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Psychoanalytic Concepts and Technique in Development
Psychoanalytic Concepts and Technique in Development offers a clear and thorough overview of contemporary psychoanalytic theory and clinical technique, from a largely post-Freudian, French perspective, but also informed by the work of Klein, Bion and Winnicott. Drawing on the French tradition, Florence Guignard sets out a comprehensive guide to the major drives and concepts in classical psychoanalysis and how these are understood and employed in contemporary psychoanalytic training and practice, whilst looking ahead to the future of the discipline and drawing upon ﬁndings from related ﬁelds. Guignard explores the premise that the way psychoanalysts conceptualise their theoretical ﬁeld and technical tools conditions the way their therapeutic discipline is practised. She argues that because their main instrument for healing is their own self, it is of utmost importance to update conceptual tools to think about this. To do so, psychoanalysts can draw on the latest discoveries in related disciplines like neurosciences and physics. Topics covered in this book include • • • • •
a genealogy of the drives, the deconstruction of the Oedipus Complex in our contemporary societies, the role of the psychoanalyst’s infantile part when (s)he is at work, links between sensorial elements and elements of thinking, links between psychoanalysis, the neurosciences and physics.
Combining signiﬁcant insights with an accessible style, Psychoanalytic Concepts and Technique in Development will appeal to psychoanalytic psychotherapists and psychoanalysts of all levels. Florence Guignard is a Swiss and French psychoanalyst and member of the IPA. She is Past Chair of the IPA COCAP (Committee on Child and Adolescent Psychoanalysis) and founded the SEPEA (Société Européenne pour la Psychanalyse de l’Enfant et de l’Adolescent) in 1994.
THE NEW LIBRARY OF PSYCHOANALYSIS General Editor: Alessandra Lemma
The New Library of Psychoanalysis was launched in 1987 in association with the Institute of Psychoanalysis, London. It took over from the International Psychoanalytical Library which published many of the early translations of the works of Freud and the writings of most of the leading British and Continental psychoanalysts. The purpose of the New Library of Psychoanalysis is to facilitate a greater and more widespread appreciation of psychoanalysis and to provide a forum for increasing mutual understanding between psychoanalysts and those working in other disciplines such as the social sciences, medicine, philosophy, history, linguistics, literature and the arts. It aims to represent different trends both in British psychoanalysis and in psychoanalysis generally. The New Library of Psychoanalysis is well placed to make available to the English-speaking world psychoanalytic writings from other European countries and to increase the interchange of ideas between British and American psychoanalysts. Through the Teaching Series, the New Library of Psychoanalysis now also publishes books that provide comprehensive, yet accessible, overviews of selected subject areas aimed at those studying psychoanalysis and related fields such as the social sciences, philosophy, literature and the arts. The Institute, together with the British Psychoanalytical Society, runs a lowfee psychoanalytic clinic, organizes lectures and scientific events concerned with psychoanalysis and publishes the International Journal of Psychoanalysis. It runs a training course in psychoanalysis which leads to membership of the International Psychoanalytical Association – the body which preserves internationally agreed standards of training, of professional entry, and of professional ethics and practice for psychoanalysis as initiated and developed by Sigmund Freud. Distinguished members of the Institute have included Michael Balint, Wilfred Bion, Ronald Fairbairn, Anna Freud, Ernest Jones, Melanie Klein, John Rickman and Donald Winnicott. Previous general editors have included David Tuckett, who played a very active role in the establishment of the New Library. He was followed as general editor by Elizabeth Bott Spillius, who was in turn followed by Susan Budd and then by Dana Birksted-Breen. Current members of the Advisory Board include Giovanna Di Ceglie, Liz Allison, Anne Patterson, Josh Cohen and Daniel Pick. Previous members of the Advisory Board include Christopher Bollas, Ronald Britton, Catalina Bronstein, Donald Campbell, Rosemary Davies, Sara Flanders, Stephen Grosz, John Keene, Eglé Laufer, Alessandra Lemma, Juliet Mitchell, Michael Parsons, Rosine Jozef Perelberg, Richard Rusbridger, Mary Target and David Taylor. For a full list of all the titles in the New Library of Psychoanalysis main series as well as both the New Library of Psychoanalysis ‘Teaching’ and ‘Beyond the Couch’ subseries, please visit the Routledge website.
T H E N E W L I B R A RY O F P S Y C H OA N A LY S I S
General Editor: Alessandra Lemma
Psychoanalytic Concepts and Technique in Development Psychoanalysis, Neuroscience and Physics Florence Guignard
First published 2020 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN and by Routledge 52 Vanderbilt Avenue, New York, NY 10017 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2020 Florence Guignard The right of Florence Guignard to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. This book is a translation of a work previously published in French by Éditions Ithaque, Paris, France as Quelle psychanalyse pour le XXIème siècle? (2015). English language translation © Andrew Weller, 2020. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data A catalog record for this book has been requested ISBN: 978-0-367-18519-0 (hbk) ISBN: 978-0-367-18524-4 (pbk) ISBN: 978-0-429-19671-3 (ebk) Typeset in Bembo by Apex CoVantage, LLC
For my grandson Mitia May his journey through the 21st century be happy and full of fine discoveries
Foreword by Sparta Castoriadis and Fanny Cohen Herlem
Preface by Anna Ferruta
1 Genealogical organisation of the drives
2 The birth of psychic life
3 The question of splitting
4 An introduction to projective identification
5 Sadomasochism, a conceptual chimera
6 The epistemophilic impulse
7 From the drives to thought
8 The contemporary relevance of neurosis
9 Oedipus with or without complex
10 The adolescent Oedipus
Contents 11 The depressive and paranoid-schizoid positions revisited
12 The concept of the infantile
13 The infantile-in-the-psychoanalyst: blind spots and stopper-interpretations
Why has this book become necessary? It is in mixed waters that good fish are found. –Old French proverb
In an era when the fields of psychoanalysis and psychiatry are permeated by what is thought of as “modernity”, bringing with it a trail of new classifications based on molecules that are supposed to heal patients, practices centred on reparation, the obtention of swift results and other cost-effective measures, it is time to return to our fundamental concepts and show how these still lend themselves to rigorous and creative examination. It is time to show that psychoanalysis, which is once again decried, consists in fact of a theory and a practice that are always mobile. Faced with the advances of neuroscience, with what appear to be new pathologies (extreme pathologies, in particular), with the progressive disappearance of the latency period, with the notion of “gender”, which at first sight seems to be opposed to the difference between masculine and feminine, or with a societal phenomenon like “crazy killers”, this first volume of Which Psychoanalysis for the 21st Century? shows us just how far the concepts of psychoanalytic theory, by constantly renewing themselves, have remained operant. How? By tackling Freudian metapsychology and its aporias head on, and this is exactly what Florence Guignard sets out to do here. Referring to a range of authors belonging to different psychoanalytic spaces, she revisits the fundamental contributions of Karl Abraham,
Foreword Melanie Klein, Wilfred R. Bion and Donald Meltzer in order to examine their contemporary relevance and pertinence for clinical practice today. The choice of her references and interlocutors stems from many elective affinities and necessarily from selective affinities. Her tropism is not only Anglo-Saxon but also international. While Florence Guignard reminds us of what every psychoanalytic theory owes to an infantile sexual theory, we may also add what it owes to ideals, that is to say, to the ideal ego and the ego ideal. We are thus brought back here to the action of the epistemophilic drive and the quality of the “relation d’inconnu” or “relationship to the unknown” (Rosolato, 1978, 1999) of the patient and of the psychoanalyst. It is often said that each psychoanalyst creates and shapes his theory throughout his practice and that he may change his theoretical orientation. More than in any other “human science”, in psychoanalysis, the field observed is changed by the instrument of observation, namely, the psychoanalyst (Baranger & Baranger, 1964) psychoanalyst is both the tool as well as the object of knowledge and analytic investigation. The author of this book invites us to accompany her on this journey whose richness lies in the fact it tries to account for this “relationship to the unknown” and to give it form – a relationship, as we know, that cannot be circumscribed by theoretical/clinical ensemble. Florence Guignard carries out this necessary work of transformation and transmission of key concepts by frequently going back and forth between clinical work with children and adolescents, on one hand, and clinical work with adults on the other. By looking afresh at the Kleinian, Bionian or post-Bionian contributions – still often disregarded in France – the author shows how we can render them operant today, at a time when we are regularly confronted with mixed clinical configurations in which splitting, denial and projection linked to primary defences require specific technical attention. The structured neurosis of the Freudian era is a distant reality. Florence Guignard thus draws attention to tools of thought which make it possible to give priority to elements rather than to blocs, to identify combinations of elements in order to favour leverage points in the moving mosaic of psychic spaces. (We are brought back here once again to the Kleinian contribution which she re-explains and revisits in a kaleidoscopic vision of psychic space, with part-objects, the fragmented ego, internal and external objects and the objects of the internal objects.) Starting from the ensemble of articles she has written alone or in collaboration with others, which have been published in the international x
Foreword and French psychoanalytic literature for more than half a century now, as well as her two books, Au vif de l’Infantile (Guignard, 1996a) and Épître à l’objet (Guignard, 1997a), and at the price of a long labour of “wringing out”, Florence Guignard sets out and develops, in these two volumes, concepts that have been put to the test throughout her personal practice, supervisions and training of psychoanalysts. Among these let us mention, like as many nuggets, the infantile (l’Infantile) in the adult, the primary maternal and feminine spaces, a genealogy of the drives, the concepts of the third type, the “chimera of sadomasochism”, blind spots, and stopper-interpretations. Furthermore, she opens up the vast field of investigation of genderrelated issues in the analytic situation. She declines the infantile in the masculine and in the feminine, as well as in the movements of the countertransference. From Klein to Meltzer, via Bion, she develops her transformed vision of different key concepts, such as projective identification and the PS↔D oscillation, which open new perspectives for thinking about current clinical configurations. It is our task and pleasure today to write this foreword for Which Psychoanalysis for the 21st Century? even though we come from quite different psychoanalytic horizons to those of its author. However, motivated by our practices with children, adolescents and adults, we attended for many years the day conferences of the SEPEA1 and the weekend conferences of the GERPEN.2 Having each enjoyed a working relationship with Florence Guignard, we were invited to accompany her in this important publishing project. Filled with enthusiasm, we soon discovered the ensemble of texts available, the thematic range of which struck us as very exciting: her two books that were already published and her publications in collaboration with others, as well as various articles of hers that we had read were only the tip of an iceberg of at least two hundred papers published in French and in foreign languages. Almost four years of exchanges took place that were always fruitful, though sometimes lively due to their content. Many questions arose as we advanced in this space where familiar reference points were turned upside down to good account. The epistemophilic drive on our side and the desire for transmission on Florence Guignard’s side did their work. We hope that readers will find in this book, and in those to come, plenty of food for thought to nourish their practice. Sparta Castoriadis and Fanny Cohen Herlem3 xi
Notes 1 Société Européenne pour la Psychanalyse de L’Enfant et de l’Adolescent. 2 Groupe d’Études et de Recherches Psychanalytiques pour le Développement de l’Enfant et du Nourrisson. 3 Sparta Castoriadis is an adult and child psychiatrist. She has worked as a doctor in residence in various hospitals in Paris and its suburbs, notably the Dutot Centre. Her particular area of interest is the development of psychotic children who live in institutions. She works as a psychoanalyst in private practice. Fanny Cohen Herlem is an adult and child psychiatrist, a psychoanalyst and psychotherapist. She is a specialist in problems of adoption and work promoting child protection. She is an expert at the Paris Court of Justice and Counsellor for the Charity Trust International Social Service (ISS). She has written several books on her activities.
Here we have a book that is rather like an epic narrative. For the author’s project is no less than to weave a solid and harmonious weft which, by combining a Darwinian vision of the development of the human being, in continuous transformation and interaction with his environment, with a clear and lucid conceptual structure, retraces and rewrites the constitutive aspirations and mechanisms of psychoanalytic metapsychology. Moving with agility and pleasure between these two dimensions, Florence Guignard has thus accomplished with her book Which Psychoanalysis for the 21st Century? an immense work and has succeeded in writing a text that reminds us of the Moebius strip or Crick and Watson’s double helix, both of which seek to combine the dynamic complexity of biology and the functional creativity of living thought. The result is a conceptual fabric of rare beauty. Each time we think that we have finally forged a definite and definitive idea of Florence Guignard’s thinking, a process of a dynamic nature forces us to call it into question. Admittedly, the Freudian concept of the “drive” is the element which, from the introduction right through to the conclusion of her book, structures her thinking. The author restores its original Freudian valency, its “oneiric” etymology, the drive being understood as something “which pushes” or, alternatively, “the pressure of which . . . is constant, contrary to the cyclical functioning of physiological needs. . . . [For the] human being is essentially an evolving organism that can benefit from the negative aspects of his existence, his suffering and his disquiet in order to develop himself, discover, invent and create and, in so doing, help his species evolve” (p. 4). The essential feature that emerges regarding the drive is its
Preface evolving character which sets in motion a complex dynamic both within and outside the human being: “Throughout his existence”, she writes, “the human being searches for the dynamic equilibrium of his instinctual drive economy with the help of his objects, external first and then, internalised very quickly, internal objects that he cathects and with which he identifies” (p. 51). Carried along by this “complex attractor”, Florence Guignard reviews the psychoanalytic conceptualisations of mental functioning which, she thinks, have evolved, been amplified and elaborated out of their original Freudian matrix. The attention given to these concepts offers us, chapter after chapter, a precise panorama of the themes which the author, both from a theoretical and clinical point of view, has worked on all her life. The concept of the drive is not only the driving motor of this book, but also a port of call conducive to original in-depth contributions: the tension between the object of desire and the object of satisfaction organises the human psychical apparatus which has the task of keeping alive the conflict between the immediate reduction of instinctual drive tension and the more mediated search for pleasure through various stages extending from hallucinatory fulfilment to the achievement of sublimation, including the path of concrete realisation. She writes: The instinctual drive comes from the inside – and not from the outer world. It exerts constant and vectorised pressure that is never exhausted by satisfaction. It strives to unite with one or several other drive elements, internal to the subject or internal to the object towards which the drive orients itself in order to obtain satisfaction. In optimal conditions, it is capable of transforming itself in almost infinite ways while preserving its original force. (p. 13) Florence Guignard’s conceptualisation is dynamic and complex in that she seeks to maintain a state of tension between rootedness in the experiences of the body and flights into the most imaginary constructions, the specificity of individual singularity and universal descriptive categories and the inevitable necessity of renouncing possession of the object and the ever-renewed quest for something other. Far from proposing a linear vision of psychic development, from the most simple to the most complex, from the isolated individual to relationships, she remains perfectly conscious of the fact xiv
Preface that the mother/infant pair constitutes, from the outset, a terrain of transformation of sexual quality that will contribute fundamentally to the organisation of the infant’s ego: the primary and secondary, individual and relational and sexual and affective spheres are intertwined in a theoretical fabric whose threads are firmly held by Florence Guignard. She thus shows how post-Freudian psychoanalysis links knowledge about the sexual drives with that of the ego-drives, highlighting the importance of the transformative function of the first object of cathexis, the mother. In particular, Florence Guignard studies closely certain concepts on the functioning of the psychical apparatus to whose reinterpretation she has contributed in an original way, reviewing and making use of the contributions of certain fundamental post-Freudian authors such as Jean Laplanche, Melanie Klein, Donald Winnicott or Wilfred R. Bion, who drew attention to the oneness and relational valency of the human being, the tension between himself and the other, his independence with regard to satisfaction, and his use of renunciation and psychic suffering to develop other selves and other worlds. Thus, after an important introduction on the genealogical organisation of the drives in which she tries to offer a general overview, Florence Guignard leads us to the heart of her most alert and brilliant conceptualisations. The spaces of the “primary maternal” and of the “primary feminine” are indicated as sites of the birth of psychic life, a terrain in which the primal phantasies take form – that of the castration of intra-uterine life (for the maternal) and that of the primal scene for the feminine – which the mother’s activity of reverie can help to transform into thinking. Florence Guignard contends that a psychoanalytic theory of thinking has its rightful place alongside neuronal theories, for example concerning the transition from the activity of perception to apperception. The function of the development of thought, for which the analyst is responsible, is described in all its specificity, which is more structural than related to its contents. She writes: It is the analyst’s task to try to mobilise these pivotal points by means of his analytic technique. A pivotal point exists between a paranoidschizoid and a fusional vision of the world, on one hand, and a depressive and oedipal vision, on the other – between a narcissistic blurring of subject/object and an area of play creating sufficient distance between subject and object to permit the accommodation xv
Preface that is necessary for discovering and accepting the existence of an unknown dimension in both of them. (p. 33) The conceptual pair sadism/masochism is deconstructed and presented in new terms. For Florence Guignard, sadomasochism is a “conceptual chimera”, and the three fundamental configurations of the human being are concomitant expressions of an evolving psychic functioning: sadomasochism, epistemophilic impulse and symbolisation. In sadism, she perceives a trace of the biological tendency towards integration present in the newborn baby: primary sadism is considered as an act of violence aimed at taking possession of living and inanimate objects, internal and external. It thus belongs to the instruments the newborn baby requires for constructing part-objects, given the vital urgency for him of introjecting elements of the good object and of getting rid of those of the bad object. She writes: Now if he is too terrified by his own sadism and if he defends himself against it excessively and prematurely, the young child will not be able to develop his own inner mental life because he will not venture to incorporate the elements of external reality to nourish his ego. (p. 75) Such considerations are valuable for us both from a clinical and social point of view: they help us understand the value of primary sadism as a mode of psychic organisation linked to the life and death drives as well as to encountering an object/mother who is also capable of being sadistic in a destructive way. In a certain way, we can say that the author gets to grips here with the concept of primary sadism and enriches it outside the shadow of adult perverse sadism, which, on the contrary, is seen as a struggle against discovering the otherness of the object, and therefore against its inevitable loss. In this reflection on primary sadism, we notice Florence Guignard’s capacity to avoid any kind of naively developmental or adultomorphic discourse, that is to say, she is careful not to attribute the characteristics of adult perversity to the child. On the contrary, she understands perfectly the omnipresent simultaneity of the unconscious processes that permeate psychic functioning at each developmental stage and at every age. xvi
Preface The same may be said of masochism, in whose functioning Florence Guignard sees the negative of the epistemophilic impulse, which only develops on the condition of meeting in the mother’s desire an echo and mirror seeking to discover in the infant what is unknown. She writes: Thus, masochism may be defined in all cases as the negative counterpart of the epistemophilic impulse, that is to say, as –K. It will play its role of protecting the fantasised illusion of fusion with a good object by repudiating reality when it is too threatening or too painful and attacks too violently the quality “it’s good, I can swallow it” of the first object of cathexis . . . From this point of view, it may be considered that masochism constitutes the defence par excellence against the unbinding required by the setting-up of the reality principle. (pp. 91–92) The clinical implications that Florence Guignard presents are of great interest: the masochist cheerfully sacrifices the development of his ego, permitting the object to firmly maintain his or her role of domination, while the sadistic pervert seeks, whatever the cost may be, to avoid despair. She suggests that in the masochistic patient the links of the feminine with the epistemophilic impulse are more utilisable, allowing for more favourable prospects in analysis. But where Florence Guignard is on her most fertile ground is in the chapters on “the infantile” (l’Infantile), a concept she has introduced into psychoanalytic theory and in which she ventures without allowing herself to be held back by the snares and clarifications of the theorisations of our major authors. She puts forward the premise that the analytic setting does not only favour, in the patient and the analyst alike, the emergence of representation but also that of regression. She highlights the importance of the Freudian discovery of infantile sexuality, which is often silenced or diminished within a reductive vision of the impacts of the relations between the mother and the child. She writes: The revolution resulting from the Freudian discovery of infantile sexuality does not reside in the fact that children can find instinctual pleasure in feeding at the breast and in the excretory functions or even in the fact that these pleasures continue to have their place in the sexual organisation of the adult. The real scandal of this discovery lies in the genital significance of these organ pleasures and of these first cathexes of the subject’s own body and the body of xvii
Preface others. It is therefore important to recall first and foremost that, in the Freudian discovery of infantile sexuality, the sexual comes first and contains genital impulses from the outset. (p. 131) Florence Guignard considers that the analyst of our time must also learn to listen to the unrepresentable and conceive the unconscious not only as a container of the repressed but also as an organiser of the ego-drives. “Currently”, she writes, “it seems logical to consider the basic mechanisms of splitting and the secondary functions of splitting as exerting simultaneously their regulation of psychic contents, according to the model of the ‘double spiral’ proposed by the representation of DNA” (p. 135). Herein lies the originality of Florence Guignard’s thought: in psychic functioning, as well as in the dynamics of the session, various levels of functionality are deployed simultaneously, and in the field created by the analytic setting, it is with unpredictable force that the infantilein-the-patient and the infantile-in-the-analyst emerge, giving rise to blind spots and stopper-interpretations. Based on knowledge gained from research into the primary relations between mother and child, and taking account of the transformations in social life, Florence Guignard argues that, even if the classical model of neurosis retains its validity, it is logical to “dethrone neurosis from its central place”. New theoretical and technical elaborations are necessary if we are to respond to pathological manifestations linked, for example, to the vast fields of identity, the feminine and the maternal. The infantile benefits from an authentic autonomy where neurosis is concerned: the aspects of the transference are so numerous, various, mobile and linked to the countertransference that it has become necessary to consider the narcissistic organisation as internal to the transference situation. Florence Guignard thus affirms the specificity and omnipresence of the infantile in the human being, which is located both outside time as well as within the unique history of his childhood. She accords a privileged place to the infantile as an “avant-coup”1 in the history of the subject, the locus of his first and unrepresentable instinctual drive emergences, of his primal phantasies and of his sensory-motor experiences giving birth to memory traces. In the light of the idea of the omnipresence of the infantile – it is encountered in each phase of development and during each session – certain psychoanalytic dimensions acquire a much more extensive valency, xviii
Preface for instance free-floating attention which favours the permeability of the analyst’s unconscious and exposes him (or her) to the impact of excitations arising from the infantile-in-the-patient. Another example is the question of the end of analysis, which does not imply the dissolution of these aspects of the unconscious communication of the infantile. This requires a capacity in the analyst to utilise the boundaries of his ego as a container for his own infantile. Throughout this complex double helix process, Florence Guignard is careful to draw attention to the fact that the psychoanalytic concepts of which she is speaking, ranging from that of projective identification to those of the infantile and the Oedipus complex, are asymptotic concepts which do not saturate the field of functioning of the psychical apparatus; on the contrary, they encourage us to reconsider our models in the light of changes in pathologies, society and research. An excellent example of the importance of this work is the analysis that the author makes of a key concept, accepted by all the theoretical models, namely projective identification. Illustrating its multiple valencies, she frees it from habits linked to its schematic and mortifyingly reductive application and opens up its potential fruitfulness as an intrinsically relational concept. She writes: The extreme complexity of psychic events lies not only in this plurality of spaces and objects, nor even in the combination of this plurality with the unequal nature of the strength and of the respective phases of projection and introjection. It also depends specifically on the plurality of meanings that are conveyed by each of the projective and introjective drive movements towards each of the spaces of the self and of the external world. For none of these meanings is univocal, and at the unconscious level, they each have the compelling concreteness of fantasy, an emotion that has just emerged from raw sensory data, an infra-symbolic proto-thought . . . in the realm of primary processes and thing-presentations. Thus, projective identification may be considered as the concept that introduces intersubjectivity. (p. 56) Throughout this volume, the author helps us to understand the importance of not crystallising or idealising concepts that have the virtue of describing the psychic functioning of the human being, that is to say the field of living things with its relational exchanges that are xix
Preface indispensable for life and development. And it is precisely because of its living and vibrant complexity that it has dawned on me that the title that corresponds best to the complex and arduous enterprise of this book could be, quite simply, The Story of a Psychoanalyst. Anna Ferruta2
Notes 1 Translator’s note: while the concept of après-coup may be said to refer to the retroactive effects of subsequent events on earlier ones, the term avantcoup refers to the impact of earlier events on later experiences or states of mind. 2 Anna Ferruta is a psychoanalyst and full member of the Italian Society of Psychoanalysis (SPI), where she is the Head of the National Institute of Training. She was formerly the Scientific Secretary of the Milan Centre of Psychoanalysis Cesare Musatti and of the SPI, and a member of the Monitoring and Advisory Board of the International Journal of Psychoanalysis. She has also taught at the Universities of Pavia and Milan-Bicocca. She is the author of many books and papers, many of which have been translated into French.
I would like to thank Alessandra Lemma for accepting to publish my book in her prestigious “New Library of Psychoanalysis” series. It is an honour for me to feature in it once again, though this time as the sole author of the publication. I also wish to express my thanks to the three bilingual colleagues who kindly took the trouble to read my book in French and to give a critical review of it, thereby opening the path towards its publication in English. A warm thank-you, also, to Ana de Staal, the director of the Editions Ithaque in Paris, who kindly agreed to transfer her rights to Routledge for the English publication of my book first published in French in 2015. I would also like to express a warm thank-you to Andrew Weller for having put his remarkable skills, rigour and long experience in the service of the translation of my book. I have learnt a great deal through our collaboration. Many thanks, also, to Charles Bath, of Routledge, for having guided me through the maze of the instructions for authors and for doing everything in his power to facilitate the speedy publication of this book. Finally, I would like to express my deep gratitude to Thierry Bokanowski, without whom this fine project would never have seen the light of day.
Psychoanalysis and neuroscience: Molièresque causality Is it still possible to write about psychoanalysis today without being considered as the historian of a past era, from the point of view both of therapeutics and of scientific research? The remarkable development of neuroscience is opening up new perspectives for the empirical observations already made by clinical psychology and psychoanalysis provided, that is that the healthy upheaval in our habits of thinking that results from these discoveries does not create an overly impermeable defensive barrier against the excitation caused by the change in our Weltanschauung. We have two options for overcoming this existential malaise: either we refute the truth of these new findings which disturb our old ways of thinking too much or we dump the questions we have that are linked to the earlier state of our knowledge, and we use this music of the future as the sole causality of the order of the world, sweeping away all the discoveries made before in the field in question and in the related fields. As a clinical psychologist trained in the rigorous methods of scientific research in the manner of Jean Piaget or André Rey, I have directed multidisciplinary research projects within the framework of the Swiss National Science Foundation, and my psychoanalytic education did not lead me to lose either my interest in scientific research or my critical mind concerning the pseudo-links of “short causality” long ago derided by Molière,1 pseudo-links that reassure narrow minds and work in the interests of pharmaceutical companies. The need to understand is the flagship of the human species. But the anxiety related to not knowing disturbs even the most sturdy of characters and induces a regression of individual psychic functioning 1
Introduction to a less subtle and more simplistic mode which we all possess in our range of functioning and which is a feature of group mentality (Bion, 1961). An integral part of group psychology (Freud, 1921), this group mentality nourishes itself on human suffering and its correlate: the indestructible hope of finding a simple means of eradicating it without having either to call oneself into question or to furnish too much effort in understanding all the factors involved. The extreme complexity of the somatic, neuronal and psychic development of the human species favours this tendency to run towards what one has understood concerning the latest available discovery, to throw out everything that is no longer fashionable and to forget, in so doing, the immensity of the unknown field that remains to be explored. The instantaneous dissemination of information that is made possible by today’s digital society necessitates in turn a rigorous methodology in order to make a never-ending selection between what is true, false and unknown. Historically, such a selection has been difficult, and even hazardous. It is permanently subject to the fear of change, a rich terrain of beliefs that are easy to cultivate by those who give priority to power over the search for truth. My charismatic figure in this domain is Galileo (1564–1642), who laid the foundations of modern physics: because he defended heliocentrism, this brilliant scientist was obliged to recant to avoid being burnt at the stake along with his work. If, as the legend has it, he exclaimed: “Eppur, si muove”,2 he must have murmured the words in petto. . . The recent discovery of the Higgs boson3 has provided physicists with confirmation of the immensity of a field of research where the frontier between the material and the immaterial is erased. We are also in the era of the discovery of very strange neurons, the so-called mirror neurons, which have the characteristic of projecting towards motor zones the description of a complex action elaborated in visual areas (Rizzolati, 2006). They therefore allow the observer to really experience what he perceives. They also play an important role in the activity of imitation and in learning processes based on this imitation in association with the prefrontal lobe, where elementary motor acts, coded by the mirror system, are combined, producing new motor configurations. And yet, while such a synergy of neuronal activity provides information about “what” the actor does and “why” he does it, functional magnetic resonance imaging remains incapable of providing any information about the “underlying mechanisms” of such activities, and in particular about the “emotional contents”. Mirror neurons 2
Introduction have also been identified in other cerebral zones such as the anterior insula and the anterior cingulate cortex, known for the role they play in empathy and in the emotions, particularly pain due to loss and feelings of disgust. Their discovery provides support for Condillac’s4 theory on the gestural origin of speech. Thanks to these neurons, what counts for the emitter of the message also counts for the receiver in the absence of cognitive mediation. It has also been discovered that autistic children suffer from an anomaly at the level of mirror neurons (Ansermet & Giacobino, 2012). What’s more, these same mirror neurons seem to be involved in measurable chemical epigenetic modifications left in certain genes involved in the neurotransmission or reactivity to stress by a prolonged traumatic situation (violence, abuse, etc.). “Such traces are transmitted and observable over three generations at least in the form of chemical modifications of the genome, affecting its expression without modifying the DNA sequence” (Giacobino, 2013). Some investigators have put forward hypotheses concerning the subsequent vulnerability of subjects bearing these epigenetic marks to psychic disorders or other conditions owing to the change in the functioning of these genes. All these discoveries should nourish our passion for seeking and discovering links between soma and psyche. Unfortunately, they are too often used to evacuate the complexity of the field studied. It is asserted that, because we can now observe the functioning of the neuronal connections of an individual who suffers from guilt, depression, attention disorders or schizophrenia, it is sufficient to administer drugs that are supposed to suppress these symptoms and the disturbance they cause (for the individual but above all for the surrounding society), while waiting until progress in neurosurgery is capable of restoring order to the supposedly defective connections in our neurons. Throwing the baby out with the bathwater, any kind of therapeutic approach that seeks to unravel psychic conflicts by means of psychoanalytic investigation is repudiated, because a material space in the neuronal connections that can be attributed to the unconscious has not been discovered. Admittedly, recent studies on implicit memory (Mancia, 2004) could make the amygdala and the hippocampus good potential candidates as seats of the emotions, but old residues of materialism resist recognising any sort of scientific value in immaterial tools such as speech and dreams, not to mention intuition and infraverbal communication, even though they are among the specific characteristics of the animal kingdom. 3
Introduction Materialism versus Darwinism? In the era of quantum physics (Klein, E., 2013) we can no longer permit ourselves to confuse materiality and the veracity of the evidence. But human anxiety does not wait. It is so pressing that we are powerless to relieve it on a lasting basis, due to the very fact that it arises from a force, the drive, the pressure of which, as Sigmund Freud discovered, is constant, contrary to the cyclical functioning of physiological needs. Anxiety is specific to humans. It drives us forward and holds us back when faced with danger; it is the ferment both of our discoveries and of our neuroses and psychoses. Capable of both the best and the worst, when it takes hold of us to the point that we panic, it drives us to act at any price. The problem is precisely this price that has to be paid for relieving anxiety. Now that with hindsight we have discovered with some consternation the damage caused by medicaments that inhibit attention disorders (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and Deficits in Attention, Motor Control and Perception) on the neuronal connections of our descendants (Salomonsson, 2006), old therapeutic methods have been revamped and updated with the aim of relieving the anxiety of our contemporaries. Referred to as “short therapies”, a common feature is that they promise cure in a few weeks by learning to consciously “manage” emotions and human relations. Following the “short causality” mentioned earlier, the public is assured that these variables, albeit very complex, can be modified by conscious will alone, subject, it is true, to the enlightened advice of various forms of “coaching” which, first and foremost, are lucrative for those who practise them. The success of such undertakings is based on the fact that they knowingly evacuate the complexity of human psychic functioning, in particular, the fact that the major part of this functioning occurs unconsciously, that is to say, without our knowing it. Their weak point is that they have not understood that the human being is essentially an evolving organism that can benefit from the negative aspects of his existence, his suffering and his disquiet in order to develop himself, discover, invent and create and, in so doing, help his species evolve.
Human sexuality in the light of psychoanalytic discoveries The human species has undergone a specific and complex development starting with the advent of verticality and the bipedalism of anthropoids: Homo erectus. Contemporaneous with the dissociation 4
Introduction between sexual activity and the oestrus designed for reproduction, this verticality presided over the entire development of our species, in particular, the development of the cranial cavity and the progressive specification of the zones of the higher nervous system, the brain. Activities of representation, language, and its transcription by means of writing, which has ensured its long-term viability, all led not only the “primal horde” (Freud, 1912–1913) to move towards various states of civilisation, but also the individual – who over the course of the millennia became Homo sapiens sapiens – to transform his relationship with his social group. By studying history, we can find the sociological vicissitudes of this dissociation which is subject to the primary sexual instinct: abductions, rapes and murders accompany the conquests of territory as barbaric testimonies to this primary force that is sexuality. Since the dawn of time, myths, art and literature have accounted for the importance of sexuality in the individual and the collective destinies of humanity. It fell to Freud to discover the role and mode of functioning of the drive in individual psychic development and the essentially unconscious quality of the influence of the latter on the behaviour and the relationships of the human being. Based on his observations, he created a method that made it possible not only to observe but also to treat conflicts arising from the various forms of dysfunctioning of these drive impulses in the human psychic organisation. As there is no quantifiable way of measuring unconscious phenomena, the evaluation and therapy of the psychic organisation of a subject can only be carried out by means of an instrument that is almost equivalent to it, namely another psyche. The psychoanalytic method thus evolves in an extremely complex field, whose parameters can be defined but whose functioning is always in movement. This dynamic opens out on to the richness and diversity of the emotions, thoughts and acts of our species. Psychoanalytic technique requires precise rules and a rigorous setting. The psychoanalyst undertakes to abstain from deriving any kind of personal, material, sexual or social advantage from the transference situation of his patient beyond reasonable fees that enable him to live. Thus, psychoanalysis refers to the whole history of human sexuality. As the latter is constantly developing and metamorphosing in interaction with the profound changes in the social and economic structures affecting the individuals who make up a given society, we are entitled 5
Introduction to ask ourselves what the future of its influence will be in the course of this new millennium.
The drives and their objects In the article “Psychoanalysis” published in the thirteenth edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, Freud (1926b) points out that theoretical speculation suggests that there exist two fundamental instincts “which lie concealed behind the manifest ego-instincts and object-instincts”. He describes the libido as the instinct which strives for an ever-closer union, whereas the instinct of destruction leads towards the “dissolution of what is living” (p. 265). In attempting to define the drive (S.E. instinct), it is worth recalling that, in spite of numerous and learnt exegeses on the translation of the German words Trieb and Instinkt into both English and French, the entanglement of the biological and psychological spheres continues, fortunately, to resist a simplifying Manichaeism which seeks to consecrate the term drive and to reject that of instinct. The blurring of language expresses very precisely the “mixture of waters” in these two terms, both of which describe a frontier or boundary concept that pertains as much to the logic of the conscious mind as to that of the unconscious mind (Matte Blanco, 1975). This blurring corresponds to the naturally unstable state of a process of constant transformation: water ↔ steam and even water ↔ ice in certain forms of schizophrenia. It was in “A Project for a Scientific Psychology” that Freud (1950 ) discovered the functional specificity of the drive, which he never called into question thereafter: while excitation due to sensory perception is experienced by the subject as intermittent and originating “from the outside”, excitation due to the drive is experienced as a constant pressure that comes “from the inside”. As early as the first topography and the first drive theory, sexuality lies beyond the exclusive register of the “needs” of the oestrus. In discovering infantile sexuality – and thus desire – Freud (1905) placed all the objects of satisfaction under the aegis of the various components of the sexual drive. It is the tension that exists between the object of desire and the object of satisfaction that organises the human psychical apparatus, a neo-formed organ that has the task of governing the conflict between the immediate reduction of instinctual drive tension and a more mediated quest for pleasure that is transformed in the process, ranging from hallucinatory fulfilment to sublimatory fulfilment, 6
Introduction including materialised fulfilment. Certainly, the unconscious operators applied to the object of the drive with the aim of reaching it, mourning it (Freud, 1917b; Klein, 1935, 1940) or separating from it, have been extensively studied and described both by Freud (1915c, 1915d, 1915e; 1927b) and by his continuators (Freud, A., 1936). And yet, apart from the major categories of psychopathology or a simple account of an analytic treatment, the nature of the compromise between the object of desire and the object of satisfaction has not been sufficiently theorised for a long time. It was necessary to wait for Wilfred R. Bion’s (1962b) developments on “transformation” in his theory of thinking to approach the question at the level of what I shall call “psychic microprocesses”. Any attempt to tackle the question from a more global angle comes up against an aporia constituted by the intertwining of two operations of après-coup: that of the functioning of the infantile (l’Infantile) of the subject in the management of his desire and that of the secondarised adult representation of this infantile functioning.
The broad outlines of psychic functioning Considered from the psychoanalytic point of view, the history of normal psychic development was slow to emerge in Europe (Kestemberg & Kestemberg, 1966) by contrast with what happened in the United States (Hartmann, 1939). European psychoanalysis willingly dwells in the mixed waters of psychiatry and psychopathology, fearing legitimately the danger of falling into a normalising behaviourist conception that would suffocate the instinctual drive dynamics of its thought. Starting from this historical fact, it is perhaps easier today to break down the ensembles that depend partly on a description arising from psychiatric psychopathology and partly on its more specifically psychoanalytic offshoots, with the aim of identifying the elementary movements of which they are composed. Such an approach requires us to devote a great deal of attention to it and to define more rigorously the concepts to which we are referring. It is from this perspective that I have taken up again the question of the basic defence mechanisms, in particular, that of splitting, and furthermore that I have turned my interest not only towards the Freudian concepts of neurosis and the Oedipus complex but also towards the post-Freudian concepts of “positions” and of projective identification. I have done this from a perspective that is dear to me, namely that of concepts I refer to as 7
Introduction being “of the third type”, because they present the features of mobility and reversibility that are characteristic of the description of an entity as mobile as psychic reality. I have also tried to deconstruct one of the unavoidable crossroads of both psychopathology and psychic development, namely the chimerical concept of sadomasochism. The concept of neurosis is consubstantial with Freud’s entire work. Rather than reflecting on the current modifications of its nosography, I have set myself the task of following the movements of Nachträglichkeit that are specific to it and which, in reality, govern the economy and the dynamics of all psychic functioning, even if non-neurotic. The declension of the child’s process of individuation through a triangulation of his relations was also one of Freud’s strokes of genius. The universality of the Oedipus complex has given rise to numerous studies, in particular at the junction of psychoanalysis and anthropology (Juillerat, 1991). In this book I question the future of this universality in the light of the profound structural changes that have taken place in our Western society. Here, too, it is essential to determine precisely the situation of the observer: a structure can become obsolete while essential elements of which it is composed survive. The reference, whether explicit or implicit, to the child and to the infantile is omnipresent throughout Freud’s work and that of his continuators, all tendencies taken into account. Indeed, the child and the infantile are intrinsically bound up with three central discoveries of metapsychology and psychoanalytic technique: infantile sexuality, infantile neurosis and its homologue, the transference neurosis. More than a century after the publication of Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, and at a time when virulent new attacks are once again calling into question the validity of psychoanalytic technique and the theoretical apparatus on which it is based, it is important for psychoanalysts themselves to be able to take stock of the principal concepts of their discipline and to identify not only their invariants but also the changes, for, quite clearly, the status and mode of functioning of infantile sexuality in human psychic development and in its psychopathology are not exactly the same today as in 1905. Such a position also requires us to try to give shape to those parts of the theory which, having been put to the test of clinical analysis, have shown their weakness or their inadequacy. I am thinking, for example, of the question of female sexuality (Guignard, 1995b; Bokanowski & Guignard, 2002) and of the effects of groupality on the functioning of the individual (Bion, 1961; Kaës, 1993, 2015). 8
Introduction Psychoanalytic theory should not be considered as an unmoveable rock but, rather, as a set of models, the conceptual configurations of which it is important to call into question and constantly re-describe not only by the yardstick of advances in the method and modifications of the technique but also in the light of the anthropological and sociological changes that have occurred since the birth of our discipline. The first volume of this book examines these models in movement, thereby paving the way for the second volume, which will be devoted more directly to analytic technique in relation to three major axes: transferences, traumas and the question of identity.
Notes 1 Sganarelle: “That’s precisely the reason why your daughter is mute” (Molière (1666) Le Médecin malgré lui, Act 2 Scene 4). 2 Translator’s note “And yet, it does move”. 3 Boson: a microparticle which gives the elementary particles in its presence non-zero mass, thereby differentiating the latter from photons, elementary particles of pure energy. Several astrophysicists, including Higgs, had put forward the hypothesis in 1964, and on 4 July 2012, the astrophysicists of the European Organisation of Nuclear Research in Geneva, known as CERN, succeeded in isolating it. 4 Translator’s note: French philosopher and epistemologist (1714–1780).
1 GENEALOGICAL ORGANISATION OF THE DRIVES
If the concept of the drive has a central position in psychoanalysis, it is because it concerns each hour of the clinical work of its practitioners. In fact, the evaluation of the instinctual drive tension of the link between the analyst and the analysand is both indispensable and fraught with obstacles owing to the complexity of the transference/ countertransference situation. As a frontier concept, the drive owes its richness to this very situation: the emergence of the drive in the analytic session, whether as a crest line or fault line, will make the picture that the analyst has of the landscape of the “analytic field” (Baranger and Baranger, 1964) topple over into a perpetual movement, like one of Escher’s drawings. What can be said about it will contain both the perception of an impulse (motion) and its contrary. The same may be said of its aim, which is not to be confused either with its purpose or with its aetiology but concerns the reduction of tension: the more rudimentary the means employed are, the swifter the momentary reduction of tension will be, and the more imperious the compulsion to repeat will be too, as can be seen in pornography or war. Here we find ourselves on the less “psychic” side of the concept of the drive, on the side of repetition of the act, prior to the trace. When, for economic reasons, analyst and analysand both participate in an error of perspective, an unconscious consensus can then easily occur – a “community of denial”, as Michel Fain (1982) would have said. It is this economic situation that I conceptualise under the term blind spot: where psychic work should take place, the topical regression specific to the analytic process may give rise to tension 10
Genealogical organisation of the drives that is so unbearable that it urgently calls for discharge. The analyst is then tempted to intervene, with the conscious motive of reducing the analysand’s suffering while, at the unconscious level, both protagonists of the treatment converge in a movement of evacuating elements of thought (Bion, 1957). For example, if the analytic situation mobilises instinctual drive energy that increases as a result of being caught in the topographical regression induced in the repetition of an infantile conflict, a reduction of tension in this area will turn the topographical regression into an end in itself rather than being an element of the analytic setting. Two reasons can be found for this flight from thought in the analytic pair: first, the cathartic dimension of analysis, that is the question of the urgency of reducing anxiety, and, second, the historical dimension of analysis, that is the question of the referents of repetition, recollected for supposedly elaborative purposes. The unconscious wish to quickly reduce instinctual drive tension mobilises the various levels of psychic functioning in the two protagonists of the analysis. Sorely tested by the analytic process, the relations between the agencies – id, ego, superego – and particularly the relations between the logic of the conscious mind and that of the unconscious mind, are ready to do anything in order to lower the instinctual drive tension. Movements of representation can be seen emerging that range from “reverie” (Bion, 1962b) to “negative hallucination” (Green, 1977), as well as reversals in these relations between the ego and its objects, both internal and external. As a prelude to a more detailed study of these movements, I would like to dwell here on the observation of the relations that obtain between the logic of the conscious mind and that of the unconscious mind. These relations can only be heterogeneous; at best they are conflictual, but they are more often paradoxical and subject to splitting. Moreover, their very paradoxicality is extremely fruitful for analytic work. Let us recall, for memory’s sake, the chief characteristics of the logic of the unconscious, a theme in which a number of authors have shown interest since Freud (1915e), in particular, Wilfred R. Bion (1962b), Ignacio Matte Blanco (1975), and Michel Neyraut (1978). The logic of the unconscious is unaware of contradiction, hence the absence of negation; it treats asymmetrical relations as if they were symmetrical, hence the absence of temporal/spatial succession; it is unaware of organisational and hierarchical interconnections linking the part and the whole, the beginning and the end, hence its functioning in infinite 11
Genealogical organisation of the drives loops. Its activity is simultaneous with that of the logic of the Cs. and the field of tension created between these two logics constitutes an analogon of the field linking unconscious phantasies with dream-thought. Their relations take place in the mode of what René Roussillon (1995) has referred to as a “hiatus”. A hiatus, then, may be observed between an unconscious containing repressed material and a primal unconscious, a hiatus between what is thinkable and what is unthinkable/ suitable for being evacuated, a hiatus between what can be symbolised and pertains to repression and what cannot be symbolised and which is merely subject to splitting and, finally, a hiatus between a splitting of the ego and of the objects whose primary functionality announces that of secondary repression and a splitting of the ego resulting in foreclosure. Recognising the existence of a logic of the unconscious makes it possible to go beyond the conscious/unconscious Manichaeism that is superimposed most of the time on the opposition logical/illogical. Such recognition returns its normality to paradox, a mode of functioning very boldly described by Diderot (1784), who makes the comedian the emblematic figure of the human being and of the irreducibly contradictory links that unite his emotions with their secondarised expression. In our binary civilisation, it is a matter of urgency to recall that, contrary to the formatting of artificial intelligence, human psychic functioning will always suffer from its ignorance of the “remainder” that is implied by every Manichaean operation of splitting.
