needs that had remained unresponded to by the specific faulty interactions between the nascent self and the selfobjects of early life—a selfobject transference is established.

Depending on the quality of the interactions between the self and its selfobjects in childhood, the self will emerge either as a firm and healthy structure or as a more or less seriously damaged one. The adult self may thus exist in states of varying degrees of coherence, from cohesion to fragmentation; in states of varying degrees of vitality, from vigour to enfeeblement; in states of varying degrees of functional harmony, from order to chaos. Significant failure to achieve cohesion, vigour, or harmony, or a significant loss of these qualities after they had been tentatively established, may be said to constitute a state of self disorder. The psychoanalytic situation creates conditions in which the damaged self begins to strive to achieve or to re-establish a state of cohesion, vigour and inner harmony.

Once the self has crystallized in the interplay of inherited and environmental factors, it aims towards the realization of its own specific programme of action—a programme that is determined by the specific intrinsic pattern of its constituent ambitions, goals, skills and talents, and by the tensions that arise between these constituents. The patterns of ambitions, skills and goals; the tensions between them; the programme of action that they create; and the activities that strive towards the realization of this programme are all experienced as continuous in space and time—they are the self, an independent centre of initiative, an independent recipient of impressions.
" (pp. 413-414)

Heinz Kohut and Ernest Wolf (1978). The Disorders of the Self and their Treatment: An Outline. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, Vol. 59, pp. 413-425