Saturday, January 7, 2012

Peter Mudd on Death and Transference

"The theoretical model I am proposing suggests that the fear of death or of the self-preservational drive is the prime mover in object relations, that field where the internal and external worlds penetrate each other and intermingle to create the psychological structures and the sustaining illusions that govern our lives. Identity, or what Jungians call persona, and its fraternal twin, the shadow, as well as the constructed conscience which Freud termed the superego, are all spawned by the ego's struggle with the paradoxical nature of the self, the light and dark of life and death. The death experience is propulsive, catalytic and continual. Most often it operates from the unconscious depths and influences our every action, but it must be allowed to break the surface of consciousness if life is to unfold in some approximation of its completeness. Mortality underlies relations with the self and with others and facilitates, often quite unpleasantly, the psyche's compensatory/self-regulating process which reaches its pinnacle in the capacity which Jung termed the transcendent function. I shall propose to you that the transcendent function is built on the prototypical experience of living through the threat of physical death, and is nothing short of the ego's achieved capacity to die repeatedly an ongoing series of conscious voluntary psychological deaths in the service of individuation. Further, I will propose that it is human relationship which provides the sacred space within which we learn to die and which enables the transcendent function to evolve into an operational psychological reality. Nowhere is this more true than in the analytic relationship....

In essence then, the countertransference is a living embodiment of the conscious capacity to die which, in my opinion, is synonymous with the central dynamic feature of the transcendent function. As Jung states: ‘In actual practice, therefore, the suitably trained analyst mediates the transcendent function for the patient, that is, helps him to bring conscious and unconscious together and so arrive at a new attitude. In this function of the analyst lies one of the meanings of the transference’ (Jung 6, p. 74). This process of holding through the acceptance of the self projection, stable dosing response and therapeutic dying leads from transference pathology to the eventual emergence of kinship libido which can be re-imagined as the recognition of the common fate of mortality and the empathy that results from that shared recognition. In death we can recognise our utter equality."

Peter Mudd (1990). The Dark Self: Death as a Tranferential Factor. Journal of Analytical Psychology, Vol. 35, pp. 125-141


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