Instincts, drives and the unconscious As a frontier concept between the biological and the psychical, the drive may be considered as the dynamic of the instinct. Illustrating the continual movement of the psyche, the frontier between the two is porous and osmotic. We can form an idea of it similar to that which Freud gave of sublimation: the relations of the drives to instinct may be compared to the point at which water is transformed into steam. The relations of the drives with the unconscious and with repression are complex, especially when considered in terms of the second topography and Freud’s second drive theory. Thereafter, the concept of the unconscious is no longer limited only to the psychic space of the repressed but also includes the locus, mechanisms and processes of the evolution of everything that constitutes the psyche: even when they are never formulated, the drives, wishes, emotions and thought in statu nascendi are henceforth part of it. 12
Genealogical organisation of the drives The instinctual drive comes from the inside – and not from the outer world. It exerts constant and vectorised pressure that is never exhausted by satisfaction. It strives to unite with one or several other drive elements, internal to the subject or internal to the object towards which the drive orients itself in order to obtain satisfaction. In optimal conditions, it is capable of transforming itself in almost infinite ways while preserving its original force. Starting from this mysterious power of transformation based on the intrinsic quality of the drive to cathect an object with the aim of finding other drive elements in it, Freud (1924b), in “The Economic Problem of Masochism”, provides us with a key that allows us to go further in the recognition of the structural, functional and relational characteristics of the drive. That is the subject of this chapter.
The constant pressure of the drive It was in the “Project for a Scientific Psychology” that Freud (1950 ) discovered the functional specificity of the drives. This essay, “for Fliess’s private use”, is contemporaneous with the Studies on Hysteria (Freud & Breuer, 1895), a theoretical and clinical work “for public usage”: today it can be considered as its complement insofar as it contains everything that Freud had not dared to make public concerning his intuitions of the moment. For example, while, in the Studies on Hysteria, he characterises the effects of intermittent excitation due to sensory perception, felt to originate in the outside, he discovers in the “Project” that the excitation due to the drive results in constant pressure which is felt to originate from the inside of human mental functioning. Although his definitions of sensory perception have not really left their mark on the history of mental functioning, it is striking to note that, throughout the subsequent recastings of his theorisations, Freud never disavowed this specificity of the functioning of the drive. He first discovered the libidinal aspect and then, equally, the destructive aspect of the constant pressure of the drives to which the human being is subject.
Principles and processes of drive functioning Seeking to describe the nature of the compromises that the human being is led to make between the internal pressure of his drives and the environment in which he lives, Freud (1911) ventured a formulation 13
Genealogical organisation of the drives that has the defects of its qualities: he distinguishes between two principles that govern the course of mental events: one concerns the pleasure/unpleasure axis and the other the axis of “reality”. Later, he was to add a third, the “principle of Nirvana”. Furthermore, on the basis of his impressive work of self-analysis and the richness of his research on dreams and hysteria, Freud makes a significant distinction between two sorts of processes: primary processes, which have the task of organising the unconscious level of functioning, and secondary processes which organise the preconscious/conscious level of functioning (see Freud, 1900, Chapter Seven).
Aporia However, caught up in the vastness of the field that he was exploring relentlessly, Freud was not always careful to make a clear distinction between the processes that govern mental events and the principles that govern the drives. He thus faces us with an important aporia when he considers that it is the influence of the “external world” that modifies the pleasure/unpleasure principle – “the demands of the libido” – in order to produce the reality principle. For the external world, in itself, is neither a process, a principle, nor a drive. . . . It could perhaps be considered as an object. But this object is far too immense, polymorphous and changing to be taken as such as the sole object of cathexis of infantile psychosexuality. The second drive theory (Freud, 1920b) adds a further constraint on our thinking: indeed, there can be no question of reducing the basic drive dichotomy to a double genealogy of two families of drives that would never meet. Consequently, the postulate of the existence of a destructive drive (or death drive) requires us to consider the effects of the “fusion” (Mischung or Vermischung) of these two drives at the level of each of their drive derivatives, as well as at the level of each of the principles that govern the drives and at the level of each of the processes that govern psychic events. So, on one hand, we cannot take it for granted that such a mixture always constitutes a real drive fusion (intrication) – with the lasting characteristic that this term denotes in the French language – and on the other, we must examine closely what Freud calls the “influence of the external world”. For example, in “The Economic Problem of Masochism”, Freud (1924b) highlights what he calls “a small but interesting set of 14
Genealogical organisation of the drives connections” (p. 160). He then asserts that the principle of Nirvana expresses the tendency of the death drive, while the pleasure principle expresses the demands of the libido: finally, the modification of this demand, that is to say, the reality principle, is said to represent the influence of the external world. Freud adds that none of these three principles is invalidated by either of the others and concludes that the pleasure principle is the guardian of life. He thereby adds an implicit temporal and transformational dimension to his argument, for there is no question that the transformation of the pleasure principle into the reality principle plays a major role in what is generally called the instinct of preservation. We may note the continual conceptual shifting of Freud, who passes from the drives to the principles that govern mental events that are dependent on them. Thus, it is not the libido but the pleasure principle that is defined as the guardian of life. Moreover, it is not easy to know if Freud made an elision by omitting to speak of unpleasure or if he implicitly placed it on the side of Nirvana. Be that as it may, since he made principles the representatives of the drives, it is important to ask ourselves what this permanent oscillation between these two terms reveals. Personally, I see this as one of the aporias characterising the functioning in infinite loops of the logic of the unconscious. It is precisely these aporias that led me to conceive of “concepts of the third type” (Guignard, 2001, 2002b, 2004a).
The qualitative aspect of the drive As we know, Freud (1920b) was to return later to the question of principles in Beyond the Pleasure Principle, but it was only in discovering the qualitative aspect of the drive that he was able to go beyond this aporia, by writing, in 1925, his article on “Negation”1 (Freud, 1925). It was in this contribution that he formulated an astounding discovery according to which the object of the drive is qualified before being recognised as existing, on the model of “if it is good, it is swallowed; if it is bad, it is spat out” (p. 183). In other words, the judgement of attribution necessarily precedes the judgement of existence. Among its numerous implications, this discovery is of interest here inasmuch as it confirms the nature of the “frontier concept” of the drive. Indeed, if we assess the situation accurately, it becomes questionable to claim that the drive is blind. It may certainly be more comfortable to push the problem back to the level of the instinct, but in any 15
Genealogical organisation of the drives case, positivism has since been checked by scientific observation, and the quantitative aspect can no longer go it alone without taking into account the qualitative aspect. This observation, which has been largely confirmed in the domain of quantum physics (Ortoli & Pharabod, 1984), leads us to relativise even further the existing opposition between conscious and unconscious and to refine our observations in this frontier zone, this in-between area, that Freud called the preconscious.
Genealogy of the drives The “small but interesting set of connections” left unexplored by Freud in favour of his work on principles, has continued to hold my interest. It seems to me to be an unaccomplished attempt to propose a genealogical organisation of the drives. I have thus strived to bring this attempt to its conclusion by studying more closely the successive fusions or mixtures (Mischung) that give rise to the fabric of the drives: THE FIRST GENERATION (which always remained hypothetical for Freud, who refers to it as “Ur-Ur-Triebe”) is composed of a life drive and a death drive or, at the very least, a destructive drive. Thanks to their biological tendency for fusion, the union of these two drives will give birth to a . . . SECOND GENERATION formed by the sexual drives. It is at this precise point that drive fusion makes use of its quality of vectorisation to look for the entanglement of the infant’s libido with what Freud denotes with the vague phrase “influence of the external world”. We will see how, logically, it can only be an analogous element situated in this external world, namely the drive organisation of the person closest to him, whom we will refer to as “the mother”. From this first exogamic union will be born a . . . THIRD GENERATION composed of the ego-drives, whether it is a matter of the drives of self-preservation, the drive for mastery or all the other drives relating to the subject’s ego.
First generation As the text he wrote for the Encyclopaedia Britannica (Freud, 1926b) shows, the first generation of the fabric of the drives (libido and death drive, Eros and Thanatos [drives of love and destruction]) remained 16
Genealogical organisation of the drives hypothetical for Freud for a very long time. Now, while we have no difficulty in accepting the hypothetical character of the death drive, we generally fail to do so where the libido is concerned, hence the customary assimilation of the latter with the sexual drives. And yet right up until the admirable metapsychological blueprint, interrupted by death, that is An Outline of Psycho-Analysis, Freud (1940a ) never ceased to affirm that there could be no question of restricting one or the other of the fundamental instinctual drives to one of the provinces of the mind. If we accept the hypothesis of the constant pressure of the drives, its corollary implies their immediate presence in the life of the human being, even if opinions diverge on the matter of knowing if their source is intrinsic or external (Guignard, 2006a). It may also be granted that the fusion of the life and death drives occurs, at the latest, at the moment of birth. I often refer to the following remark by Alexandre Minkowski, a famous specialist in neonatology: “Every morning when I enter the unit of premature infants to get to know the babies born during the night, before I have even examined them, I know which ones want to live from listening to the way they are crying”.
Second generation The generational proposition of a double drive registration of a movement towards life and a movement of destructiveness at the very heart of the sexual drives deserves to be emphasised. The latter cannot be ranked under the aegis of the libido alone. In so doing, we would lose sight of the problem of the ego-drives (third generation) and thus of the entire domain of narcissism as well as of the perversions. We would also be overlooking the subtle dialectic that exists between sexual pleasure and reproduction of the species. Indeed, the hominization and psychisation of the instinct imply the diversification of the aims and evolution of the sexual drives. This second generation of drives lies at the heart of the Freudian discovery of infantile sexuality. Furthermore, the sexual drives function at the level of the primary processes and under the primacy of the pleasure/unpleasure principle. This accounts for the precedence, in mental functioning, of the judgement of attribution over the judgement of the existence of the object. This is the origin of the entire field of study ranging from dreams to hallucinatory activity. On the clinical level, finally, this second generation of drives constitutes an 17
Genealogical organisation of the drives essential stage that needs to be considered in relation to the regressive movements in the analytic session.
Third generation The second-generation drives, the sexual drives, are thus ready to unite in turn with a third element, which Freud calls the “external world”. What is the nature of this “external world” and what sort of “influence” will it have on the sexual drives of a human being? Minkowski’s observation, cited earlier, is a fine example of the importance, for the human infant, of meeting in this “external world” a phenomenon homologous to the expression of his barely formed sexual drives, namely a human mind. But not just any human mind. It must be a human mind that comprises all the complexity of its adult drive organisation, its personal oedipal configuration and its identificatory psychic bisexuality. With his concept of “anaclitic relationship”, René Spitz (1965) had already drawn attention to the requirement of such heterogeneity. In his psychoanalytic theory of thinking, Bion (1962b) offers a conceptualisation of this function that is both outside the subject and of a psychic nature. He calls it alpha function and thinks that its prototype is to be found in the “capacity for reverie” of an infant’s mother; he also locates it in the psychoanalyst’s free-floating attention and in every open and benevolent human exchange (Bion, 1970). In all the density of this drive fabric, only this third-generational level can be influenced by the reality principle, giving rise subsequently to a mode of functioning governed by the preconscious requirements of secondary processes. Composed of part-drive derivatives, of which Freud spoke in various ways throughout his work in terms evoking greater proximity with the emotional and affective aspects of the preconscious, this third generation is the most diversified and its qualities are the easiest to grasp through direct observation, to the point even that some authors have been led to deny their drive quality. While the existence of psychic work at the level of the first two drive generations often remains difficult to observe directly, this third generation, with the obligation it brings with it of postulating the first relational and identificatory lineaments, assumes that such work has been solidly established within drive functioning. This thirdgeneration level could therefore be pictured as the locus of double 18
Genealogical organisation of the drives and simultaneous emergence of the object and the ego, each of which appears in its double valency, positive and negative. The selfpreservative drives and the ego-drives described by Freud – in his first and second drive theory, respectively – as well as the epistemophilic drive dear to Little Hans (Freud, 1909) and remarkably explored by Melanie Klein (1929a, 1930, 1931) and Hanna Segal (1957), can therefore be located here. This third generation of drives presides over a thousand facets of the links of the object with desire and pleasure, love and hate, belief, judgement and knowledge, the ambiguity of its transformations under the effects of intrapsychic conflict and ambivalence, in a word, everything that makes for the happiness and unhappiness of its incessant quest and loss. In more contemporary terminology, it follows that this third generation also belongs to what I have called the “drive tripod”, described by Bion with both its positive and negative valences: ±L, ±H and ±K (see Chapter 7). Such a genealogical hierarchy places, then, the sexual drives at the very root of all drive development, as well as of its narcissistic components to which they are too often set in opposition.
The biological factor and après-coup There exists a “belief in life” whose origin is mysterious and which, as a result, it is tempting to reduce to the biological factor, as the drives are often reduced to the instincts. In following my proposition of a genealogy of the drives, it could be tempting to attribute to a biological factor the pathology of the first stage of drive imbrication, that is to say, life drive + death drive engendering the sexual drives. The same could be true of the Kleinian description of the “sadism of the id”. But what is included in this term biological? Does it exclude any form of psychic incision? Would it then be solely a matter of the psychic economy of the incisions of the ascendants of the infant in question? Owing to the state of neotony of the human being, the various forms of this belief are dependent on the relations of the human being with his environment and the beliefs of this environment. If the pathology of the third stage of drive fusion – sexual drives + maternal psychic organisation engendering the ego-drives of the infant – is clearly marked by the stamp of the environment, we may consider 19
Genealogical organisation of the drives Klein’s description of the “sadism of the superego” as one of its major manifestations. We thus soon find ourselves in a perspective of aprèscoup, and any pathology promoting defusion that has its origin in this second stage will very quickly reach and threaten the first stage of fusion. The genealogy of the drives constitutes one of the major anchor points of the developments envisaged in the rest of this book.
Note 1 On the subject of the French translation of the title of this article, it should be emphasised that the German term, die Verneinung, is much more polysemic and, consequently, more ambiguous than the term negation, as it is opposed classically in French to those of Verwerfung (rejection, denial) and Verleugnung (disavowal, but also sometimes denial . . .).
2 THE BIRTH OF PSYCHIC LIFE
Any attempt to form a conception of the birth of psychic life is rather like the question of knowing which comes first, the chicken or the egg. Having studied the genealogy of the drives in the last chapter, it is now possible to tackle this question by positioning ourselves at the junction of two basic parameters: the fusion of the instinctual drives and the primal phantasies. Freud postulates that primal phantasies are one of the first psychic forms of instinctual drive “matter”. Laplanche and Pontalis (1964) insist for their part on the importance, for the formation of primal phantasies, of what has been heard by the child. Comparing them to myths, they emphasise the “retrospective construction” of these phantasies. They put forward the idea that, in the primal scene, it is the origin of the individual that is dramatised, whereas in phantasies of seduction it is the origin of sexuality, the phantasy of castration governing, for its part, the origin of the difference between the sexes. Our scientific theories owe much to our infantile sexual theories, which themselves are formed in the hope of penetrating the mysteries of the primal phantasies. Insofar as phantasies are consubstantial with all normal psychic life, this primordial link rises from its ashes each time a new scientific discovery is made in exploring the mysteries of life. This observation is no doubt not unconnected with the fact that great scientists sometimes end up, surprisingly for the outside observer, abandoning their position of positivist atheism in order to turn towards faith in a god who might finally put an end to their incessant quest for an explanation of the world. 21
The birth of psychic life
Primordial psychic spaces My research into the feminine and maternal fields has led me to propose a metaphorical model of two primordial spaces, whose form emerges very early on in the still largely formless potential of psychic space: the “primary maternal space” and the “primary feminine space”. These two models, which are at once containers for the first intrapsychic conflicts and created by them in accordance with the very first relationships and identifications of the human being, are prototypical of any relationship of intimacy. It is thus logical to examine their relations with this first psychic form of the drives – that is to say, the primal phantasies postulated by Freud. These two spaces of intimacy will constitute the theatre of the primal phantasies: respectively, the primary maternal space will be the theatre for phantasies of intrauterine life and castration, and the primary feminine space will be the theatre for phantasies of seduction and the primal scene. These spaces, which underpin the unfolding of the entire oedipal conflict, will play a role throughout life, each giving its specific colouring to objectrelations, identifications, and the subject’s subsequent phantasies. We will come across them again, particularly in analysis, as theatres of the transference/countertransference relationship. They belong to the “concepts of the third type” referred to in the introduction to this volume; a detailed description of them is given in Chapter 11.
The primary maternal space This space is present in outline in the newborn baby from the very moment of birth and becomes organised during the first two or three months of life. During these first weeks of human life the basic functioning of the infant (infans, i.e. non-speaking) with regard to his helpless omnipotence and his mastery, which is as absolute as it is inefficient, will be established, while the maternal contributions to this space of intimacy will be those of narcissistic misunderstandings, passionate love and maternal masochism. This basic functioning of the infant – an ensemble composed of elementary mechanisms of exchange between an outside and an inside that is physically, if not psychically, circumscribed – compose the first manifestations of the judgement of attribution, that is “good, I want to swallow this”, “bad, I want to spit it out”. I emphasised in the first chapter the importance of such a judgement that will establish the 22
The birth of psychic life two sets of psychic mechanisms necessary for providing a basis for a relationship with the world and with oneself: projection and introjection, on one hand, and splitting and identification, on the other. These two sets of mechanisms are intrinsically linked together by a constant interaction, which is the source of their very existence. They belong to the concepts of the “third type” and are therefore connected by a double arrow: projection↔introjection; splitting↔identification. The vector projection↔introjection constitutes the respiration of psychic life. It will be important, therefore, to examine its characteristics in each psychic pathology. Furthermore, this vector has given birth to one of the most useful concepts in contemporary psychoanalysis: projective identification (Klein, 1946b). By analysing the functioning of projection and introjection, Klein was able to combine the quantitative factor, in the foreground hitherto, with the qualitative factor – good/ bad – described by Freud (1925) in his paper on “Negation”. From this she was to derive her most important discoveries on the different forms of object-relationship (whole object/part-object) and on the way of being in the world (depressive position/paranoid-schizoid position). The vector splitting↔identification concerns the “health” of the splitting processes; it therefore also concerns the concept of trauma, which I will be dealing with in the second volume of this work, as well as with identifications, which depend largely on these two variables. The question of the “trauma of birth” examined by Otto Rank (1924) and that of “aesthetic conflict” explored by Meltzer (Meltzer & Williams, 1988) are both part of the question of this primary maternal space. In spite of his disagreement with Rank, Freud did consider birth as a traumatic event, owing to the overabundance of sensory excitation that assails the newborn infant when he comes into the world. Rank, for his part, insisted on the trauma constituted by the loss of a uterine, aquatic, closed, protected and quasi-paradisiac environment. Freud’s disagreement with Rank was to do with this idealised aspect and also with the awareness that the newborn could have of it. As for Donald Meltzer, with his concept of “aesthetic conflict” he developed the Freudian hypothesis of an overabundance of excitation: on this view, the newborn finds himself submerged by a whirlwind of sensations that overwhelm him and whose meanings elude him. Meltzer (1983/192) was to take this situation, which he considered to be traumatic, as the starting point of the psychic organisation, on the Freudian model of intrapsychic conflict. According to him, this conflict arises from the outset between, on one hand, what he considers 23
The birth of psychic life as an aesthetic dazzle due to this experience of being “plunged” into a burgeoning world of sensoriality and, on the other, the newborn’s incapacity to give meaning to these sensations. Meltzer postulates an initial psychic movement that follows the reflex path of an animal’s withdrawal in the face of danger by returning into a familiar inner world: the shell of cockles and amphibians, the nest of birds, the burrow of mammals. The components thus drawn back through this movement of withdrawal towards the maternal inner world, the only familiar one, and one that is forever lost, will constitute the stuff of the newborn’s very first emotional experiences. We can mention here the metaphor offered by the first images of the 1968 film by Stanley Kubrick 2001: A Space Odyssey, where monkeys attempt to carry off into their shelter the mysterious object they have found: a monolith. In an attempt to formulate in words the elementary psychic expression of the movement of return of the newborn subject towards an inner world that is henceforth inaccessible (because not yet appropriated by a subject who is not yet a subject), Meltzer asks a question whose adultomorphic character he himself emphasises: “Is it as beautiful ‘inside’?” Meltzer sees this movement as the primum movens of the differentiation between inside and outside and of the interest in the inner world of the object, the lost place of all the riches phantasised and desired by the child, as Freud and then Klein described, a place solely accessible through another means of functioning, that of psychic life, the effort of representation and sense-making by means of symbolisation. This model of aesthetic conflict presents, to my mind, a certain number of advantages: positing from the outset a conflictual tension as the basis of psychic functioning, as well as a split organising a first dialectical movement (inside/outside, good/bad, beautiful/ugly), this model integrates the Freudian tradition and the Kleinian contributions with the aim of making the maternal object, newly discovered in the outside world, the very first form of triangulation, announcing thereby the mechanisms of the displacement of cathexes and the prolegomena of the early oedipal constellation. Moreover, even though it belongs more to the domains of optics and astronomy than Freudian metapsychology, the notion of “bedazzlement” seems to me crucial for describing the intensity of human passions. Of the Rankian vision of the world, I simply mention here the notion of the “trauma of birth” in the sense of what Bion (1971) called the “caesura” between a pre-existing protomental level in utero and the emotional experiences of the infant arising from his very 24
The birth of psychic life first relations with the external maternal object. Meltzer’s contributions on this subject seem very much to confirm that there remains in the human being engaged in the world of speech and controlled sensorimotor functioning an idealised phantasy of the lost containing object. For both these authors, the underlying presence of the primal phantasies in their metapsychological conceptualisation may be noted. As for Freud, is it not true that he continued to believe until his death that the only non-ambivalent relationship is one between a mother and her son, thereby confirming the persistence in him of the two primal phantasies of intra-uterine life and castration? For me it is the convergence of the various aspects of the “catastrophic change” (Bion, 1966) brought about by birth which, at the same time, will stamp violently on the infant the dazzling unknown dimension of an object attributed with a quality before being perceived (Freud, 1925), vectorise the instinctual drives of the infant towards this enigmatic object (Laplanche, 1986) and stimulate the primal fantasies of intra-uterine life and castration in the emerging subject. It is this situation that I refer to as the “primordial drive conflict”. However, as soon as this concept of the primordial drive conflict of the newborn infant has been formed, one has to ask oneself on what factor the infant’s evolution towards an oedipal structure will depend, given that no formation of thought escapes our infantile sexual theories – that is to say, the impact of the primal fantasies on our activity of thinking. In my opinion, it is the impact of the mother’s adult psychic structure that will stamp its oedipal organisation on this first drive conflict of the infant. It is worth recalling that under the phrase “capacity for reverie”, Bion was not simply describing, albeit very pertinently, the mode of functioning of the “ordinarily ill” mother (Winnicott, 1956). He considered this mode of psychic functioning to be the prototype of the activity of thinking, the first form of communication by means of intuitive thinking (Bion, 1962b). The mother’s capacity for reverie is called for each time the infant seeks to expel his suffering and discontent, essentially by means of his cries and motor functioning. Bion refers to the elements (essentially sensorial) of this expelled suffering by the term “beta (β)-elements”. As such, these β-elements are not utilisable for thought and psychic development. It is the mother’s task to take charge of them by virtue of her capacity to “intuit” (Bion) the infant’s suffering and to give them a new meaning at the level of emotional thinking – failing which these β-elements will be projected back again into the infant 25
The birth of psychic life and reintrojected or reincorporated by him just as violently as he had expelled them. For Bion, the effect of the capacity for reverie is twofold: on one hand, it detoxifies the β-elements which can thereby be transformed into “alpha (α)-elements” and be utilised in the emotional experience of thinking; on the other hand, it offers some elements of this “detoxicating” maternal reverie to the infant for reintrojection, with which he will be able to identify, thereby creating his own “alpha (α)-function”. The latter will serve as the container for his future emotional experiences in the form of a “membrane” or “contactbarrier” between his own psychic life and that of others. Thus, for Bion, the capacity for reverie is the very instrument of the capacities for symbolisation and communication between human beings. We will come across it again particularly in connection with the analyst’s capacity for listening.
The primary feminine space The organisation of the primary maternal space as the first space of intimacy leads human development very quickly towards the conquest of another portion of psychic space, which I have called “the primary feminine space”, whose conceptualisation extends the contributions of Klein in this domain. In The Psycho-Analysis of Children, Melanie Klein (1932) describes a primary feminine phase that is common to the children of both sexes, which occurs towards the fourth month of the first year of life. It is interesting to note that this “primary feminine phase” corresponds exactly to the essential role that the “threshold of the depressive position” would have in the second part of her work. Now Klein was to characterise this threshold as a peak moment in the defences of greed and sadism against the recognition of the unity and otherness of the object, as well as against the depressive guilt that ensues. For Klein, the depressive position paves the way for the early Oedipus complex, which follows on from it in immediate temporal succession. She describes the primary feminine phase in terms of part-object relations and unconscious phantasies: at the moment of the conflict of object-loss, linked to weaning and under the influence of the activation of early genital impulses, the penis becomes for both boys and girls an object of desire, both as a newly cathected object and as a substitute for the lost breast. The greedy impulse to possess this new object overloads the pleasure of sucking with a growth of sadistic impulses towards the mother’s body which is experienced 26
The birth of psychic life as containing all the desirable riches, and in particular, the father’s penis. For Klein, this conjunction of the breast and the penis as objects of desire constitutes a particularly promising configuration for the growth and organisation of the processes of introjection. Finally, from the standpoint of psychopathology, she sees this phase as the point of fixation for male homosexuality. Taking this remarkable theoretical intuition based on observation as my starting point, I have added certain elements to it in order to define the “primary feminine space”. Once the space of intimacy of the primary maternal space has been established, the movement of the displacement of cathexis activated by the primordial instinctual drive conflict between an outside that is perceived too much and an inside that has to be imagined will take two directions. On one hand, it will orient itself towards other aspects of this external world, which is still “bedazzling” certainly but also controllable due to sensory and motor integration, in particular, the advent of the sitting position and vision/grasping coordination; on the other, it will turn towards the internal psychic exploration of the cathected object, and the infant will then discover the objects-cathected-by-his-object. Here we find the first training ground for the emerging process of symbolisation. Teething, about which much has been said classically and implicitly ever since Abraham (1924) described an “oral sadistic stage”, also plays its role, both directly and indirectly, even if, as I have shown elsewhere (Guignard, 1995a), the theory of “stages” constitutes an artificial and reifying chronology of the libidinal cathexes of the digestive tract. As it is, if we have never seen a normal infant biting the nipple on the pretext that he has teeth, it is because he acquires, simultaneously with this somatic development, instinctual control of his oral cavity in relation to his love-object. On the other hand, it is not unusual to observe that an exhausted mother, who is worried by the state of servitude in which the baby’s growing appetite keeps her, projects onto him her own devouring phantasies. Lastly, and above all, the mother tries to organise a compromise between the inflation, which has become less vital, of her investments as a mother and the resumption of her investments as a woman. The “censorship of the woman-as-lover” (censure de l’amante; Braunschweig & Fain, 1975) claims its rights from the woman/mother, who is supported by the love and desire of, and for her companion. The infant who is in the process of reorganising his maternal space of intimacy suddenly discovers another space, the space of otherness, 27
The birth of psychic life the space of human solitude, a new solitude underpinned by the primal phantasies of seduction and the primal scene. It is on the basis of the interaction between these two phantasies and the intensification of his genital impulses that the infant will organise the primary feminine space. He will do this by means of his capacities for introjection which, while it is true that they are there from birth onwards, will be particularly challenged to develop themselves in the configuration that I have just described. If he is not too psychically ill, his identifications with a sexually fulfilled mother will prevail over the envy that he may also feel towards this mystery of adult love which both torments and mystifies him, while at the same time he must come to terms with the loss of his mother of the primal maternal space.
Inter faeces and urinas nascimur1 A child has just been born. Whether silent or screaming, this infant forces those around him to feel something strange, something uncanny (Freud, 1919b), which presides over the emergence of a new human being. Each birth modifies the world in which we live and reminds us of the ephemeral character of our own existence. A completely fresh gaze and virgin ears have descended on us and our environment, potentially threatening all our habits and all our values. One of the Monty Python sketches pinpoints this malaise ferociously by portraying a mother giving birth in the standing position while doing the housework and saying to her eldest daughter, “Darling, can you take care of the baby? I’m doing the washing up . . .”. Since the dawn of time, the newborn and the world from which he has just emerged, the maternal womb, have been the supports for myriad projections. The return to the womb is part of the four aspects of the primal phantasy of which Freud speaks. It is only in fairly recent times that the sensory and motor skills of the newborn have been recognised, while neonatology now enables us to identify emotional and relational elements in the foetus during the last months of gestation. What does contemporary psychoanalysis contribute to the observation and understanding of the psychic and emotional functioning of the newborn? It claims, in particular, to be able to study the role of the drives in constituting the ego, which, according to Freud, is destined to serve three masters, the id, the superego and external reality (see Freud, 1923a). 28
The birth of psychic life
From the “early ego” to the so-called whole-object relationship and to the development of the person As Klein remarks in her “Notes on some Schizoid Mechanisms” (Klein, 1946b), we know very little about the structure of the “early ego”. Klein, who is closer to Winnicott’s point of view than those of Edward Glover and William R. D. Fairbairn, insists on the absence of integration in the early ego and observes that a tendency towards disintegration alternates continually with the tendency towards the integration of this rudimentary ego. This was one of the essential elements that would lead her to see the concept of the “paranoid-schizoid position” (PS) as a primordial defence against a “central depressive position” (D) that is too painful for the newborn to bear. Later on, Bion (1965) linked these two positions by a double arrow (PS↔D) and saw the permanent oscillation between them as the axis for evaluating the normality and pathology of the different parts of our human personality. Klein never ceased to insist on the importance, for normal psychic development, of the constitution of this capacity of the ego to establish a relationship with a whole object. As we shall see in Chapter 5, a satisfactory elaboration of sadism at the level of part-object relationships is an indispensable basis for this genuine revolution in the Weltanschauung of the subject that is the whole object relationship. “But once the ego has made this step”, Klein (1935), “it has, as it were, arrived at a crossroads from which the ways determining the whole mental make-up” (p. 288). Generally speaking, the sufferings brought about by the persistence of a dominance of the depressive position in the mind calls for defences of two kinds: psychotic defences, which consist in fleeing towards a good internal whole object and in projecting everything persecutory onto the external world, which therefore becomes uninhabitable, and, neurotic defences, which consist in fleeing towards a good external object, thought to be capable of invalidating all forms of anxiety, both external and internal. Typical of neurosis, this mechanism can lead to a servile dependence on objects owing to the increasing weakness of an ego that does nothing by itself to face up to reality.
Anchorage points of pathology in the early stages of development A newborn baby screams. The usual response to this first movement of projection is to put him to the mother’s breast: even if, during the first instants, no liquid seeps out of the breast, the object’s spontaneous 29
The birth of psychic life response to the infant’s act of projection is thus a proposition of introjection. The “caesura of the act of birth” (Freud, 1926a, p. 138) will favour the functioning of the schema of sucking, constituted in utero, to cathect the mouth as the world of the “primitive cavity” described by René Spitz (1955). This antechamber of the activity of digestion will become the theatre of drive fusion and the primary location for the activity of thinking according to Bion; at the other extremity, the anal and urethral sphincters are locations for controlling and expelling undesirable or threatening objects. In the first of these two studies on manic-depressive states (Klein, 1935) studies the different forms of introjection – among which incorporation is the primary form – in schizophrenia, paranoia and melancholia. In schizophrenia, her aetiological hypothesis is still relevant today for all those who are faced with such a pathology: we know that in the schizophrenic patient, the processes of introjection are practically non-existent, which makes any work bearing on the objectrelationship and identifications difficult. Now, on this subject Klein puts forward an enlightening hypothesis by linking this deficiency to a pathology of oral sadism, which, in these patients, impedes incorporation and, therefore, personification and transference movements. It is here that the qualitative factor assumes its full importance and significance. Taking chapter eight of her book The Psychoanalysis of Children as her starting point, Klein (1932) insists on the precarious nature of the capacities for identification of an ego that is still extremely fragile with objects that are essentially part-objects. In the onset of the pathology of schizophrenia, sadism, both oral and anal, attacks the emerging coordination of the ego and debases the introjected part-objects by equating them principally with faeces (see Chapter 5 for a discussion of sadomasochism). Moreover, the difference of the vicissitudes of incorporation in paranoia and in melancholia is linked to the differences that exist in the states of the ego and in the unconscious significations attributed to the internal objects in relation to reality. Paranoia is an illness of projection in which splitting of the ego and objects (see Chapter 3) has not occurred correctly. Anxiety for the fate of the ego is central in a situation where the function of good objects is constantly undermined by the pathological force of objects that are felt to be persecuting, as well as parts of the ego that are felt to be all the more destructive in that they are attacked by persecutory 30
The birth of psychic life experiences which may include hallucinations and even extend to delusional states. In normal development, the persecution of the paranoid-schizoid position will be transformed thanks to the mother’s regular capacity for reverie. It will become tolerable and will not hamper in a lasting way the activity of an ego which will weave more and more links with its internal objects and external reality, thereby giving rise to more movements of identification with objects attributed with psychic qualities and felt to be good. Certainly, the infant will also experience fear that these good objects will be attacked by bad objects or the attacking parts of his ego; the preservation of these good objects will henceforth be synonymous with the survival of his ego. This discovery of the precious and vulnerable character of the good object will lead to an essential development: the transition from a part-object relationship to a whole-object relationship. The young child will approach the central depressive position with less anxiety, a position that provides a basis for the situation of object-loss. “Not until the object is loved as a whole”, Klein states, “can its loss be felt as a whole” (1935, p. 264). Melancholia is an illness that results from the failure to tackle this situation. We then witness the pathology of the loss of an object that was felt to be whole; here, it is the processes of introjection that are qualitatively pathological and quantitatively too important in relation to the processes of projection. The concepts of the central depressive position and the defensive positions to which it gives rise are developed in Chapter 11. The depressive position, which is a key position in the advent of psychic life, individualisation and the capacity to symbolise, activates processes in the young child aimed at integrating opposites – good/bad, love/ hate, self/others – and at assuming responsibility for his own position as subject. But this psychic work entails great suffering, against which the paranoid-schizoid position, the principal defensive position against the depressive position, will employ the full force of its mechanisms of splitting, denial, idealisation and projective identification. In actual fact, the situation of a subject governed by the depressive position is difficult and precarious. I would like to point out, therefore, that the integration of the depressive position must be considered as an asymptote, just as much as the resolution of the Oedipus complex. This is what led Bion to recognise that we oscillate constantly between a mode of functioning in the depressive position and a defensive and regressive mode of functioning in the paranoid-schizoid position (PS↔D). 31
The birth of psychic life
Part-objects, whole objects In terms of object-relations, this means that how we consider others varies according to our needs, our desires and our interests. The psychoanalyst who listens to his patient attributes him with a status of subject – he therefore cathects him as a whole object – whereas he is not concerned at all about the state of mind of the driver of a tube train which is delayed and causes him difficulties; he thus unquestionably treats the driver as a part-object. Let us imagine now that the psychoanalyst waiting for his métro train learns that a “casualty” (accident de personne), as suicides on the French métro are called euphemistically, is the cause of the delay of his train: it may be that he has sympathetic feelings for the driver who has been placed in this tragic situation of being a murderer in spite of himself. Deep within himself, this psychoanalyst will thus have made the transition from a part-object relationship to a whole-object relationship. On the contrary, if his patient gets the time of an appointment wrong or telephones him at an inconvenient moment, it will take him a short while to “absorb” his reaction of discontent towards the troublemaker (part-object), and to recover his capacity for listening to a person in difficulty (whole object). The part-object mode of relating is the mode of expression par excellence of the unconscious. This description of the unconscious functioning of the subject/object-relationship follows on directly from the Freudian conceptualisation of thing-presentations. It can be observed particularly, albeit indirectly, in the dream narrative, but also in any expression of unconscious transference. For while the discovery of otherness implies at the same time the notion of a third element, it would be very naïve to think that this discovery influences the totality of the psychic organisation of the subject. This would be to deny the existence of the unconscious, and the permanent power struggle that its logic exerts over the territoriality of conscious logic. While a whole-object relationship takes into account a maximum of parameters of the person in question and tries globally to accept their contradictions and paradoxes, the part-object relationship is an instrument of choice for examining the different aspects of the functioning of an individual. This way of describing the intrapsychic movements established by the different aspects of the ego in relation to the different aspects of its cathected objects is essential for trying to form a picture of the proliferation and complexity of the mode of psychic functioning of 32
The birth of psychic life every individual, child or adult, neurotic or psychotic, at the level of the foundations of the activity of symbolisation. Taking account of psychic functioning in terms of part-object relations implies recognising that the entirety of a subject in his relations with the world – a subject who is bound by a dual constraint, structural and temporal – can only be considered as an asymptotic concept. This allows the analyst to consider his work with more modesty but obliges him at the same time not to neglect any of the representative formations that punctuate the analytic relationship. Indeed, each of them offers a point of view on one of the existing links between one aspect of the subject and one aspect of one of his internal objects. It is the analyst’s task to try to mobilise these pivotal points by means of his analytic technique. A pivotal point exists between a paranoid-schizoid and a fusional vision of the world, on one hand, and a depressive and oedipal vision, on the other – between a narcissistic blurring of subject/object and an area of play creating sufficient distance between subject and object to permit the accommodation that is necessary for discovering and accepting the existence of an unknown dimension in both of them. It is therefore important to acquire quite a precise idea of the nature and quality of the part-object, as well as of the part of the self that is in relationship with this object, with the aim of interpreting its transference version in a sufficiently adequate manner. In correlation with object-relations, the vast field of identifications will be explored from various angles in the second volume of this book. I would simply like to point out here that the proliferation of projective identifications into part-objects is reorganised in the aftermath of the predominance of the depressive position and of the Oedipus complex, giving birth to a new interplay of more nuanced and balanced identificatory introjections.
From perception to apperception During this same period, Winnicott (1967) suggested that, if the maternal object performs her mirroring function satisfactorily, what the baby sees when he looks at his mother’s face is himself. His theoretical elaborations on “apperception” and “perception” deserve our attention. Examining the case of babies who, rather than finding a mirroring relationship in the apperception of their mother’s gaze, are met with the expression of concerns that are foreign to them, or 33
The birth of psychic life even a psychopathological manifestation such as melancholic depression or psychosis, Winnicott remarks that these conditions will alter their creative capacity. Losing this relationship of apperception, they look around for other means of “getting something of themselves back from the environment” (p. 112), and to do this, they use their perceptual skills to discover the world. Thus, perception takes the place of that which might have been the beginning of a significant exchange with the world, coupled with an enriching personal development. The English noun apperception has two meanings: (a) conscious perception, of which we are completely aware, and (b) a process of understanding whereby newly perceived qualities of an object are assimilated to a past experience. Winnicott clearly uses the second definition of this term. In “Mirror-Role of Mother and Family in Child Development”, Winnicott (1967) describes very finely how babies “cling” perceptively to the variations of their mother’s face in an attempt to predict her emotional state, just as we study the sky to make meteorological forecasts. The baby regulates his spontaneity, not in relation to his own needs and desires, but in relation to “clear patches” during which he can afford to express himself spontaneously. He knows that at any minute, his mother’s face is liable to become fixed as her emotional state dominates again. In the name of the baby, he writes, “my own personal needs must then be withdrawn, otherwise my central self may suffer insult” (p. 113). He concludes with this remarkable observation: “If the mother’s face is unresponsive, then a mirror is a thing to be looked at but not to be looked into” (ibid.). Jan Abram (1996, p. 73) notes that the subjective experience of apperception implies a relationship with what Winnicott calls “subjective objects”. Unsurprisingly, she links the prematurity of the ego with a failure of apperception – perceptual activity being the first of the activities of the ego. The remark of a female patient illustrates well the renunciation of apperception out of concern for the psychic state of a fragile mother: “I had to wait until my mother had died and until I had finished grieving over her to stop having the reflex of smiling every time I passed in front of a mirror”. Here we have an eloquent example of Ferenczi’s “narcissistic splitting of the self ”, designated subsequently by Meltzer as “passive splitting”, the primary consequence of which lies in a massive utilisation of projective identification by the baby, who is obliged 34
The birth of psychic life to watch over his mother in an attempt to preserve the psychic health of the one on whom his own life depends.
Note 1 Translator’s note: a citation from St Augustine of Hippo (354–430 CE) meaning “We are born between faeces and urine”.
