Sunday, July 6, 2014

James Grotstein - The Overarching Role of Unconscious Phantasy

"In the Kleinian/Bionian way of thinking, all transactions that occur internally within the infant, between infant and mother, infant and world, and between objects in the world are represented as unconscious phantasies. All defense mechanisms themselves constitute unconscious phantasies about the interrelationship between internal objects and between them and the self. Unconscious phantasies constitute moving narrative images and arise during the prelexical hegemony of imagery (Shlain, 1998)....

Virtually everything that is mental can be thought of as related to an unconscious phantasy, e.g., body parts, the body itself, impulses, defense mechanisms, internal objects, even affects. Unconscious phantasy should be distinguished from conscious and preconscious fantasy. For instance, when an analysand, while sitting in the analyst’s waiting room just before a session, by chance overhears the analyst speaking on the phone, he or she may develop a fantasy that the analyst is trysting with his or her lover or spouse. The unconscious phantasy correlate would be that the analyst is clearly demonstrating that he or she prefers others to the analysand and is purposely humiliating the analysand by letting him or her know of the preferred presence of another person in the analyst’s life....

....Klein espoused that phantasies can either be phylogenetic or can form anew in the dynamic, repressed unconscious (by virtue of influences from the unrepressed unconscious; see above). All in all, the analysis of unconscious phantasy occupies the main portion of Kleinian/Bionian practice and thinking.

The concept of unconscious phantasy has played a central role in psychoanalytic thinking and practice almost from the beginning of psychoanalysis....Thus, he [Freud] conceived of unconscious phantasies as the mental representation of the irrupting instinctual drives, or, to put it more mystically, as the narrative incarnation of the drives.

Put succinctly, when a psychoanalyst speaks of phantasy, he or she is usually referring to unconscious phantasy. In the now famous "Controversial Discussions" in London in 1943, during the peak of the time of the troubles between Anna Freud and her followers and Melanie Klein and her followers, a gentlemen’s agreement was forged, initiated by Susan Isaacs (1952) in which she recommended that each side concurred that the term fantasy should apply to conscious or preconscious phenomena, and phantasy to strictly unconscious phenomena (King and Steiner, 1992). Kleinian analysts tend to use the concept of unconscious phantasy as the mainstay of their theory and technique, and consider it to be the sum and substance of the unconscious mental life of the internal world or of psychic reality. In other words, to them phantasy is psychic reality. Today’s ego psychologists, self psychologists, intersubjectivists, relationists, and interpersonalists, being more wedded to impinging and/or depriving reality traumas, both in the genetic past and in the current parallel process of the analysis, tend to pay less attention to unconscious phantasy. Freud (1900, p. 607) stated that dreams were the royal road to the unconscious. I believe that my Kleinian and Bionian colleagues would agree with me that dreams, i.e, phantasies, are the unconscious." (pp. 190-192)

James Grotstein (2008). The Overarching Role of Unconscious Phantasy, Psychoanalytic Inquiry, Vol. 28, pp. 190–205.

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