3 THE QUESTION OF SPLITTING
I find myself for a moment in the interesting position of not knowing whether what I have to say should be regarded as something long familiar and obvious or as something entirely new and puzzling. – Sigmund Freud, “Splitting of the Ego in the Process of Defence” (1940b , p. 275) From the very moment you speak, you’re losing your oneness. – Herbert Rosenfeld, personal communication
The concept of “splitting” is a concept of variable geometry which, since its introduction into the metapsychology, has reproduced the same effects on all those who try to define it: before they have become aware of it, they find themselves split off either from the conceptions of others or from their own. Reflecting on this concept is rather like finding oneself faced with the graphics dear to the theory of the Gestalt: when two figures are presented on a board, we see now one and now the other, according to the perceptual activity of the eyes, and of course, they are mutually exclusive. Although the term splitting appeared in 1893 in his work (Freud & Breuer, 1893), we know that Freud only conceptualised it towards the end of his life: in 1927, in connection with fetishist perversion, and in 1938, as a mode of functioning of the ego, both in fetishism and in psychosis and neurosis (see Freud, 1927a, 1940b ). In spite of the vagueness of its metapsychological definition before 1938, he almost always refers to this mechanism in a context that concerns something to do with the agencies, thus of the structure of 36
The question of splitting the subject, Unconscious (Ucs.), Preconscious (Pcs.), Conscious (Cs.) in the first topography and id, ego, superego in the second. Two notable exceptions, however, concern more directly the principles that govern the drive system. In 1911, Freud remarked that the setting-up of the reality principle does not prevent a part of mental activity from being split off and governed by the pleasure principle; in 1923, he noted that “constitutional” psychic bisexuality compounds the oedipal situation, thereby making the question of ego identifications and, consequently, multiple personalities, more complex (see Freud, 1911, 1923a). In presenting the essential elements of what I have been able to gather together on this vast subject, I am offering a personal panorama of the question. It constitutes a metapsychological stroll through the ego, the object and the drives, and reflects both my interpretations and the questions it raises for me. However, contrary to thought, which is polysemic, discourse, even if polysemic, can only be linear. Consequently, every time I try to explore more deeply the components of one of these three concepts, it is important to keep in mind the two other concepts simultaneously. It was Klein who, in her paper, “Personification in the Play of Children” (Klein, 1929a), advanced the idea of splitting as a normal operator of psychic functioning, while adding to it the splitting of the object, in a more dynamic metapsychological perspective. And we are also indebted to Ferenczi (1931) for his crucial descriptions of pathological splitting in “Child-Analysis in the Analysis of Adults”. We can therefore speak of two sorts of splitting of the ego and of the object: normal splitting and pathological splitting.1 Normal splitting organises the emerging subject; it is therefore a structural splitting whose role is functional. Indeed, it enables the ego to develop itself on the basis of an adequate splitting of the object, the introjection of the good object and the expulsion of the bad object, as Freud (1925) describes in “Negation”. Pathological splitting, referred to by Ferenczi as “somato-psychic” or auto-narcissistic splitting, appears in Meltzer (1967) under the term passive splitting. It is imposed on the subject from the outside, in connection with a situation of trauma (Bokanowski, 2005). All splitting of this kind is both pathological and pathogenic because it occurs along lines of splitting that are extraneous to the normal lines of splitting of the subject, and substitutes itself for the latter. This is why the earlier a trauma occurs, the more pathogenic it is for the specific organisation of a personality. 37
The question of splitting
Normal splitting, operator of the ego and of the object Along with denial, idealisation, omnipotence and projective identification, splitting belongs to the primary mechanisms of defence used by an ego that is still excessively vulnerable to psychic suffering. Its aim is to maintain a sense of identity in the emerging subject. It succeeds in doing so at the price of amputating aspects of reality, both external and psychic, which it is still unable to contain or to elaborate psychically. This amputation is achieved by denying and evacuating these undesirable aspects. Splitting is thus an integral part of the ego’s relationship with its objects and, consequently, the concept of splitting of the ego inevitably implies the concept of splitting of the ego’s objects. Splitting is a normal operator of the ego and of the object. Except by taking the risk of overlooking the constricting links that it has with the other concepts in the same defensive constellation, it cannot be studied outside its conceptual constellation, that is to say, the primary mechanisms of defence of which it is part. In analysis, splitting supports the analytic process by making use of topographical regression, negative transference and repetition for the purposes of remembering and working over. Splitting is a mechanism with which the subject tries to protect his subjective sense of coherence by evacuating a part of his ego, the drive functioning and psychic contents of which would, without this drastic operation, enter into an intolerable conflict with those of another part of the ego. The preservation of this subjective sense of coherence must be underpinned by denial due to the danger an impoverishment of psychic life linked to the splitting and evacuation of this part of the ego by the subject. It is this experience of impoverishment that leads the subject, on one hand, to set up an idealised unconscious neo-reality – positively or negatively – and, on the other, by means of projective identification, to “cling” unconsciously to the object into which he has evacuated this intolerable part of his ego, along with its contents. Because it is one of the very first operators of the ego, splitting can in no case be linked, at the metapsychological level, with the “synthetic function” of the ego alone. This choice would be much too restrictive. Indeed, the ego, mainly an unconscious agency, is not a monistic agency but includes innumerable structural and functional aspects, especially as the limits that exist between the ego and its internal objects, the id and the external world, are subject to perpetual mutual infringements, and must be conceived as such. 38
The question of splitting It is therefore the need for a subjective sense of coherence which, in analytic treatments, thwarts the analyst’s attempts to reintroduce the symbolic function of the ego with the aim of bringing the subject face to face with the unavoidable nature of intrapsychic conflict. It is thus crucial in the analysis to try to rediscover the topographical places towards which this evacuation of the part of the ego and of its objects has occurred, and to examine attentively their form and contents. This split-off part contains drive derivatives, structures and relational and identificatory objects that make up the basic sexual identity of the subject, as well as his oedipal situation. By alienating the subject from a part of his conflictual cathexes, this evacuation of a part of the ego also deprives him, not only of a part of his capacities for symbolisation but also of a part of his primary and secondary identifications. It is important not to confuse the sense of coherence and the synthetic function of the ego: the sense of coherence is a phenomenological description of the manifest psychic state of the subject, whereas the synthetic function of the ego is a Freudian metapsychological description of one of the functions of the ego. And in fact, the more a subject is split (the more his “symbolic function of the ego” is thwarted), the more he shows his “sense of coherence”.
The ego, anxiety and splitting Together with the second Freudian drive theory and second topography, the concept of splitting is closely bound up with the novelty that the concept of the ego brings to the economic equilibrium of the two principles of mental functioning: the pleasure/unpleasure principle and the reality principle. In The Ego and the Id (Freud, 1923a) emphasises the absolutely crucial role played by the ego in establishing the supremacy of the reality principle and in maintaining harmony between the two principles. I would like to recall a few lines from this paper: All the experiences of life that originate from without enrich the ego . . . From the other point of view, however, we see this same ego as a poor creature owing service to three masters and consequently menaced by three dangers: from the external world, from the libido of the id, and from the severity of the superego. Three kinds of anxiety correspond to these three dangers, since anxiety is the expression of a retreat from danger. As a frontier-creature, the ego tries 39
The question of splitting to mediate between the world and the id, to make the id pliable to the world and . . . make the world fall in with the wishes of the id. (Freud, 1923a, p. 56) The ego, which is “first of all a bodily ego”, “the projection of a surface”, a “constitutional monarch”, “sycophantic, opportunistic and mendacious . . . like a statesman who, with all his good insights, still wants to keep himself in the favour of public opinion”, is thus, first and foremost, as a “projection of a surface”, a “frontier creature”, the specific locus of anxiety. That is why, three years after The Ego and the Id, Freud elaborated a new theory of anxiety (Freud, 1926a ) which considers differently the role played by external reality and takes into account the effect of the death drive. We can thus observe four sequences in Freud’s thought: 1 The first extends from the setting up of the concept of the ego in the second topography as a “frontier creature” to a re-evaluation of the two principles of the psychic economy established in the first topography in the sense of reattributing greater importance to the reality principle in the process of drive satisfaction, due to the increased importance of the place of the ego in the homeostasis of the subject. 2 The second runs from this increased importance of the reality principle in the satisfaction of the ego to a re-evaluation of the nature and role of anxiety. 3 Proceeding from the first two, the third attributes a new status to the object: as an external vector and internal representative of this reality, the object takes on more importance in the experience of satisfaction, which, itself, assumes even further the ephemeral qualities conferred on it by the drive as a “frontier concept”. 4 Following on from the first three, the fourth, finally, which emerged in 1925 in the text on “Negation”, leads to the notion of normal splitting.
Pathological, somato-psychic, auto-narcissistic and passive splitting Whether it is described as somato-psychic or auto-narcissistic by Ferenczi, or alternatively passive by Meltzer, this type of splitting is traumatic because it is imposed from the outside through the abusive 40
The question of splitting influence exerted on the child by the instinctual drive functioning of an adult whom he loves tenderly. Three traumatic factors are operative: first, the attitudes of psychic absence of the mother, who satisfies the bodily needs of the child more or less well but in conditions of psychic blindness or deafness; second, the exaggerated demands made on the child and insensibility to his affects; and third, the absence of a response from the adult in the face of the child’s distress, because the adult is primarily concerned with satisfying him instinctually and narcissistically through the child. This form of trauma, involving a disqualification or denial of affects that is experienced by the child as a veritable “mental rape”, led Ferenczi to question the qualities of the person/object-of-love and, consequently, those of the analyst, in particular, his “professional hypocrisy”. In the analytic treatment, post-traumatic splitting drags the regression down into negativity which can lead to a negative therapeutic reaction. It is essential to understand that the splittings that result from these traumas, and which are operative in the emerging personality of the young child, will persist in his adult organisation and that they have nothing to do with the normal structural splitting defined above. There is thus nothing functional about them either since they do not follow the normal and foundational lines of splitting specific to the personal psychic organisation of every subject but are imposed by the pathology of the external person (or situation) which is traumatogenic.
The judgement of attribution, organising splitting of the emerging ego I will not revisit the abundant literature to which Freud’s (1925) article “Negation” gave rise. I would like instead to focus on the relations between splitting and the judgement of attribution. We know that in this article Freud regards the judgement of attribution as necessarily prior to the judgement of existence and as determining it. He writes: Expressed in the language of the oldest – the oral – instinctual impulses, the judgement is: “I should like to eat this”, or “I should like to spit it out”; and put more generally: “I should like to take this into myself and to keep that out”. That is to say: “It shall be inside me” or “it shall be outside me”. As I have shown elsewhere, the original pleasure-ego wants to introject into itself everything 41
The question of splitting that is good and to eject from itself everything that is bad. What is bad, what is alien to the ego and what is external are, to begin with, identical. (Freud, 1925, p. 237) Freud emphasises here the active component of the instinctual drive cathexis of sensory perception which serves as a model for these two phases of the function of judgement leading to the capacity for negation and for the setting up of the reality principle. He points out that this study of judgement gives access, “perhaps for the first time”, to insight into the origin of an intellectual function “from the interplay of the primary instinctual impulses” (p. 239). I have recalled Freud’s observation that, even when the reality principle has been established, a part of the personality may very well continue to function in the mode of the pleasure principle. This is why, insofar as these two principles govern the drives and their vicissitudes, it is important to consider this description of 1911 as belonging to something in the order of splitting at the level of the instinctual drives. However, in order to picture such a psychic movement, it is necessary, first, to conceive a similar model of the ordinary trajectory of the drives and their most common transformations. I have put forward two complementary propositions on this subject: 1 A kinetic and spiral representation of the trajectory of the instinctual drive: being invisible as a force that moves us, the drive only becomes perceivable through its effects, which are often difficult to decipher. This situation pushes the human mind to form a representation of the trajectory of the drive in the psyche-soma, a representation that obviously can only ever be metaphorical. After many others, I want to put forward the representation that currently seems to me to be the most pertinent for taking account of the movement of every instinctual impulse, irrespective of its quality and its quantity: internal instinctual impulse → sensory excitation → emotions → dream thoughts → thingpresentations → word-presentations → sensory-motor discharge going from the act to speech in relation to the external environment and internal objects → new internal instinctual impulse, and so on. 2 A genealogical model of the drives: concerning which I refer the reader to the first chapter. 42
The question of splitting In the functioning of the judgement of attribution, we can see the very first expression of the second fusion (Mischung) which occurs after the life drives and death drives have given birth to the sexual drives: when the latter enter into contact with reality, which is both nourishing and psychic, they will or will not recognise the existence of this reality, depending on the result of the judgement of attribution: “if it is good, it is swallowed; if it is bad, it is spat out”. Affirmation belongs to Eros, negation to the destructive drive, a point that is developed in particular by the contributions of André Green (1993) on the work of the negative as well as those of Sára and César Botella (2001) on figurability. Thus, the setting up by Freud of the judgement of attribution as a key operation of the human mind, participating in the very survival of the newborn infant and in the birth of his psychic life obliges us to reconsider Freud’s “Formulations on the Two Principles of Mental Functioning” (1911). Indeed, to postulate, as Freud did in 1925, that a proprioceptive experience, exteroceptive or emotional, is first qualified before being recognised as having existence, is to make this operation of elementary qualification the organising sorting agent of the quantitative factor of the instinctual drive economy in search of an object of satisfaction. From the point of view of the basic psychic mechanisms, this sorting agent functions as an active mechanism of splitting which acts on the object of the experience: if it is good to swallow, it exists; if it is bad and must be spat it, it does not exist. I think, therefore, that without naming it, Freud was describing here normal splitting, which, if it functions well, structures the emerging ego.
The role of the splitting of the object in constituting the nucleus of the ego While the basic mechanisms of introjection (essentially of sensory data) and of projection (essentially of motor manifestations) necessarily come into play at birth to constitute the respiration of psychic life at an elementary level, without discernment and irrespective of the quality of the surrounding “psychic air”, on the other hand, the precedence of the judgement of attribution over the judgement of existence sets up another system of functioning for the constitution of the ego. Freud established sucking as the model of the first stage of this functioning in order to account for the first judgement of attribution of a psychic quality: if it is good, I can swallow it, incorporate it, and 43
The question of splitting this good psychic quality will be part of myself; if it is bad, I must spit it out, expel it, and, because I am splitting it to protect my relationship with the good object, this bad psychic quality does not exist. Thus, from the beginning, the elements judged as “good, they can be swallowed” should follow the principle of the tendency towards instinctual drive fusion (Mischung) and form the prolegomena of the core of the ego. At the same time, we can understand better how Freud conceives the role of the splitting of the object in the formation of the ego. Let us return to what he says about it: [A]nd put more generally: “I should like to take this into myself and to keep that out”. That is to say: “It shall be inside me” or “it shall be outside me”. As I have shown elsewhere, the original pleasureego wants to introject into itself everything that is good and to eject from itself everything that is bad. What is bad, what is alien to the ego and what is external are, to begin with, identical. (Freud, 1925, p. 237) The first consequence is that ego exists, while not-ego does not exist. The second is that, in both cases, the existence of the object is split and denied. Having been “digested” by the ego, the object becomes part of what may be referred to as the “nucleus of the ego” and thus no longer has any specificity; expelled by the ego, it is extraneous, non-existent. Thus, the normal splitting of the object, developed by Klein, and the normal splitting of the ego, established by Freud in “Negation” (Verneinung), have the same origin and both come into play at the beginning of life, one after the other. However, things immediately become more complicated due to the fact that, in the situation of helplessness (Hilflosigkeit) in which the human being finds himself for a long time on account of his neotony, it is not certain that the pleasure/unpleasure principle is an absolutely reliable guide for finding objects that are really “good, and which can be swallowed”, unless a minimum of reality principle is added. In fact, “spitting out” what is bad can only be a temporary solution, except in cases of lethal pathology, such as merycism or early anorexia (Combe, 2002). And it is illusory to imagine the constitution of this principle independently of the intervention of reality itself, and in this case of the psychic reality of the adult oedipal organisation of the mother or of her substitute in her relationship of reverie with 44
The question of splitting the infant, which is a normal process of projective identification according to Bion (1962b). Thus, this perspective offers metapsychological representation a temporal/spatial vectorisation of the development of the ego and of object-relations which is reminiscent of the gradual establishment of the functioning of the digestive paths, as I have argued elsewhere (Guignard, 1976, 1996c).
Splitting in the analytic situation The space of “psychic digestion”, the locus of “après-coup” and transferences Since Bion, we are even more aware of how the inclusion of the other in the functioning of the psychic life of the infant is inescapable from the outset. Freud (1921), moreover, had already established its metapsychological representation: “Identification is the original form of emotional tie with an object” (p. 107). A long time ago (Bégoin-Guignard, 1985; Guignard, 1996b), I elaborated a representation of the two general categories of identificatory processes: projective identification (Klein, 1946b) and introjective identification. I noted that the latter is like culture: it is what remains when we have forgotten everything, in this case, the object on which what has become an integral part of the ego, of what might be called its nucleus, depends. It is a matter of knowing if, and how, certain elements of projective identification will be able to link up with and enrich the nucleus of the ego. With this aim in mind, let us try the following approach: If we follow the consequences of Freud’s (1925) discovery in the article “Negation” to their logical conclusion, we will have to accept that, in the unconscious functioning of the ego, the judgement of attribution precedes, throughout life, the judgement of existence. Consequently, not only will the objects introjected by the ego – whether we call them internal objects, ego-objects, superego or imagos – never be part of the “nucleus of the ego”, but furthermore, their qualification as “bad, to be spat out” will constitute an element of intrapsychic conflict that will require a considerable amount of elaboration before they lose a bit of their virulence. This is why a good number of these objects will represent themselves relentlessly throughout the subject’s life, with all the force of 45
The question of splitting the repetition compulsion. And if, in the subject, Eros dominates the destructive tendencies, he will consider these returns as an opportunity to reconsider the qualification of these objects with the aim of making them pass over from the status of “bad, to be spat out” to the status of “possibly good, to be tasted” and henceforth candidates for being swallowed/introjected in order to become objects of the ego and even, ultimately, to be absorbed into the “nucleus of the ego”. This is the third stage, which belongs to the phenomena of great importance subsumed under the term après-coup and which constitutes the “psychic digestion” of which Bion (1962b) speaks. It is this third stage that occurs after an interval of variable length, sometimes infinite, and which necessarily requires the psychic activity of the other/ adult, the prototype of which is the infant’s mother. Once “digested”, this capacity for thinking/dreaming – for that is what it is – will find itself in charge of the complexity of the relations of the emerging ego of the subject with its objects, both external and internal and equally emergent. But it will also find itself faced with all the violence, potentially pathogenic, of the splits of this other/adult. This is what Ferenczi discovered. What I have just described has a crucial consequence for the conduct of all analytic work. It is in the space of functioning of the “psychic digestion” of our patients, and only in this space, that the psychoanalyst is invited to live, feel and to try to think. When such a space does not exist, it is the analyst’s task to try to bring it into existence in the patient by all the means that the psychoanalytic technique has at its disposal. For this space alone sustains the transference/countertransference vector linking the analytic pair. By definition, the analyst remains extraneous to the nucleus of the patient’s ego, which forms itself silently by means of the progressive accretion of sensory elements, both those that are introjected without his intervention because they are felt to be “good, I can swallow them” and those which, initially experienced as alien – β-elements, Bion would say – are pre-digested by the analyst, in his blind spots, by means of his countertransference, and transformed into sufficiently familiar elements to be reintrojectable. Both necessary and continuous, this activity of transformation by the other/adult is obviously dependent on the psychic qualities of this other, whether initially it is the mother and then the father of the infant, or, later, the psychoanalyst, the locus of the transference 46
The question of splitting of all the internal objects of the patient, including the objects felt to be “good, I can swallow them” that have built his identity. The more a subject is traumatised, the more the nucleus of his ego, which is normally split, will remain weak, or affectively needy, curled up in agonising pain, which makes analytic regression extremely daunting, for it is in danger of turning into a fall “without a net”. All the usual defences of such subjects are “on the other side of normal splitting”, that is to say, in a space where the psychoanalyst feels under a lot of pressure to provide understanding and verbalisation of the analytic material. However, the paradox inherent to the pathological projective identification of traumatised patients induces a rejection by the patient of this verbalisation which is experienced as an unbearable intrusion, a veritable traumatic seduction. The analytic situation repeats a situation of psychic rape due to the twofold breach of the infant’s ego, on one hand, by the violence of his own instinctual drive impulses uncontained by the adult’s capacity for reverie and, on the other, by the drives of this adult who aims to satisfy himself to the detriment of the infant’s ego. The trauma experienced involves an asphyxiation of psychic life and a narcissistic shock against which the subject can only defend himself by conforming to the lines of splitting of his traumatogenic agents; this encourages the preservation, often pathetically naïve, of a defensive omnipotence nourished by a hypermature development of intellectual capacities, which nevertheless remain under the sway of the internalised predatory object.
Dynamics of the “blind spot” in the psychoanalyst The reader will find further on, in Chapters 12 and 13, the definition and development concerning this concept which I have referred to as the “blind spot” in the analytic relationship. I confine myself here to indicating some of its characteristics in relation to the question of splitting. In “Les pièges de la représentation dans l’interprétation psychanalytique” (Guignard, 1994), I decried, among other things, certain “readyto-wear” interpretations, that is to say, referring more to the history of the patient or to psychoanalytic theory than to the emotional atmosphere of the analytic relationship in the here-and-now of the session of analysis. I called these interpretations “stopper-interpretations”, because I had noticed that they always served to plug an emotional 47
The question of splitting breach, a rupture of the rhythm of the exchanges in the session and that they were a substitute for a void in the thinking and capacity for representing both protagonists in the analysis. I spoke out against the facile solution that consisted in attributing this breach to the transference alone, preferring to consider it as a blind spot in the analytic field, which implies that the blind spot is also in the analyst’s countertransference. Indeed, I think that the blind spot is a mark of a failure to represent at the meeting-point of the two “infantiles”: the infantile-in-theanalysand and the infantile-in-the-analyst. This failure to represent concerns the state of the unconscious relationship between a part of the personality of the analysand and a part of his internal objects projected on to the analyst. This state appears as a repetition, in the transference, of the resistance to the analysis and to the resolution of its conflictuality through the interpretive activity of the analyst. It should be a temporary state; however, the paths of repetition are innumerable and tortuous, and although the majority of patients want to change, equally they all have a visceral fear of change. Furthermore, the majority of the fixation points that the analyst can identify in the analytic material contain a certain number of traumatic elements. Now, as we have just seen, it is in the very nature of a trauma to repeat itself indefinitely in a mode that I shall call “de-symbolised”, insofar as the traumatised subject repeats for a long time his tendency to live the present in the mode of the past, and to confuse the symbol with the thing symbolised. This coincides with Hanna Segal’s (1957) conceptualisation of the symbolic equation. Consequently, the analyst runs the risk of finding himself unconsciously in collusion with the patient owing to the repetition linked to the analytic setting of the compulsion to repeat linked to the trauma, or alternatively of the fascination exerted by the effects of the trauma on the infantile-in-the-analyst and on that of his patient. By paying particular interest to the role of the negative in analysis (Guignard, 2000) and of its relationship with what Bion (1966, 2005) calls “catastrophic change” – for the better or the worse, but always dramatically – I managed to understand that while it is true that the analysand repeats the same conflictual situation for as long as the analyst has not been able to find a way into it in order to resolve it, it is equally true that his countertransference places the analyst precisely in the conflictual situation in which the internal object of the analysand found itself, a situation that had led him into an impasse. 48
The question of splitting This means that, owing to the very fact of his free-floating attention, his capacity for reverie and his normal projective identification with the emotions expressed by his analysand, the analyst is plunged into a “blind spot” of which, by definition, he is totally unconscious. It is in the nature of things that the analyst is thus reduced to helplessness and, logically, every analyst should therefore deplore this kind of situation which, in addition, develops without his realising it. And yet, if the analyst does not enter into this identification with the internal objects of his patient, nothing happens in the transference/ countertransference field, and the analysis simply does not take place. Faced with these various anxieties – to do with abandonment, fragmentation, murder or suicide – the analysand only has one line of recourse: his defences harden, undergo changes, and often take on a psychopathic, psychosomatic or perverse turn. In particular, the analyst cannot work on the traumatic elements in a patient if he does not allow himself to enter into the emotional tumult produced by the trauma in the patient. This tumult leads in the analyst to a series of projective identifications, in particular, with the pain of the traumatised patient which will momentarily obscure his capacities to discover which internal object he represents in the transference. It is this obfuscation that constitutes a “blind spot”. Owing to the pain felt by the analysand in the repetition of the trauma during the analytic process, his projective identifications will give the analyst the feeling of being an executioner, and if he is unable to accept this difficult position, the process will not unfold. But it is also important that he is able to rediscover his analytic function after emerging from this painful experience linked to his “blind spot”. I have observed that this emergence from a blind spot sometimes takes the form of a protest of identity, according to modalities that will be developed in the chapter devoted to this concept.
Note 1 Note that such a dichotomy cannot in any way be superimposed on the dichotomy put forward by Gérard Bayle (1996), between what he calls “functional splitting”, on one hand, and “structural splitting”, on the other. I argued at the time (Guignard, 1996d) that by reasoning in this way the concept of splitting lost its specificity and that it amounted to a metapsychological error. As Claude Le Guen (1996) pointed out on the same occasion, Bayle’s proposition boils down to making “structural
The question of splitting splitting” the sole category of psychopathology, thereby evacuating the importance, for the general definition of the concept, of the Freudian metaphor of the “lines of cleavage in the ego”. I would add that the splitting thus denoted by Bayle as “functional” because it does not correspond to these crystalline lines could no longer be differentiated from secondary defences in the nature of repression (Freud, 1915d). What would remain, then, of the discovery which, in 1938, revolutionised the whole picture of the psychic apparatus that Freud had had hitherto?
4 AN INTRODUCTION TO PROJECTIVE IDENTIFICATION
Throughout his existence the human being is constantly searching for the dynamic equilibrium of his instinctual drive economy with the help of his objects, external first but then, internalised very quickly, objects that he cathects and with which he identifies. This permanent and essentially unconscious psychic work occurs through what I have called the “respiration of psychic life”, that is to say, a perpetual movement of projection/introjection. It is necessary, however, to note the primordial importance of the quantity and quality of the projected elements and of the introjected elements if we want this perpetual movement to culminate in the development of the human person. The dosage and selection of these elements take place by virtue of a universal mechanism: projective identification. Projective identification is the daily means of our unconscious and preconscious communication with ourselves and with the surrounding world. It stands in such a close contingent relationship with the object that the result is a shimmering infinity of variations extending from the most normal to the most pathological in psychic functioning. At work in the primary mechanisms of defence, a perpetually active base under the neurotic superstructure, projective identification combines with splitting, denial and idealisation, essentially to protect the cathexis of good objects in relation to the good parts of the ego, by separating them from what I might refer to as the “bad sets” (as we speak of “mathematical sets”), composed of the destructive drives of the subject in relation to objects that are felt to be bad. The latter will then be projected outside the core of the ego into an object, external or internal, that is more or less suitable for receiving this projection. 51
An introduction to projective identification It should be emphasised that the subject’s own body belongs to these areas of projection. The situation of the set “good objects” + “good parts of the ego” varies according to the type of pathology of the projective identification. Thus, as Klein (1946b) had already noted in her key article on schizoid mechanisms, the most common situation is to keep the good objects inside the ego and to project the bad objects outside in order to protect the ego from them. However, this situation can be totally reversed, when the inside of the mind or of the subject’s own body is felt to be bad and dangerous – for example in melancholia. The subject then projects his good objects and the good parts of his ego into an external object to shelter them from his own attacks. Generally speaking, the question arises of knowing what can serve as an “adequate object” in which to project these bad sets. Since Bion, it is recognised that an external object adequate for the good functioning of projective identification of any individual is an object that is sufficiently capable of receiving projections felt to be bad by the person who is projecting them and of offering a utilisable model of identification. Bion considers that the prototype of this object in external reality is the mind of an adult person capable of thinking/dreaming the individual in question. He does not describe this activity as a rational and conscious mode of thought but as the activity mentioned by Freud (1900) concerning “dream thoughts”, that is as a deep, emotional experience aroused, in the case that concerns us here, by the perception and discovery of another human being. This psychic activity is the normal version of projective identification. Its prototype is what Bion called the “mother’s capacity for reverie”; its function is to contain and detoxify the destructive projections of the infant in order to return them to him in a more tolerable state, if possible resembling reintrojection. In fact, Bion is describing here the psychic functions of the phenomenological description made by Winnicott (1956) when he speaks of a “good enough mother”. Taking the logic of his discovery to its limit, Bion sees this normal projective identification aroused in the mother by the existence of her baby as the key model of the “capacity for thinking”. He calls this very specific capacity for thinking “α-function” and sees it as the indispensable condition for the emergence of psychic life in the human being. Thus, the organisation of genuine thinking is only possible in the infant with the contribution of an adult third party. 52
An introduction to projective identification To locate it within the genealogy of the drives described in the first chapter, this contribution will become active at the level of the constitution of the third stage, that is to say, at the level of the fusion of the infant’s drives with the mother’s psychic organisation by means of their respective projective identifications. It is also at this level that Winnicott’s (1958) studies on holding and apperception take on particular importance.
Discovery of projective identification As was the case for all the discoveries concerning psychic functioning, projective identification was observed in the first place in its pathological forms, which are easier to identify. In her “Notes on Some Schizoid Mechanisms”, Klein (1946b) presented with extreme simplicity a concept that would not only prove to be fundamental for understanding her personal work but would also revolutionise the mode of heuristic functioning of metapsychological reflection. She referred to this concept with an apparently paradoxical term: projective identification. This apparent paradox contains the entire issue of the habitual functioning of the unconscious and preconscious mind. It concerns simultaneously the bases of the object-relationship, identifications and defence mechanisms.
The bases of the object-relationship Projective identification functions essentially with part-objects. We therefore always have to consider a plurality of relations with a plurality of internal objects, concerning a plurality of aspects of the real external person – or external object.
The bases of identification The concept of projective identification concerns all the identificatory modes of the primary relationship in a conceptualisation that represents their dynamics. In his metapsychology of 1915, Freud writes that identification is the original form of an object-relationship. This elucidation arose from his essay concerning the strange phenomenon of narcissism (Freud, 1914a). From there on a range of terms were advanced in an attempt to describe primary identifications – “narcissistic identification”, “identification with the aggressor” and so on – while 53
An introduction to projective identification the brilliant construction of the Oedipus complex and of its identificatory destiny enabled Freud to come out “on top” with regard to the problem of secondary post-oedipal identifications (Freud, 1924a).
The bases of defence mechanisms We know that Freud began to explore the field of the primary defence mechanisms shortly before his death. In particular, he considered the role of splitting in the domain of the perversions and described it from the point of view of the agency of the ego (Freud, 1940b ). Pursuing the logic of his studies, Klein (1946b) quite naturally extended the study of this concept to the objects of the ego. By discovering that splitting governs not only the ego’s cathexes of itself but also the ego’s cathexes of persons in its external world, as well as of its internal objects, she opened the vast field of part-object relations to which I referred earlier, in Chapter 2, for exploration. She described drastic defence mechanisms that enable the subject to avoid the long and painful work of mourning studied by Freud (1917b). She understood that a mode of functioning using all the primary defences that she had discovered – splitting, denial, idealisation and projective identification – erases the boundary between external reality and psychic reality and permits the subject, in fantasy, to take power over all or part of an external person or of an internal object by projecting into them his own omnipotence. Owing to the partial or temporary abolition of the boundaries between oneself and the other, the identification with this “part of the subject/part of the object” conglomerate takes place along an immediate path and in a more or less reversible mode, depending on the pathology of the person concerned, both with regard to the identities and the fantasy-based qualities involved. For example, a quality possessed by an external person and strongly idealised by the subject will turn this person all the more easily into a persecutor.
Consequences for metapsychology Projective identification is a process that is necessary for overcoming the circular and deadly repetition of the functioning of the pleasure principle and of what is beyond it (1920b), with the aim of bringing about the gradual construction of the reality principle. It is a “concept of the third type” (Guignard, 2001, 2002b, 2014a), the two poles 54
An introduction to projective identification of which, kinetic and interpersonal, permit the reintrojection of an object of identification, gradually modified by the quality, good or bad, of another mind – initially, the adult mind of the mother, and, mutatis mutandis, that of the psychoanalyst in the analytic treatment. Her exploration of primary narcissism led Klein (1945) to understand that the narcissistic fantasy is a fantasy of taking power over all or part of an object in external reality, into which the infant projects his omnipotence, the only illusory bulwark he has for defending himself against his helplessness (Hilflosigkeit). The model for this omnipotence is provided by his mother during the very first days of his life, who has the power to nourish him, care for him and comfort him. But this mother of infancy is also the object of the infant’s projections; she will therefore be the bearer both of a benevolent omnipotence and a threatening omnipotence, nourished by the instinctual drive movements of anxiety and destructiveness felt by the infant in his moments of disquiet and solitude. It is in this place of uncertainty that the first set of defences composed of splitting, denial, idealisation and projective identification will help the infant distance the threat that hangs over his fragile positive link with his maternal object, by isolating from one other his two modes of relating to his mother: the threatening persecutory mode and the comforting loving mode. This configuration therefore does imply not only ego-splitting (Freud, 1940b ) but also object-splitting, a concept with which Klein opened up the immense complexity of the field of part-object relations. The infant does not as yet possess the necessary skills to discover the separate existence of his object. He therefore uses this set of primary defences – splitting, denial, idealisation and projective identification – to protect his good relationship with the qualities of the object, which he deems (see the judgement of attribution [Freud, 1925]) to be all the better insofar as he applies to them the mechanism of idealisation and to distance the negative aspects from this relationship, that is both the subject’s own impulses and the qualities of the object deemed to be bad. In discovering the process of projective identification, Klein resolved the question of the object in the primary narcissistic state: this state could no longer be considered as objectless, since every split-off part of the ego can, potentially, combine with every split-off part of an object, external or internal. Freud (1921) had already noted that narcissistic identifications were generally made with one single detail perceived in person who is the object of identification. 55
An introduction to projective identification Seen through the projective glasses of a part of the ego, a part of the real object becomes an external object of desire; its reintrojection turns it into an internal object of identification which, owing to the ineffable qualities that have been attributed to it by the projection of the infant’s desire, will retain these projected qualities. This takes us back to Freud’s (1915a) description of the state of being in love. The inside and outside of the internal psychic world (the self of Anglo-Saxon authors), the inside and outside of the internal objects within the self, the inside and outside of the ego and the inside and outside of the external objects, will enter into a moving and complicated interplay of relations and identifications with each other, in totality or in part, by means of the perpetual movement of projection/ introjection. However, the extreme complexity of psychic events lies not only in this plurality of spaces and objects or even in the combination of this plurality with the unequal nature of the strength and of the respective phases of projection and introjection. It also depends specifically on the plurality of meanings that are conveyed by each of the projective and introjective drive movements towards each of the spaces of the self and of the external world. For none of these meanings is univocal, and at the unconscious level, they each have the compelling concreteness of phantasy, an emotion that has just emerged from raw sensory data, an infra-symbolic proto-thought (Mancia, 2004) in the realm of primary processes and thing-presentations. Thus, projective identification may be considered as the concept that introduces intersubjectivity (Ogden, 1994).
The psychoanalyst’s projective identification It will be clear by now that projective identification is a common process that is as universal and routine as is the oedipal situation. To be operative in its normal form, as in the capacity for reverie characteristic of the mother and of the psychoanalyst, projective identification, must have undergone the multiple transformations (Bion, 1965) that come with the elaboration of the Oedipus complex. No psychic life can emerge without the help of the psychic life of an adult, who will use his normal processes of projective identification to dream the psychic existence of the newborn infant. Projective identification functions throughout life: the human being will always try, in one way or another, to test his fellow human being by 56
An introduction to projective identification identifying himself projectively with what he wants to infer about the desire of the other. As a spontaneous and immediate response to the stimuli originating from the outside and from the inside, it is a permanent attempt to provide a first level of meaning for his relations with others and with his internal objects. The long march towards the elaboration of object-loss that is represented by the advent of the depressive position, with its litany of discoveries and sufferings, will lead the human being to acquire his true identity through the development of the function of symbolisation, the defence mechanisms in the order of repression and the oedipal situation. While it is constitutive of meaning, projective identification is equally so of non-meaning, every time it is used defensively against castration anxieties or annihilation anxieties that are too strong. The weaker the ego is, the more uncertain is its sense of identity, and the more these anxieties will be threatening. A fragile subject will use projective identification massively, intrusively and even pathologically. A particular inner intolerance for frustration, or for a particularly and repeatedly frustrating situation – more specifically the deafness of those around to the subject’s psychic life − can result in projective identification being caught up in a vicious circle of repetition automatism, potentialised by the continual necessity, for the infant, of resorting to splitting to avoid breakdown. If a breakdown occurs, psychotic confusion sets in and projective identification will function abnormally in a universe whose axes of reference – good/bad, nourishing relationship/ sexual relationship, self/other, male/female, adult/child – will become destructured and give way to pathological confusion. For all these reasons, the psychoanalyst’s projective identification is his working instrument par excellence. It enables him to get in contact with a mind whose characteristics are often very different from his own, an unknown mind, albeit one that is not completely foreign because it is human, which formulates a desire concerning him. Only projective identification can help him to take the measure of this desire and to explore its nature, after which he will have to introject and digest this emotional experience in order to permit the analytic process to get underway. On this path of the countertransference, he will encounter many obstacles, the most important of which will not only come from the analysand. We may mention, in particular, on the analyst’s side (a) the necessity of discerning the defensive pole of his projective counter-identification (Grinberg, 1985) and (b) the capacity to use 57
An introduction to projective identification his projective identification to allow himself to experience the affects, often very distressing and violent, projected into him by the analysand. (I am thinking here of sexual excitation, hate, affective terrorism and despair. But we must also mention the resistance to change, which results in scorn, arrogance and the recrudescence of the group mentality with its prejudices.) The psychoanalyst’s projective identification is a double-edged sword. Without it, the analyst is only speaking with the patient on the subject of psychoanalysis; he is not functioning as an analyst, that is at the level of his affects and his representations, and he cannot rise above the sense of absolute mental clouding that can overtake him when faced with some of the material of the session. With it, he is constantly in danger of falling into a mutual identification in which the analytic process threatens to get bogged down. However, Bion (1958) suggests transforming this danger by accepting to let oneself be carried along by projective identification to the point of hallucinosis in order to touch the bottom of the emotional experience and to emerge from it thanks to a work of elaboration of its thought, analogous to the dream work. Even if psychic space remains to a large extent unfathomable, the determination to explore it is commensurate with the claim, somewhat exorbitant when all is said and done, of offering help to another human being by means of interpreting his transference relationship.
Normality and pathology of projective identification We are indebted to Bion (1962b) for the definitive integration of the process of projective identification within the psychoanalytic theory of normal mental functioning. He recognised in it the spontaneous movement of every relationship between two individuals and thereby confirmed Freud’s great intuition concerning the essentially unconscious quality of human communication, according to the metaphor of the iceberg. He also explored the two aspects of this process: the aspects of the container and the contained, thus establishing in psychoanalytic theory the importance, for the psychoanalyst, of not limiting himself, in his daily clinical work to the understanding and interpretation of fantasy-based contents but of paying the greatest attention to the quality of the containing structures of the patient’s mind. We are indebted to Meltzer (1983) for the first classification of the psychopathology of projective identification in the light of the various 58
An introduction to projective identification modes in which it operates and of the various spaces that it occupies in psychic reality. Certain pathological forms are of more particular relevance for the identificatory aspect of projective identification, that is the aspect of the immediate appropriation of the qualities of the object. The most obvious example of this is hysterical conversion. The identificatory aspect is equally in the foreground in manic-depressive psychosis, in states of pseudo-maturity and in severe hypochondria, studied brilliantly by Herbert Rosenfeld (1965). In this last illness, the fantasy of having been unjustly deprived of a nourishing and helpful object leads the subject to demand from the external object help that he will, moreover, secretly denigrate and repeatedly render ineffective. Projecting his envious impulses onto the object whom he secretly invades, the hypochondriac parasites the object in a more or less malign way, ranging from hysteria to psychosomatic illness, hence the sense of triumph of hypochondriacs when they succumb to a confirmed illness. Meltzer (1983) sees this occurrence of a somatic illness as the concretisation of a fantasy of a paranoid object, produced by the alliance of a bad internal object with a hateful part of the ego. In somatic delusion, he considers that it is around the malicious guile of the parasitic part of the subject that the interpretive delusion is specifically organised. Somatic delusion constitutes a particularly difficult variant to discern and handle of the encysted delusions that we sometimes come across in analysis. The reason for this difficulty resides in the precarious state of the function of symbolisation in such patients at high risk of somatisation. These patients loathe, in particular, working on re-establishing adequate splits that would allow thought to make a healthy judgement of attribution about them; out of fear of change, they cling to the preservation of confusion in the analytic space. The more the analytic work is impeded by the pathology of the processes of splitting, the greater the temptation will be, for the psychoanalyst, to attribute symbolic meaning to the manifest content of the dreams and associations of a patient who, in reality, is plunged into a state of delusional anti-thinking. Other pathological forms concern more particularly the projective aspect of projective identification, that is the state of the internal world of the object, as the subject imagines it in fantasy. Here it is the domain of the phobias that is of concern: What is the nature and quality of the atmosphere that reigns in the object (Meltzer, 1992)? This is the prototypical question of claustrophobia. 59
An introduction to projective identification Certain psychotic confusional states, particularly in adolescence, also belong to a pathology of the projective aspect of projective identification. It can also be found in the interpretive syndrome, where the patient is convinced he knows what others are thinking. At first sight, such a patient may appear to be endowed with a remarkable perspicacity concerning the disorders that have led him to seek help from a psychoanalyst. He seems to be able to “do his analysis all by himself ” in view of the fact that he confers so much meaning on the material that he brings. However, the metamorphosis of the patient becomes spectacular as soon as the analyst puts an interpretation to him which does not tally with his underlying delusional way of thinking. The analyst then finds himself in front of a defensive concrete wall, erected by a subject who is ready to employ all the delusional formations available to avoid discovering the inside of his own psychic territory. If it is relatively easy for the experienced analyst to recover his capacity for thinking with delusionally projective patients, things prove more delicate when he is dealing with a borderline structure. Such patients use their projective identification very intrusively, as if they had lived in an environment where they had little or no possibility to think, and as if they had never had the experience of the genital relations of intimacy of the primal scene. In this category we can find patients who have grown up in a psychically deficient environment, who had to use their projective identification essentially to understand their parents who, for their part, overlooked the necessity of trying to understand their children. With such patients the situation of objectloss reveals a dramatic lack of an adequate container for their own psychic life, hence their considerable immaturity in a split-off sector of their development. We are reminded here of the Winnicottian concept of the false self (Winnicott, 1965) with regard to these patients who can lead the analyst into the countertransference trap of a mutual projective identification at the level of the infantile (l’Infantile) in each of the protagonists of the analysis. In his book The Claustrum. An Investigation of Claustrophobic Phenomena, Meltzer (1992) studies the choice of the object in which projective identification occurs. He notes that it is the different containing parts of the mother’s body that are concerned in fantasy – uterus, vagina, anus, breast, head – and he develops his clinical exploration of the different pathologies linked to this choice of container, particularly in adolescents and in severe narcissistic pathologies. He observes that, 60
An introduction to projective identification depending on the pathological form of the projective identification, the destructive impulses are aimed either at external objects (group of phobias, confusional states, distortion of perception) or at internal objects (hypochondria, pathological psychosomatic states). Freud (1912a) had already very shrewdly noted in his article on “the dynamics of the transference” that the recovery of certain patients becomes more fragile or even disappears when they leave the treatment institution. The concept of projective identification allows for a better understanding of this configuration of failure in the resolution of the transference: the patient not only fails to mourn the presence of the analyst but also fails to reintegrate the good parts of himself that had been “sheltered” from his bad relationship with his own body, by projecting them into the person of the analyst.
Perspectives The conceptualisation of projective identification marks a key turning point in the manner of conceiving metapsychology. On the basis of this discovery, psychoanalytic thinking was able to advance towards pluridimensional concepts such as the “field theory” of Madeleine and Willy Baranger (1964) and to direct its attention towards the links that exist between two concepts, which are themselves complex, such as the dynamisation by Bion of the depressive position with the paranoid-schizoid position: PS↔D. Without these “concepts of the third type” (Guignard, 2001, 2002b, 2014b), we would not have at our disposal today a psychoanalytic theory of thinking (Bion, 1962b), and the theory of the drives would remain in a state of Manichaean penury. The advent of this type of concept confronts the thinker of psychoanalysis with a topographical description in which the internal spaces of the psychical apparatus are governed simultaneously by unconscious processes, of which we now recognise two series: (a) splitting, denial, idealisation and projective identification, on one hand, and (b) the secondary defence mechanisms that are organised around repression, as Freud described them in his metapsychology of 1915, on the other. From a dynamic point of view, this spatial metaphor of the psychical apparatus accounts for the simultaneity of several modes of psychic functioning, each of them implying various aspects of the ego, of the objects of the ego – in particular, the superego – and of the instinctual drives contained in the id. 61
An introduction to projective identification This brief chapter only has the aim of introducing the concept of projective identification, which will be taken up and used in many ways in the rest of the book. The definitions given here complement the picture of the generational structure of the drives and spaces from which psychic life emerges in order to enable the reader to grasp the basic instinctual drive fusions that organise the advent of an ego capable of developing object-relations and an oedipal triangulation.
5 SADOMASOCHISM, A CONCEPTUAL CHIMERA
The fabulous creature called “chimera” has the head and the chest of a lion, the belly of a goat and the tail of a snake. Psychoanalysis is particularly fond of this creature which makes it possible to illustrate the hybrid nature of the psychic constitution and functioning of the human being (e.g. see André, Balsamo, Coblence et al., 2008). After other authors (e.g. Deleuze, 1967), but with parameters that are my own, I will evoke in turn this imaginary creature to deconstruct an apparently commonplace and widely used concept, namely “sadomasochism”. It was Richard von Krafft-Ebing who, in his book Psychopathia Sexualis, published in 1886, introduced into modern psychiatric nosology the names of Sade and Sacher-Masoch. He created the terms sadism and masochism and classed these two affections among the psychopathia. Often referred to as forming an inseparable ensemble – sadomasochism – sadism and masochism refer to these two extraordinary men who were intelligent and endowed with literary skills yet limited by their pathologies which, although they differed, both indicated the presence of a perversion in their instinctual drive organisation. And yet, if we examine how these two men structured their emotional life and their capacities for symbolisation, we are immediately struck by the abyssal distance separating them. One, the Marquis de Sade, is a real torturer, an executioner of the feminine as well as of the infantile, a hateful murderer of all emotional movement, whose irony does not succeed in extracting his pornographic texts from a concreteness and repetitiveness that quickly elicit boredom. The other, the knight of Sacher-Masoch, is trembling with excitement and wild 63
Sadomasochism emotions, caught between mourning an adolescent sister and the fascinating violence of the police world of his father and of the Galician war experienced in his early childhood; he is overwhelmed by the power of a maternal world that he refuses to lose. Fascinated by the splendour of a woman’s body, he offers her his social support and his virile power, in a contractual exchange in which she must accept to satisfy his inextinguishable desire to be dominated and treated as if he only existed in his state of infantile helplessness (Hilflosigkeit). It would thus be difficult to find two personalities more different than Sade and Sacher-Masoch. The first exudes hate and arrogance and takes no account of the person of his victims. The second moves in a universe of emotions and feelings that gravitate around identifiable oedipal elements and infantile traumas, and even though these give rise to constant psychic elaboration, they often clash with the pathological repetitiveness of sexual scenarios, implying an inevitable idealisation by their author of sensuality in physical suffering. We will therefore have to ask ourselves what links these two concepts originating in literature, sadism and masochism, so strongly that they end up, having migrated into psychiatry and then psychoanalysis, forming just one term, “sadomasochism”, which is used at every turn. We will also have to re-examine this association in the light of the metapsychological advances put forward in this book.
Sade (1740–1814) We are accustomed to attributing the origin of the concept of sadism in the psychiatric nosography to the written works of the Marquis de Sade. In fact, such a reference to literature masks hypocritically the actual conduct of Donatien Alphonse Francois, Marquis de Sade: apart from his taste for physical abuse in sexual relations that were essentially deviant with respect to their means and aims, Sade literally tortured several women, in particularly by tying them up and inflicting incisions on them into which he would then pour hot wax. Like all perverts, Sade (1793) blamed his education for having made him what he was, by making him believe that the world was there to satisfy all his wishes: “I believed it because they were foolish enough to tell me so, and this absurd assumption made me arrogant, tyrannical and fierce . . .” (Aline et Valcour, Sade 1793, p. 403 cited by Schaeffer, 1999, p. 9). 64
Sadomasochism Sade never ceased writing throughout his life and looking for ingenious ways to evade censorship by all means possible in order to publish his work, which was always subversive and very often pornographic. Such frenetic efforts to make his work public amounts to a symptomatic proselytism: without any reaction from others, what he took for a personal way of thinking could be reduced to nothing. From 1777 onwards, Sade proclaimed his atheism in all his writings, declaring his allegiance to the philosophy of the Enlightenment. In reality, he used a pseudo-philosophical front full of contradictions to attack everything that could resemble love, generosity or simple humanity. Although his coherence was particularly menaced by any message advocating fraternity and respect for other people, he was nonetheless fascinated by messianic figures, as can be seen from this description of Jesus, in 1782, which barely masks his own self-portrait: He was a seditious influence, an agitator, a bearer of false witness, a scoundrel, a lecher, a showman who performed crude tricks, a wicked and dangerous man. He knew exactly how to set about hoodwinking the public and was therefore eminently punishable in the type of kingdom and state of which Jerusalem was then a part. It was a very sound decision to remove Him and it is perhaps the only case in which my principles, which are incidentally very mild and tolerant, could ever admit the application of the full rigour of Themis. I forgive all errors save those which may imperil the government under which we live; kings and their majesty are the only things that I take on trust and respect. The man who does not love his country and his King does not deserve to live. (Sade, 1792, p. 157) This short extract constitutes a truly “bizarre object” in Bion’s sense. Since Jesus takes all the sins of the world upon himself, Sade makes himself the parodic apologist of those who condemn him and proclaims his death sentence: “The man who does not love his country and his King does not deserve to live”. Sade was not crazy; he drove other people crazy,1 using, with this end in mind, projective identification in the most intrusive and perverse way possible, thereby creating a sense of paradox and stirring up ill feeling in those around him: the prison governors wanted to intern him in a psychiatric hospital, whereas the directors of the hospital were convinced his place was in prison, arguing that society could not hope to treat him and should 65
Sadomasochism subject him to “the most severe sequestration”. After being imprisoned on two occasions in the Châteaux de Vincennes between 1777 and 1784, he was transferred to the Bastille, where he remained from 1785 to 1789, the year in which the governor of the Bastille obtained permission, after a hard-fought battle, to transfer, as he put it, “this individual whose spirit nothing could break”2 to the hospice for the mentally insane at Charenton. Between 1777 and 1790 Sade published many novels, libels, romantic accounts of travels, both real and imaginary, more or less well documented, and systematically used to disguise scabrous sexual scenarios, whose concreteness and repetitiveness tire the reader because they so quickly dry up the imagination. In his writings, the sarcasm and outrageous nature of his remarks scarcely mask the deficiency in the processes of symbolisation that is characteristic of the perverse organisation: if we consider, with Segal (1957) that the activity of symbolisation is based on a relationship involving three terms – the ego, the symbol and the object symbolised – this triangulation is constantly undermined in Sade’s writings. For him, the person does not exist as such, reduced as he is to an object/thing devoid of an ego and allegedly subject to a grotesque superego which the hero’s violence will get the better of by means of a series of scenarios combining bestiality and paedophilia. In real life, one fact illustrates well the perversity of his need for domination: during all these years, Sade published all his writings with the authorisation and under the control of a representative of censorship, M. Le Noir, while at the same time becoming his wife’s lover. We come across this perverse arrogance again in the way in which he would take possession of many symbolically parental couples: he seduced the women, sisters or daughters of all the men whose friendship, political support or financial help he managed to obtain. Freed in 1790 thanks to the influence of political friends, he took an active part in political life until December 1793, before getting himself arrested again and condemned to death by Fouquier-Tinville (prosecutor of the Revolutionary Tribunal) accused of being an enemy of the Republic. Passing skilfully from the prison system to the hospital system, he just managed to escape the Robespierre’s guillotine and was freed at the end of 1794. Ruined, and seeking in vain to recover scraps of past splendours of which he had been deprived on account of his criminal activities, he made his living by publishing pornographic novels. In 1801, under the Consulate of Bonaparte, he was 66
Sadomasochism successively interned in two establishments and found himself finally at Charenton. There, he succeeded in breaking the coherence of the hospital management by ingratiating himself with the director to the point of writing and producing shows with, and in front of, the other inmates of the establishment, even though, according to the head doctor, Sade’s place was not at the hospital but “in a detention centre or in a fortified castle”. In 1810, the new minister for the interior tightened surveillance, considering that Sade was afflicted by a serious mania. He prevented Sade from having any communication with the other inmates of the institution. He considered Sade’s writings as insane as his talk and conduct and forbade him any use of pencils, pens and paper. With a boomerang effect, the splitting that he regularly projected onto those around him always affected him in return: although he never ceased to advocate freedom, he was constantly being put away. Only the situation of claustrum (Meltzer 1992) provided him with the necessary container to be able to struggle, with all his boldness and arrogance, to create a world of pseudo-freedom for himself by subjugating the most vulnerable people around him. This perpetual rebel used the basest means to denigrate the authority to which he had to submit. Sade died at Charenton in 1814 from a pulmonary oedema.
Sacher-Masoch (1836–1895) The portrait that can be sketched of the knight Leopold von SacherMasoch is quite different. Born in Lemberg, in a region on the constantly disputed borders between Galicia and Ukraine, the son of a police commissioner and a mother who was probably depressive, he was brought up in a police station where criminals in chains, vagabonds and giggling and painted prostitutes were kept. He witnessed the “beatings” administered beneath the windows every morning. His wet nurse, Handscha, was a substitute mother for him and his first object of erotic desire. A great storyteller, she also introduced him to the treasures of Slave folklore. In describing his childhood home, he hesitates between hell and the nostalgia of a lost paradise. In fact, the young Leopold was in admiration of his father who, in spite of his social responsibilities that were difficult to bear, was a cultivated man with an open mind who provided his son with the education that his son’s lively intelligence deserved. His son soon learnt French, Ruthenian, Polish and a little German. At the age of ten, he was able to read 67
Sadomasochism the major authors in their original language. At the same age, he was the fascinated witness of the war in Galicia, where the peasants rose up against their lord. When he was twenty-two, he described the whole horror of it in a novel Galizische Geschichten (Galician Tales, 1875) (Sacher-Masoch, 1858), and twenty years later he returned to the theme in another novel, The New Job (1891). Sacher-Masoch portrayed himself as follows: “You know”, he said, “I am a super-sensualist; with me everything takes root in the imagination and finds its nourishment there” (“Venus in Furs”, 1870, p. 178). “When I was still a child”, he writes elsewhere, I showed a predilection for the ‘cruel’ in fiction; reading this type of story would send shivers through me and produce lustful feelings; and yet I was a compassionate soul who would not have hurt a fly. I would sit in a dark secluded corner of my great-aunt’s house, devouring the legends of the Saints; I was plunged into a state of feverish excitement on reading about the torments suffered by the martyrs . . . To endure horrible torture seemed from then on the highest form of delight, particularly if the torturer was a beautiful woman, for to my mind poetic and the diabolical have always been united in women. (Sacher-Masoch, 1888, p. 179) It is perhaps “Venus in Furs” which personifies best his feminine ideal: It is perhaps “Venus in Furs” which personifies best his feminine ideal: “As she lay pressed against my breast in her large heavy furs, a strange and painful sensation came over me, as though I were in the clutches of a wild animal, a she-bear; I almost felt her claws gradually sinking into my flesh. But this time the bear was merciful and let me go” (ibid., p. 214). Throughout his life Sacher-Masoch was in search of a woman who would approximate to his fantasies. With his successive female companions, he established a contract so that they knew what they were getting involved in by living with him. But he was well aware that this ideal remained a fantasy. To a journalist who was interviewing him, he is said to have replied that if he had had such a woman in his life, he would not have needed to put her in his books. We are far removed from the triviality and Manichaean manipulations of the Marquis de Sade. As Deleuze (1967) writes, Masoch has suffered not only from unjust neglect but also from an unfair assumption of complementarity and dialectical unity with Sade. 68
Sadomasochism As soon as we read Masoch we become aware that his universe has nothing to do with that of Sade. Their techniques differ, and their problems, their concerns and their intentions are entirely dissimilar. (p. 13)
I. Sadism Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) The classification by Krafft-Ebing was used by Freud, who made several commentaries on it, in particular in the first part of his Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905), “The Sexual Aberrations”. Freud comments from the outset on the poorly defined term sadism, which ranges from a tendency to want to play the active role in a relationship to the need to find satisfaction in subjecting the sexual object and in administering bad treatment to it. He adds that only the latter acts should be considered as perversion. Establishing a similar gradation for the term masochism, he nonetheless doubts that masochism, like sadism, is a primary phenomenon. He notes that masochism as a perversion seems further removed from the normal sexual aim than doe sadism. These observations would be confirmed and developed by Klein in her studies on primary sadism. Furthermore, Freud distinguishes these two pathologies from the other perversions due to the fact that what he calls “activity and passivity” – which are their fundamental and contrary characteristics – are also constitutive of sexual life in general. He makes the assumption that several psychic tendencies must be combined to form a perversion, an assumption that would be confirmed in normal development, in the form of part-instinctual drives, as well as in the form of the part-object relations conceptualised subsequently by Klein. He made the essential observation that the pathological symptoms of neurosis do not develop at the expense of normal sexuality, but represent a conversion of impulses that would have to be considered as perverse (in the broad sense of the word) if, without being excluded from consciousness, they could be enacted in imagination or in reality. This discovery, which he sums up in the famous formulation “neuroses are, so to speak, the negative of perversions” was to open up for psychoanalytic exploration the whole field of psychosis and of borderline states. Finally, his study of the sexual aberrations led him to recognise the urgency of exploring the sexual life of children and of describing the libidinal stages of development in children. 69
Karl Abraham (1877–1925) Abraham, who died prematurely and is not well known in French culture, was nonetheless one of the most gifted and creative psychoanalysts of Freud’s generation. A brilliant clinician, he was led by his observations to interweave his discoveries with Freud’s, and sometimes even to anticipate them. Profoundly rooted in daily practice, his work contains intuitions and theoretical perspectives whose relevance is still far from exhausted today. In particular, it comprises studies on the links between dreams and myths, as well as his famous description of the stages of psychosexual development. Abraham met Freud in 1907, founded the Berlin Psychoanalytical Society in 1910, and was named president of the International Psychoanalytical Association in 1924, one year before his premature death from a pulmonary condition. He analysed and trained several renowned psychoanalysts such as Edward Glover, Theodor Reik, Michael Balint and Helen Deutsch, as well as Melanie Klein, who arrived in Berlin after her first analysis with Ferenczi. Abraham pushed back the Freudian parameters on the libidinal stages as far as the first topography and the first drive theory allowed. In his paper “A Short Study of the Development of the Libido” (Abraham, 1924), he differentiates between two phases in each of the libidinal stages (see Table 5.1) and insists on the extreme complexity
Table 5.1 Abraham’s Table LEVELS OF THE LIBIDO ORGANISATION
LEVELS OF OBJECT-LO V E
VI. 2nd genital phase V. Early (phallic) genital phase
Post-ambivalent object-love Ambivalent object-love with exclusion of genitality Ambivalent partial object-love Ambivalent partial love with incorporation of the object Narcissistic phase with complete incorporation of the object Pre-ambivalent auto-erotism without an object
IV. 2nd anal (and sadistic) phase Early anal phase II. 2nd oral phase (cannibalistic and sadistic) I. Early oral phase
Sadomasochism of libidinal development and the thoroughly provisional character of this description. Current advances in perinatality lead us increasingly to doubt the existence of an early oral phase that is “autoerotic, pre-ambivalent and objectless”. This may be seen more as the nostalgia of each human being for a lost paradise, including the most creative investigators. On the other hand, as we shall see, Abraham’s description of the second oral phase still corresponds today to the definition of primary sadism.
Drive fusion and functions of primary sadism The survival of a new living being requires it to have rapid and constantly repeated movements of adaptation to the surrounding milieu in which it develops. This biological tendency towards integration can be found at the level of the drives, derivatives of the instincts, as well as at the level of the elements of the structural and functional components of the individual. The more complex the structure of living organisms becomes, the more the activity of integration will be diversified. The main tool of this integration is the organic tendency of living matter to fuse and defuse the elements which, from the outside and the inside, form and stimulate the advent of a given organism, both to keep it alive and to push it to develop as well as to suppress it when it becomes a threat for the coherence or the life of the overall structure of which it is a part. Note that the organism in question may be a simple cell or a so-called higher organism.3 This tendency towards fusion in the human being was described by Freud, both at the level of the drives in his first drive theory and at the level of the ego in his second structural theory; his description (Freud, 1923a) of the poor ego having to serve three masters, the id, the superego and external reality, is familiar to everyone. The psychosomatic survival of the newborn infant depends, therefore, on the good quality of a constant and efficient activity of fusion/ defusion. Catapulted into an air environment, deprived of the protection and warmth of its uterine container as well of its nourishing capacities, the newborn infant needs rapidly, and even as a matter of urgency, to use not only its biological capacities for integrating the external environment but also its own skills which develop at a speed that will never again be equalled in its existence. This integration will confront it with the necessity to submit the different aspects of its instinctual drives to this sustained and constant work of fusion and defusion. 71
Sadomasochism The organisation of this activity is referred to by the term primary sadism. This may be defined as a violent action aimed at taking possession of animate or inanimate objects in external reality, and then also in internal reality. This act of possession is matched by an equally violent movement of expulsion of everything that impedes this devouring. In this elementary circuit there is no place for any consideration whatsoever for the object thus utilised and then rejected. It has no specific reality of its own. Indispensable for survival, primary sadism is located, from the point of view of the genealogy of the drives, at the first level of fusion, that of the life drive with the death drive. “Living life to the fullest”, “devouring”, “suffering”, “spilling the beans” and “venting one’s hatred” are all expressions relating to oral sadism, to which as many others, arising from urethral and oral sadism may be added. More scatological, the latter are also tinged with a “unisex” phallic mentality in which the expression “Go and get . . . !” is reminiscent of the definition of female masochism put forward by Freud (1924b). At the level of orality, the newborn can no longer be satisfied with swallowing, as was the case in utero; he has to learn to suck – an activity that involves closing the oral sphincter – and then, very soon after, to bite, with what that involves in the way of discerning delicately between the object he is sucking and the object he is biting. Mothers who continue to breast-feed their baby after teething can attest to the normal constitution of this discernment. Instinctual drive fusion at the level of oral sadism is thus indispensable for subsequent psychic development. The second oral stage may be considered as the first psychic space/ time in which the infant, in his struggle for survival, will sense the presence of a living agent that is external to his own activity. In moments of hunger, he will experience hunger not as an absence but as the attacking presence of this external agent that he has just discovered. Here we are at the lower limit of the constitution of a part-object, which is external first before it is felt to be internal. In fact, although the nouns biting, bruising and murder – concerning what Abraham described as the “second oral stage” – are evocative of devouring and cannibalism, it is not until a few days after birth that the baby has at his disposal the sensory experience of the continuity of its digestive tract, as well as the anal sensation of expelling something of himself. It is this experience of inner continuity that will be crucial in discovering an outside that has to be put inside. 72
Sadomasochism With remarkable intuition, Abraham attributed the beginnings of the capacity to love to the anal phase; although this love is still contingent, depending on the satisfaction of needs, it nonetheless manifests the advent of an object – a part-object, obviously – that the baby will internalise by means of the mechanism of incorporation. The reader will recall Abraham’s letter to Freud (Bentinck van Schoonheten, 2018, p. 121) concerning his discovery, during an excursion in the Italian Alps, of the inescapable character of the cannibalistic path in the process of mourning: “corragio Casimiro! ” exclaimed one of the baggage carriers to encourage the other – and to encourage himself – to eat rotten meat, the only food they had left to stop them dying from hunger. The experience of expelling something outside oneself constitutes the matrix of the experience of the disappearance of what will become a part-object. This is why, very quickly, the infant will no longer be satisfied with expelling his stools, the products of a recent digestion. His somato-psychic experience will make him feel the first pangs of absence, then of the loss of something that he cannot control but to which his whole being is attached. He will then seek to make use of his increasing control of his anal and urethral sphincters to keep within him these prolegomena of the object which he experiences as an integral part of his sense of identity. The organising role of the object-relationship, as well as recourse to the concept of sadism, both for appropriating this object (oral sadism, cannibalism) and for mastering the possession and expulsion of it (anal sadism) is now recognised. It is this point that needs to be emphasised here: sadism is an integral part of the infant’s tools for forming a first part-object, whose good aspects he must be able to internalise sufficiently in order to develop within himself the beginnings of a sense of identity, and thus, a first core of the ego. In turn, the constitution of an internal object brings with it much psychic pain linked to the fragility of its existence and to the risks of loss due, among other things, to the cruelty and despotism of the infant towards this object. We are then faced with the issue of mourning and of the guilt that is linked to it. It is worth recalling that Abraham’s studies (1907–1925) on the mourning of the object were published slightly before Freud’s (1917b) paper “Mourning and Melancholia” was published. Moreover, Freud wrote to Abraham on 4 May 1915: “Your comments on melancholia were very valuable to me. I unhesitatingly incorporated in my paper those parts of them that I could use” (see Falzeder, 2002, p. 308). 73
Sadomasochism The path had now been opened for the researchers of the following generations, in particular, Klein, with her discoveries on the role of sadism in the fusion and defusion of the instinctual drive impulses, and then Bion, who built his theory of thinking on the model of the digestive tract, thereby bringing together all the psychoanalytic theories on pregenital sexuality. We may also mention Meltzer, who studied the primordial role of the anal impulses in the different configurations of the container/contained relationship.
Vulnerability of the emerging ego: necessary sadism, deadly sadism We are indebted to Melanie Klein for the most precise and detailed studies of the functioning of primary sadism, both oral and anal, highlighting the crucial importance for the development of the human being of a solid fusion of the drive impulses in the infant while his digestive tract is developing. In order to be integrated as structuring somato-psychic experiences these new organisations require a considerable amount of work at the level of the processes of introjection and projection. In her detailed study of the relations between sadism and the early stages of the Oedipus conflict, Klein (1928) points out that, for reasons of survival, death anxiety and the destructive impulses are the very first targets for the primary defences of the ego. Indeed, faced with the vital urgency of introjecting at any price a sufficient number of good elements from its environment, the newborn infant makes use of the only instruments at its disposal at this moment, namely, biting and incorporation. However, from the outset he is faced with a further urgent need: he must also rid himself of the elements that are felt to be bad – mainly, tummy pains and the discomfort of infantile distress in the mother’s absence, which is experienced as a baleful presence. Splitting and expulsion, to which are soon added denial and projective identification, thus constitute the first base for the functioning of the human mind, from the point of view both of its developmental mechanisms and of its defences against death anxiety. Klein emphasises the violent and radical nature of these mechanisms, whose defensive use differs from that of defence mechanisms revolving around secondary repression, and described by Freud in his metapsychology of 1915. 74
Sadomasochism It is in this undifferentiated atmosphere that the digestive functioning of the very young child organises itself in the form of a configuration which, without in any way being an organised perversion, is nonetheless rightly classified within the spectrum of sadism. Following Abraham, Klein understood this well and made the question of sadism a crucial point in the development of the mind: at once the locus of instinctual drive fusion and of the first configurations of object-relations, oedipal included, primary sadism is the source of all the potential dangers for the infant’s still poorly integrated ego. Klein observed that insofar as a damaged object is a danger for the sound functioning of the subject’s mind and relationships, the object attacked is felt to be just as dangerous as the sadistic impulses that attack it. She noted that in boys these ego defences can stand in opposition to his own penis as an instrument of his sadism, which constitutes a major source of disorders in sexual potency. Now if he is too terrified by his own sadism and if he defends himself against it excessively and prematurely, the young child will not be able to develop his own inner mental life because he will not venture to incorporate the elements of external reality to nourish his ego. His relationships and identifications with real people and objects will be disturbed. Unconsciously he will fear being attacked as he seeks to appropriate the contents of his mother’s body which has become dangerous because it has been damaged by the child’s fantasised attacks. At the same time, exploration of the external world – which is felt by every child to be an extension of the mother’s body – can become inhibited. We are reminded here of the wide range of phobias in children.
Primary sadism and the function of symbolisation The danger that the infant’s primary sadism represents for all his emotional stirrings can lead to a more or less total suspension of the symbolic relationship to things and objects representing the contents of the mother’s body and, consequently, of the relations of the young child with his entourage and reality. I am thinking here of the lack of preconscious sensations of affect and of the apparent absence of anxiety which characterise autistic pathologies. More generally, sadism is at work both in the processes of projective identification as a whole and in its manifestations in relationships. It was the importance and complexity of this issue of sadism in psychic development that would lead Klein to conceptualise the 75
Sadomasochism two modes of object-relating (part and whole), projective identification and the two basic positions (depressive and paranoid-schizoid) of psychic functioning. A genealogy of the drives composing two distinct levels of drive fusion gives us a better idea of the aporia in which Klein found herself on the subject of sadism, an aporia that led her to differentiate between a “sadism of the id” and a “sadism of the superego”. Indeed, when the struggle of the newborn baby against death anxiety and the destructive impulses fails to bring about a sufficient degree of fusion of the latter with the libidinal impulses in the form of sexual drives (first level of fusion, second generation of drives), the condition is life-threatening, as in merycism, early anorexia or, in the case of the premature babies of whom Minkowski speaks, those “who do not want to live”. It was the pathology of fusion at this first level/stage that led Klein to speak of a “sadism of the id”, thereby emphasising the extremely tenuous nature of the elements of an object and of an ego at this stage of development. This extremely fragile psychic functioning that is constantly bordering on confusion makes the advent of the second level of drive fusion problematic because it requires the intervention of another human being, an adult, who has, by definition, negotiated oedipal conflicts. Indeed, every process of fusion with the drives of another human being implies, in the emerging subject, the preconception (Bion, 1962a, p. 89) of the existence of an object – external initially but then internalised, a part-object but then also a whole object. The constitution of this object necessarily entails the danger of losing it. This danger is universal; no human being can escape it because it involves the capacity to attach oneself to an object of love, hate and knowledge, to take possession of it in the interplay of projective and introjective movements, to recognise and accept its loss, to mourn it and to accept ambivalent feelings towards it. The descriptions of sadism set out earlier justify speaking of “sadism of the superego” at this second level of drive fusion. I am referring to an early superego which governs in a cruel and drastic way part-object relations. The aim of this defence is to protect the ego that is too weak from the depressive suffering that would result from the drive fusion concerning the object and, introjectively, the ego itself, and thus to impede the painful transition “from pain-and-fear to love-and-pain”, as Meltzer writes (1973, p. 28). Adopting this perspective leads one, then, to think of primary sadism as a mode of psychic organisation that is operative at the two successive 76
Sadomasochism levels of drive fusion that I have proposed (see Chapter 1) in a genealogy of the drives: (a) the fusion of the life drives and death drives of the infant into sexual drives and (b) the fusion of the sexual drives of the infant and of the “adult version” of the mother’s drives into ego-drives. The problem of seduction posited by Laplanche (1986) is located, in my opinion, at this level (b), that of the meeting described by Bion between the projective identification of the infant and that of the mother – the “capacity for reverie” which he saw as the prototype of the “capacity for thinking” – and not at the first level (a).
Pathology of primary sadism In Chapter 8 of The Psychoanalysis of Children, and then in the first of her two studies on manic-depressive states, Klein (1930, 1932, 1934) studies the links between sadism, symbolisation and psychosis She establishes a genesis of the psychoses in relation to the Freudian concept of a fixation point, and puts forward the hypothesis of a very early inhibition or regression in the organisation of oral and anal sadism. For her, the point of fixation of early dementia4 is located at the height of the phase of oral sadism, whereas the point of fixation of paranoia is found in the second phase of oral sadism, when the urethral- and analsadistic impulses come into play as well. She emphasises her agreement with Abraham on this second point and with Freud on the fixation to the narcissistic stage in both these conditions. She describes the radical nature of the defences employed by the emerging ego at grips with the violence of the life and death drives and the failures of their fusion by means of primary sadism. The types of dysfunctioning that occur at the first level of drive fusion concern psychic life – autism, schizophrenia – and even somatic survival. It is here that the predominance of the sadism of the id can be observed. The types of dysfunctioning that occur at the second level of drive fusion concern the entire field of the child psychoses, paranoia, melancholia and other pathologies of mourning, the somatoses, psychopathy and perversion. Here it is the sadism of the superego that dominates and offers the best chances for establishing a transference and a therapeutic process. When there is a pathology of regression, the second level becomes disorganised and makes way for the first. The effects of this can be observed in the melancholic decompensations and potentially 77
Sadomasochism delusional psychotic episodes that may occur, including in the course of an analytic treatment.
Schizophrenia In schizophrenia, processes of incorporation are practically nonexistent owing to the pathology of oral sadism which impedes the ego’s faculty for identification with the objects that it incorporates. Moreover, the excess of sadism impedes both the evolution of the incorporation towards a more developed mode of introjection and the attribution of a more genital status to of the objects incorporated, which are experienced repeatedly as faecalised objects. This blockage of the processes of transformation impedes the unification of the different parts of the ego and, consequently, personification and the transference.
Paranoia For Klein, paranoia is a psychic state that is located on the frontier between the part-object relationship and the whole-object relationship. Here, the ego defends itself essentially against elements felt to be persecuting which pose a threat for the incorporation of its good objects and risk impeding their internalisation. Yet the role of this internalisation consists in structuring simultaneously the recognition of reality and the strengthening of the ego through its identifications with its good objects.
Melancholia The survival of the good object and the survival of the ego will therefore become one and the same struggle as the reality principle and object-relations are strengthened, while part-object relations are gradually transformed into whole-object relations. It is at this point that the psychic situation of object-loss emerges, as well as the fixation point of melancholia. “Not until the object is loved as a whole”, Klein writes, “can its loss be felt as whole” (1935, p. 264). The pathology of the loss of the object that is now felt to be whole is thus melancholia, an illness in which the processes of introjection are qualitatively pathological, and quantitatively too important in relation to the processes of projection. 78
Sadomasochism Emphasising the crucial importance of this transition from the introjection of part-objects to that of whole objects of love for the subsequent development of the personality, Klein points out that, if this transition is to occur, the ego must first have been able to come to terms adequately with its sadism and with its death anxieties, thereby establishing a solid libidinal relationship with good part-objects.
Perverse sadism I think that in perverse sadism a pathological regression of the sadism of the superego towards the sadism of the id can also be found. The presence of language and of an illusory normal mode of thinking in the perverse sadist allows us to infer the existence of a part of the self that has developed without being subject to splitting and denial that has the quality of foreclosure. The perverse sadist uses all his energy to fight against the normal discovery of the otherness of the object and thus of its inevitable loss. We may speak here of a state of hallucinosis (Bion, 1970, pp. 75–76) given the repetitive nature of the negative hallucination (Green, 1993, p. 213) of any object which, by its very existence, would pose the threat of becoming a whole object, and thus an object of attachment and loss. This is where the dividing line between melancholia and perverse sadism lies.
The concept of primary sadism today The infant’s first tentative attempts by means of its drive functioning to get a hold on his environment – including his own body – can be elucidated by simultaneous consideration of the following facts: 1 A genealogy of the drives; 2 An object as the organising agent of the drives 3 A primary form of identificatory relationship
(Klein, 1935); (Freud, 1921);
4 The rapid development of a third group of drives, the epistemophilic impulses, established under the primacy of the introjective identification by the infant of his first objects of cathexis. These impulses will fight over the emotional and cognitive terrain with the sadistic impulses, establishing the capacity to think and opening 79
Sadomasochism the path, for each generation, to not only the greatest but also the most perilous accomplishments that will continue making history.
Sadism and epistemophilic impulses Klein (1931) had already noted that the epistemophilic impulses are rooted in primary sadism. Contemporary clinical experience confirms that sadism plays a negative role that is crucial in the development of the epistemophilic impulses (Guignard, 1997b), of thought (Bion, 1962b) and of creativity (Freud, 1910b). Sadism may be seen as standing in a Moebius band relationship with thought processes and symbolisation: when it is prominent, the subject’s capacities to symbolise crumble, repetition becomes deadly and creativity yields to plagiarism, and even attacks thought processes.
When sadism unravels . . . some thoughts on a social phenomenon Group mentality It was once said of Sade that “[h]e is not mad, he drives people mad”. What does this madness in the “other of the sadist” consist of? The sadist is never to be found where you expect him, and he always traps you where you least expect him. It would be an understatement to say that he lives in paradox: he turns every situation into a paradox. In his intense activity to control his objects and expel a constantly renewed sense of guilt, the sadist finds he is repeatedly obliged to split reality, to disavow the part of it that disturbs him and to impose his own rules on the other part. For example, when Sade obliged the censor appointed by the state to agree to publish his works while taking the censor’s wife as one of his mistresses, he was behaving like a potentate who, not satisfied with circumventing the law, subjugates and ridicules its representative. Or, when he cut the veins of a woman whom he had raped and justified his abominable acts by accusing her of being a prostitute, he was cloaking himself hypocritically in a morality that he himself had just criminally infringed. Without multiplying the examples, we can see that the social group and its laws play a considerable role in the mentality of the sadistic individual. Bion (1961) gave a remarkable description of the “group mentality” that exists in each one of us and whose basic assumptions govern our point of view about the morality of the world much more than we 80
Sadomasochism think. I will simply recall here the three main assertions: “whoever is not with me is against me”, “two people seen together are necessarily seen as having a sexual relationship” and, “we elect so-and-so as our Messiah . . . until we turn him into our scapegoat”. Bion regarded the first of these assertions as a metaphor for the army, the second as symbolising the foundations of civil society, and the third the religious order. He considered that this mode of “debased” (sic) functioning does not belong to thought processes, because it treats any question that the subject might ask about himself and about the surrounding world as resolved in advance.
Basic assumptions as a psychic container It is important to note that while these basic assumptions are not devoid of sadism or paradox, they function as a psychic container for personalities with a fragile and poorly structured ego. However, as this containing function is organised around a split-off part of reality, it is easily disorganised by the paradoxes that abound in this reality and its principle, and so a fragile and emotionally isolated individual can only count on the contents offered by the group mentality if this mentality is embodied by a real group that will indoctrinate this individual. We are familiar unfortunately with too many dramatic examples of such indoctrination, leading groups of fanatical murderers to find ever more victims to maintain the splitting and disavowal of reality that justifies their criminal activities in their eyes. The period of the humanitarian and social ego ideal has given way to a period in which the ideal ego dictates the barbarity of group mentality: whoever is not with me is against me; whoever does not think like me does not deserve to live. But it also sometimes happens that individuals with a fragile ego remain isolated and put up alone with a primary narcissistic wound that gnaws away at them. With its sadism and its paradoxes, the society in which they live has not been able to provide a structure for them, to contain them psychically. Among these free electrons in our Western world, I would like to dwell for a few moments on what we call “crazy killers”.
Crazy killers Truly lone wolves, without any ties to an established group and adrift in their own social environment, crazed killers regularly make the headlines and it is not easy to understand their real motivations. 81
Sadomasochism Nevertheless, we can attempt to make some sense of this savage act when it occurs against a group, a community, and without the pretext of a fanatic group. Take for example the case of those who, in 2002, were in the headlines. One went on the rampage in Nanterre, in the Paris region, and the other in Erfurt, a town of 200,000 inhabitants in the centre of Germany. Both were young men who carried out their killing spree on their return to a place and a community with which they had ties and from which they were, or had been, excluded. The one from Nanterre was attending the debates of the municipal council, was seated in the back row and was not one of the elected officials; the one from Erfurt was an expelled secondary school student who had led his parents to believe that he had been reinstated. Once they had carried out their massacres, both of them committed suicide, after having met, and then lost, a containing gaze. It was a gaze of witness, truly an other, attesting to the reality of a primal scene whose noise and fury show that it took place almost beyond or short of the hallucinatory sphere: in an absolute void of identity. Another human being had made eye contact with them, as the teacher of the school in Erfurt made clear in his televised account of the events: I said to him: “Robert! Are you carrying a weapon? Do you want to kill me? Well, kill me, then, but look me straight in the eye as you do so!” He lowered his weapon and said: “That’s enough for today”. Then without thinking, I opened the door of the adjacent room, pushed him in to it and locked the door. It was at that point that he committed suicide. The perpetrator of the Nanterre massacre, for his part, had spent his evening watching elected municipal officials who could not see him because he was behind their backs. Later, at the police station, he committed suicide when, after being questioned – and therefore looked at – he was left alone for a few minutes in a room. The press reported the statements that he made, which showed clearly that the aim of his mad act was to affirm his existence. A drawing by Plantu appeared in the newspaper Le Monde the day after his suicide, depicting the killer as faceless and shooting at anonymous people through a psyche reflecting the void.
Sadomasochism In both cases, I think that the killer’s sadism was turned back against himself at the point he internalised the cathected object, that is to say, at the point when the latter went away. Apart from the fact that these two tragic cases clearly illustrate the disorders of the splitting of the ego and of the object, we can also identify in them the failure of the fusional role of the mother’s capacity for reverie, a metapsychological concept that gave rise to Winnicott’s notion of “apperception”, concerning the infant’s projective identification. Subject to further elements that may emerge from the investigation in the future, the twenty-year-old-killer who, in December 2012, at Newtown (USA), shot and killed his mother and then, with the weapons that she had collected, went and massacred young children in the school where she worked before turning his weapon against himself could very well represent the extreme point of the sadistic attempt to master the loss of the primary object by suppressing it and then by suppressing his own early childhood before suppressing himself in his present reality. These criminal acts confront us with a situation of solitude and despair which is a mark of the regression of the subject beyond the fusional function that should be played by primary sadism. Unfortunately, society only concerns itself with these lone wolves when they have joined a pack, to which they all bring their hopes of being contained and recruited in exchange for an activity in which the murders they commit will find their justification in the assassination of their own humanity as well as ours. There is no region in the world that is safe from the return of barbarity and obscurantism. We will have to arm ourselves with great patience and courage if we want to further the progress of the pencils of education against the Kalashnikovs of totalitarian banditry.
An intermediate assessment At this juncture in our study of the chimera of sadomasochism, perverse sadism may be thought of as a pathology of the first level of integration of the life drives with the death drives – in other words, the libidinal impulses and the destructive impulses. It is at this first level that the sadism of the id is constituted. The pathology of the perverse sadist orients his basic defence mechanisms – splitting, denial, idealisation and projective identification – towards an iterative expulsion of the entire receptive and feminine part of the instinctual drive apparatus. 83
Sadomasochism Though the constant thrust characteristic of the drive succeeds in constituting an illusorily symbolic language and mode of thought in this receptive part, these processes are nonetheless constantly countered by the struggle of the perverse sadist against attachment to external part-objects and against their evolution towards the constitution of a whole object, recognised as existing, alive, other and thus capable of being loved, of failing, and then of being lost. The whole idea of a process of mourning is totally banished from his mode of psychic functioning. This struggle against recognising the autonomous existence of the object not only disturbs all interpersonal activity; it also impedes the developmental process, particularly because it goes hand in hand with burning envy towards the good aspect of the world, the generosity of the nourishing breast, and thus any form of analytic listening. In these conditions, the sadism of the id is unable to transform itself in a sustainable way into sadism of the superego, and no form of moral conscience, even rudimentary, can be expected from the perverse sadist. The primary identifications of the perverse sadist are radically split, concerning only the seductive aspect of the breast and with a repeatedly persecutory aim. It will therefore come as no surprise that we cannot find in the perverse sadist any secondary identification stemming authentically from the introjection of whole parental and educative objects bearing elements which, under normal circumstances, play a role in the transformation of the ideal ego into the ego idea. As for the epistemophilic impulses, they will only benefit, at most, from the dogged persistence of the perverse sadist to deconstruct his object of study. Unfortunately, the reconstruction of this object, if indeed it occurs, will follow the lines of an already known schema, with limited, and never creative, variations, which explains the poverty and boredom exuded by the destructive scenarios and pornography offered by perverse sadists. Fantasy activity suffers from a severe deficiency, which the perverse sadist seeks in vain to mask by ingenuity that is more concerned with subversive detail than with the creative structure of human productions. I shall not venture to put forward a traumatic aetiology for perverse sadism. The dimension of historicity in the case of the perverse sadist seems to me to be generally banal and lacking in authenticity, and rarely makes it possible to establish a temporal representation, for instance, the hypothesis of a second phase of a trauma, which is 84
Sadomasochism itself difficult to render meaningful. This is why I do not feel able to identify a specific aetiology that is sufficiently convincing. However, I am not enthusiastic either about the idea of throwing the baby out with the bathwater by taking refuge in fine unverifiable affirmations concerning the aetiological character of the activity allegedly observed in certain zones of the brain. In these chicken-and-egg situations, I prefer to pursue my research, consoling myself temporarily with the pleasing and polysemic maxim of Maurice Blanchot (1969), according to which “La réponse est le malheur de la question” (p. 15).5
II. Masochism In his conclusion to “Venus in Furs” (1870), Leopold Sacher-Masoch writes, Woman, as Nature created her and as man up to now has found her attractive, is man’s enemy; she can be his slave or his mistress but never his companion. This she can only be when she has the same rights as he and is his equal in education and work. (p. 271) Sixteen years after Sacher-Masoch had expressed these thoughts, which were as perspicacious as they were revolutionary for his time, the great specialist of perversions, Krafft-Ebing, created the term masochism on the basis of what thought he knew about the sexual practices of Sacher-Masoch, and, as we have seen, ranked masochism among the psychopathia alongside sadism, making a single term out of them, namely sadomasochism. At the origin of numerous texts – both literary and psychoanalytic – on the question of masochism, we can find three domains of reference: 1 The feminine and the question of gender identity, issues which are represented, in psychoanalysis, by the castration complex 2 Psychopathy, in respect of which perversion is the problematic issue in psychopathology 3 Mysticism, one of the extreme forms of the ego ideal Among the modern and contemporary exegetes of Sacher-Masoch, who was himself a great writer, is André Pieyre de Mandiargues (1971), who considers masochism as a mystical experience. 85
Sadomasochism From the psychoanalytic point of view, many authors have tried to theorise the perverse tendencies in human behaviour and in the diversity of object-relations. It is not my intention here to give an encyclopaedic review of them. As far as French authors are concerned, I will simply recall the fine work of Janine Chasseguet-Smirgel (1999) on perversion and the creativity of the ego ideal; that of Joyce McDougall (1978), who clearly showed the porous nature of the frontiers between the normal and the pathological; the book by Benno Rosenberg (1991) on the paradoxical aspects of masochism; and the in-depth work of Paul Denis (1992) on the common component to sadism and masochism, namely the drive for mastery. More recently, I would like to refer to the rich study of my Italian colleague Franco De Masi (1999), who follows Meltzer in dissociating the adjectives perverse and polymorphous and who insists on the pathological development from the outset of the personality of the perverse individual – which could coincide with the proposals on sadism that I have developed earlier. On the other hand, De Masi maintains the unity of the concept “sadomasochism”, which, for my part, I continue to challenge owing to the heterogeneity of their origins and functioning. It is this differentiation that I continue to explore here by discussing now in more detail the question of masochism. Masochism develops simultaneously in two different and interacting spaces: (a) that of internal reality, where the ego seems to enjoy sacrificing its development in favour of maintaining the supremacy of its internal objects, and (b) that of external reality, where the masochistic subject seems to seek submission to another person or to an abstract idea and to derive pleasure from submitting to him or it, attributing him or it with full powers while sacrificing its own desires, pleasures and ideals. As with the sadist, we can observe in the masochist a predominance of the primary system of functioning and of defences – splitting/denial/ idealisation/projective identification. The latter is generally massive and often pathological, but, contrary to the sterile landscape of perverse sadism, the world of the masochist involves a negotiation with the object relation, and from the point of view of the drives, it opens out onto a new development, that of the epistemophilic impulse. At first sight, masochism seems to run counter to everything that has been written on narcissism and on auto-erotism (Freud, 1914a, 1905 respectively). 86
Sadomasochism In reality, as soon as one examines it simultaneously from the angle of drive fusion, from the angle of the part-object relation, and from the angle of the primary defences, the landscape of masochism becomes richer and more complex.
Thoughts on the three Freudian forms of masochism In “The Economic Problem of Masochism”, Freud (1924b) treats masochism as a third path for the integration of the destructive impulses by the libidinal impulses, alongside their projection into the external world in the form of destructive impulses, the drive for mastery and the will for power, on one hand, and in the form a sadistic colouring of the sexual function, on the other. Although Freud uses the term sadomasochism put forward by KrafftEbing, he often observes qualitative differences between sadism and masochism. He notes, for example, masochistic tortures often seem less severe than the forms of cruelty inflicted or enacted by sadists. Freud (1905, 1919a, 1924b) explicitly explored the question of masochism on three occasions. Starting from the field of the perversions, he touched on both the infantile and the feminine, or more exactly, the maternal, as we shall see. In his text of 1924, the most accomplished from the conceptual point of view, he enumerates three sorts of masochism: erotogenic masochism, feminine masochism and moral masochism. His hypothesis for explaining erotogenic masochism – the existence of co-excitation destined to disappear in the course of development – has the advantages and disadvantages of an “anticipatory idea” (Freud, 1916–1917, p. 437). The latter served to advance contemporary psychoanalytic thinking, particularly in the domain of the epistemophilic impulse (Klein, 1930) and in the configuration of a conflict, the “aesthetic conflict” (Meltzer & Williams, 1988), which as we saw in Chapter 2, is closely bound up with this impulse and with the cathexis of symbolisation. His definition of feminine masochism and the pertinence of his intuition concerning the existence of a normal masochism in women were caught up in the phallic culture of his time and in the illusion of a universal unconscious model of a single sex. This masculine sexual theory tripped him up, by his own admission, on the frontiers of what he called “the dark continent”: femininity. We will see that he condensed “the feminine” with “the maternal”, and we will examine the contemporary proposals for going beyond this “confusion of zones”. 87
Sadomasochism As for moral masochism, we will see its identificatory effects in the two clinical examples developed in this chapter, and we will come back to it in the second volume of this work in order to examine its relations with trauma, on one hand, and with group mentality, on the other.
Erotogenic masochism and sexual co-excitation In “The Economic Problem of Masochism”, Freud (1924b, p. 161), describes erotogenic masochism, a form of primary masochism, as being biological and constitutional in its basis, pleasure in suffering furnishing a third, internal path, for the expression and integration of the libido with the death drive. In effect, while, with the help of the muscular apparatus, the libido seeks to control a part of the destructive tendencies by projecting them outwards in the form of a “destructive drive”, a “drive for mastery” (Bemächtigungstrieb), or a “will to power”, and another portion of these destructive tendencies, colours the sexual function proper with sadism, “another portion”, Freud writes, “does not share in this transposition outwards; it remains inside the organism and, with the help of the accompanying sexual excitation described above, becomes libidinally bound there. It is in this portion that we have to recognize the original, erotogenic masochism” (1924b, p. 164). Freud defines this sexual co-excitation by referring to what he had written in the Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905) concerning the fact that nothing occurs in the organism that does not supply its component to the excitation of the sexual drive. The excitation due to pain and unpleasure should be no exception. However, given the “constant pressure of the drive” which was to remain one of the unshakable foundations of his thought, from the Project (1950 ) to An Outline of Psycho-Analysis (1940a), Freud raised here a significant aporia by attributing an ephemeral character to the existence of such “sexual co-excitation”. Indeed, though it is the source of erotogenic masochism, the latter should cease to operate at the same time the co-excitation ceases. And if the integrative and transformative role of erotogenic masochism thus only had a reduced life, it would be necessary to invoke a new instinctual drive source for the heirs of erotogenic masochism, known as “feminine” masochism and “moral” masochism. In short, envisaging the death of a drive before the death of the subject himself would confront us with a major incoherence at the level of metapsychology and lead us into a vertiginous world 88
Sadomasochism of virtualities that would call into question the whole dynamic of the instinctual drive and defensive economy. In particular, the whole problem of repression and sublimation would have to be reconsidered. This model thus stands up badly to a scientific reflection on masochism. It involves basing an organic model – I am thinking here of the thymus – on a process that is observable at a psychic functional level, that is capable of being the object of defensive psychic actions entailing, for example, its inhibition, displacement or repression. In this same article (Freud, 1924b) seems, moreover, to hesitate concerning this disappearance of sexual co-excitation: “It would attain a varying degree of development in different sexual constitutions; but in any case it would provide the physiological foundation on which the psychic structure of erotogenic masochism would afterwards be erected” (p. 163). Let us follow Freud in his critique of the vague, incomplete and not always coherent aspect of the formalisation of masochism, and concentrate our minds on the openings offered by his observations. In fact, what he suggests amounts to considering erotogenic masochism as a “gateway” allowing the life drives and the death drives to turn towards a new development in connection with the infant’s capacity to perceive reality and to integrate it with his experience of the world. The genealogy of the drives put forward in the first chapter of this book takes up this idea, with reference to Freud’s text, which, precisely, gives a role to external reality at the level of the second generation of the sexual drives in order to give birth to the third generation, namely the ego-drives. We are thus justified in considering sexual co-excitation in the same way as any other instinctual drive offshoot of the pre-primal drives (Ur-Ur-Triebe), namely the life drives and the death drives. Rather than exhausting itself, it can meet with the same defensive configurations as the other instinctual drive expressions, that is to say, splitting, denial and projective identification with a basic level of psychic organisation, and defences in the order of secondary repression at a secondarised level. Furthermore, the nature of this instinctual drive offshoot seems to correspond to the descriptions of Klein concerning the vicissitudes of the epistemophilic impulse or with the qualities – positive and negative – of the K impulse described by Bion. When sexual co-excitation increases the bonus of pleasure in the relationship with the object, as Freud describes in the Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, we can consider that this bonus is obtained 89
Sadomasochism through the association of three instinctual drive satisfactions: that of the libido (+L) – “we only know well what we love” Leonardo da Vinci said; that of the destructive impulses (+H) – we “attack” a problem, we make a clean slate of what has been acquired in order to consider a new hypothesis and so on; and that of the epistemophilic impulse (+K) – we “discover”, we “invent” and we “create”. In this case, it is the gain at the level of the reality principle which, by promoting a bit of otherness, allows a masochistic relationship to evolve towards the possibility of elaborating object-loss. On the contrary, when sexual co-excitation cathects suffering and unpleasure, as Freud supposes in order to explain erotogenic masochism, we are led to consider the masochism that oversees it as the expression of hatred for the knowledge of reality – which Bion denotes as –K and which constitutes the entropy of the epistemophilic impulse. And yet Freud’s intuition remains remarkable on one point: when the infant is born, sexual co-excitation carries with it an instinctual quality that is both essential and ephemeral if it is not sustained and stimulated by the close environment in the form of attention. One only has to observe the serious gaze and the attentive behaviour of a newborn baby, who is capable of following an object with his eyes for several seconds and even of turning his head to enlarge his visual field, to understand that we are in the presence of a very important instinctual drive cathexis.
Masochism and the reality principle However, this attention to the world manifested by the infant can only play its developmental role as an epistemophilic impulse if it finds an echo and mirror in the mother’s desire to discover this unknown being to whom she has just given birth. It is in this space/time of human psychic development that the interaction between the infant and the mother’s capacity for reverie should lead to the normal transformation of his perception into apperception (see Chapter 2). Since Bion we know that this external reality which Freud had intuited is constituted by a psychic function: the mother’s capacity for reverie, the prototype of the capacity for thinking, alias α-function, thanks to which her normal projective identification stimulates the prolegomena of the same function in her newborn baby. Now a good capacity for thinking requires a good synergy of this tripod of the ego-impulses ±L, ±H and ±K (see Chapter 1). Remember that Bion 90
Sadomasochism applies the same model to the relations that are established between the psychoanalyst and his patient (see Volume Two of this book). Thus, the reality principle arises from the cathexis of the pleasure/ unpleasure principle by the K impulse of the emerging subject who is attentive to this first adult who is curious about him and who cathects him emotionally while providing him with the care required by his state of helplessness. If this first adult welcomes him with this process of normal projective identification that constitutes the capacity for thinking, we will witness the early birth in the infant of a process of sense-making or of ascribing meaning (mise en sens). The transformation of a part of the pleasure/unpleasure principle into reality principle and the internalisation of the first thinking object cathected by the infant are thus concomitant with the emergence and development not only of the impulses of love and hate but also of the epistemophilic impulse (+K). When this impulse is not sufficiently sustained and contained in the cognitive and affective links that it is the mother’s task to establish with the infant in the days and weeks following his birth, the infant’s epistemophilic impulse will enter into conflict with his existential anxieties related to object-loss and annihilation. It is at this point where there is a danger of losing the primary object that erotogenic masochism has its origin and constitutes an attempt by the infant to maintain a sufficient quantum of libidinal energy to fight against the fragmentation of his emerging ego. This compromise will result in the complementary pole of the +K impulse, namely –K, an active refusal to take cognisance of a reality that is too threatening. Thus, masochism may be defined in all cases as the negative pole of the epistemophilic impulse, that is to say, as –K. It will play its role of protecting the fantasised illusion of fusion with a good object by repudiating reality when it is too threatening or too painful and attacks too violently the quality “it’s good, I can swallow it” of the first object of cathexis (see Chapter 3). As the first reality with which the infant is confronted is the perspective of having to lose his primary object in the inexorable process of individuation, taking into consideration sexual co-excitation and erotogenic masochism throws new light on the long and painful path of the constitution of the internal object. Whether loved or hated in its unavoidable psychic bisexuality, this object will always be a real object that will have to become an object of knowledge, meaning, introjection and identification. 91
Sadomasochism From this point of view, it may be considered that masochism constitutes the defence par excellence against the unbinding required by the setting-up of the reality principle. Masochism defends itself against the necessary work of mourning that governs symbolisation and a secondarised mode of identification, based on the introjection of the qualities of the object, as Freud (1917b) described it in “Mourning and Melancholia”. This defence operates by means of mechanisms of splitting and denial of what sexual co-excitation offers in terms of a bonus of knowledge and thus of increased awareness of the reality principle and the development of capacities for symbolisation. Although the danger of losing the object is too terrifying for the infant’s mind, a pathologisation of the normal processes of projective identification can be observed with regard to some of the qualities of the object that must not be lost. The processes of mourning and introjective identification permitting the subject to individuate himself in his relationship to the cathected object will not be established. And because instinctual drive impulses do not only constitute positive antagonistic forces but can also become active in their negative form – the absence of love unquestionably has different effects from those produced by hate, for example – the negative of the epistemophilic impulse/sexual co-excitation will form the instinctual drive basis of attacks on thinking, attacks that are characteristic of psychotic mechanisms (–K) which may even include masochistic illness, which counts among the perversions. Alongside acting out and somatisation, masochism is one of the scenarios of the failure of the subject to cathect the object of external reality instinctually and, more specifically, of the capacity for thinking about such an object, constituted generally by the mother and, mutatis mutandis, by the analyst. It goes without saying that cases exist where the policy of putting one’s head in the sand can be a good thing. That is why masochism may also be considered as a “guardian of life” in certain circumstances (see Rosenberg, 1991). The only thing is that this form of protection does not work in favour of developing the psychic potentialities of the subject who makes use of it.
“Normal” masochism, denoted as “feminine” by Freud Freud considered that the normal version of masochism was directly derived from erotogenic masochism and corresponded to what he referred to as feminine masochism, of which he only gave, as we know, 92
Sadomasochism clinical examples concerning men. What light can we shed today on this blurred description that was criticised by its author himself, even though it was full of profound intuitions? There are two aspects to the question: 1 From the point of view of gender – If, as Freud asserts (1905), the libido is “invariably and necessarily of a masculine nature” (p. 219), the epistemophilic impulse can be likened to a receptive/captive instinctual drive tendency in the order of the feminine. To describe the ungraspable character of such a state, I have compared it to the grin of the Cheshire cat concerning which Alice, in Wonderland, remarks while watching the fabulous animal disappear: “Well, I’ve often seen a cat without a grin, but a grin without a cat . . . !” (Carroll, 1869, p. 94, cited by Guignard, 1986, p. 135). This model provides us, then, with the prototype of the bisexual identifications of the child with the primal scene. 2 From the point of view of masochism – Rather than “feminine”, normal masochism is, in reality and very specifically, “maternal” masochism. It is composed of the mother’s identification with the infant’s first object of cathexis and constitutes an efficient defence against recognising the loss of the object and the establishment of the reality principle. It is this maternal masochism that guarantees the anaclitic situation (Spitz, 1946) which is foundational for the basic narcissism of the newborn infant and permits his first experiences of auto-erotism constituted in the transitional space with the help of hallucinatory wish-fulfilment. Like a marsupial pouch, maternal masochism takes over from the infant’s erotogenic masochism so as to prolong the protection of this little neotene confronted too soon with reality. And if, moreover, the mother’s epistemophilic impulse cathects the discovery of this new citizen of the world sufficiently, it will encourage him to give free rein to his libidinal co-excitation and to go out and discover this new universe. We can therefore render justice to Freud’s intuition concerning the existence of a normal masochism in women during maternity. Winnicott (1947) referred to this admirably as the “mother’s normal illness”. In the very first stages of the infant’s life, it is the task of the mother to maintain at all costs the infant’s first instinctual drive 93
Sadomasochism cathexes so that they can organise themselves as the first memory traces sheltered from reality. It is nonetheless true that masochism thus finds itself detached from the feminine. At the same time this modifies the view that we can have of these two entities: a defence par excellence against object-loss, masochism marks the failure of processes of introjection, the very processes that characterise psychic femininity. It is because masochism does not belong to the feminine, but rather to the maternal, that Freud, in his description of feminine masochism, only finds examples from masculine pathology: indeed, the patients that he describes show significant difficulties in separating from their maternal object, giving rise to a masochistic fixation to their primary mode of instinctual drive cathexis and to serious disorders of projective identification. We can thus better understand the description that Freud (1924b) gives of the masochism that he calls “feminine”: “being castrated” (the breast before the penis); “being copulated with”, rather than deriving pleasure from it – copulation between the parents, of course, with whom the child is in a state of projective identification; “giving birth”, in the pain of separation from the mother. To the extent that maternity is part of the biological destiny of a woman, it is much more exceptional to find, in a female patient, these kinds of phantasies as an expression of a masochistic pathology. Female masochistic phantasies undoubtedly involve a desire for the penis but in the context of the relations between this desire and submission to an all-powerful mother for whom the masochistic woman is willing to sacrifice all her own desires in order to have a man and her own children.
Masochism and the epistemophilic impulse For the subject we are concerned with here, it may be considered that, like a Moebius strip, masochistic tendencies in life and in the analytic treatment occur, at best, in alternation with, and at worst, in place of this state of co-excitation characteristic of the feminine, a state that marks the advent of the epistemophilic impulse. More precisely, the failures occurring at the level of the primary feminine introjections and identifications may be considered as constitutive of primary masochism. Freud’s description contains an optical illusion similar to that provided by the Moebius strip. In reality, it is the identificatory introjection of the primary maternal sphere that is a guardian of life, whereas 94
Sadomasochism primary masochism, at this level as well as all the others, is subject to the supremacy of the hatred of knowledge, in the service of the death drive. However, at the first level of development where primary masochism can be observed, the loss of the external object is really deadly, at least for psychic life. In normal conditions, both for the baby and the mother, the problems related to object-loss take several months to set in. The space of the primary feminine sphere offers a second edition of the feminine identifications with the mother, as a prelude to identifications with the father. This development is obviously related to the concepts of the depressive position and the early Oedipus complex, the latter being linked to a first acme of the genital impulses, around the fourth month of the first year of life. It emphasises the fact that the elaboration of the loss of the first whole maternal object involves introjective identification with the mother’s genital femininity, including the existence of the two distinct places of her genital apparatus: the uterus and the vagina. The normal destiny of these introjective identifications continues through the organisation of anality, which takes over the continued elaboration of the mourning of the object, its mastery, its symbolisation and displacements of cathexis both of objects and of parts of the body. However, as normality is utopian, masochism nonetheless continues its silent work of opposing the development of psychic life. The observable signs of this are the prevailing expression of projective identification with a part maternal object which requires the sacrifice of the subject’s development in exchange for its love.
Moral masochism Freud’s description of moral masochism contains elements of a masochism that is common to the subjects of both sexes: Conscience and morality have arisen through the overcoming, the desexualization, of the Oedipus complex; but through moral masochism, morality becomes sexualized once more, the Oedipus complex is revived, and the way is opened for a regression from morality to the Oedipus complex. This is to the advantage neither of morality nor of the person concerned . . . Thus moral masochism becomes a classical piece of evidence for the existence of fusion of instinct. Its danger lies in the fact that it originates from the 95
Sadomasochism death instinct and corresponds to the part of that instinct which has escaped being turned outwards as an instinct of destruction. But since, on the other hand, as it has the significance of an erotic component, even the subject’s destruction of himself cannot take place without libidinal satisfaction. (1924b, pp. 169–170) I do not think it is desirable to make too much of an attempt to separate the three forms of organisation brought together by Freud under the same term masochism, except in the interest of giving a better description of the details of their differences and their similarities. It is better to consider them as different spaces/times of a mode of psychic functioning that ranges from the most easily reversible masochism (erotogenic) to the most rigidly perverse (moral), including maternal masochism, which is actively involved in what Winnicott so poetically referred to as the mother’s “normal illness”. The processes of sense-making and of symbolisation are heirs of the installation of the reality principle, which must be understood as the integration of the bisexual aspects of the internal objects (primal scene) in an instinctual drive context where sexual co-excitation joins forces with the libido to contain the destructive impulses. As a corollary and antagonist of infantile sexual curiosity, erotogenic masochism functions essentially at a level of part-object relationship. As we will see in the second volume of this book, its role is important in forming and maintaining infantile sexual theories as a defence against the reality of the parents’ sexuality. Masochism protects the subject’s illusion of omnipotence and idealisation of his objects, but at the same time it exposes the subject to the dangers of a reality that he refuses to see for what it is. In order to respond to Freud with a masculine example, we could refer to two literary figures of the deviations of maternal masochism: Emma Bovary, of whom her author Gustave Flaubert (1821–1880) said, “Madam Bovary is me”, and Jean-Joachim Goriot in Le Père Goriot by Balzac (1799–1850). In both of them, moral masochism is not far away from the regressive process that takes place during the intrigue. Refusing to take cognisance of the true nature of the love-objects, these two emblematic characters put their capacities for love in the service of a narcissism that becomes progressively pathological, leading them to adorn, over and over again, their odious love-objects with idealised psychic attributes in the mode of a part-object relationship 96
Sadomasochism touching on fetishism. Indeed, this is what will cause their loss, since both Bovary and Goriot preferred to annihilate their own lives rather than to recognise the mediocre quality of the idealised internal objects to which they had devoted themselves narcissistically.
Return to the chimera of sadomasochism Although a common point between sadism and masochism is that they both unfold within a spectrum that ranges from normality to perversion, that, alas, is where the similarity ends. The normal and first function of sadism, “primary sadism” is indispensable for the survival of the human infant who is helpless and incapable of feeding himself, moving around and taking care of himself. Later in life when this struggle for life is no longer a necessity, the subject in whom the sadistic mentality is still predominant will continue in his relations with others not to take any account of the state and emotions of the person whom he has taken as his object. The latter will be reduced to the status of a thing destined to satisfy instinctual drives whose fusion does not occur normally – that is to say under the primacy of the libido – but rather under the sway of the destructive drive. Such an attitude marks the entry into a perverse organisation. The sadist has no knowledge of the mirror relationship and Winnicottian apperception. For him, the disappearance of the object is not an absence that is a source of anxiety and depression, or even of persecution. It is simply an inconvenience that will have to be redressed as quickly as possible by finding another person/thing whose vulnerability is such that it lends itself to being caught up in his frenetic activity – “worse than bad”, as Pierre-Henri Castel (2014) puts it. As for the sadist’s epistemophilic impulse, it meets its impasses in the compulsion to repeat that characterises his perverse mode of functioning. The sadist’s disorders of thought and capacities for symbolisation are considerable under their camouflage of mockery and bluster which can “drive the other person crazy”, as Searles (1959) writes. In the genealogy of the drives, we can consider that the pathology of the sadist is located at the first level of integration – a failure of the integration of the libido with the destructive impulses and a pathological and irreducible splitting of his mental functioning aimed at denying untiringly all emotion and all activity of real thought. As a consequence of this pathology, the second level of integration also fails: the normal and mutual projective identification that should occur 97
Sadomasochism between the infant and his mother to give birth to the ego-drives cannot take place satisfactorily, which closes off for the sadist every path that could lead to real intimacy. This also implies that a perverse sadist cannot make use of analysis to overcome his perversion. At the very most, the split-off/denied part in which his emotions and his guilt are enclosed may benefit from the peculiar nature of analytic listening. It cannot, however, acquire the force necessary for breaking down the walls in the subject’s psychic functioning sufficiently so that he can introject and love a good object. I agree with Castel’s (2014) proposal to use the term “pervers”6 as an adjective and to describe it as “worse than bad”. Like him, and like Deleuze before him, I think that there is a difference in nature between perverse sadism and perverse masochism. The landscape offered by the masochist is quite different. Even Krafft-Ebing agrees that the masochist moderates the enactments of his fantasies: The instinct of preservation acts against the extreme consequences of masochism, and that is why murder and severe injury, which can be committed in sadistic passion, have here, as far as known, no passive counterpart in reality. But the perverse desires of masochistic individuals may, in imagination, attain these extreme consequences (1886, p. 90) In the masochist, the most evident pathology clearly lies at the level of the second level of instinctual drive integration, as well as at the following level, that of the discovery of the other-of-the-other, giving the object its status as a whole object. For, as Klein has pointed out, only a whole-object relationship makes it possible to experience the loss of the object and to set up defences against it. In other words, while the sadist never knows love, love is all the masochist knows. He blithely sacrifices the development of his ego to it but in return demands from his object a fixedness in his role as a dominating master/mistress that no human being who is more or less normal can sustain in the long term. The chief clinical feature of sadistic perversion is the avoidance at all costs of despair and even a sense of persecution. The sadist flees from any possibility of entering the depressive position and succeeds in avoiding the imprisonment of the paranoid-schizoid position (see Chapter 11). On the contrary, only melancholia shares with perverse sadism such a deadly defusion of the instinctual drives. While the ego of the melancholic 98
Sadomasochism succumbs under the weight of its internal objects – the superego above all − the sadist struggles with ferocious energy against any introjection of an object that could, in the process, become an object of identification. It was probably this pair of opposites in psychopathology that gave rise to the chimera of “sadomasochism”. In reality, melancholia7 forms a complementary pair with sadism on the model of concepts of the third type: sadism ↔ melancholia. The study of instinctual drive defusion in the clinical experience of masochism is more varied, even if the sense of dread that the reality of a whole and independent object inspires in the masochist introduces into the analytic field recurrent distress and significant perverse defences. The links among masochism and the feminine, the maternal and the epistemophilic impulse are both more substantial and more flexible than those of sadism, which gives us more reason to place hope in the possibility of curing the masochist than the sadist. Nevertheless, masochistic patients all present weaknesses in the functioning of their symbolic thought. In my practice, I have been led to reflect on the role of masochism in disturbances of functioning, and even of the very establishment of the preconscious. In some patients this is manifested by a difficulty in recognising the psychic nature of emotions and in drawing elements of symbolisation and thought from them. This deficiency can lead them to a state of confusion when they are under the influence of emotion that is linked to their fear of losing the object. They then often hide behind excessive idealisation of the object from whom they are unable to separate in order to achieve individuation. Under these conditions, the analyst cannot foresee in which register his interpretations will be heard. His words are often perceived in a register of symbolic equation. For example, I have observed in some of these patients a significant disturbance in the depiction in dreams – and not only in conscious symbolism – of the female genital organs. The interpretation of dreams, under these conditions, reserves many surprises for anyone who is not aware of this fundamental deficiency in symbolic thought. To conclude, these considerations on sadism and masochism clearly confirm the chimerical nature of a single concept of “sadomasochism”.
Notes 1 We are reminded here of Harold Searles’s (1959) remarkable book, The Effort to Drive the Other Person Crazy. 2 In French, “cet être que rien ne peut réduire”.
Sadomasochism 3 The biologist Jean-Claude Ameisen (1999) has brilliantly described this phenomenon in his book, La Sculpture du vivant (The Sculpture of Life). His work is a striking illustration of the utilisation by Bion of the “negative capability” conceptualised by the poet John Keats (1795–1821). 4 The pathology of Dick, who was diagnosed with “early dementia” in 1930 and whose analytic treatment Klein relates in the article of the same year cited in the references, corresponds to the term autism introduced by Leo Kanner in 1943 only. 5 Translator’s note: “The answer is the misfortune of the question”. 6 Translator’s note: in French the word pervers is both a noun (pervert) and an adjective (perverse). 7 I was just finishing writing this chapter when the terrible crash of the Germanwings plane occurred on 24 March 2015 in the French Alps. The investigation established that the co-pilot who was responsible for the massacre was receiving treatment for bipolar disorder. I could have done nicely without finding such a tragic confirmation of my hypothesis.
6 THE EPISTEMOPHILIC IMPULSE
According to the Petit Robert dictionary, the noun curiosity covers a wide emotional range of meanings that go from “care, concern that one has for something” to the “tendency to learn, to know new things”; then, the crescendo increases: “See appetite, thirst (for knowledge)”; “curiosity about the secrets, affairs of others, see indiscretion”; and finally, “need to know something particular”, for example, “have unhealthy curiosity” (sic)! In German, the words Neugierigkeit and Gierigkeit insist on the components of greed, voracity and envy that can be found in curiosity. As for the word epistemophilia, Ilse Barande (1977) notes in Le Maternel singulier: “It is worth remembering, with regard to this French translation of Wissbegierde that this word, an ordinary one in German, can be translated quite well by convoitise (covetousness) or avidité de savoir (thirst for knowledge), which restores the sensual and imperative dimensions of the word”. What clinical and metapsychological reference points can be derived from this polysemy? Freud (1909) clearly linked Little Hans’s thirst for knowledge – “this little investigator”, as he called him – with the elaboration of his Oedipus complex. By locating definitively the origin of the child’s curiosity within the sole context of curiosity about origins, he never deemed it useful to raise the desire for knowledge to the level of a metapsychological concept. From the Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905) to “A Childhood Recollection from Dichtung and Wahrheit” (1917a), including “Little Hans” (1909) and “Leonardo da Vinci and a Memory of his Childhood” (1910b), Freud repeats that curiosity does not come spontaneously to the child but is always aroused by the birth of a younger 101
The epistemophilic impulse child. Such a declaration takes on its full significance when it concerns Leonardo da Vinci who, until the age of twenty-four, was the only child of a single mother. Furthermore, by integrating the emergence of curiosity within the context of the formation of the Oedipus complex, Freud sets another limit, temporal this time, to the advent of curiosity: according to the construction that he puts forward concerning the little Johann Wolfgang Goethe, aged three, neither curiosity nor jealousy can manifest themselves before that age. In the scene that he reports in this connection, they cannot therefore be concerned with the birth of Cornelia, a younger sister born when Goethe was fifteen months old. Freud’s description of the scene is delightful and picturesque. Here is a summary of it. When Goethe was three years old, he found himself in the kitchen where a large number of dishes and pots as well as miniature utensils that had just been bought at the annual crockery fair in the area, had been deposited. Egged on by his young neighbours, friends of the family, who were delighted to take part in a prank indirectly, the child began throwing out the window all the little dishes, pots and pans bought for the children to play with – that is, himself and the sister nearest to him in age, Cornelia, who was twenty-one months old at the time. Then, getting more and more excited by these objects that smashed to pieces on falling to the ground, he continued by also throwing out all the new crockery that he could get his hands on. Very pertinently, Freud links this episode to Johann Wolfgang’s feelings of jealousy towards a younger brother. He sees the child’s action as a magic action expressing his desire to put the intruder back outside again from where, symbolically, he had come. He insists on the fact that such a reaction can under no circumstances occur in a child of younger than three years old, and he uses this assertion, which is merely his own opinion, to deny categorically that the scene of the dishes could have any connection with the birth of Cornelia. For him the scene was “irreconcilable” with Goethe’s “tender age” at the time of the birth of his sister who, on account of this very small difference in age, could not, in his view, be considered as an object of jealousy. As, at the time of the events, two other brothers had been born after Cornelia, Freud attributes the young Goethe’s behaviour to the birth of the last of these rivals. Just as fond as Goethe was of questions of filiation,1 Freud engages in a conscientious recapitulation of the dates of birth – and in some cases, of death – of all Goethe’s brothers and 102
The epistemophilic impulse sisters to support his negation . . . or his denial? For, strangely enough, he does not mention the fact that Johann Wolfgang Goethe, his parents’ second child, was born after the death of a first child who died when just a few months old. And in his endeavour to demonstrate the structure of the curiosity and jealousy of the young Goethe, Freud finds it useful to point out that a child is never jealous of the brothers and sisters born before him. Now Freud had two older half-brothers, Emmanuel and Philipp, whose son became the “inseparable playmate” of the young Sigi . . . This complex oedipal and identificatory situation of his own childhood did not seem to move Freud as he was examining the emotional situation of the young Goethe. Neither the effect of the repetition of the trauma (including the guilt linked to the death of the elder brother) nor the complexity of retroactive psychic functioning in relation to it is taken into account by Freud in his explanation of this scene. And yet, to paraphrase Winnicott’s description concerning the length of the mother’s absence that an infant can tolerate before breaking down, one might suppose that a rival sister + a rival brother + a rival brother could lead the child to a point of rupture – and even of fragmentation, Klein and Bion would add – which would give the broken crockery a new significant dimension. It seems clear that, through Goethe and his sister Cornelia, Freud was denying the overwhelming impact that the birth of his brother Julius had on him, when the young Sigi was eleven months old. And yet, Ernest Jones (1953–1957) stresses the importance that the birth, and then the premature death, of this baby Julius, when Sigi was nineteen months old, must have had on the little boy. He points out that Freud, in a letter to Fliess, recognised the bad feelings that he had towards this baby and linked a sense of guilt with his death which, he said, had never left him. This double discourse concerning the age at which jealousy appears – eleven months in the events of his own history but three years in the theoretical elaboration he made of Goethe’s history – is nonetheless a mark of the painful burden of feelings guilt emerging at an age when magical thinking predominates in the child’s mental functioning. Every child psychoanalyst knows the extent to which children are convinced that they are responsible for the misfortunes that occur in their family: death, but also separation, divorce or acts of violence between the parents. We also know that the more the ego is immature, the more the sense of guilt will be crushing, and even persecuting. 103
The epistemophilic impulse Freud’s insistence on denying the existence of jealousy at an early age is moving evidence of his own suffering as a young child.
Infantile sexual theories and genital desire in the child In the same way, Freud “arranges” the issue of infantile curiosity concerning the difference between the sexes by only retaining the last version of the many questions and remarks of “Little Hans” concerning his mother’s “widdler”: “I thought”, Hans says to his mother, “that you were so big you’d have a widdler like a horse . . .” (1909, p. 10). Hence, the theory of only one kind of genital organ, which Freud claims is the first infantile theory of the child, and above all he asserts that this is, and can only be, the penis, in children of both sexes. In so doing, he obliterates, on one hand, the experience of little girls, which turns out to be substantially different, and, on the other, a large number of his own observations, in particular, concerning Little Hans. Indeed, several months before the episode mentioned earlier, Hans asked his mother: “Mummy, have you got a widdler?” To which his mother gave him this enigmatic response: “Of course, why, what do you suppose?” Hans could then only say, dreamily, “I just thought . . .”. And as no one was concerned, at the time, to find out what he thought, we are reduced to hypotheses concerning this first phase of the observation. Now this took place when Hans was not yet quite three years old; his mother had recently become pregnant again, and moreover, we learn in the text that Hans enjoyed a great deal of physical intimacy with his mother, who got dressed in front of him and let him accompany her to the toilet. This very intimacy takes the innocence out of Hans’s question, for he clearly seems to be seeking confirmation of his perceptions and parental authorisation for his knowledge. In the young child infantile sexual theories proceed from a certain degree of “zonal confusion” (Meltzer, 1967) and continue to be used by the child as a defence against his genital desire a long time after the sexual truth has been established at a conscious level. It is equally true that the acme of the genital impulses around the third year of life actively strengthens the integrative tendencies of the ego, owing to the necessity that the ego is faced with of reorganising itself under the primacy of these impulses. 104
The epistemophilic impulse But genital desire is not identical in children of both sexes, and the infantile sexual theory according to which the penis is the only organ does not therefore have the same significance for boys and girls. Although the unconscious phantasy of a combined object constituted by the mother’s body containing the penis can be found in all children, the preconscious elaboration of infantile sexual theories must not be overlooked. At the level of these theories, for example, the attribution of a penis to the mother and to little girls acts in boys as an effective defence against desires to penetrate them and thus of risking castration in the mode of the anal sphincter and/or oral biting. In girls, the anger and anxiety connected with not having a penis are linked to anxiety related to losing the relationship with the mother, a relationship that is endangered both by the absence of a phallic organ that would make them capable of penetrating the mother and by their genital desires to receive the penis and a baby from the father.
Love, hate and thirst for knowledge In the extraordinary psychoanalytic novel that is “Leonardo da Vinci and a Memory of his Childhood” (Freud, 1910b), Freud’s parallel considerations concerning curiosity are particularly worthy of closer examination. First, in the text we can find the statement already formulated in the case of Little Hans concerning the emergence of curiosity in response to the birth of a younger child, in the specific configuration of the Oedipus complex, that is to say, around the equation penis = baby and, implicitly, faeces. Next, studying the three possible fates of the instinctual drive in the vicissitudes of its transformations into sublimated activities, Freud notes, in connection with the third category in which he places Leonardo da Vinci, that, in certain cases “the libido evades the fate of repression by being sublimated from the very beginning into curiosity and by becoming attached to the powerful instinct of research [in German: Wissbegierde] as a reinforcement” (Freud, 1910b, p. 80). However, he does not focus at all on the evolution of the sexual impulses of which he says, without explaining himself further here, that they are endowed with the faculty of sublimation. We cannot, however, deduce from this that Freud considered the “instinct of research” as an a priori, a scientific fact that does cannot be called into question. Nevertheless, it seems to me that the concept of this “instinct” was very quickly repressed by Freud as he was writing 105
The epistemophilic impulse this paper on Leonardo da Vinci and can only be found again at the end of the text, as a return of the repressed. In the meantime, he seems, rather, to consider the processes of knowledge as unsatisfying substitutes, a necessary evil. In 1920, he was to maintain that it is the difference in amount between the pleasure of satisfaction which is demanded and that which is actually achieved that provides the driving factor which will permit of no halting at any position attained, but, in the poet’s words, “ungebändigt immer vorwärts dringt. (1920b, p. 42, Freud’s italics) But to come back to his paper on Leonardo da Vinci where, in pages of striking beauty, Freud establishes an imaginary dialogue with Leonardo on the vicissitudes of love and hate, a dialogue that has the aim, at the conscious level of intention, of introducing his construction on creative inhibition and the mechanisms of “perseverance” (obsessional mechanisms) of the great artist. Here is this dialogue: Leonardo: “One has no right to love or hate anything if one has not acquired a thorough knowledge of its nature . . . For in truth great love springs from great knowledge of the beloved object, and if you know it but little you will be able to love it only a little or not at all”. (p. 74, taken from his Treatise on Painting) Freud: “It is not true that human beings delay loving or hating until they have studied and become familiar with the nature of the object to which these affects apply. On the contrary they love impulsively, from emotional motives which have nothing to do with knowledge, and whose operation is at most weakened by reflection and consideration”. (p. 74) In this moving admission by Freud, the violence of the exclamation and the bitterness of the fall do not seem to me to be justified alone by the scientific concern to reaffirm the sexual nature of love. A little further on, Freud reveals himself further: Freud:
“Because of his insatiable and indefatigable thirst for knowledge Leonardo has been called the Italian Faust. But 106
The epistemophilic impulse quite apart from doubts about a possible transformation of the instinct to investigate back into an enjoyment of life, – a transformation which we must take as fundamental in the tragedy of Faust – the view may be hazarded that Leonardo’s development approaches Spinoza’s mode of thinking. A conversion of psychical instinctual force into various forms of activity can perhaps no more be achieved without loss than a conversion of physical forces. The example of Leonardo teaches us how many other things we have to take into account in connection with these processes . . . A man who has won his way to a state of knowledge cannot properly be said to love and hate; he remains beyond love and hatred. He has investigated instead of loving . . . There are some further consequences. Investigation has taken the place of acting and creating as well”. (p. 75) The opposition Freud establishes here between investigation and creation, and his assertion that knowledge of the object spoils both love and hate for this object, is based on the point of view that the elaboration of the Oedipus complex comes up against two stumbling blocks when the child faces the painful loss of possession of the parents of early childhood: the first is the physiological helplessness of the child to satisfy the increasing intensity of his genital impulses, and the second is the intrusion of a newborn baby, with its trail of mysteries and frustrations for the growing child. One could cite the whole of “Leonardo da Vinci and a Memory of his Childhood” as an expression of the child’s suffering at having, in order to develop himself, to leave behind the “narcissistic elation” dear to Grunberger (1971), for the valley of tears represented by the elaboration of the “depressive position” as described by Klein. And yet . . . there is the smile of the Mona Lisa and of St Anne and, by way of contrast, the smile of the Cheshire cat, a symbol to my mind of femininity (Bégoin-Guignard, 1985). I would like to suggest that beneath the melancholic description of intellectual, obsessional and bitter curiosity, arising from the loss of infantile omnipotence and the reintrojection of a destroyed and faecalised object, an unrecognisable substitute for the object of love and creation, one can hear, if one lends a psychoanalytic ear, the sweet murmur of another form of knowledge of the world that integrates 107
The epistemophilic impulse and transcends all the discoveries made by Leonardo and Freud alike, of which we have the privilege of seeing the secret glow on the faces painted by Leonardo and of recognising infallibly the mark of authenticity in the whole of Freud’s work. I would liken this perpetually emerging and changing knowledge of the world, this epistemophilic impulse, to what Freud described concerning the love between a mother and son, to what Klein (1957) said about gratitude and to what Bion (1962a, p. 50ff) called K activity, a basic impulse which he placed on the same level as love (L) and hate (H), and whose origin in the baby’s mind he saw as residing in the relationship with the mother’s capacity for reverie, albeit without claiming to explain its genesis.
Sadism and the thirst for knowledge This return to the dawn of erotic life evokes the study of sadism proposed in Chapter 5, and in particular, the fact that the oral and sadistic impulses are the first defences against the danger of losing the object, and at the same time the first movement initiated by the infant in order to retain it. It is in this soil that envy develops its most destructive activity. The hideous recrudescence of racist and terrorist attacks that we are witnessing currently requires us to take very seriously, both in our patients and in ourselves, the fate of such impulses, which are always ready to join forces with envy in order to devastate the representative, in the present, of the maternal object of the past, with all the richness of love and life that it contains. As we have seen, the sadistic, oral and anal impulses are at their height towards the fourth month of life, in association notably with the beginnings of weaning and teething. This occurs therefore just before the first stages of the Oedipus conflict, which Klein locates towards the sixth month of life, an age at which the child discovers the father as the other object of the mother and as a new object to be cathected. Klein began by attributing the dramatic and frightening character of the first oedipal conflicts to their conjunction with the exacerbated phase of sadism, a conjunction that accounts for the terrifying severity of the early superego. Then, when she introduced the concepts related to “positions” (see Chapter 11), she added another parameter to the situation, placing emphasis on the conjunction, on the threshold of the depressive position, of fear of the object (paranoid-schizoid anxiety) 108
The epistemophilic impulse with fear for the object (depressive anxiety). From this conjunction in the infant there results a conflict between, on one hand, the desire to maintain control over those aspects of the mother without which the infant cannot live and, on the other, the love felt by the infant for his mother who is recognised as a person and involved in a primal scene relationship with the father. It is during this period, which begins on the threshold of the depressive position and ends with the dawn of the Oedipus complex, a period extending approximately from the fourth to the eighth month of life, that the first of all the dramatic conflicts of human evolution is played out. I am referring to the conflict between the sadistic forms of the relationship with the part-object – egotistical, greedy and cruelly possessive forms beset by envy that are the supreme expression of the destructive impulses – and the oblative forms of this relationship consisting of gratitude and generosity and capable of inhibiting the infant’s desire to take possession of the object and of the object’s other relationships. Whether one calls it “libido that is sublimated from the outset” or an “instinct for investigation”, like Freud, or “K”, like Bion, the epistemophilic impulse plays a primordial role in the elaboration of all the stages of development, beginning with this first version of mourning and of the Oedipus complex. Although it yields to the primacy of the oral- and anal-sadistic impulses, the infant’s psychic life will remain centred on immediate, concrete and functional satisfactions undermining the constitution of a world of “true symbols” that are the expression of a relationship to three terms: the ego, the symbol and the thing symbolised. Remember that the aim of the sadistic impulses is twofold. On one hand, when associated with greed and an intolerance for frustration, they seek to recover at any price the possession and omnipotent control of the desirable aspects of the part-object when this object evades the infant’s healthy psychic functioning, according to the pleasure/unpleasure principle. On the other hand, when associated with envy they persecute and paralyse the infant in his first processes of narcissistic projective identification with the good aspects of the other object of the mother, in a phantasy of destruction which, at the same time, wrecks his own emerging psychic world. It is the same for the epistemophilic impulse which, when associated with feelings of distress and infantile helplessness, explores in phantasy the inside of the maternal object, seeking to discover elements there that 109
The epistemophilic impulse allow the infant to give a meaning to his suffering, whereas when it is associated with primary love, it uses sensoriality to explore all the characteristics of this object, thereby supporting the infant’s first identifications with an introjected object that never ceases to surprise and delight him. A very personal experience leads me to believe that, as Bion asserts, the epistemophilic impulse exists from birth: indeed, a baby that I know very well spent the first two hours of its existence awakening progressively, listening and looking at everything around him with an impressive degree of attention, managing even to turn his head to broaden his field of vision; it was only after these two hours of exploration that he fell asleep for the first time in his life outside the womb. And yet my clinical experience has led me to see that the healthy development of the epistemophilic impulse depends more on the relationship with the parental objects than is the case for the development of the sadistic impulses, whose quantity and intensity appear to be more strongly linked to constitution. The development of the epistemophilic impulse requires a certain quality of attention from the parents, and I wonder if Freud’s poignant nostalgia – and that of each one of us – concerning the state of the newborn infant, is not related to that period of life when the sadistic impulses have not yet spoilt the enchanted discovery of the world by the infant in the smile of his mother, Mona Lisa or Mary. I am in agreement, therefore, with the very fine studies by Grunberger (1971) on narcissism, mentioned earlier, as well as the remarkable metapsychological construction of the “aesthetic conflict” by Meltzer (1978).
Normality and psychopathology of the sadistic impulses and of the epistemophilic impulse The fusion of the sadistic impulses with the epistemophilic impulse may be organised in many different ways. When the sadistic impulses are predominant, the pleasure obtained is first and foremost organ pleasure (auto-erotism, without any concern for the object used to obtain satisfaction), pleasure involving phallic performance, the pleasure of repetition (repetition compulsion) and the pleasure of controlling the object omnipotently (acted perversions or perverse fantasies). The pleasure thus obtained only 110
The epistemophilic impulse enriches and satisfies a very restricted part of the ego, a split-off part that is powerfully cathected narcissistically. It does not play any part in the development of the personality because it only ensures narcissistic satisfaction at the price of greater or lesser destruction of the living aspect of the objects of identification; and because, as the outcome of this power struggle is always relative, the recourse to repetition compulsion is inevitable. In the best of cases, it seems to me that the taste for material possessions, for so-called irrefutable evidence, for fields of investigation with minimal variables, may be placed within this category. The ruptures of equilibrium of this type of psychic structuring that might be described as “character-related” result in depressive states that are very difficult to recover from, because any understanding and insight gained during analysis are immediately prey to greed and envy – not only envy of the object but also, and first and foremost, envy of the parts of the mind that evolve against all odds and develop by virtue of analytic work. In this situation, the transference relationship very often verges on the negative therapeutic reaction because the efforts of the analytic pair are so denigrated, subjected to envy and faecalised. When some progress occurs, anxiety is strongly reactivated by the change, all psychic movement being experienced as a danger of losing control over the internal object/ prey and over the parts of the ego that have been able to introject a really good object. When the epistemophilic impulse is predominant, the pleasure obtained is above all the sort of pleasure that includes the whole of the personality, pleasure involving the activity of imagination and creation, the pleasure of discovering the multiple aspects of the world, both external and internal, in a word, of the continual creation that human existence has the potential to be. The pathology of the slow and difficult process aimed at integrating the epistemophilic impulse with the sadistic impulses covers quite a large spectrum: 1 The most evident of these pathologies is constituted by the group of “perversions”, with the preservation of a splitting of the ego and of the internal objects, and the untiring repetition of sadistic or masochistic rites aimed at suppressing the difference between the sexes and generations (Chasseguet-Smirgel, 1973). 2 The most harmful seems to me to be what is usually called “essential mental deficiency”, in which the epistemophilic impulse 111
The epistemophilic impulse and the healthy parts of the ego and of the internal objects are totally imprisoned by the terror aroused by investigating a world on to which greed and destructive envy are projected. 3 The most widespread pathology in children is constituted by learning difficulties, known as “instrumental disorders”, in which the epistemophilic impulse seems to be specifically thwarted when faced with a specific representation of the primal scene enclosed within a fortress of sadistic fantasies. 4 The most widespread in adults is obviously neurosis, that “corner of nonsense” (coin de bêtise) that paralyses a part of psychic life in an indefinitely repeated conflict, either by using abusively hysterical projective identification as a defence against primal scene phantasies or by systematically deconstructing, by means of obsessional mechanisms, the creative processes promoted by the union of the epistemophilic impulse with the impulses of love and hate. To this somewhat brief outline one could also add a few considerations on the consequences of these two groups of impulses in autism and on the obsessional mechanisms that have their origin in them (Meltzer et al., 1975): in the psychoses, by comparing the configuration of these impulses in schizophrenia and paranoia, respectively; in expulsive motor activity as opposed to psychic activity; in group mentality as opposed to intersubjective communication; and finally in disorders of psyche-soma integration such as hypochondria (Rosenfeld, 1965), somatic delusions (Meltzer, 1964) and psychosomatic illnesses (Debray, 1996). The pleasure linked to the satisfaction of the epistemophilic impulse is a pleasure that arises authentically from the sexual impulses insofar as the mastery of an impulse implies its integration rather than its evacuation (Bégoin & Bégoin-Guignard, 1979). The predominance of the sadistic impulses manifests itself “beyond the pleasure principle” (Freud, 1920b), through the destruction of a work of art, a scientific work or the work of a lifetime. Just like creation, true and healthy curiosity entails the necessity of accepting the destiny of the creative act, that is to say, accepting that creations, arising from the ego’s good relations with its internal objects, elude both the one who creates them and the one who explores them, and live their own life. Children, as well as authentic artistic and scientific works, carry within themselves their future and their finiteness. It is up to each one of us to maintain 112
The epistemophilic impulse ties of love or hate with them and, if I may be permitted this oxymoron, of disinterested curiosity.
Note 1 See in this connection the fine study by Monique Schneider (1999) “Freud, lecteur and interprète de Goethe”.
7 FROM THE DRIVES TO THOUGHT
The main interest of the concept of the drives undoubtedly lies in exploring their trajectories, from the pole of raw excitation to that of the most elaborate forms of thought and art. This chapter aims to retrace the path linking Bion with Freud in the exploration of this vast field of study.
Freud Two paths present themselves to anyone who wants to study Freud’s theory on thought processes: his theory of sublimation, set out in his text on Leonardo da Vinci (Freud, 1910b), which seeks to show that only pregenital impulses play a part in sublimation, and thus in thought; his two topographies and his two drive theories (Freud, 1915c, 1915d, 1915e), in other words, Freudian metapsychology in all its aspects. Freud’s discoveries, which today still constitute the foundations of the criteria for a psychoanalytic exploration of thought, were the fruit of his clinical experience and, at the same time, made it possible to establish the technical parameters of analytic treatment, namely the following: 1 The drives 2 Psychic structure, considered both from the angle of the “first topography” (Ucs., Pcs/Cs) and from that of the “second topography” (id, ego, superego) 3 The principles of mental functioning, that is the “primary processes” and the “secondary processes” involved in the organisation of the 114
From the drives to thought individual’s mechanisms of defence when he is confronted with the uncertainties of his outer life and of his inner psychic life By discovering the unsuspected importance of the drives and of psychosexuality in mental illnesses, beginning with hysteria, Freud (1896) oriented the research into the functioning of thought towards its unconscious foundations. By imposing on the subject in analysis the experimental inhibition, both of his motor activity and of his sensory perceptual activity, he made it possible for the subject to give priority to his endopsychic perceptions, thereby inducing an intrapsychic movement of regression towards primitive forms of representative thought, which he designated by the term primary processes (Freud, 1911). Furthermore, the fundamental rule known as “free association” favoured on the one hand the evocation by the patient of the Weltanschauung of the child within him and, on the other, obliged him to carry out a psychic work of transformation of these forms and thought-contents into secondary processes in order to be able to communicate them during the analytic session in the form of verbal thought. These two conditions of the “analytic setting” led Freud (1900, Chapter VI) to discover the underlying permanence of an unconscious functioning of thought, whose observable point of emergence lies in the dream narrative. He soon observed a universal organisation of psychic development beneath the diversity of his patients’ psychopathologies, namely infantile neurosis (Freud, 1905), which is organised around the Oedipus complex and the identifications attached to it. In analysis, this structure manifests itself in the form of the “transferenceneurosis” (Freud, 1912a). Constituted by the unconscious repetition, within the analytic relationship, of ways of thinking about emotional relationships and of living identifications linked to the past, the patient’s transference elicits in the analyst an unconscious countertransference mode of thought. The combined study of the transference and countertransference contributed, as early as the 1950s, important information concerning the role played by the instinctual drive economy in the functioning of thought during the session, as well as the manner in which the analytic process unfolds (see, in particular, Heimann, 1950; Racker, 1968). The two Freudian theories of the psychical apparatus, each of which is irreducible to the other, may be considered as two complementary 115
From the drives to thought models of the functioning of thought. Thus, the first topography of the psychical apparatus with its subdivision into three strata – the unconscious, the preconscious and the conscious (Freud, 1915e) − lays down the theoretical basis of the drive vicissitudes in the organisation of the personality. Next, through a deeper exploration of the issues of narcissism, masochism and anxiety (Freud, 1914a, 1924b, 1926a), the postulate of a death drive was to orientate the investigations arising from the second topography (Freud, 1923a) and from the second drive theory towards the primordial question of resistance to change as a major stumbling block in the development of thought and the integration of human discoveries. Developed in relation to the pathology of mourning (Freud, 1917b; Abraham, 1924; Klein, 1940), the concept of “internal object” gave prominence to the concept of “inner psychic space”, opening the path to the study, inaugurated by Freud at the end of his life and since pursued by others, of the problems raised by severe narcissistic pathologies, psychosis and the perversions (Freud, 1927a).
The first representative of a third topography: Wilfred R. Bion Freud’s last studies (1940b ) on splitting in perversion established the basis of what is now referred to as a third topography (Green, 1995), which takes into account the negative elements responsible for the pathology of symbolisation and of the sense of reality. Bion was the pioneer and the greatest figure of this third topography. It is within this perspective that his work should be seen. Bion’s thinking attests to a rare power for understanding earlier discoveries and knowledge, and an exceptional capacity for utilising them for the purposes of creating his own personal work. This work has become crucial and indispensable for the author of these lines: Bion’s clinical, theoretical and technical references are thus deployed throughout the two volumes of this book. The present chapter simply has the aim of introducing his studies on the relationship between the instinctual drives and thinking. Differing fundamentally in this respect from Winnicottian functioning – where the concern for aetiology is constantly in evidence – the central axis of Bion’s work, like that of Freud’s, lies in a theory of knowledge, namely in the study of the psychic processes of knowledge. In other words, the Bionian model does not escape the metaphorical 116
From the drives to thought hybridisation inherent to every realistic model in the domain of the human sciences. Following Freud and Klein, Bion took into account the essential roles played by both language and identificatory relationships in the processes of thought development. He conceptualised a theory concerning “links-between-links”, or second-degree links (Bion, 1959). A prodigious thinker of limits, he was interested not only in the extremes of psychopathology but also in the extreme limits of psychic life. There were two aspects to this: the emergence of thinking in the infant and the anchoring of group thinking in the individual psychic organisation. Among the books that have appeared in French on the investigations of this genius of psychoanalysis, I would like to mention New Introduction to the Work of Bion by Leon Grinberg et al. (1977), Lire Bion by Claudio Neri et al. (2006) and La Psychanalyse avec W.R. Bion by François Lévy (2014),1 without forgetting A Beam of Intense Darkness. Wilfred Bion’s Legacy to Psychoanalysis by James Grotstein (2007).2
The concept of psychic space today In order to be able to discuss the different elements of Bion’s theory of thinking (1962b), it is important to sketch the contours of the conceptual field in which these would operate. I want to speak about the concept of psychic space. It may be considered that the concept of psychic space arose from Freud’s writings in the 1920s and, still more directly, from the description that Freud makes of the ego in The Ego and the Id (1923a): “The ego is first and foremost a bodily ego; it is not merely a surface entity, but is itself the projection of a surface” (p. 26). Freud’s attempted definition of the ego condenses, between the body and the surface, which would be developed subsequently in terms of the “containing” aspect of the ego – in particular by Esther Bick (1968), Bion (1962b, 1970, Chapter 12) and Didier Anzieu (1985) – and the implicit internal space that every container comprises. Spitz (1957) had already spoken of the early formation of “ego nuclei”, originating in the dyadic relationship between the mother and her infant. Ahead of time and by virtue of usage, the concept of psychic space acquired, in Klein’s work, its tri-dimensionality through detailed descriptions of the nature and quality of the object-relations that lead a human being towards the organisation of his oedipal topography. Klein’s fundamental contribution to the description of internal 117
From the drives to thought psychic space can be found in her conceptualisation of the narcissistic modes of identificatory relationships that she elaborates in her “Some Notes on Some Schizoid Mechanisms” (1946b) under the term projective identification (see Chapter 4). This concept brought together an important number of earlier descriptions of identificatory processes that were not part of Freud’s description of post-oedipal introjective identifications, for example primary identification, narcissistic identification and identification with the aggressor (Freud, A., 1936, p. 117ff ). We can well appreciate everything that is implied by this mode of conceptualisation at the level of the geography of the ego’s objects and of the drives. It provides us with a new topographical description of the internal spaces of the psychical apparatus and of their primary and secondary modes of defence. The concept of psychic space was further enriched by the studies of Madeleine and Willy Baranger (1964) on the defensive “bastions” that can be formed in this space and that are in danger of ruining the analytic process if they are not identified and worked on in time. Following on from this Kleinian topographical perspective, Bion (1963) postulated that psychic space is comparable to a Kantian “thingin-itself ” that cannot be known, but it can be represented by thoughts. The major consequence of this postulate for psychoanalytic theory as a whole was that all we can know of an individual is that portion of his psychic space that we are able to contain in the analytic space in a symbolised form, of which the prototype is the dream-thought, as defined by Freud (1900). Consequently, the relations that exist between analytic space and psychic space are analogous to those that exist in astronomy between explored space and astronomic space: we can enlarge considerably, in the course of future discoveries, the picture that we have of the first, but this will never constitute more than a tiny part of the second. It is therefore the task of the interpretive work of the analyst to extend as far as possible the analytic space during the analysis in order to contain in it, by means of his personal capacities for thinking, the patient’s increasing capacity to experience emotions, because it is these that are the source of all thinking and symbolisation based on dream thoughts.
The psychoanalytic theory of thinking To describe his psychoanalytic theory of thinking, Bion placed himself intentionally on the boundary between two languages, mathematics and metaphorical language. 118
From the drives to thought While Lacan (1966) articulated structuralism and linguistics with metapsychology, Bion (1962b) elaborated a theory of thinking without drawing on the classical idea of a neutral or neutralised energetic source underlying thinking. On the contrary, he considered that thinking has its source in emotional experience. In this way he integrated the unconscious affective, identificatory and drive dimensions as significant and structuring factors in this activity. It is thus at the level of unconscious dream activity that the mysterious transformation of drive activity into symbolic activity occurs. In other words, for Bion, the state of consciousness is not directly required for the processes of thinking. Limiting the concept of “consciousness” strictly to the definition Freud gave of it (1900, p. 615), “a sense organ for the perception of psychic qualities”, he attributes particular importance to the concept of “omnipotence” functioning in the domain of thought in the form of “omniscience” or “the dictatorial affirmation that one thing is morally right and the other wrong” (Bion, 1962b, p. 114).
Bion’s theory of the drives Epistemological axes The main epistemological axes of Bion’s thought are as follows: 1 The study of the role of the drives and of their negative valency in the organisation of human thought 2 The study of the role of an adult mind in the formation of identificatory relationships and the emergence of the subject’s thinking 3 The study of the role of group mentality in the psychic development and psychopathology of the human being
The “instinctual drive tripod” and its negative valency Bion introduced the frontier concept of “drives” in the most elaborated form – the least instinctual and the most psychicised, one might say – by proposing what I referred to in the first chapter as a Bionian “drive tripod”: ±L, ±H and ±K. From a methodological point of view, this system with three components forms a much more balanced basis than the best of the binary systems could offer: indeed, every binary system ends up by enclosing our thought in an alternative that is always Manichaean and thus sterile. 119
From the drives to thought By placing the impulse for knowledge (K) as an organising component of the personality of the subject on the same level as love (L) and hate (H), Bion opened up the psychoanalytic field of reflection in three directions. First, this was in keeping with the integration of the two Freudian models on the question of the drives. Second, he gave a theoretical status to Klein’s discoveries concerning the epistemophilic impulse (Klein, 1930). Third, he approached from a new angle the question of the reality principle. Indeed, as Laplanche and Pontalis (1967) wrote in The Language of Psychoanalysis, “[i]t has often been asked why the child should ever have to seek a real object if it can attain satisfaction on demand, as it were, by means of hallucination” (p. 381). From the moment the infant’s instinctual drive impulses are no longer directed only towards establishing libidinal relations with the mother, but also towards establishing cognitive relations, the status of the reality principle in relation to the pleasure/unpleasure principle becomes more intelligible. Finally, let me recall that I have suggested (see Chapter 1) that this Bionian instinctual drive tripod should have its place at the level of the third generation of the drives, an element that is rightly taken into account by Bion in his concept of the mother’s capacity for reverie: the mother’s adult drive system, with its organisation and its oedipal identifications.
The role of the “impulse for knowledge” The concept of the K impulse makes it possible to go beyond the problematic conceptualisation of a purely pregenital origin of sublimation, as Freud (1910b) had postulated, particularly in his study on Leonardo da Vinci. By reintegrating the thirst for knowledge at an instinctual drive level, Bion opened up all the possible levels of combinations, in both their positive and negative valencies, with the impulses of love and hate (L and H). As Meltzer (1978) has pointed out, Bion made an extension to the Freudian concept of the Oedipus complex by giving primary importance, alongside the impulses of love (L) and hate (H), to an “impulse for knowledge” moved by the hubris of the pleasure of knowing. It was thanks to his hubris,3 which gave him an exceptional capacity for associativity enabling him to make links between the various aspects of his knowledge derived from approaching the human being from different angles, that Bion based his modelisation of thinking on 120
From the drives to thought the physiological model of the functioning of the digestive tract. For him, the prototypical metaphor of the link that engenders this immeasurable pleasure in acquiring knowledge is that of the link between the infant and the breast, in a normal and mutual mode of functioning of projective identification between the mother and the infant. On the contrary, “excessive projective identification”, described by Klein (1946b, 1955) as a psychotic mechanism, is the expression of hatred for any form of impulse and emotion and thus also for the immoderateness, hubris, that drives the human being to be so bold in pursuing the acquisition of further knowledge. In other words, this excessive projective identification can constitute hatred for life itself.
The negative of the drive, a major conceptual opening But Bion proved himself to be even bolder when he discovered and followed the fine intuition of the poet Keats concerning “negative capability”. On 21 December 1817, the poet John Keats (1795–1821) wrote to his brothers: I had not a dispute but a disquisition with Dilke, on various subjects; several things dovetailed in my mind, & at once it struck me, what quality went to form a Man of Achievement especially in Literature & which Shakespeare possessed so enormously – I mean Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason. (see Forman, 1952, p. 72) Bion drew on this discovery to speak of “negative drive impulses”, namely (− L), (− H) and (− K). Negative capability plays an important role in the relationship between the subject and the world and, more specifically, in the relationship between the psychoanalyst and his patient. Indeed, Bion recommended the analyst to come to each session “without memory or desire”, that is to tolerate not understanding, not knowing, and to let himself be guided by the unknowable dimension of the patient. In France, the work of André Green (1993) made extensive use of Bion’s contribution concerning “negative drive impulses”. For my part, I began to draw on Bion’s contribution in 2001, in particular in the field of mentalisation (Guignard, 2001, 2002b, 2014a). 121
From the drives to thought
β-elements The raw material from which thoughts are formed is constituted by sensory elements, which Bion denotes as “β-elements”. Bion does not attribute any intrinsic symbolic meaning to these sensory elements, whose importance and value he nevertheless increasingly recognised in the course of his life as an investigator. This consideration given to a sensory element attests to Bion’s fidelity to Freud’s thought (see his investigations in the “Project” (1950 ) and the importance of the perceptual dimension in Freud’s theorisation) and to his new theory in which he links this source up with other incomplete aspects of Freud’s work such as “the element of external reality” (Freud, 1924b), defined by Bion as the activity of thinking/dreaming, which he calls “α-function”.
“α-function”, an “empty concept” Bion was sensitive to the risk of saturation involved in employing the concepts used in philosophy and the human sciences particularly, so he tried to use “empty concepts”. An example in point is that of α-function, produced by a psychical apparatus that Bion baptised more specifically as an “apparatus for thinking thoughts”. This makes “thoughts” an element that is independent of this apparatus, which functions in the mode of normal projective identification. The “emitter” of a projective identification is thus able to use his own endopsychic perception to intuit what the sensory and emotional perception of the “receiver” might be and to attempt to anticipate the approximate meaning that the receiver will give to this projection into him, both at the level of the emotional contents and at the level of the thought process that contains these emotions. The specificity of this form of relationship is that its object is the thinking of an adult and that, by definition, this thinking not only includes primary processes but also secondary processes, including an activity of linking and verbal thought. Through this attempt to propose “empty concepts”, we can see the effort Bion made, from a methodological point of view, to avoid using concepts – such as representation, symbolisation, mentalisation or abstraction – that philosophy, then psychology and psychoanalysis, had already fully saturated with multiple meanings. By giving his conceptual propositions a simple alphabetical designation, he sought to avoid as far as possible what he called a “penumbra of associations” – in other words, the weight of condensation and the distortions that 122
From the drives to thought weigh on each concept from its conception up until the present day. The most complete accomplishment of his attempts can be found in his famous Grid (Bion, 1971).
α-elements Starting from sensory β-elements, Bion defined what he called α-function, a function that has the task of “thinking thoughts” and that cannot operate without the help of an existing psychical apparatus, which implies an organisation of the drives and relationships that already has an oedipal elaboration, irrespective of its quality. We still need to examine the nature of the product of the transformation of sensory β-elements in the infant. Once again, Bion innovated: his ambition was to fragment the product of the apparatus for thinking thoughts in order to study the elements within it which, logically, he called “β-elements”. In so doing, he achieved a remarkable conceptual integration: he postulated that the elements of thought are the product of all the raw sensory “matter” (physiological “facts”) which, during its “sojourn” in the mother’s reverie, are transformed into emotional “matter” that can be thought about and symbolised, matter that includes each of the α-elements of thought. Just as birds give their young food that they have pre-digested (this is my metaphor), the mother’s apparatus for thinking thoughts has the function of containing and pre-digesting the infant’s projective identifications and of restoring them in a less raw state – which essentially means “detoxified” of the infant’s anxieties about understanding nothing at all, epitomising the infant’s death anxieties which Klein evoked so well throughout her work. The infant’s constant repetition of the dual movement of projective identification and introjection of these α-elements gradually leads to the formation in him of an inner apparatus for thinking thoughts, an α-function, which increasingly acquires greater autonomy and – in the same movement of reintrojection which concerns the cathected objects, first external, then internal – sculpts the personality of this new human being.
Transformations Whether we approach the question from the Freudian angle of the interaction of the pleasure/unpleasure principle with the reality principle, or whether we describe the respective modes of functioning 123
From the drives to thought of thing- and word-presentations, or whether, alternatively, we discover the primordial importance of elaborating object-loss, the depressive position and the early Oedipus complex in the advent of symbolic thought, the mystery of the transformations of dream-thought remains. We can only try to describe these transformations. Freud was the first to do so, for example in “Formulations on the Two Principles of Mental Functioning” (1911), “Instincts and their Vicissitudes” (1915c), “The Unconscious” (1915e) and The Ego and the Id (1923a). Klein also tried to do so in “The Importance of Symbol-Formation in the Development of the Ego” (1930) and then Segal in her “Notes on symbol-formation” (1957). These authors and many others, too, have enriched the descriptions of this process.
The container/contained relationship Bion was not under any illusions, however, as to the degree of efficacy of his alphabetically defined propositions, any more than he could avoid completely making reference to already existing psychoanalytic concepts. Thus, the phrase “capacity for reverie” highlights a typically Bionian approach of basing his theorisation on Freud’s work: by considering the dream as the primary content of “thoughts” and the dream-thought as the “container” of them, he located at the level of unconscious dream activity the mysterious transformation of drive activity into something in the order of thought, a transformation whose modalities we have little more knowledge of than we do of those of the transformation of inert matter into living matter. Let me add that this author who was fond of “empty concepts” made a notable exception by using the feminine symbol ♀ for denoting the container and the masculine symbol ♂ for denoting the content, which enabled him to treat this ensemble ♀♂ as the implicit symbol of “linking” and to reflect on the multiple forms of encounter, normal or pathological, between these two elements. To sum up, every attack on thinking is for Bion an “attack on linking”. It remains to be determined whether it is the container or the content that is the most affected, and in what manner analytic activity can help to re-establish an adequate mode of functioning of this ensemble. Bion considers that during the session the psychoanalyst has a containing function and that his listening is akin to the mother’s capacity for reverie. Some psychoanalytic authors, and by no means the least, 124
From the drives to thought have mistakenly believed that this involved having a “maternal attitude”, a variant of Winnicott’s notions of “holding” and “handling”, as well as that of the “good enough mother”. It goes without saying that a good enough mother must possess a capacity for thinking as Bion defined it in terms of the “mother’s capacity for reverie”. But Winnicott’s point of view is more general and his approach more phenomenological than Bion’s, which is centred on a major methodological and metapsychological concern: the origins of thought.
The role of reality in Bion’s thought With Bion, all the dimensions of “emotional experience” in the Freudian concept of the reality principle were deployed, bringing into play, beginning with the pleasure/unpleasure principle, the conflict of love and hate “worked on” by the impulse for knowledge and giving rise to experiences of what Bion calls “catastrophic anxiety”, an expression in which he utilises the etymological sense of “catastrophe”: a reversal of perspective of 180 degrees. He thus puts the accent on the radically disruptive (bouleversant) aspect, the revelation, of the discovery of a true thought by the thinking apparatus of a thinker: Eureka! As René Thom had done in mathematics, he employed the first sense of the word bouleversement, that is of an upheaval or major change. Bion was thus led to affirm that thoughts do not need a thinker to exist. It is up to the thinker to go in search of them, if he wants to develop himself, but then he has to accept that he will go through extraordinary and unexpected moments of catastrophic anxiety. It is this same catastrophic anxiety that underlies the psychic suffering described by Klein in terms of the paranoid-schizoid position and the depressive position; we also find it in Bion’s concept of “nameless dread” and in Meltzer’s concept of the “terror of dead objects”. The psychotic suffers therefore from a burning hatred for the “reality of truth”, in its form of both external reality and psychic reality; against this reality he constructs an “anti-world” by means of delusion and/or hallucinosis. As for the neurotic, he clings to the “basic assumptions” of his “group mentality”, about which I will say a word in a moment by way of conclusion, preferring to preserve his neurotic aspects – what I have called a “corner of nonsense” – rather than confronting the catastrophic anxiety that threatens his coherence. The pervert, finally, uses his instinct to control external reality to split and 125
From the drives to thought deny all or part of his endopsychic perception, projecting into others what he refuses to recognise as internal elements of a “truth of reality” that limits his omnipotence. The discovery of thoughts in search of a thinker opens up, as a corollary, new perspectives: new links can be established between thoughts, increasing the chances of a proliferation of new species and categories. Think, for example, of the wonderful destiny of mildew which, the day it was examined by a researcher rather than being wiped off as usual, turned out to have incommensurable powers: I am referring to penicillin, the ancestor of all antibiotics. Think, too, of the exploration of the binary system of notation of information – 1–0–1–0 – which permitted the development of the virtual world concerning which many discoveries still remain to be made.
The role of truth in thinking As we have seen, thoughts, which are expressions of an “asymptotic truth” that can only be conceived as a virtual “point O”, exist independently of the thinker. According to Bion, the thinker can have various types of relations with thoughts. Either he interacts with them without investing in them – without therefore discovering their portion of “truth” (Bion calls this mode of relating “commensalism”) – or he enters into a relationship with them and derives benefit from them, both for his own development and for that of the thoughts in question (“symbiotic” relationship), or, finally, the thinker creates a defensive organisation that “parasites” thoughts and, out of fear of being destroyed by the truth they contain, establishes a wilfully untruthful and destructive system (“parasitism”). It is clear that, for Bion, absolute Truth (O) can never be contained by a human mind. Moreover, he goes further than this by asserting that all truth requires a certain degree of falsification in order to be grasped by a psychical apparatus. He was therefore fond of pointing out that “there is no greater liar than someone who claims he never lies”! Like the approach to reality, from which it never differs completely, the approach to truth constitutes a critical situation par excellence and always creates anxiety that is similar to the signal anxiety described by Freud, and the prototype of all anxiety, namely “catastrophic anxiety”. 126
From the drives to thought
Group mentality in individual functioning Another aspect of Bion’s model of the theory of thinking concerns the articulation between what governs the specifically individual psychic organisation of a subject and what, within his mental functioning, imposes on him the blind constraint of a “group mentality” as described by Freud (1912–1913, 1921, 1930). Although it is inherent to the mental functioning of each individual, group mentality does not fall within the category of psychic processes because it is neither organised nor influenced by the question of desire – which can only have an individual metapsychological status – any more than it is by the temporal unfolding of the history of the subject’s object-relations and identifications. While individual psychic processes are creators of thought, group mentality simply imposes prejudices and “ready-made ideas”. Group mentality, which is an expression of the gregarious origin of the human animal and, in this respect, retains its raw instinctual and timeless characteristic of preserving the species (and not the individual), is manifested through a series of basic assumptions linked to the “primal horde’s” determination to preserve coherence at any price. This determination, which is totally unconscious, is responsible for the profound sense of ill-being that the subject experiences every time that he thinks, desires or acts at variance with these basic group assumptions. Group mentality is characterised by the extremely elementary level of the emotions that belong to it. These rudimentary emotions are interchangeable, persistent and ineradicable. They impose themselves sometimes in the mode of persecution or paranoia with regard to the “outsider”, in a so-called fight–flight mentality; sometimes in the mode of absolute despotism exerted over one’s own individual sexual and affective life as well as that of others, in the so-called pairing mentality; and sometimes in a mode of immature adoration for a supreme leader from whom one expects complete security and satisfaction, in the so-called dependent mentality. In fact, Bion draws attention to the instantaneous manner in which one group mentality can be exchanged for another, which leads him to think that what we are dealing with here is probably only different facets of one and the same phenomenon. An elementary mechanism of intercommunication, group mentality constitutes, for the subject, both a means of expressing his personal ideas under the cover of anonymity and a constant threat concerning 127
From the drives to thought the satisfaction of his needs and desires. The result of the conflict between the individual’s desires and his group mentality creates the group “culture” to which he belongs. According to Bion, the least invalidating way for the subject to integrate his gregarious needs is constituted by the “work group”, whose aims are in harmony with the requirements of reality and which allows an individual to exchange with his fellow human beings at the level of what Bion refers to as a minimum degree of “common sense”. By accomplishing such a conceptual elaboration on the basis of Freud’s contributions on the question of society, as well as his own clinical experience of groups, Bion threw new light on what might be called the “the bedrock of the socius”, an often insurmountable obstacle in the individual who is too terrified about having to take responsibility for the “catastrophic changes” inherent to his development as a subject through the analytic process. For example, the notions of “archaic superego” and “murder of the father of the primal horde” are taken into consideration without an aetiological (phylogenetic) hypothesis but in a way that is clearly distinct from any sort of oedipal organisation, however early. In The Kleinian Development, Meltzer (1978) brilliantly summarises in nine points the chief contributions of Bion to the theory of thinking in psychoanalysis: 1 extension of the concept of part-object to include mental functions; 2 erection of the concept of ‘linking’ as the thing ‘attacked’ when the person seeks to destroy his capacity for thought and emotion; 3 extension of the Oedipus complex to include the action of ‘hubris’ upon the functioning of the epistemophilic instinct; 4 definition of the prototype of the linkage that generates ‘learning’ as the baby-breast link; 5 giving substance of a qualitative nature to Mrs Klein’s idea of ‘excessive’ projective identification, namely the motive of ‘hatred of emotions’ and therefore of life itself [this point may be likened to what I have said earlier, in Chapter 5, on masochism]; 6 limiting the concept of consciousness operationally, as the ‘organ for the perception of psychic qualities’, after Freud; 7 reversal of the usual idea that that ‘thinking’ generates ‘thoughts’, so that ‘thoughts’ in existence require an apparatus for ‘thinking’ them; 128
From the drives to thought 8 giving a new substance to the concept of omnipotence, functioning in the realm of thought as omniscience, the ‘dictatorial assertion that one thing is morally right and the other wrong’; and 9 finally the suggestion that the mental apparatus needs truth as the body requires food”. (Meltzer, 1978, pp. 307–308, my emphasis)
To conclude The universality of Bion’s theory of thinking resides as much in his rigorous methodology that led him to characterise the elementary particles of the functioning of the thinker as in the articulation that he succeeded in establishing between the individual and the socius. Its specificity lies in the fact that he considered the functioning of this articulation within individual psychic functioning, the latter being understood in terms of the totality of its processes, conscious and unconscious. He thus explored, and exploited to their extreme limits, Freud’s discoveries concerning the topographical and economic instinctual drive foundations of the most abstract and the most rationalised aspects of human thought, always in a state of evolution. It is indeed necessary to possess a considerable capacity for tolerating uncertainty – which Bion, after Keats, referred to as “negative capability” – to maintain in oneself, sufficiently strongly and for a sufficient length of time, a “passive attention” which, perhaps, one day, will attract a bit more thought, reality and truth, turning upside down in the process the idea that one had had hitherto of the reality of oneself, of the other and of the world in general. It is important also not to “avoid emotions” (Ferro, 2007) but to welcome them as the precious raw material that will give us the hope of developing a little bit more our capacity for thinking that is still so imperfect.
Notes 1 English publication to appear in 2019. 2 A Beam of Intense Darkness: Bion’s Legacy to Psychoanalysis (Grotstein, 2007). 3 Hubris (or hybris) in ancient Greek denotes excess, passion and often pride. The opposite of temperance, hubris was considered as a crime in ancient Greece and was employed in particular to characterise assaults, theft and acts of sexual aggression.
8 THE CONTEMPORARY RELEVANCE OF NEUROSIS
Freud (1905) discovered infantile sexuality by uncovering the defensive formations against it, namely, infantile sexual theories. Borrowing the term neurosis from classical psychiatry, Freud appropriated it and formed several notions stemming from this term, which henceforth acquired a generic significance: “infantile neurosis”, “transference neurosis”, “actual neurosis” and “narcissistic neurosis” are the main categories. In the repetition of the infantile neurosis, Freud (1916– 1917, 1912a) observed an infantile neurosis which he first considered as an inconvenient factor in the treatment before using it as a tool so that repetition might lead to remembering and, above all, elaboration (1914b). This was how he discovered the form of expression par excellence of the infantile neurosis, namely, the transference neurosis. He established the analytic setting because he found it difficult to think while exposed to his patients’ gaze and to perceptions of their motility and because of what he had written in 1895 (Freud, 1950 ) concerning the antagonistic relations of motility and thought in the instinctual drive economy. This setting aims to allow the relationship that is the support and therapeutic agent of the treatment, namely the analytic encounter, to unfold in the best conditions possible. In the asceticism constituted by the absence of visual communication, by the reduction of motility thanks to the couch/armchair situation and by the regularity of the time and duration of the sessions, the analytic setting favours the emergence not only of figuration (in the patient as well as in the analyst) but also of regression. Clearly, the external setting of the face-to-face treatment and, all the more so, of the treatment of children makes it necessary to identify 130
The contemporary relevance of neurosis elsewhere and in a different way the conditions of the emergence of these two parameters: figuration and regression. It was precisely this requirement that led to a very great number of psychoanalysts throughout the whole world to become more creative with regard to their means of listening, expression and communication at the preconscious level.
Sexuality in the child The revolution resulting from the Freudian discovery of infantile sexuality does not reside in the fact that children can find instinctual pleasure in feeding at the breast and in the excretory functions or even in the fact that these pleasures continue to have their place in the sexual organisation of the adult. The real scandal of this discovery lies in the genital significance of these organ pleasures and of these first cathexes of the subject’s own body and the body of others. It is therefore important to recall first and foremost that, in the Freudian discovery of infantile sexuality, the sexual comes first and contains genital impulses from the outset. The Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905) is the work in which Freud elaborated the fundamental concepts that provide the framework, even today, for every project of undertaking a psychoanalytic treatment. His postulate that active sexual impulses exist from birth onwards is the very basis of the concept of infantile neurosis, itself an indispensable model for the transference neurosis, which implies taking into consideration the phenomenon of après-coup (Nachträglichkeit). Anchored in the discovery that psychic sexuality is already being woven in earliest infancy, do these conceptual pillars of every practice that claims to be psychoanalytic have the same meaning and significance today as those of 1905? It was starting from this power of transformation based on the intrinsic quality of the drive to cathect an object in order to find other drive elements in it that Freud succeeded in making a first outline of the genealogy of the drives, which I have developed in the first chapter of this book.
The concept of neurosis A concept lives for as long as it is usable, and to remain so, it has to show that it is sufficiently polysemic and sufficiently specific. It must also touch a sensitive point in the unconscious of listeners 131
The contemporary relevance of neurosis and readers if it is to enjoy a significant and sufficiently prolonged audience. Created at the end of the eighteenth century, the term “neurosis” has become a central psychoanalytic concept in the nosography of psychic affections. This concept was constantly worked on by Freud as he was elaborating his two major theories of the drives and of the psychical apparatus and has continued, throughout the evolution of psychoanalytic nosography, to have a significant place. What it has lost in extension, it has gained in specificity. In The Language of Psychoanalysis, we find the following definition of it: A psychogenic affection in which the symptoms are the symbolic expression of a psychical conflict whose origins lie in the subject’s childhood history: these symptoms constitute compromises between wish and defence. (Laplanche & Pontalis, 1967, p. 266) However, a century after its Freudian specification the definition of neurosis suffers today from several aporias, some of which were already known to the creator of psychoanalysis, while others seem to stem from the dual march of time, at the individual and at the social level. Will this concept that was once so central have to be relegated to the rank of an accessory in order not to dispense with it purely and simply? A first approach to the situation can be made by examining the terms of the condensed definition that Laplanche and Pontalis give of it: PSYCHOGENIC − The adjective “psychogenic” means “acting on the psychic level alone”. It thus suggests a body/psyche dichotomy which therefore constitutes a first difficulty, if we think of Freud’s (1923a) affirmation that “The ego is first and foremost a bodily ego” (p. 26). This difficult brings another with it because, from a totally purist point of view, neither acting out nor projection are included in this definition of neurosis. At the same time, all the psychic mechanisms that concern the traces left in the psychical apparatus of the neurotic subject as a result of the expulsion of conflict by another subject or another group of subjects – I am thinking here of 132
The contemporary relevance of neurosis traumatic, transgenerational or group factors – remain excluded from this definition of neurosis. THOUGHT − The question of knowing what the role of thought is in traumatic or group situations is a thorny one: Does a group think? (see Kaës, 2015). Or does it destroy thinking? However, it seems to me that today this question cannot be avoided, either in the study of the neurotic functioning of the subject or in the definition of neurosis. It is a widely acknowledged psychic fact that the expulsion of conflict by means of projection, or of acting out, leaves traces both in the psychic apparatus of the one who projects and in the one who receives the projection. SYMPTOMS AND JUDGEMENT − The question of symptoms raises the further question of the criteria employed to describe and designate them. Certainly, for the Freud of the second topography (1926a), “a symptom actually denotes the presence of some pathological process” (p. 87). This definition clearly marks the transition from a medical nosography to a psychoanalytic nosography, leaving the latter great possibilities of evolution and variation over the course of time. And yet it was pathology that then required a description, involving both the capacity for judgement (Freud, 1925) and the possibility of leaving the nature of the words “denotes the presence of some” intentionally vague. But are psychoanalysts today certain to look at human functioning in the same way as did Freud and his contemporaries? Without any doubt, the answer is no, for better or worse. SYMBOLISATION − “Symbolic expression” constitutes another aporia. Indeed, the list of the indicators that could be drawn up nowadays to define a symptom would go far beyond the condition of a symbolic expression. One only has to think of the acting out referred to earlier, as well as of psychosomatic symptoms and the history of their study, in particular by the Paris Institute for Psychosomatics for at least half a century now. While it is questionable to apply the formulation that “the psychosomatic symptom is a nonsense (bête)” (Marty & de M’Uzan, 1963) too generally, on the other hand, it is perfectly true that its logic differs from the logic of the symbolised symptom that we find in hysteria or in obsessional neurosis. 133
The contemporary relevance of neurosis There have been many contributions (Klein, 1930; Segal, 1957; Gibeault, 1989) on the formation and pathology of symbols. The spontaneous primacy of the cathexis of the visual sphere indicated by Freud is currently endemic in our era of the virtual which continually mixes the symbolic, imaginary and phantasmatic spheres, using the hologram, in particular, for this purpose, the power of which, associated with its uncanniness, is well known (see Bioy Casarès, 1940). Following Bion (1970, Chapter 10), and taking into account the immense work of the philologist and historian Umberto Eco (1979, 1990), an important number of psychoanalysts (among whom Ferro, 1996) have explored how psychoanalysis could benefit from seeking to establish holographic connections between so-called thing presentations and a plurality of discourses proposed in the field of the analytic relationship. PSYCHIC CONFLICT − Psychic conflict is the specific feature of all reflection in the field of psychoanalysis. Consequently, its definition is marked by the evolution of society and of psychoanalytic science. Thus, because it has become commonplace to examine the dimensions of traumatic, transgenerational and psychosomatic factors in psychic conflict, the frontiers of our conception of conflict have shifted in the process. It is still intrapsychic, admittedly, but we now seek to identify in it the trajectories and the nature of introjections and projections into and towards the body, as well as into and towards the external world, chiefly the mind of others, that is to say, as far as analysis is concerned, the mind of the analyst, at the level of the countertransference. INFANTILE HISTORY − The question of the relations between the concepts of “neurosis” and “actual neurosis” as Freud handed them down to us still remains open. His efforts to get to the “roots of the conflict in the subject’s infantile history”, which he regarded as an aetiological factor in neurosis, led him not to confine the conflict to the static level of representations but to dynamise it by structuring it at the level of the agencies of the personality. And yet the real problem lies in how to approach the unrepresentable, and it was only properly established after Freud (Bion, 1963; Green, 1993), following on from the second drive theory, by synthesising the two topographies of the psychical apparatus and, in particular, by considering the existence of the unconscious as an organiser 134
The contemporary relevance of neurosis of the ego-drives (see Chapter 1) and not only as a container of the repressed. Likewise, the conceptualisation of splitting from 1924 onwards was announced as early as 1915 by the hypothesis of Freud (1987) who, in A Phylogenetic Fantasy: Overview of the Transference Neuroses by Sigmund Freud, postulates that repression takes place differently depending on the type of neurosis considered: on the border between Ucs. and Pcs. for anxiety-neurosis and conversion hysteria, as well as for obsessional neurosis in its early stages; between Pcs. and Cs. for an obsessional neurosis once it has set in; as for the group of narcissistic neuroses, Freud envisages “a different topography” for repression: “it then becomes extended to the concept of splitting” (p. 5). Currently, it seems logical to consider the basic mechanisms of splitting and the secondary functions of splitting as exerting simultaneously their regulation of psychic contents, according to the model of the “double spiral” proposed by the representation of DNA. NEUROTIC COMPROMISE: FIRST AND SECOND DRIVE THEORIES − The essential, and perhaps sine qua non, constituent of the concept of neurosis is that which makes it “a compromise between wish and defence”. Now this constituent has become rather problematic with the advances made in psychoanalytic theory and practice. Indeed, it is as if, from the moment Freud decided to put forward the hypothesis of his second drive theory, his conceptualisation of the defensive system could no longer exist simply and coherently within the definition of neurosis. The death drive, denial and other negative elements accompanied Freud in his exploration of the most obscure meanderings of the mind which evade the organising primacy of the libido, but which, it seemed to him, could only result in non-neurotic formations, in particular, perverse formations. This was the case for masochism and fetishism (Freud, 1924b, 1927a), which led him simultaneously to discover the concept of splitting and to affirm, despite all evidence to the contrary, its exclusively pathological character (Freud, 1940b), as if he had to struggle, again and again, against his own contributions on destructiveness and his own hypothesis of a death drive. 135
The contemporary relevance of neurosis Traces of such a struggle can be found throughout the complex work, somewhat ragged but teeming with ideas, that is Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety (1926a). Indeed, almost the whole text can be read while forgetting that it was six years already since Freud (1920b) had established his second drive theory. The inhibition of the functions of the ego is linked, or very concretely reduced, to that of the organs, whereas the symptom concerns above all the eroticisation of the organ involved in the function under consideration. The transference dimension is almost absent from the author’s reflections. Freud only considers the symptom here as a sign of, and a substitute for, an instinctual satisfaction which has remained in abeyance; it is a consequence of the process of repression. Repression proceeds from the ego when the latter – it may be at the behest of the superego – refuses to associate itself with an instinctual cathexis which has been aroused in the id (1926a, p. 91). He seems stumped by this fragmentation of psychic functioning, which suggests a certain denial of the death drive, leading him to evade the study of the sleeping/dreaming function, even though it is so essential in the study of inhibition and anxiety, as well as to discuss in a general and rather abstract way his new conception of trauma, essentially intrapsychic trauma. While recognising that he had once been taken in by phenomenology concerning the relations between the libido and anxiety (first theory of the drives and of anxiety), and affirming here that anxiety precedes repression (e.g. it is castration anxiety that causes repression), and that it is a product of the ego and not of the id, Freud continues to attribute the aetiology of the symptoms to an external, historical source. Notably, the decline of the Oedipus complex (Freud, 1924a) is still attributed to the castration complex, which in turn is still attributed to the actual occurrence of threats of castration in the subject’s history or, at worst, in phylogenesis. Finally, his classification of the neuroses is only very partially reorganised in this key article, even though it is supposed to be representative of the second Freudian conception of the drives and of the psychical apparatus.
Freud’s last works In the rest of his work, we can only find two new remarks on the subject of the place of neurosis in psychopathology at the time of the second topography and of the second drive theory. 136
The contemporary relevance of neurosis One, in 1932, might prefigure the interest shown by contemporary analysts (Faimberg, 1993) in transgenerational factors: A child’s superego is in fact constructed on the model not of its parents but of its parents’ superego; the contents which fill it are the same and it becomes the vehicle of tradition and of all the timeresisting judgements of value which have propagated themselves in this manner from generation to generation. (Freud, 1933, p. 67) The other, in 1938, shows his uneasiness about the links that might exist between neurosis and trauma: It is possible that what are known as traumatic neuroses (due to excessive fright or severe somatic shocks, such as railway collisions, burial under falls of earth, and so on) are an exception to this: their relations to determinants in childhood have hitherto eluded investigation. (Freud, 1940a, p. 184)
Questions still unresolved after Freud It has to be admitted that we experience this same sense of uneasiness today when the concept of neurosis needs reworking. However absurd and shocking it may be, I think that it is not without reason that the concept of neurosis has purely and simply disappeared from the classification of the latest editions of the DSM:1 history is teeming with these sudden evacuations of categorical components that raise problems, whether it is in medicine, politics or philosophy. And yet reality is stubborn and psychoanalysis has taught us that every conflict that is evacuated inevitably returns sooner or later. Be that as it may, it seems that Freud did not draw all the consequences from the elaboration of the second topography concerning the concept of neurosis: in particular, he eluded the question of destructiveness by classifying it within the field of psychosis. As for the problem of anxiety, it was Klein who, taking over Freud’s recasting of this second theory, established the primacy of anxiety over symptoms and gave full importance to unconscious death anxiety as the first organising factor of psychic life and of the search for the external object capable of relieving the newborn infant of this nameless anxiety 137
The contemporary relevance of neurosis (Klein, 1921, 1928, 1929b, 1931). It was a major turning point in the history of metapsychology: interest in the phenomenological aspects of neurosis – the different types of symptoms – gave way to interest in its instinctual drive and emotional dynamics.
Melanie Klein’s approach to anxiety From latent anxiety to unconscious guilt, Klein made full use of the parameters of the second topography and Freud’s second drive theory in order to develop her own discoveries concerning the elaboration of psychic conflict. She deployed all the potential richness of the oral and anal phases to bring about the integration, within sadism, of the death drives with the libido – sadism that is the first expression of the judgement of attribution and of the judgement of existence, of introjection in the form of incorporation, and of projection in the form of expulsion. By looking untiringly for the most painful point of anxiety, she was able to detect the unconscious guilt in the most anti-social tendencies (Klein, 1927, 1934) and to set it in contrast with the sense of responsibility and the capacity to mourn the object, two acquisitions of the depressive position. She led contemporary psychoanalytic thinking to refine its observation of the outside and of the inside, to distinguish between the cathexis of people in the external world from that of the psychic qualities introjected from them – in other words, to distinguish between external objects and internal objects. The notion of trauma became more closely linked to the question of neurosis but, at the same time, the specificity of the latter was blurred still further.
The Oedipus complex We cannot reflect on the concept of neurosis without closely associating with it the concept of the Oedipus complex. Logically, the disappearance of neurosis should signify the resolution of the Oedipus complex, of which it might be seen retrospectively as the principal vicissitude. And yet it is here that the history of psychoanalytic discoveries decided otherwise: on one hand, the detailed analysis of the Oedipus complex led Klein to discover a much earlier version of the Oedipus complex than that described by Freud occurring between the ages of three or four and, on the other, prolonged experience of analytic 138
The contemporary relevance of neurosis treatment confirmed one of Freud’s last intuitions, namely that the resolution of the Oedipus complex was a theoretic asymptote and not a clinical reality. In the same way, Bion (1963) put an end to the hopes of one day achieving a complete and definitive elaboration of the depressive position and placed it, much more realistically, in a bipolar situation and in oscillation with the paranoid-schizoid position: PS ↔ D.
Infantile neurosis, child neurosis Furthermore, the polemic that once opposed child neurosis and infantile neurosis (Lebovici, 1980) has currently seen new developments due to a change in society that has gained momentum over the last twenty years: the period of latency clearly seems to be disappearing. Indeed, according to child psychologists and psychoanalysts from very many countries belong more or less to so-called models of “Western civilisation”, the period of latency is melting like snow under the sun in all the sociocultural environments. Currently, children aged nine have the same mentality as children in puberty, and even young adolescents, had in the previous generation; they speak like them, and act like them, especially when they are in groups. Another way of describing this phenomenon which is encouraged, if not created by the consumer society, would be to say that pseudo-maturity is gaining ground every day and that the false self (Winnicott, 1960) is increasingly marked by the characteristics of infantile omnipotence that has not rubbed shoulders with reality. The integration of the different levels of the symbolisation of language undeniably suffers from this hyper/pseudo-maturity. Salomonsson (2006), for example, has noted disorders of symbolisation in children suffering from a syndrome called hyperactivity. Now neurosis is defined as the symbolic expression of a psychic conflict, and it is therefore the neurotic pathology that is called into question at the same time.
Absolute contingencies for neurosis: period of latency and Nachträglichkeit The period of latency was for Freud the criterion of the specificity of the diphasic development of human sexuality, the crucible of repression, post-oedipal identifications and sublimation through desexualisation. 139
The contemporary relevance of neurosis Consequently, the specific pathology of human sexuality that is neurosis cannot be envisaged independently of this diphasic development. Neurosis is situated at the meeting point between the individual and society. Freud (1925) clearly states that social formations must support the action of the superego to reinforce sexual latency: he adds that the latter “can, however, only give rise to a complete interruption of sexual life in cultural organizations which have made the suppression of infantile sexuality a part of their system. This is not the case with the majority of primitive peoples” (p. 37, note 1). Children of the generation born during the post-war boom, or children who grew up in broken or single parent families, or children of homosexual couples, or mistreated children, or sexual abused children, usually by close relatives, in short, children whom psychoanalysts see today, have, it is true, very little to do with a neurotic organisation of repression and thus of the constitution of an operation of Nachträglichkeit (Fr: après-coup; S.E. deferred action). It is as if they are the bearers of a quantity of excitation that is added to their own instinctual drives and that persecutes them because they cannot ensure its economic organisation. In order to organise itself, neurosis requires an encounter between the individual and a “sufficiently repressive” social organisation – to paraphrase Winnicott’s “good enough” (suffisamment bonne) mother – concerning which we may ask ourselves if the model is not momentarily, more permanently or definitively a thing of the past. But neurosis also requires an encounter between the individual and culture by means of his epistemophilic impulses arising from the transformation of his sadistic impulses, as well as with his learning processes, which largely depend on his capacity to defer satisfaction and to submit to the reality principle. In the logic that is specific to the diphasic development of psychosexuality, the period of latency is considered as the period par excellence of consolidation of human skills. Certainly, neurosis can impede the functioning of sublimation and favour the constitution of inhibition due to anxiety. But, as a compromise between the ego and the id, as Freud points out abundantly, it attests at the same time to its ego ideal and to its cathexis of sublimation, which leads to culture and science. But our civilisation is marked by a degree of decadence which, following a socio-economic divide that is once again growing, is perhaps in the process of trading culture off against what Bion called the “debasement” of one of its basic components: information. 140
The contemporary relevance of neurosis Where is neurosis in all this? Has it lost ground to perversion? Where is repression? Can we conceive of a return of transgenerational repression? Could the ferocious disorder that we are observing currently be the expression of wild unbinding and regression due to insufficient integration of the oral- and anal-sadistic periods, as developed earlier in Chapter 5?
Consequences for analytic technique The concept of neurosis cannot be evacuated from the Freudian metapsychology without seriously calling into question the whole of its edifice, in particular, the concepts of infantile sexuality, the Oedipus complex and the transference neurosis, of which neurosis is the expression par excellence. Now, the concept of transference neurosis is usually contrasted with the narcissistic neurosis, so we will also have to find a new way of thinking about the latter. It is a matter, then, on one hand, of knowing if the concept of neurosis still corresponds to a specific clinical reality and, on the other, of examining the evolution of other concepts if they find themselves in a new geographical situation in relation to the concept of neurosis. I can say yes to the first question because neurosis is the form par excellence taken by the psychic functioning of a human being who has grown up in “sufficiently untraumatic conditions”, to paraphrase Winnicott once again. The model of neurosis thus retains its unity and its validity. It brings together several criteria of psychic functioning that it is important to preserve: the necessity of symbolisation, the necessity of the threat of castration in order to establish the castration complex and, in turn, the necessity of the castration complex to initiate the decline of the Oedipus complex. But the technical means required for treating this psychic structure are not sufficient for responding to the current pathologies that are becoming the most common in Western civilisation. These gaps have driven clinical, technical and metapsychological research to explore various domains left partially unexplored by the discoverer of psychoanalysis, for example the vast domain of identity, the question of the feminine and of the maternal (Bokanowski & Guignard, 2002) and the question of temporality in analysis (see Volume Two), at a time when there is an almost total intolerance for frustration, which takes us back again to the mode of functioning of trauma and the neurotica. 141
The contemporary relevance of neurosis It thus seems logical to oust neurosis from the central place that it has held for more than half a century and to assign it a “polar” position in the same way as astronomical discoveries ousted earth from its central place in the universe. Neurosis will thus be treated as part of a dynamic concept, a concept of the third type (Guignard, 2001, 2002b, 2014a), and will have several antipodes. The most classical, denoted by Freud, is perversion, which gives NEUROSIS↔PERVERSION. But he also opposed neurosis and psychosis: NEUROSIS↔PSYCHOSIS. And it seems legitimate to form another bipolar concept opposing neurosis and psychopathy: NEUROSIS↔PSYCHOPATHY. These propositions are obviously not exhaustive.
Infantile neurosis and the infantile The second question – Has neurosis lost ground to perversion? – calls for several points of reflection, which are precisely the object of this book: 1 It is neurosis that finds itself in a contingent situation in relation to what I have defined as the “infantile” (l’Infantile; Guignard, 1996a) and not the contrary. For the infantile enjoys real autonomy in relation to neurosis; it requires a precise definition and can therefore appear in all sorts of other configurations, as we will see in Chapters 12 and 13. 2 Once it has been recognised that the resolution of the child’s Oedipus complex is asymptotic, and oedipal poles have been observed in the first year of life, the existence and dynamic force of the components of the Oedipus complex in analysis do not seem to be in danger, in either the short or the long term. 3 The situation of analytic treatment today cannot be limited to opposing in a Manichaean way the transference neurosis and the narcissistic neurosis. The different aspects of the transference have proved themselves to be so numerous, diverse and mobile, and their destiny so linked to the uncertainties of the countertransference – in particular, that of the “blind spots” (see Chapter 13) – that we may consider today that narcissistic issues are contained within the transference situation. Indeed, one of the positive effects of the decline of the supremacy of the neurotic organisation is that analysts can allow themselves to 142
The contemporary relevance of neurosis listen to, to explore and try to relieve, narcissistic difficulties by means of elucidating the relational suffering that is hidden within them.
Note 1 The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
9 OEDIPUS WITH OR WITHOUT COMPLEX
Freud established the metapsychological models of the Oedipus complex, the castration complex and the infantile neurosis as the prototype of the transference neurosis on the basis of his discovery of a diphasic development of infantile sexuality, two phases separated by a so-called period of latency during which the child’s instinctual drive interests turn away from the search for direct satisfaction and are more oriented towards the universe of knowledge. Resulting from the formation of an ideal superego through identifications with the parental couple and with the representatives of the earlier generations, the double recognition of the difference between the genders and the generations constituted the reference point of the emerging psychic organisation because it was the identificatory point of relay with parents who guaranteed the supremacy of the reality principle over the pleasure/unpleasure principle. Thus, puberty occurred on an already “cultivated” terrain, in all the senses of the term, setting limits to the retroactive effects of the identity crisis of adolescence. The concept of “complex” thus implies a precise organisation and dynamic of the elements that constitute it. Even if, in the last part of his work, Freud reconsidered some points of his definition of the Oedipus complex, he constantly reaffirmed its structure so that even today it remains a major point of reference for psychoanalysts. For example, an author like Paul-Claude Racamier (1989) chose to create the concept of “antœdipus” to develop his discoveries on schizophrenic functioning, thereby maintaining the first reference to the structure of the Oedipus complex as Freud described it. 144
Oedipus with or without complex Nevertheless, the field of psychopathology has not exhausted the question of the definition of the Oedipus complex: Freud always included in his descriptions the psychosocial dimension of this complex. We know that the meeting-points of these two series of variables – psychopathology and civilisation – run through the whole of Freud’s work (Freud, 1907, 1908, 1912–1913, 1921, 1930, 1940a). Furthermore, since Sándor Ferenczi (1932) and Michael Balint (1959), we can no longer ignore the role of trauma in psychic organisation. Finally, many recent contributions study the delicate question of the transmission of psychic events, in particular, traumatic events (Faimberg, 1993), across the generations. However, we are currently witnessing profound changes in Western society (see Chapter 8) which could undermine still further the Freudian postulate of the universality of the Oedipus complex, especially as these changes concern the society to which Freud belonged rather than the so-called primitive societies, concerning which the long-standing debate is still ongoing (Juillerat, 1991). The question of the Oedipus complex deserves, therefore, to be re-examined today while taking into account these new findings, and it seems pertinent to begin by examining the sub-structures and elements that belong to it. Such an investigation already includes within its sweep quite a large field of questions. Can the Oedipus complex, as Freud described it, be found in the majority of individuals who make up Western society today? If this is not the case, can we find in our patients today the sub-structures and elements that belong to it, and can we describe one or several main constellations of them? How are we to understand the confusion between “pregenital” and “pre-oedipal” that is endemic in many psychoanalytic texts? What do post-Freudian discoveries contribute to the oedipal conflict as a whole? What about Melanie Klein’s hypotheses concerning the early Oedipus complex, which she locates as the outcome of a “primary feminine phases” occurring in the middle of the first year of life? Can the refusal to recognise an early version of the Oedipus complex be likened to the “biological bedrock” of the denial of the feminine? Can we assess the impact of the profound changes in society that can currently be observed in our civilisation of Western Europe on the organisation of the oedipal elements of the most recent generations? In particular, with regard to the psychic functioning of children 145
Oedipus with or without complex between the ages of seven and ten, what are we to think about the future of their capacities for symbolisation – which implies a triangular relationship and the emergence of internalised thought – in the light of the staggering development of the possibilities of artificial intelligence based on a binary system and the requirement of a succession of responses through action?
Oedipus and the stages of psychosexuality according to Freud By establishing in his Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality the “stages” of psychosexual development, Freud (1905) set up a first series of parameters (oral, anal, phallic, genital) which he never disavowed subsequently, to which Abraham (1924) contributed further developments that I have taken up earlier in this book (see Chapter 5). Moreover, already present in the very first exchanges with Fliess (see Masson, 1985), the parameters of the concept of the “Oedipus complex” gave it its almost definitive form in 1910 (Freud, 1910a). The child, of which the boy is the Freudian prototype, is thought to organise his Oedipus complex around the fourth year of his life. This complex finds its resolution (Freud, 1924a) in repression, on one hand, and in the transformation into identifications, on the other, of this little boy’s sexual impulses towards his objects of oedipal desire. As we saw earlier, this theorisation postulates that no “complex” organisation of oedipal wishes exists before the fourth year of the child’s life. The prior libidinal economy is thus logically described as “pre-oedipal”. In practice, the linkage between these two series of parameters – the stages of libidinal development and the distinction between oedipal and pre-oedipal – is not always clear. In particular, confusion often reigns between “pre-oedipal” and “pre-genital”. Furthermore, Freud (1923b) considered that “infantile genital sexuality” was organised around the primacy of the phallus (thus unisex), which runs counter to his description of the criteria for the resolution of the Oedipus complex, among which he includes the recognition of the twofold difference, between genders1 and generations. We are touching here on two central problems, both from the theoretical and clinical points of view as well as from the standpoint of the technique of interpretation: (1) the problem of the nature of the drives – for Freud, the libido is male in essence – and (2) the problem 146
Oedipus with or without complex of the biological bedrock which, for him, is the repudiation of the feminine in both genders.
The Oedipus complex: a structure, which sub-structures, which elements? If we accept that one of the fundamental elements of psychoanalysis (Bion, 1963) remains the necessity of acknowledging the existence of the sexual drive impulses and of their unconscious organising action in object-relationships and identifications, it is important to examine the oedipal sub-structures of these elements, and especially the following: 1 The prevalence of the child’s love and desire for the parent belonging to the opposite gender and his hate for the rival the same gender 2 The mode of resolution of the Oedipus complex through renunciation of the desired object and introjective identification with this object, as well as the constitution of a post-oedipal superego, equally through introjective identification with the rival parental object, who is the vehicle of the prohibition of incest 3 The development of infantile sexuality in two phases, with a period of latency separating the height of the Oedipus complex from the period of puberty 4 The consequences, for the epistemophilic impulses, of this mode of identification on the constitution of a function of symbolisation, implying, contrary to the “symbolic equation” (Segal, 1957), a relationship of three terms: the ego, the symbol and the thing symbolised Having recalled these points, how are we to conceive of the Oedipus complex today, particularly with regard to the following: 1 The growing decline of the latency period (see Chapter 8) in children between the ages of seven and twelve today 2 The increasing number of children brought up in “new families”, both single-parent families and families that have been “reconstructed” and in various ways 3 The multiplication of structures that cater to young children with working mothers and organise the early integration of a child within a group 147
Oedipus with or without complex 4 The question of adoption in all the new dimensions of the current social structure 5 The growing importance of data-processing technology, which could well give a different orientation to the intellectual and social functioning of new generations On the question of the orientation of the child’s desire and hate, Freud’s contributions provide us with two essential elements. The first is in the form of an affirmation: in Freud’s principal definition of the Oedipus complex, the concept of the inverted Oedipus constitutes the complementary and, as it were “recessive” aspect of the direct Oedipus, linked to gender (Chodorow, 1999); the second comes in the form of a question, when Freud (1937) refers, in one of his last works, to a possible stumbling block to his definition of the Oedipus complex: the “biological bedrock”, that is to say, the denial of the feminine in subjects of both genders. It is therefore the question of gender that is one of the major stumbling blocks to the permanence of Freud’s description of the Oedipus complex. Freud himself saw this and tried to deal with this aporia by exploring on several occasions in his work the question of femininity (Freud, 1919a, 1920a, 1931, 1933). Like all scientific theories, psychoanalytic theories are elaborated in the preconscious following the same modalities as the infantile sexual theories, and they play the same defensive role as the latter do against the unrepresentable dimension of the drive. Every discourse on the sexuality of the human being may be considered as a reassuring attempt to give a “meta” form or shape to the unrepresentable nature of instinctual drive movements that are distributed between the cathexis of the self and of the subject’s own body, on one hand, and the cathexis of the other and of his body, on the other. On this point, Freud’s immense honesty enabled him to recognise that, for him, − for his infantile at least – the feminine remained the “dark continent” of his brilliant discoveries. Other authors, beginning with Jones, have explored the field of feminine sexuality extensively, and this holds true for almost all the currents of psychoanalysis. Concerning my own research in this domain (Guignard, 1995b), I would like to draw attention now to a number of points in relation to the formation of an oedipal configuration. The primary maternal space, which is difficult to circumscribe scientifically, is currently acquiring increased importance due to the 148
Oedipus with or without complex discoveries that have been made in the domain of perinatality concerning the skills of the foetus. Think, in particular, of the early existence of a sensory and motor memory, the latter of which manifests itself essentially not only at the level of tonicity but also at the level of active motricity, allowing, for example, the six-month-old foetus to intentionally suck his thumb and to spit out the amniotic liquid when his mother has consumed substances that are not to his taste – alcohol, for example. The Kleinian assertion that a rudimentary ego exists from birth seems today to be endorsed by neurophysiological research. But this first rudimentary ego of the infant is necessarily confronted through the relationship with his mother, or her substitute, with the functioning of an adult mind that is organised by the oedipal structure and actualised in the “capacity for reverie”. Under the aegis of a recrudescence of his genital impulses and of his capacities for introjection, the infant will free himself from his space of intimacy of the primary maternal sphere and suddenly discover another space, that of otherness and of human solitude: the primary feminine sphere. It is necessary to insist on the fact that when the infant becomes aware of the mother’s sexuality, when his own genital impulses reach a first point of climax, it is a traumatic shock. Albeit debased in the usual evocations of the primal scene, it seems to me that this discovery by the infant that his mother does not belong to him may constitute the metaphorical prototype of the enigmatic message, as described by Laplanche (1986). As such, it is clearly “injected” into what this author refers to as the “(B) unconscious” and is subject to splitting and denial. We might consider an expression like “the mother and the whore” from the angle suggested by Laplanche: the “defence (conscious reasoning) is like the inverted reflection of what is denied. Only the ‘sign of negation’ separates them”. Here “the mother IS the whore” (Guignard, 2006a, p. 101). Thus, the primary feminine sphere may be defined as the psychic space that is occupied, in the infant, by the unconscious representation of the configuration corresponding to the de-idealisation of the mother/baby couple, the end of the honeymoon, the end of the mother’s normal illness. Consequently, the “too little” of the maternal woman will be intensified by the “too much” of the sexual mother. It is in this psychic space that the first observable triangulation in the human being takes place. It is the first place in which the infant 149
Oedipus with or without complex discovers the desire of the other, absence, the negative, the sense of self and, consequently, all the potentiality of the process of mourning. The satisfactory creation of this space is essential for the economic equilibrium of psychic bisexuality in connection with the gender of the individual, within the almost immediate complexity of the infant’s processes of identification with the psychically absent mother, on one hand, and with the object of her desire, the father, who occupies her, on the other. The psychic space of the primary feminine sphere may thus be considered as constitutive of the oedipal space, with the discovery of the mother’s sexuality as a link with the other-of-the-mother.
Rejection of the concept of an early Oedipus complex and the “biological bedrock” of the denial of the feminine A woman’s organs of sexual pleasure and reproductive organs share the same anatomical destiny of being hidden from view and, classically, no differentiation is made, in Freud’s texts, between the representation of these two orders of female organs. And yet their destinies differ from the point of view of their respective instinctual drive cathexes and their psychic representation by the subject. In boys, it may be that this difference remains obscured by anality’s role as a “jack of all trades” and that here we find ourselves faced with Freud’s assertion that “anatomy is destiny” (Freud, 1912b, p. 189). In girls, the early oedipal orientation of her sexual impulses (Guignard, 1996c) should help her to develop her identifications with the feminine dimension of a mother who is rendered doubly absent (absentifiée) by her current cathexis of the child’s father and, beyond that, by the cathexis of her own internal paternal object. For children of both sexes, the identificatory processes of the “primary maternal sphere” contain in germ the discovery of otherness and of the difference between the generations, while the identificatory processes of the “primary feminine sphere” contain the first discovery of the difference between the sexes. It is against this twofold difference that oedipal desires will subsequently organise their defences and give rise to the whole oedipal tragedy that is foundational for the human being. The real question is whether human psychic configurations exist that are exempt from any oedipal element. For my part, I do not think so. On the other hand, it does seem that the structure described by 150
Oedipus with or without complex Freud as the Oedipus complex has become, for the time being at least, an asymptote of psychic development. If we want to avoid evacuating under the term pre-oedipal both the early constellations and the non-neurotic constellations in which we find oedipal elements that are organised differently, it is necessary to go beyond the “bloc” constituted by the Freudian description of an Oedipus “complex” that has less and less relevance for individuals in our current civilisation and to identify the elements and sub-organisations that structure them. This change of perspective concerning psychoanalytic concepts does not seem to me to be heterodox: rather than abandoning or distorting analytic concepts, such a displacement dynamises them, leaving an opening for the elements that constitute them, and further creates the possibility of establishing new links between them as well as with other aspects of psychic functioning. It makes it possible, for example, to clarify in what register the oedipal cathexis of a subject is expressed preferentially: oral, anal, phallic or genital? It also facilitates the analyst’s description of the drive fusion observed. For example, can a predominance of a sadistic mode of fusion be observed? Or is it the masochistic mode (see Chapter 5) that prevails? The establishment by Klein (1928, 1945) of an early oedipal configuration is an example of the organisation of oedipal elements into a sub-structure that is still valid today, in both adult and child analysis. This sub-structure makes it possible, in particular, to highlight the fixation points that block accession to a neurotic organisation with its diphasic development of infantile sexuality separated by the latency period. The reticence expressed in the analytic community in recognising the existence of this early configuration of oedipal elements has its roots in the fact that the double component, maternal and feminine, of the figure of the mother is liable to awaken in every subject, even a psychoanalyst, his own oedipal elements. The “biological bedrock” of the denial of the feminine can therefore not spare the infantile and each one of us makes his own unconscious compromise concerning the scandal of the sexuality of the woman who is a mother . . .
Changes in society and the increasing scarcity of the neurotic structure Be that as it may, the profound modifications of family constellations in our Western landscapes will make analytic functioning based on the denial of the feminine increasingly uncertain. It seems, in fact, that the 151
Oedipus with or without complex new generations have another way of relating to psychic bisexuality than Freud’s and that of the two generations that followed him. In particular, a number of factors have given rise to the current generation of children who are integrated much earlier within the social and group fabric and much freer in the expression of their affects and desires. Among these we may mention the more entrenched hedonistic lifestyle of an economic society that had been flourishing for a number of years prior to the crisis of 2008, a greater degree of moral freedom, freer social acceptance of cohabiting and of homosexuality and the growing role of women in the current socio-economic world. If, for the young Western pubescents of today, the period of latency has not established its protective shield and its inhibiting and transformative displacements of the sexual impulses into epistemophilic impulses, it is the diphasic development of psychosexuality, with the operation of après-coup that characterises it and is called into question. Thus, the increasing scarcity of the neurotic structure is bound up with the disintegration of the Oedipus complex, and particularly with its resolution. Over the years it was noticed that psychoanalysts were dealing more and more with a “pathology of limits”, limits between oneself and others, between thinking and acting, between psychic reality and external reality and, in more recent years, between the virtual and the real. Fragile and poorly organised, these limits disintegrate all the more easily in that the limits of the surrounding society have themselves become more flexible, fragile and disorganised. The value system of the Western world has changed considerably: the development of the psychic life of the individual, the field with which psychoanalysis is concerned, has become very secondary compared with the criteria of efficiency and adaptation to an environment which, for its part, has also changed in recent years. The exponential increase in the means of immediate information – and disinformation – about what is happening, if not throughout the whole world, at least in a large part of it, confronts the individual with new demands in the economy of his drives and, consequently, with new forms of anxiety. Admittedly, the problem contains within itself an inevitable circularity, because an individual is an integral part of the society that both organises him and is organised by him. A third term appears here, of which Freud was already acutely aware owing to the political events and wars of his time (Freud, 1912–1913, 1915b, 1921, 1927b, 1930), 152
Oedipus with or without complex namely the group aspect that exists in each individual. As we saw in Chapter 7, this aspect, ranging from the gregarious instinct to the capacity to work in a group, including phenomena of messianism, racism and attacks on creativity, can, as Bion puts it, constitute a real “debasement” of the human instinctual drives, which are then defused and reduced to their most inhuman and perverse form of expression. Now the globalisation of virtual communication increases this risk of seeing group mentality (Bion, 1961) gain the upper hand over personal thought.
Latency, repression and après-coup For ten years now, I have been advancing the idea (Guignard, 2006b) that the applications of artificial intelligence to life and communication technologies over the last thirty years have brought about profound changes in the mode of psychic functioning offered to children by their environment. The themes proposed today in very many conferences confirm that a large portion of mental health professionals adhere to this observation. The children and adolescents who go to see a psychoanalyst today have very little to do with the diphasic development of infantile sexuality and an oedipal organisation of repression. It is as if they were the bearers of a sum of excitation that is added to their own drive impulses and that persecutes them because they cannot ensure its economic organisation. We no longer observe a “cooling down” of instinctual drive expression in children between the ages of six and twelve who, rather than deflecting their sexual impulses towards activities of sublimation, manifest as much excitability as children between the ages of three and five, the so-called oedipal age group, while freely imitating the sexual attitudes and behaviour of pubertal children, adolescents and young adults. In particular, we can observe a limitless excitability of infantile genitality characterised by an imitation of adult sexuality, which is a direct expression of the denial of the difference between the generations. Children no longer live their childhood; their apparent hypermaturity is, in fact, a pseudo-maturity. The epistemophilic impulses are no longer organised essentially around the primal scene phantasy which orients the curiosity and desire to learn towards the sum of knowledge possessed, in phantasy or in reality, by the parental couple and, beyond them, by the history of human thought. Drained by the amazing development of the virtual world arising from artificial intelligence, these impulses are oriented first and 153
Oedipus with or without complex foremost towards a system of binary logic rather than towards developing a capacity for symbolisation. But the binary system of logic takes the subject back to the primary level of the pleasure/unpleasure principle, as described by Freud (1925): “I should like to eat this” or “I should like to spit it out” (p. 237). What is involved here is splitting aimed at short-circuiting fear of the unknown and death anxiety. This has several consequences, in particular: the decathexis of the enigma of the Sphinx (linear time and the finiteness of human life) in favour of the hypercathexis of immediate action, felt to be timeless; increasing denial of the reality principle and, first and foremost, the reality of the death of the individual; correlatively, the myths of transformation and rebirth give priority to the technological quality of mutation to the detriment of the dimension of the development of psychic capacities. However, this new defensive equilibrium including the virtual is scarcely efficient. The child who takes refuge in games involving feats and fighting on his games console finds, as soon as he stops playing, that his anxiety is not transformed but is even more intense in that it is faced with a reality that has never been digested. The psychoanalyst will have to patiently follow his path, starting from these fictions, until he reaches the existential anxieties classically proposed by the fantasy/ reality dialectic of the human being. We know, in particular, that the more or less sadistic, on the contrary, epistemophilic quality of the processes of introjection of the infant depends to a significant extent on how he is cathected by the environment in which he is born and develops. We are familiar with many pathologies of introjection, such as merycism and anorexia. Think also of autistic states, and the various degrees of intellectual inhibition resulting in syndromes of psychogenic mental debility, without forgetting the pathology of projection resulting in paranoiac and paranoid states.
Oedipus with or without complex This decathexis of inner psychic life is accompanied by a new pathology of repression in the form of a disorganisation of the diphasic development described by Freud in his model of infantile neurosis: the phenomenon of après-coup (Nachträglichkeit; S.E. deferred action), as he understood it, is no longer constituted in the same way, because the infantile modes of sexuality remain manifest continuously between the age of the Oedipus complex and puberty. The oedipal elements, 154
Oedipus with or without complex which are present and active from the second half of the first year of life onwards, do not organise themselves into an Oedipus complex any more than the issue of castration organises itself into a castration complex. Consequently, relations of intimacy, the touchstone of a truly genital psychic structure, will not be established in the second half of adolescence and in the early stages of adult sexual life. It will be replaced by the continuity of phallic and group values, such as accomplishing feats, marked by a voyeuristic/exhibitionist mentality. It is a second- or third-generation phenomenon, which is beginning to have lasting effects with which the psychoanalyst is confronted each time he is asked to treat one of the members of a family constellation. It is probable, moreover, that this phenomenon is not unrelated to the general rejection of psychoanalytic theory and to the success of cognitive therapies. While the psychic bisexuality of children today seems to be established with greater freedom, the price to pay for the confirmation by the hedonic society in which they were born of the early recognition of the mother’s sexuality could well be a trauma inflicted by reality too suddenly – a trauma for which the illusory “dressing” might be the hypercathexis of the virtual world. This defensive hypercathexis contains within itself the return of the repressed – or, more probably, of what has been split off – and thus gives free rein to the expression of sadistic infantile impulses that are poorly fused owing to the inadequate match between the subject and a social organisation whose model may in fact be momentarily or durably, if not permanently, out of date. Beyond the asymptote of the resolution of the Oedipus complex, or perhaps instead of it, the new generations seem to base their identity from the outset on the sense of greater belonging to a wider world than the family cell, which, moreover, is very much undermined today. It is a world in which relationships with their contemporaries are more important than those with their ascendants. Admittedly, this is not a new movement. It has existed in human history every time that oedipal disappointment has encouraged the child to turn towards a slightly wild group relationship with his contemporaries. Just to give two examples, think of the tragic fates of the two Children’s Crusades in the thirteenth century or of the bands of delinquent children that Marenko gathered together and educated in the Gorki colony in the 1920s. Children who form a group do so according to the laws of the primal horde; that is to say, a leader 155
Oedipus with or without complex quickly emerges, either from their ranks or from the outside, for better or worse. History has taught us the cruel lesson that the paternal function of this leader in no way implies that he possesses humane qualities. Currently, it is the youngest members of society who possess the greatest skills in the creation and management of this new virtual world whose characteristics I have tried to describe earlier, while comparing them with the processes of symbolisation. They are the ones who will increasingly impose their vision of the world on their contemporaries and on their descendants. Rather than playing the role of doom-mongers, we should remain open and attentive to this new deployment of the values of the up and coming generations. As psychoanalysts, we should, in particular, interest ourselves in the evolution of their adolescent identifications for which the term post-oedipal, in the classical Freudian sense, is perhaps no longer suitable. The strength of their egos often seems to owe more to the introjection of hedonistic values that we have transmitted to them than to the introjection of a parental superego based on the recognition of the difference between the sexes and the generations, based on the prohibition of incest. We must continue to observe the evolution of the introjection of oedipal elements in the new social configuration in which we find the second generation arising from the years of major economic growth and cultural revolution during which “any form of prohibition was prohibited”. For the reality principle established by Freud as the opposite pole of the pleasure principle has perhaps been illusorily but lastingly swept under the carpet by this third term, namely so-called virtual reality. This remarkable oxymoron encourages many children and adolescents today to shut themselves away in phobic solitude with, as their only interlocutor (Florès, 2006), their computer which connects them with the entire world while sparing them the compromise necessarily involved in establishing real relationships of intimacy with their close relations. But who is still close to them? The “suburban crisis” (crise des banlieues) or the malaise in French universities should constitute, for the psychoanalyst, the sign of a profound cultural modification which results in a modification of the meeting point between the individual and the surrounding society. This object of reflection should stimulate their analytic listening and their epistemophilic impulses with the aim of contributing to the advancement of psychoanalytic discoveries. Who are these children of today with their apparent maturity, independence and facility for owning their desires and prerogatives? 156
Oedipus with or without complex What future lies ahead of them in a Western civilisation which follows the socio-economic divide, and which is exchanging culture for the debasement of one of its basic components, information? What price must their psychic economy pay for them to seemingly deny so easily the counterpart of these qualities, namely their own disarray when taking into consideration their reality, the reality of the others and of their own finiteness? What new paths will their psychic functioning take subsequently or retroactively (nachträglich) now that they no longer have a period of latency that serves as a shield against drive excitation? What becomes of their unconscious guilt which is so violently split off and denied in their apparent behaviour but which can be found again in the analytic dialogue with them when it is successfully established without prejudices on our own part? What new paths of sublimation open up before them in place of those described by Freud which have remained, perhaps for rather too long, one of the criteria of evaluation of mental health? On the other hand, might not one of their major assets be to bring about a relative erosion of the biological bedrock of the repudiation of the feminine?
And the psychoanalyst? The increasing scarcity of strictly neurotic configurations among the sections of the population that turn to the skills of the psychoanalyst stimulates him to observe in a detailed and continuous way the components of the transference/countertransference relationship in the analytic field. The idea that I want to put forward is that the more a subject is lacking a sense of solidarity and responsibility, the greater his unconscious guilt will be. The analyst often finds himself faced with clinical situations of a psychopathic turn which trap him on the verges of perverse complicity. He will then have to draw on his understanding of part-object relations and the different forms of projective identification, as well as on his perspicacity for detecting signs of latent anxiety and unconscious guilt linked to the severity of the early superego of such a subject. Analytic technique has everything to gain from coming to terms with these new pathologies. Like the explorer who successively discovers several social organisations in the lands he visits, whose laws of functioning he tries to identify, the psychoanalyst discovers several psychic organisations that are not mutually exclusive yet have a transference valency that makes analytic work possible. Experience tends 157
Oedipus with or without complex to show that sufficiently perspicacious and prolonged work that takes these new psychic configurations into account leads them towards configurations and transferences of a neurotic appearance. In my experience, the dichotomy between “neurotic” and “non-neurotic” has in no case proved to be a dynamising factor in the treatment, quite to the contrary. Rather, it translates the analyst’s rejection of that aspect of his relationship with the patient which he is unable to understand or to contain. It is therefore preferable to do without it. Finally, the existence of a mode of psychic functioning governed by “Nachträglichkeit” proves to be much more widespread than a theoretical clinging to the concept of neurosis might suggest. As I have shown on several occasions, free-floating attention (the analyst’s capacity for reverie) consists of a series of operations of après-coup which join up with those of the analysand who, for his part, is functioning in a freeassociative mode. If there is a lesson to be drawn for psychoanalysts from the violent attacks to which their discipline is subjected, it is the necessity of being constantly attentive, “without memory or desire” (Bion, 1967), to the point at which the unconscious appears in the relationship that they are pursuing with their patients. This primary vigilance should enable them to be open to the innumerable forms assumed by the encounter between the individual unconscious and surrounding reality and to observe the modifications of this reality in return. As we have seen, oedipal elements still exist in the young generations born in our current Western civilisation, even if these elements are no longer organised according to the prototypical model of the Oedipus complex established by Freud a century ago. It is up to psychoanalysts, therefore, to identify these elements in their new psychic configurations while being careful to avoid the illusion of being able to reduce them to a model of the past, failing which, they will miss the rendezvous between psychoanalytic discoveries and the coming generations who, I continue to think, will be able to benefit from their listening and skills. The time of analytic treatment is a plural time (Green, 2000). It is the innumerable movements of après-coup of the two protagonists of the analysis that will establish the frame on which the transference/ countertransference relationship is woven. In contrast, the time of the analyst’s life, like that of his analysand, is linear and, consequently, limited. The tears or ruptures that are produced in it by the minor and major destructive traumas should not prevent the analyst from 158
Oedipus with or without complex preserving, simultaneously, in the time of the session of analysis, the memory of the culture that has shaped him and the curiosity for the future that is still totally unknown to him but which will reveal itself in the minute that follows. Perhaps this is the best conceivable solution for emerging from neurosis while rediscovering one’s own oedipal configuration . . .
Note 1 I accept this modernisation of the French translation of Freud, for it is not a matter here of the sensory perception of the anatomical difference between sexual organs but, rather, the apperception of a difference of gender identity, which is what transgender people speak of.
10 THE ADOLESCENT OEDIPUS
Although this is far from my first experience in this domain, writing about adolescence continues to arouse intense feelings of uncertainty in me. If, in spite of that, I do so periodically, it is because, for me, adolescence was a period of burgeoning relationships, of an experience of freedom that I thought was unlimited at the time, and of discovering the shimmering diversity of human genius. In the evening of my life, I still like just as much this openness that adolescence affords. Simply, I am a bit more conscious of the dangers that I escaped, thankful that the same was true for my children when they were adolescents and concerned about the adolescence of my grandchildren’s generation in a society whose future seems to me to be more centred than ever on the values of competitiveness and performance, which leave little room for reverie, friendship and creativity. If it is true that “the child is the future of man”, the destiny of this child who has become an adolescent leads him to turn away from his childhood parents and to invest in new fields of activity that could not even have been imagined by earlier generations. The preservation of my relational ties with this new emerging generation of adults is thus threatened by the great scale – sometimes too great – of this unknown factor. Such a feeling of uncertainty also stems from identifying with this adolescent generation which will have to ensure its adult and gender identity in a world that is impossible to know before entering it. Furthermore, this feeling of uncertainty is linked currently to the particularly important modifications of the frontiers of the very concept of “adolescence”. In effect, the period of latency, from which adolescence emerged in our Western twentieth century, has melted like snow in the sun, 160
The adolescent Oedipus making way for more fragmented movements of après-coup that are shorter and more flexibly distributed, but whose duration is also more uncertain in relation to what is still called the “second childhood”. The time is past when, in a rapid and sometimes limited burgeoning of the capacities of symbolisation, family and social models were integrated or rejected on a lasting basis owing to the fact that children in puberty between thirteen and fourteen years of age left their family and school to learn a trade and work as adults. With the prolongation of obligatory schooling that is too often doomed to failure, along with the increasing complexity and de-differentiation which mean that today’s professional world is encumbered by a worrying degree of inactivity, the child who has entered puberty finds it particularly difficult to transform the ideal ego of his omnipotent infantile narcissism into an ego ideal, the heir of his oedipal renunciations and his secondary identifications. Adolescents feel instrumentalised by a society that is little concerned with their real development; as a result, their relations with it are very violent and based essentially on the infantile omnipotence of which they have become the societal symbol.
The Oedipus complex at puberty The classification of the periods of human development cannot be separated from the characteristics of the society in which the children in question live. Yet it is commonly observed in our current Western society that children of five to ten years of age are far from having “resolved” their Oedipus complex. In the absence of a genital capacity that develops later at the biological level, the secondary identifications with their two parents remain fragile and fluctuating. In particular, their relations and identifications with the mother do not bear the mark of an authentic accomplishment of the twofold mourning of the object, the primary maternal object and the genital oedipal object. In this twenty-first century debate, boys and girls who have reached the age of biological puberty – which also seems to be more precocious according to biologists (see Foucart & Santi, 2015), in association with the increase in infantile obesity (Colmenares et al., 2014), and, possibly, for environmental and food-related reasons – often suffer from “attention deficit disorder with or without hyperactivity” (ADD/H), which attracts the attention of the media and is a source of concern for educators and doctors while delighting pharmaceutical companies. 161
The adolescent Oedipus Although psychoanalysis is not even mentioned in the range of treatments recommended for this condition (whose very existence as a pathological syndrome is moreover disputed by a part of the medical profession), there are a few bold pioneers who have used it for the purposes of diagnosing and treating this configuration. Björn Salomonsson (2006) is one of them and his conclusions leave no doubt as to the dysfunctioning of the capacity for symbolisation in children suffering from ADD/H and DAMP (Deficits in Attention, Motor Control and Perception). Now adolescence is a period of life in which the capacities for symbolisation employ all sorts of means of expression. This is the theme of this chapter, which focuses particularly on the symbolisation of oedipal configurations. The question of the evolution of identifications in adolescence will be the subject of another chapter in the second volume of this book. The considerable work of mourning involved in renouncing possession of the first object of cathexis is one of the essential parameters of every social organisation of whatever kind. It is therefore fair to consider that the current disintegration of the period of latency in the Western world has its roots in the societal generalisation of an avoidance of this work of mourning. From this point of view, we may ask ourselves whether the matriarchal civilisations had not resolved the problem before it arose. As for the patriarchal civilisations in which the child passes directly from a social identity as a child to a social identity as an adult, we may suppose that the child’s radical separation from his biological mother around the age of six or seven will force the processes of mourning to occur as best they can under the aegis of the father and the other adults of the social group. This mourning will probably take place thanks to the utilisation of the most primitive, and the most radical, defence mechanisms: splitting, denial, idealisation and projective identification. It is obviously to be expected that the heterogeneous ensemble of the identifications with this mother which are prohibited so early on take on different configurations from those that can be observed in our social organisations, in particular, concerning the quantity, quality and state of equilibrium of the identificatory projections and introjections. On the other hand, in our civilisations which have favoured, if not secreted, the period of latency and adolescence, not only is such mourning unnecessary until the advent of biological genital capacities, but furthermore, it is also in no way restrictive for adolescents in the 162
The adolescent Oedipus Western world today who often remain with their parents well into their adult lives. We thus find ourselves in a paradoxical situation. Western family and social reality offer the children of our civilisation the whole period of second childhood to develop a first state of equilibrium, which is relatively stable for a few years, between their diverse identificatory projections and introjections; moreover, the extension of the obligatory period of schooling favours a second period of respite, extending from puberty to the end of the first part of adolescence. It is therefore only during the second period of adolescence, with the advent of the first sexual relationships, that external reality obliges adolescents to reorganise their cathexes and their identifications, both paternal and maternal, if they want to form a couple and, even more so, start a family. It is only at this point that they will have to make the transition from a relative sense of certainty concerning their infantile pregenital and genital objects of cathexis to the sense of uncertainty concerning the object of their adult genital desire which is henceforth biologically accessible. However, these two periods of respite equally extend the ambiguity of the status of the individual as a subject of his own existence. The adolescent can use them, therefore, as an opportunity for avoiding further the difficult and painful work of mourning the objects of cathexis of early childhood. Now if the older adolescent finds himself caught up in identificatory projections and introjections, both primary and secondary, which are too numerous and heterogeneous in relation to each of his parents, their coexistence will soon create difficulties when he enters adult sexual life and lead to the appearance of symptoms of various kinds.
Puberty and adolescence As I did in the 1980s (Guignard, 1984), I still think that the phenomenon of adolescence is a second edition of human prematurity, a luxury product of our civilisation. Furthermore, I think that the privilege of providing our adolescents with a period of adolescence gives humanity the possibility of making a few more steps in the direction of the development of thought. During this period when nothing is straightforward, the sense of solitude and inner emptiness continues to play an ambiguous and often intolerable role, which can drive the adolescent either to crime or to creation. The adolescent’s questioning of his parental ideals leads him to face up to his freedom without disguise. Free from his genesis but 163
The adolescent Oedipus not as yet bound by his posterity, the older adolescent must invent his future world and measure himself in accordance with it. Admittedly, the more decadent a society is, as is the case currently in the Western world, the more the sense of emptiness and disarray invades the minds of its adolescents, while the state of meltdown of this society makes it totally insensitive to their despair and incapable of helping them contain it and even less of giving it meaning. Thus, when the various forms of addiction cease to play their role of pseudoobject, the adolescent who is struggling to mourn his true oedipal objects will abandon all hope of succeeding in transforming his narcissistic ideal ego into an ego ideal that is open to the creation of the real world to which he belongs. He will then take refuge in destructive narcissism of his ideal ego and turn towards murderous projects sustained by the false ideals of group mentality, which, as we know, leave no room for either thought or common sense.
The effects of post-pubertal après-coup on symbolic, relational and identificatory organisation We saw in the last chapter that for Freud puberty was the axis of his whole reflection on the importance of the operation of aprèscoup for the organisation of the infantile neurosis in the adult. The reorganisation of infantile elements in the operation of après-coup (Nachträglichkeit; S.E. deferred action) of puberty profoundly alters the relational/identificatory processes of the young adolescent and broadens considerably the field of his requirements for symbolisation. He will have to find meaningful parameters for the situation of his internal objects of childhood in relation to his new cathexes of the external world and with reference to this new access to the image of his pubertal body. Generally speaking, in order to represent the relational/identificatory process we can make use of a metaphor similar to that of the “double registration” proposed by Freud (Letter from Freud to Fliess dated 6.12.1896 in Masson, 1985, p. 207ff). From the moment the object is constituted and the subject individuated, in other words at a very early stage, every relational experience of the subject with an object of cathexis gives rise to a twofold relational/identificatory registration: one, in the form of projective identification, an immediate Gestalt, completely impregnated by the question of the here-and-now relationship of this or that part of the ego with this or that part of the 164
The adolescent Oedipus object, containing their respective conflicts just as a stone contains fossils and the other, in the form of introjective identification, consisting of successive renunciations of each of the aspects of the object (see Freud, 1917b). Insofar as these two relational/identificatory modes function adequately, they nourish each other mutually through their relationship: the registration in the form of projective identification constantly includes new aspects of the object in the relationship, while the registration in the form of introjective identification uses these new elements to carry out a revision of the obsolete representations and to ease certain conflicts that have remained encysted. We may consider, then, that it is the link existing between these two relational/identificatory modes with the object of cathexis – a second-degree link – that is the source of the activity of symbolisation as a result of the connections between a multiplicity of representations of diverse origins. Now the post-pubertal operation of après-coup functions as a particularly important requirement for symbolisation because it faces the adolescent not only with the perspective of adult sexual fulfilment but, above all, with the increasingly internal requirement to accomplish the mourning of his childhood parents.
Symbolisations of the body image in the adolescent The body is the first target of the pubertal process. As Freud said, the ego is first and foremost a bodily ego, and clinical experience shows us the coexistence, in the adolescent, of multiple symbolisations – true or false – of his transformed body. Three paths of expression and clarification of this issue of bodily modification and its symbolised figuration can be observed: the path of somatic expressions, that of psychic expressions and, finally, that of addictive expressions. These three paths, which can range from the most normal to the most pathological, are all utilisable, simultaneously or separately.
Somatic expressions Somatic expressions can be severe and fixed or benign and changing. They all have the common aim of avoiding, distorting or expelling any gendered figuration of the body of the subject who is becoming 165
The adolescent Oedipus biologically adult. Among others, we may mention here arrests of physical development, anorexia and bulimia, dysmenorrhoea and cystitis, severe skin allergies and, in some cases, very grave infectious episodes indicating a sudden breakdown of the immune defences. These diverse conditions, which often set in after puberty, are accompanied by important body image disorders. For example, the body image may be split to the point that the pregnancy of a woman hospitalised for a long-term illness can be carried to term without the patient or her medical team being aware of it (Guignard, 1985). In the case of severe somatic expressions, we can also observe an evacuation outside the mind of the figuration of the image of one’s own body that has become biologically adult. There then exists a split between an identificatory issue of a “secondary” oedipal turn and a sort of complicated aggregate, much more archaic, consisting of “bizarre objects” (Bion, 1957) and “non-sense”.1 The analyst will have to examine this aggregate in detail when trying to detect signs of the nature and origin of what has been expelled in this way from the mind and into the body by instinctual drive activity. In my experience, apart from classical oedipal elements, he will inevitably come across an issue concerning identifications with the objects of internal objects (see Chapter 2), often dead objects.
Psychic expressions More classically, we can observe psychic expressions of the postpubertal conflict in the form of a range of figurations of the subject’s body. Sometimes highly symbolised and often pseudo-symbolised, these figurations always concern an ungendered and non-adult body. Hysteria obviously exemplifies this form of figuration, in which the “innocent” infantile body makes its return in place of the aspects of infantile sexuality that had been repressed. It is important to note that, in the hysteric, this return in the body concerns what has remained or has once again become regressively unsymbolisable for the subject, even though he displays it in a way that is too evident and illusorily significant in his symptom. This faces us with one of the major technical difficulties in the analytic treatment of hysterical patients, in that one may be tempted to give a wild interpretation of a symptom that is totally evident for the observer, even though it remains totally foreign to them because it is split off. 166
The adolescent Oedipus In the case of psychotic delusion, the psychic expressions of the conflict of symbolising the body that has become biologically adult are very different. The subject’s very identity has been smashed to pieces by the onset of puberty, with schizophrenia constituting a scar formation of the confusional fragmentation of personality. In these pathologies, the non-sense has its origin to a large extent in the pathology of the internal objects which, having been projected outside, return subsequently in a delusional form. While the hypochondriac adolescent, through his constant complaints, continues to try to symbolise his conflict with damaged and persecuting internal objects, the adolescent presenting a severe intellectual inhibition may begin to develop initial symptoms of schizophrenia. In catatonic states, he cuts himself off from everything which, in his body image, risks forming a link with his entourage and with his internal objects.
Addictive expressions Like a silvered or unsilvered mirror for the body that has recently entered adulthood, the group functions as a psychic pseudo-skin for the members who participate and mingle in it in the hope of avoiding, for a bit longer, the crucial test of individuation that will identify each of them in the inevitable solitude of gendered human oneness. Linked to group phenomena which are particularly recathected in a regressive manner during this uncertain period of life, addictive manifestations of the modification of the post-pubertal body image constitute the adolescent mode of expression par excellence. Apart from clothing fashions, tattoos and piercing, alcohol, drugs and risky sexual promiscuity, violence and radical ideologies all represent attempts, with more or less serious consequences, to enact this struggle for or against the figurability of that which is “peculiar to man” (le propre de l’homme; Sacco & Sauvet, 1998), just as it is said “laughter is peculiar to man”. As group phenomena, these addictions, and their ambiguity, are the adolescent’s favoured means of defence against the symbolisation not only of his adult body but also a way of elaborating it. In fact, they tend to diminish, and even to suppress these differences which become increasingly unavoidable for them, both at the level of their own body and at the level of the new challenge of recognising the generational difference between their elders and themselves now that they have become adults. 167
The adolescent Oedipus
Repetitions, acting out and somatisations at play in symbolisation in the face of biological sexual maturity It goes without saying that the path of the processes of symbolisation is strewn, throughout life, with repetitions, acting out and somatisations. Two questions arise: (1) How should these reactions be considered in relation to the normal process of symbolisation? and (2) Do they present a specific configuration in adolescence? 1 With regard to psychopathology, we can explore these reactions by looking for possible fixation points that determine their form while limiting their range along a regressive path that is always to be feared. In relationship of identification with the object, these repetitions, this acting out and these somatisations are ways of cathecting a subject/object fusion, mainly in the form of projective identification, which, if it functions too repetitively and too predominantly, can only become intrusive or even pathological, leading to the impossibility of authentically mourning the object and of gaining access to a new opening in the process of symbolisation. But this descriptive point of view does not do justice to the elaborative virtuality involved in all repetition. Furthermore, it does not characterise the objects likely to be caught up in this fusion. A broader picture of psychic processes makes it possible, for example, to observe the particularities of the double registration of the identificatory relationship with the object, whether external or internal, in order to identify which projective or introjective identification gives rise to a fixation point blocking the process of symbolisation and thought. In particular, the persistence of acting out and somatisations accompanying a mode of functioning in which projective identification predominates is the mark of a pathological relationship between the object of cathexis and the internal objects of this object. For example, a woman patient whose mother had a very bad relationship with her own mother and suffered from the pathological relationship between her inner mother and her grandmother, which inhibited her capacities for symbolisation, particularly in the domain of her own relations with her daughter, but not only. 2 As for the possible specificity of this issue in adolescence, we can see immediately how accession to biological sexual maturity 168
The adolescent Oedipus both reactivates and mobilises once again the full range of the adolescent’s relations with his internal parents, marked by all the psychopathological complexity of these internal objects, including at the level of their respective conceptions of sexual intimacy, which are anchored in their own oedipal configurations. We find ourselves here at the heart of the question of the “three generations”, with all the uncertainties implied by the transmission of psychic life between generations.
The regressive temptation of infantile sexuality for the adolescent The enactment of genital sexual capacity does not occur without awaking, in the physiologically mature adolescent, anxiety about his somato-psychic integrity. Regression to infantile modes of sexuality is frequent in the vain hope of cancelling this new experience of his body and that of others. Recognising the difference between the genders and generations is no easy task during this crucial stage of entering adult sexual life, for it implies recognising the limits of his identity and finiteness. Even transgender individuals will have to accept the gender that they have chosen at the price of so much suffering and sacrifice. It is in this configuration of solitude that the peer group comes to the adolescent’s assistance. All the feelings of hope and despair of each of its members are projected into this group. All the affective movements, cross-identifications and imitations, often puerile and sometimes imprudent, of its members are located in it; all the attempts to escape the inexorable destiny of becoming an adult take place there. It is also a locus of endless solidarity, and finally, it is an opportunity par excellence for therapeutic intervention, if one knows how to go about it. In a more general way, adolescence is a privileged period for analysing the projective identifications of the adolescent, who thereby seeks to enact the conflicts of his ego with his internal objects and with their objects. Experience shows that, far from increasing the adolescent’s projective tendencies, such work facilitates greater capacities for symbolisation, a reprise of the processes of projective identification, and a better capacity for calling himself into question, based on an ego that has discovered its own boundaries and its own possibilities of expansion. 169
The adolescent Oedipus
Renouncing possession of the mother’s uterus I have pointed out elsewhere (Guignard, 1984) how important it is for the healthy development of the little girl that those around her differentiate clearly, in what they say, between the localisations and functions of the uterus and those of the vagina. As specific organs of maternity, the uterus and its ovarian annexes are also the organs that are least accessible to auto-erotic reappropriation. Moreover, the psychopathology of pregnancy suggests that auto-erotic reappropriation often occurs to the peril of the foetus’s life. Indeed, auto-eroticism belongs to infantile sexuality, while the successful outcome of pregnancy largely depends on the quality of the maternal objects with which the pregnant woman is in projective identification. For the girl, the nodal point of her emergence from adolescence lies in the task of renouncing possession, in an infantile mode, of her mother’s uterus. This renunciation will lead her to effect an introjective identification with the maternal function, thereby allowing her, in her future pregnancies, to consider her own uterus as being in the service of her own babies. In fact, renouncing possession of the mother’s uterus is the condition sine qua non of psychic birth for children of both genders. Only the temporal requirement of this psychic work differs somewhat between boys and girls owing to the biological clock that rings sooner for women. The situation is different for the boy, who has always been able to use his visual perception as a support for the proprioceptive sensations afforded by his penis. For him, and concerning his penis, the topographical differentiation in his representations will be based directly on sensations linked to two distinct and related functions, namely the penis as the organ of urinary functions and the penis and testicles as organs of the sexual functions. A derivative of the primary maternal function, the mutual esteem between the mother and her baby that has become a man is necessary for the integration of the biological genitality of the adolescent, which, in order to be thought about, requires the mother’s capacity for reverie. However, this very esteem gives new weight to oedipal desires. The father’s affective or, more radically, physical sexual vacancy will present an increased threat for the taboo against incest, as Louis Malle has shown very poetically but cruelly in his (1971) film Le Souffle au coeur. As far as the mother is concerned, a new version of the “censorship of the woman-as-lover” (Braunschweig & Fain, 1975) will be 170
The adolescent Oedipus established. As for the young man, his mourning of the sexual mother, originating from the primary feminine sphere and supported by her oedipal identifications with the father, will be intimately bound up with the process of mourning the mother’s uterus, thereby enabling him to approach the women of his generation and to imagine producing offspring.
Learning about uncertainty: primal scene and psychic bisexuality The adolescent version of the Oedipus complex necessarily provides another perspective of oneself and others, seen from the angle of each of the two generations which are henceforth both physiologically adult. This perspective has its source in a new differentiation of the topographical representations and cathexes of the adolescent’s self, both by the adolescent himself and by his parents, as well as his whole entourage. When an adolescent acquires adult sexual capacity, his dual relationship of identification with the psychic genital capacity of each of the two parents undergoes a considerable change in tone. The free play of phantasy activity organising the projective identifications onto the parents of childhood is impeded by this new biological capacity, which makes the child too dangerously similar to the protagonists of the primal scene that is still present in his unconscious, and which he can no longer overlook at the conscious level. The advent of real genital capacity makes adolescence an excellent opportunity for learning to differentiate between genital love for a whole object and pregenital possessiveness towards a part-object. The dazzling sparkle of certain adolescent loves reflects a defence, often pathetic and sometimes irreducible when it has the tendency to become perverted against the irremediable submission to the reality principle constituted by the capacity to procreate. Considered from this angle, it is psychic bisexuality that gives a new meaning to the primal scene. The adolescent’s quest for identification will be centred on the capacity for genital relationships of each of the two parents. Indeed, the construction of this capacity through the uncertainties of the infantile Oedipus leads, in the best of cases, to the establishment of a genital sexual theory of procreation and an identification with good procreative parental objects. In this way, the double recognition of the difference between the genders and the generations 171
The adolescent Oedipus retains a virtual character until the advent of biological genital capacities. It is only when these come into existence that the primal scene will emerge as an organising phantasy of adult sexuality, in a representative space structured both by the (vertical) transgenerational vector of the parental function and by the (horizontal) generational vector of the relationship of the couple. The first of these vectors will retain its restrictive character throughout life: except by entering into the non-sense of the psychotic delusion (or being put there by the psychosis of the previous generation), no one can claim to belong to the generation of his own parents or to that of his children. The second of these vectors concerns the relationship of the couple, which will retain its uncertain character throughout life: except by regressing to the state of non-differentiation that precedes the accession to hominisation, no one can claim that an intimate relationship between two adult individuals can be maintained without their having to engage in a constant task of elaboration and communication, and no couple can claim to succeed in this completely or once and for all. The full sense of “primal scene” phantasy is thus located at the crossroads of the restrictive transgenerational vector and the uncertain generational vector. Rejecting the primal scene involves not only rejecting the difference between the genders and generations but also refusing to recognise a relational meaning in the sexual activity of the parental couple because, insofar as it is uncertain, it eludes the restrictive transgenerational relationship that contains and protects the survival of the child. Functioning in a state of uncertainty is very difficult, not only in itself but also, and perhaps, first and foremost, in its connection with functioning in a restrictive state; this connection is nonetheless indispensable, not only for the positive functioning of the couple but also for the conditions of development of the children of this couple. “Apprendre l’incertitude” (Guignard, 1990) means learning about the uncertain aspects of every adult human relationship. Now it is the primal scene in its genital version that constitutes the indispensable agent for giving meaning to the dual encounter of a newly adult generation with the previous generation and with itself. Considered from this angle, the crossroads at Thebes where the man Oedipus, a murderous child rejected by his parents, and the man Laius, a murderous father and jealous husband, could become the metaphor for the negative of the Oedipus complex, that is to say, of the refusal to give meaning to 172
The adolescent Oedipus the primal scene by rejecting the encounter between what is restrictive and what is uncertain.
Adolescent Oedipus At the culmination of this period of adolescence that begins earlier and ends later than it did in the past, we find the mythical character of Oedipus. In fact, speaking of an “adolescent Oedipus” is a tautology; only an adolescent is capable of leaving his father and mother in order to throw himself into an adventure aimed at elucidating the mystery of his origins. Only an adolescent has the necessary arrogance to stake his own life on a question of the right of passage and to kill without remorse an adult man who stands in his way, denying the identity, even if symbolic, of the paternal figure that the latter represents. Finally, only an adolescent is capable of committing himself for life to a woman much older than himself, for whom he has fallen in love. According to the myth, it is his mother who introduces Oedipus to life as an adult, husband and father; moreover, it is from her that he derives his royal power. However, we are not speaking here of his nurturing mother but of his sexual mother, a reality that is always dealt with by means of splitting and denial by all children – splitting and denial that are inevitably accompanied by idealisation as well as by intense projective identification, whose nature and qualities must be determined. From the point of view of Freud’s first topography, the preconscious of the adolescent subject is led, under the twofold pressure of biological growth, on one hand, and of society, on the other, to carry out a considerable reorganisation of its relationship with the unconscious and the conscious. This preconscious, a psychic skin whose osmotic function regulates the exchanges between psychic life and external life, will become, for a certain time, more “transparent” and more fragile, while the adolescent subject will change more or less radically his view of the world. From the angle of the second topography, the adolescent version of the Oedipus complex results from a profound reorganisation of the relations between the three agencies of the psychical apparatus, the id, the ego and the superego, as well as of their relations with external reality. In fact, this reorganisation implies a new series of modifications 173
The adolescent Oedipus in the unconscious relations of the adolescent’s ego with his internal objects and, first and foremost, with those that constitute his superego. The myth also contains the possibilities of avoiding symbolisation by means of the symbolic equation and acting out. It is true that we let our adolescents come to grips with a world that is in danger. It is not the first time, and probably will not be the last time, that this has occurred. The specificity of our era resides in the fact that a new generation will never have entered adult life with so many means and so little predictability. In the strata deposited by our ancestors, the Homo sapiens sapiens of tomorrow possesses a level of development never reached by his Homo faber part.2 Tomorrow’s adults will possess fabulous logistics and means that will give them power over matter and, to a certain extent, over energy. They will be able to invest their immense technical skills in both the best and the worst, with the help of robotics that is infinitely reproducible and that will succeed in imitating humans, including their emotions, ever better. Natural selection will be greatly assisted by so-called medical selection, which will not be without consequences for the future of a great part of this generation and its descendants. The question will be whether, and when, the Homo sapiens sapiens part of this generation and of the following generations will succeed in preserving its supremacy over the Homo faber part. In other words, and to evoke Bion, the most modern author of psychoanalytic theory on the functioning of thought, will the adolescent of today be able to transform the beta sensory elements by which he is continually bombarded into alpha elements of thought? Have we given him the psychic means to do this? Have we prepared him sufficiently for it? The answer is no, first, because since the beginning of time the intergenerational gap has always been too big to be predictable; second, because the freedom that the last three Western generations have been able to enjoy has been accompanied by a galloping economic liberalisation and thus by increasing social inequalities; and, third, above all, because each of the previous three generations instrumentalised the infantile of the following generation in an essentially narcissistic way, making the task of mourning their oedipal objects and the transformation of their ideal ego into an ego ideal more and more difficult and painful for the adolescents of the following generation. Thus, the adolescent generation born with the twenty-first century has ahead of it a considerable task if it is to recover and develop the inheritance that we have left it. 174
The adolescent Oedipus
Notes 1 It was Lewis Carroll who treated this mode of psychic functioning as a category in its own right. 2 Jean Piaget would have spoken of the development of concrete intelligence in contrast to hypothetico-deductive intelligence.
11 THE DEPRESSIVE AND PARANOIDSCHIZOID POSITIONS REVISITED
The psychoanalyst’s practice requires him on a day-to-day basis to engage in theoretico-technical research, leading him to develop a concern for metapsychological representation. The speculative character of this representation was clearly highlighted by Freud when he spoke of metapsychology as a “witch”. Bion was to confirm this hypothetical character by pointing out that psychic space is unknowable in itself and that we can only have a metaphorical representation of it. He makes an analogy with astronomical space, in which the tiny portion of it that has been explored becomes the metaphor for analytic space. Along the path of this infinite exploration, the concept of positions put forward by Melanie Klein deserves our attention. For this brilliant analyst who discerned an earlier oedipal organisation than the one described by Freud, the necessity of introducing a new concept is not without significance. Her proposition followed an immense work of research that she carried out in the domain of the object, differentiating what is internal from what is external, and fragmenting the object on the Freudian model of the part-instinctual drives. This new geography of internal space led her to what we might call her second topography: an organisation of mental functioning that revolves around a central position that potentially contains all the capacities for psychic and interpersonal development of the human being, based on an understanding of his object-relations. She called this position the “depressive position”, owing to its central task which is one of acquiring a capacity to mourn cathected objects by internalising them. 176
Depressive and paranoid-schizoid positions The central depressive position is generally linked to the most usual defensive position, because it is the most efficient, namely the paranoid-schizoid position. The Kleinian concept of positions, which is difficult to do without, both on the path of the constitution of the Oedipus complex and in the study of the diverse pathologies of mourning (Freud, 1917b ), is one of the contributions of the English school of psychoanalysis whose status of integration within the Freudian corpus continues to pose problems in France. Any reflection on this concept requires us to move simultaneously within two fields of metapsychological representations (a) that of the constitution of the emerging human psychical apparatus in the infant and (b) that of the functioning of this apparatus in its state of asymptotic completion in the adult. The field of representation (a) is the most problematic to approach scientifically. The hypotheses in it are more numerous and more hazardous, and the aetiological temptation gets unduly mixed up, as in the domain of trauma, with the constructivist approach. It nonetheless remains unavoidable. Freud himself devoted himself to it in his Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905), where he considered the child as a “polymorphous pervert” and identified the oral stage as the first stage of organisation of the libidinal cathexes. In establishing the “central depressive position” and its principal defensive position, the schizoid-paranoid position, as the two drive and object-related organisations whose economic and dynamic interaction results in the constitution of an early version of the oedipal configuration, it was not Klein’s intention to confine these modes of functioning to the six first months of life of the human subject. On the contrary, all her clinical work shows that she sees them at work throughout life, both in normal as well as in pathological configurations. It was Bion who grasped and described the normal oscillation of psychic functioning between the paranoid-schizoid state of mind (PS) and the depressive state of mind (D): PS↔D. To understand Klein’s hypotheses on the concept of position, one must remember that they are anchored in Freud’s second topography. Following, in particular, Freud’s formulations in Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety (1926a ), Klein considers that the human mind is at grips, from its birth, with the absolute necessity of defending itself against annihilation-anxiety linked to the immediate and constant action of the death drive, which is not yet bound by the libido in the earliest stages of life. Taking this conflict and the anxiety it generates 177
Depressive and paranoid-schizoid positions for granted, Klein was concerned essentially to describe its conflicts at the level of its expressions of phantasy in the infant’s instinctual drive economy.
The depressive position Present implicitly from the beginning of her work, the concept of the depressive position was introduced as such by Klein (1935) in her article “A Contribution to the Psychogenesis of Manic Depressive States” and developed in a more thorough and detailed way some seventeen years later in “Some Theoretical Conclusions regarding the Emotional Life of the Infant” (Klein, 1952). This concept was thus the fruit of the maturing of her clinical and metapsychological reflections. The depressive position is a psychic state in which the subject recognises himself as distinct from the other persons around him and, increasingly, distinct from his related internalised objects while, at the same time, he discovers that these persons and these internal objects can have relations with each other, he himself being treated as one of the objects of his objects. His sense of being a subject leads him to experience the solitude and uncertainty inherent to the human condition, as well as normal guilt on discovering that each time his objects do not respond to his wishful and omnipotent projections, he mistreats and denigrates his love-objects, or the real persons who have given birth to these internal objects in his psychic reality, or those who, later on in his existence, will represent the heirs of these first objects. This means that the depressive position, an analogon of the processes of mourning, is the exact opposite of depressive pathology and, in particular, of melancholia. It also means that the significant onset of the psychic organisation denoted by this term leads in its wake, ipso facto, to the onset of a so-called early oedipal organisation, the recognition of otherness, implying the discovery of the existence of the relations of the other with a third party.
The paranoid-schizoid position Although Klein described the depressive position as a “central” position, she did not treat it as the first state of mind that is observable in the infant. Remaining faithful to the Freudian concepts of conflict and defences against the drives, Klein observed and described several 178
Depressive and paranoid-schizoid positions defensive organisations that revolve around this central depressive position, in particular, a “manic” position and a “paranoid” position. After her major article of 1946 on the concept of projective identification, she described a primary defensive position, grouping together the most radical and efficient mechanisms, which she called the paranoid-schizoid position.1 Appearing at a very early stage, this very first defensive organisation is a specific mode of functioning of the emerging ego with its internal part-objects, objects formed from relations established by the emerging subject with his early entourage. A common error has been to treat this position with its hybrid character – which reflects well, moreover, its compound name – as the chronological precursor of the depressive position, with the risk that this entails of no longer taking into account the qualitative difference of the composition of each of these two positions. The functioning of the defensive paranoid-schizoid position makes use of all the basic psychic mechanisms, that is to say, splitting, denial, idealisation and projective identification. These are distinct from, and appear earlier than, the set of defences that are formed later around post-oedipal repression. These basic mechanisms make a radical selection between the idealised and persecutory aspects of parts of the object and parts of the ego alike, the aim being, for the emerging subject, to be able to expel his primordial annihilation-anxiety. This anxiety, projected on to a part of these objects and of these parts of the ego, makes them persecutory and threatening for the idealised aspects of the ego and its objects, which are so necessary for development. A sine qua non condition may be added to this picture: this primordial conflict must be contained and framed by an environment, initially the maternal environment – the mother’s capacity for reverie – which helps the infant to utilise the first integrative lineaments of his depressive position to transform these aspects that are too radically split and opposed. Without this indispensable transformation (Bion, 1965), the parts that are split off and projected into external and internal objects would come back as such to persecute the subject. They would therefore not be able in any way to participate in the development of personality, which would gradually become impoverished, both at the level of its internal objects which have become irremediably persecuting and of the parts of its ego attached to these objects by a libidinal tie. 179
Depressive and paranoid-schizoid positions The paranoid-schizoid position organises its first defensive functions in the primary maternal space, and we can easily establish a link between the aesthetic conflict (Meltzer & Williams, 1988) arising at birth and the prolegomena of a depressive position linked to the “memories in feeling” (Klein, 1957) of the newborn infant concerning the lost elements of his prenatal life. A relational/identificatory “double helix” is thus established, which is probably mingled from the outset with the group mentality that we have already looked at in Chapters 5 and 7. The degree to which the entourage of the newborn infant is imprisoned in the group mentality certainly weighs considerably in the more or less persecutory quality of the elements of the defensive paranoid-schizoid position.
A critical reading of the concept of “positions” As Meltzer and Williams (1980) have pointed out, the concepts of the schizoid-paranoid position and the depressive position have resulted in several parallel reading perspectives. It is therefore possible to approach them from the developmental or psychopathological point of view or according to the dynamic equilibrium of the Weltanschauung of the subject (Ps↔D).
The developmental perspective Although in my view it is the most questionable, because the most reductive – and therefore the least metapsychological – it is unfortunately the developmental perspective that is most often adhered to by French language authors, beginning with Laplanche and Pontalis (1967) who, in The Language of Psychoanalysis, describe the depressive position as a “modality of object-relations which is established after the paranoid position”. They add, The depressive position is reached around the fourth month of life and is gradually overcome in the course of the first year, though it may recur during childhood and can be reactivated in the adult, notably in states of mourning and depression. (Laplanche & Pontalis, 1967, p. 114) Thus, although they indicate the reasons that led Klein to use a different term, these authors led all French-speaking readers to follow an 180
Depressive and paranoid-schizoid positions essential choice of definition which reduces the concept of positions to the old notion of “stages of development”. It is true that, for French psychoanalysts, this term stages is doubly significant, owing not only to its utilisation by Freud (1905) and Abraham (1924; see Chapter 2) but also on account of its links with French developmental psychology, as elaborated particularly by Henri Wallon (1879–1962) and by Jean Piaget (1896–1980). This reductive confusion favours the conception of a paranoidschizoid position that constitutes an earlier and central relational/drive organisation of the emerging mind rather than a defensive position against the truly central position of psychic development that is the depressive position.
The psychopathological perspective Any psychopathological perspective for evaluating a process that is as complex and evolving as psychic functioning comes up against its limits in the very framework that it has adopted. An example of this, touching on absurdity, is when we see basic concepts such as “neurosis” disappearing from the latest editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, known as DSM. Nonetheless, this disappearance may give us reason to reflect on the magic power we have invested in certain nosographical terms, which explains why we are so shaken, almost in our very sense of identity, when they are erased from our familiar theoretical horizon. That is why, on the contrary, the utilisation by Klein and her continuators of the term psychotic should make us reflect on the issue. The paranoid-schizoid position is a defensive position which allies, in one and the same clinical picture, the following: 1 The prevalent functional use of early defence mechanisms, namely splitting, denial, idealisation and projective identification, which restores the qualifier “schizoid” 2 An archaic, non-neurotic interpretation of reality by the infant, an interpretation Klein herself described as psychotic, which expresses the qualifier “paranoid” This parameter referred to as psychotic enabled Klein and the postKleinians to include in their observation of patients of all ages and of all pathologies a mode of non-neurotic functioning that was nonetheless 181
Depressive and paranoid-schizoid positions considered as universal at the level of the foundations of human psychic functioning. It is true that this mode of function is prevalent in the psychotic adult. However, every clinician who treats such patients would agree that a part of their functioning eludes the psychotic way of seeing the world. The drama lies in the primordial anxiety that never leaves them and becomes even more threatening when they open themselves to non-psychotic relationships, using those parts of themselves that function more normally. It is precisely the anxiety linked to seeing the object, to which a part of themselves clings, disappear that blocks them in their attempts to function in a non-psychotic way, for this object, supposedly good but never good enough, will immediately change into a cruel, murderous and persecuting object.
The perspective of the subject’s vision of the world (Weltanschauung) as a dynamic equilibrium (PS↔D) Many French authors have dealt with the subject of depressive pathology. To mention just a few of them, Pierre Marty (1991) has put forward the concept of “essential depression”, and Jean Bergeret (1980) has suggested the concept of “primary depression”. Studying psychic pain in cyclothymia and examining the evolution of psychosomatic illness, Augustin Jeanneau (1980, p. 36) points out that “the anteriority of the Kleinian paranoid-schizoid position” is perhaps not justified. For his part, Jean-Michel Petot (1979, 1982) notes that, according to Klein herself, the paranoid-schizoid mode of relating and functioning does not cease when the depressive position sets in. In agreement with this point of view, I would add that, on the contrary, the primary mechanisms of defence are mechanisms that are widely used throughout life to cope with new problems raised by the discovery of the polyvalence of the object that has become “whole”. In his book Sexual States of Mind, Meltzer (1973) calls the chapter he devotes to analytic work on accession to the depressive position “From Painand-Fear to Love-and-Pain”. One cannot express better the fact that a vision of the world that respects otherness and shows itself capable of loving and forgiving is very far from being a garden of roses. The paranoid-schizoid position still has fine days ahead of it, for it will always have the advantage of being a position where, like in a Western movie, the subject thinks he knows where the good guys and the bad guys are and where he will always find excuses for his own murderous 182
Depressive and paranoid-schizoid positions violence. As a friend of mine who passed away prematurely put it humorously: “Paranoia keeps the knees straight!” In the history of concepts, that of the depressive position was overtaken by the same developmental vision that led Freud and the first generation of psychoanalysts to place hope for a long time in a total and permanent resolution of the Oedipus complex. That was why, in the 1950s, a whole generation of British psychoanalysts tried, in vain, to help their patients elaborate the depressive position once and for all, to the threshold of which their patients persisted in regressing. It was Bion (1957) who, while working on the differentiation between psychotic and non-psychotic states of the personality, made it possible to overcome this false problem by placing the central depressive position and its main defensive organisation in a twin vector relationship PS↔D, thereby marking them with an oscillatory movement in the form of a concept of the third type (Guignard, 2001, 2002b, 2014a). Just as there can be no question today, as we saw earlier, of entertaining illusions about our unshakable capacities to treat in a permanent way all other human beings as whole objects – and even those that are most dear to us – so we will never be able to claim to have attained once and for all a vision of the world based exclusively on the central depressive position. The reason for this is that the constant pressure of the drive requires us to effect a considerable and permanent work of transformation and that it is illusory for the human being to be able to do without the possibility of deflecting towards the outside, thanks to projection, the destructive impulses that constantly surge up in us.
Psychotic functioning: a normal component of psychic functioning? Bion is the representative par excellence of a contemporary mode of thinking that does not waste its time trying to redefine concepts that are already oversaturated with meaning but concentrates its efforts on creating a more functional mode of thinking, replacing, for example, entities too loaded with meanings (some of which are obsolete) with a reflection on the elements that make up these entities. He therefore accepted the term psychotic to describe a mode of thinking that exists in each one of us alongside another mode of 183
Depressive and paranoid-schizoid positions thinking called “non-psychotic” – which avoids losing time in attempting the impossible task of differentiating, within this last category, between the “neurotic” mode and the “normal” mode, given that these two adjectives are so dependent on culture and the epoch in which they are used. On the other hand, “psychotic” functioning is relatively easy to detect owing to the deficiency, in the mode of functioning, of secondary level defences and an adequate use of processes of symbolisation. Furthermore, Bion was not afraid to turn his interest towards the “non-psychotic” versions of the primary defence mechanisms. In this way he was able to consider “normal” projective identification – non-psychotic – as part of the mother’s capacity for reverie, which, as we have seen, he regarded as the prototype of the capacity to think. He also explored the mechanisms that seem to be most marked by pathology, such as hallucinosis, and saw their interest for characterising the extreme forms of the psychoanalyst’s listening.
Clinical and metapsychological contributions of the concept of “positions” The clinical and theoretical contributions of this concept find their place in several perspectives which are complementary and interwoven: 1 The concept of psychic space is given prominence in them as a theatre of instinctual drive impulses in the phantasy-based, representational, and affective expressions of the transference/countertransference relationship. 2 In the register of Freudian concepts, the concept of positions enriches reflection, in particular, concerning points of fixation, the regression that is their corollary and primary repression, whose psychic mechanisms are thus clarified: splitting, denial, idealisation and projective identification. 3 In the domain of the ego’s relations with its objects, the concept of positions helps the practitioner to have a clearer picture of the dominant identificatory register – projective or introjective – in which a patient is at a precise moment of the transference/ countertransference relationship, as well as of the pathology that dominates the clinical picture at this same moment: Is it a pathology of the core of his ego or a pathology of one or several of his internal objects? In the latter case, which parts of his ego 184
Depressive and paranoid-schizoid positions are involved in the relationship with this or these objects and in which mode of identification? 4 Within the same perspective, the concept of object develops its characteristics, linked both to its constitution based on the infant’s relations with his entourage and to the characteristics of its internalisation in the fourfold register of the functioning of object-relations (external/internal, part/whole). Thus, in the repetition of a relational movement within the session, the identification of the recollection of transference-objects can be evaluated with reference to the two levels at which the relations to internal objects always function simultaneously, that is to say, those of the part-object relationship and those of the whole-object relationship. 5 From the point of view of psychoanalytic technique, the identification of the transference and the self-analysis of the countertransference by the analyst who uses this geography of psychic functioning will acquire greater precision and avoid coming up against certain insurmountable paradoxes. Indeed, if we take into consideration the subject’s bisexuality; the paternal, maternal and infantile vectors of the transference; and the fact that the analysand expresses in the transference a mixture of all the ages of his life, from infanthood to adulthood, taking account of part-object relations and their verbalisation in the analytic relationship makes it possible to do justice to the complexity of the intrapsychic and interpersonal conflicts in the multiple ways in which they are expressed in the transference.
By way of conclusion Accession to the depressive position is painful, and maintaining this level of functioning will remain so throughout life. Recognising the reality principle implies the courage to give up omnipotence and omniscience. Recognising otherness implies giving up possession of others. Recognising one’s own guilt implies being able to contain it without re-projecting it on to others or deriving pleasure from it in a masochistic and destructive way. Finally, recognising one’s own limits implies tolerating being simply what one is, contributing only what one is able to give, and accepting the fact that one will not necessarily be well received. But there is nothing to prevent us from hoping . . . 185
Depressive and paranoid-schizoid positions
Note 1 A remark is called for here: the term paranoid is to be distinguished, both in English and French, from the term paranoiac in that not only does the first imply a delusion that may be momentary (delusional episode) but also because it is associated with Kraeppelin’s syndrome of paraphrenia, with that of early dementia (Freud) and that of paranoid schizophrenia; the second, on the other hand, is associated with paranoia.
12 THE CONCEPT OF THE INFANTILE
Even if its conception varies according to different authors and within the different contributions of one and the same author, the reference, explicit or implicit, to the child and to the infantile runs through the entire psychoanalytic literature, beginning with Freud’s work. The first chapter of this book discusses the historical reasons why this reference will always remain essential in the field of psychoanalysis, in both its clinical and metapsychological dimensions. The aim of the present chapter is to show why it is legitimate to consider the “infantile” (l’Infantile) as a substantivised concept in its own right of contemporary metapsychology, anchored in Freud’s work. Indeed, the noun child evokes a concrete reality that is too vague. Until what age is one a child? Is it necessary to be an adult to merit the diagnosis of “infantile neurosis”? As for the adjective infantile, its very broad application in psychoanalysis deserves to be united and clarified and to be treated as a conceptual entity. The infantile is omnipresent in Freud’s work. It can be observed in the discovery of infantile sexuality, with its polymorphism that looks like perversion and the hazards entailed in establishing its economy between the pleasure/unpleasure principle and the reality principle, underpinned by the putting-under tension of a field that mobilises both hallucinatory and perceptual activity. It can also be observed in the fact that from birth onwards an unconscious mode of psychic functioning produces psychic contents, on one hand, and a repressing agency which functions throughout life in two modes, primary and secondary, on the other. The inauguration of the second mode, however, in no way suppresses the activity of the first. The concept of the infantile also underlies the organisation of the 187
The concept of the infantile mind which, from the very first sensory relations and the first effects of motor functioning on the subject’s own body and the objects of external reality, functions at the level of the system Pcs. with the double spiral of the primary and secondary processes as the matrix of phantasy life, on one hand, and of the processes of symbolisation, on the other. The oedipal organisation, which is specific to the human species, is, moreover, part of the concept of the infantile, with its different levels of complexity, as much relational and objectalising as narcissistic and identificatory. Finally, infantile neurosis as an axial model, both of psychopathology and of the therapeutic situation, clearly belongs to the concept of the infantile as well as its homologue, the transference neurosis, with its points of fixation and its movements of regression which give the impulsion to the incessant to and fro between the past and the present, between infantile forms and adult forms of cathexis and thought.
The concept of the infantile Forming a concept out of its common usage requires us to start from the factual, from the subjective and the metaphorical, with the aim of arriving at a generalised and communicable conceptualisation. To do this, one has to proceed by successive touches. A strange historico-ahistorical conglomerate, the cradle of primal phantasies and sensory-motor experiences that are memorisable in the form of mnemic traces, the infantile is the psychic locus of the first and unrepresentable emergences of the instinctual drives. Of this initial event (avant coup) we only know the representable derivatives in the form of infantile sexual theories, on one hand, and of mnemic traces, on the other. A basic structure on the edges of our animality, a depositary and container for our instinctual drives, both libidinal and aggressive, as well as epistemophilic, the infantile is the “flexible” blend of instinctual drive activity and structure which results in our being who we are and not someone else. Irreducible, unique and therefore universal, the infantile is thus the means by which our mind comes into being, through all the developments of its psychic bisexuality organised by the oedipal configuration. On the frontiers of the unconscious (Ucs.) and of the preconscious system (Pcs.), the infantile is the most acute point of our affects, the locus of hope and cruelty, of courage and insouciance. It functions throughout life, according to a double spiral, both processual and 188
The concept of the infantile signifying, and it can be found even in the most severe pathologies, provided one does not confuse these with the normal organisation of this infantile. And if, until we die, it continues to act simultaneously at the level both of the secondary oedipal processes and of primitive mechanisms, it is because this human infantile is heir to the extraordinary instinctual drive force whose fantastic deployment can be observed in the rhythm of the psychic development of the first stages of human life. And yet the instinctual drive aspect is not the only one involved in this attempt to define the infantile. The concept also covers what it carries along with it in terms of hallucinatory activity and the protosymbolic preform that are emerging permanently in all our mental activities. Once the fixation points that fix our modes of being and having in sterile repetition have been unravelled thanks to analysis, these preforms will give back their vigour and underlying drive efficiency to more mature organisations, “setting the tone” of our personality as a subject in our usual adult mode of functioning.
The analytic encounter Every psychoanalyst knows that his professional specificity is woven from his very identity, since it is his psychic structure that constitutes his working instrument, even though it remains unknown to him in its totality owing to its unconscious quality. Thus, each day, during each encounter with one of his patients, he will have to take into account and employ this almost unknown dimension, the shifting scope of which his personal analysis, even if there were several of them, will never be able to grasp on a lasting basis. Even though it is dominated, protected and blinded by repression, both primary and secondary, the analyst’s psychic structure must nonetheless be fully engaged, without restriction, in his daily task, with the essentially unconscious nature of its processes – processes that are not only evidence of and containers of the repressed past but also the reservoir of what has never emerged from the forms and instinctual impulses that are utilisable for his cathexes, both narcissistic and object-related. At the beginning of the analytic treatment, the essential mode of the proposed/desired object-relationship is one of support. This relationship of an anaclitic nature will immediately be enriched and conflictualised in an extremely complex manner due to the universal 189
The concept of the infantile tendency to transfer, which drives human beings to repeat in their new relationships the mode of their past relationships. The psychoanalyst’s role consists in positioning himself at every moment of the analysis on the frontiers of those psychic domains, where his analysand tends to relate to him as a transference object in ways that belong to the past. Indeed, it is on these frontiers that the psychoanalyst’s function as an anaclitic object may help the analysand to reorient, however slightly, his cathexis of the tendency to repeat towards two other modes of psychic cathexis: remembering, on the one hand, and elaboration on the other, which differ as much from each other as they do from the mode of repetition in which the neurotic part of the patient has got bogged down. We can picture the analytic encounter as a shifting constellation of points of impact that generate tensions between two virtual spaces: the psychic space of the analyst and that of the analysand. Each of these spaces has, of course, not only its own organisation but also its common points, which I place within two categories: (a) the oedipal organisation and (b) the group mentality (see Chapter 7) inherent to every human mind. In the analytic encounter, these points of impact will become functional. Under the fine conscious film of the therapeutic alliance, an encounter between the analysand’s demand and the analyst’s acceptance, the analysand will cathect these frontier spaces in an unconscious transferential mode belonging to the past, that is to the transference. These spaces, which the analyst will have explored in his own personal analysis, are those of the double emergence of his countertransference and of his valency as an anaclitic object; in the analysand they will be those of the reorientation of the cathexis of neurotic repetition towards remembering and the beginnings of elaboration (which will follow the specific paths of the logic of the unconscious, described in the first chapter of this book). All psychic functioning depends on the simultaneous functioning, in the mode of a “double helix”, one could say, of conscious logic and the logic of the unconscious. It is very important to remember that, in the here and now of the session, the analyst’s psychic functioning will feature at least as much compromise between the logic of the unconscious and the logic of the conscious as does his analysand’s. However, in the analyst, these compromises will have to be made not only with his own Ucs. but also with the Ucs. of his analysand, with which he identifies projectively. 190
The concept of the infantile Free-floating attention, the essential instrument or tool of the psychoanalyst at work, implies both being in a state of mind that favours the permeability of the barrier of repression and making a very particular effort to identify with the analysand. The qualities of this identification have been described by Bion (1970) under the phrase “capacity for reverie”, which is discussed at length in this volume. Thus the locus of the emergence of the activity of thought is placed by Bion at the meeting place between the instinctual drive impulse – the ideational representative (représentant de representations; Green, 1997) – and the secondary processes of word-presentations (Freud, 1911). If we consider this Bionian conceptualisation in terms of logic, we are led to postulate that, in the work of elaboration that constitutes the psychoanalytic process (Meltzer, 1967), the lifting of repression and the reorganisation of splitting will be as many expressions of the compromises newly established between the logic of the unconscious and the logic of the conscious. As derivatives of the representations of the current status of the intrapsychic conflict, these compromises are located, in terms of the first theory of the psychical apparatus, in the system Pcs., while in terms of the second theory of the psychical apparatus, they are attributes of the ego.
The infantile and dissymmetry in the analytic couple It is usually considered that the dissymmetry of the two parties present in an analytic encounter constitutes a dynamic factor, given that we place so much value, as analysts, on our long work of personal analysis and the supposed permanence of the self-analysis that extends it. However, due to the multiple snares inherent to analytic activity in itself, this dissymmetry will also often constitute a factor of blindness in the analyst. Certainly, the requirement of so-called free-floating attention implies a state of mind that favours the permeability of the barrier of repression. Our daily practice makes us familiar, however, with the resistances that exist to developing and preserving such a quality of attention. Due to the coalescence of transference/countertransference factors which concern the limits of the psychic capacities of the analyst and analysand alike, these resistances are bound up with unconscious representations in both of them, the preconscious derivatives of which the analyst must try to observe in himself. 191
The concept of the infantile These considerations on the psychoanalyst’s daily mode of functioning have led me to examine more closely the primordial importance of the role played by the infantile in the two protagonists of the analytic treatment in their unconscious relationship. What I want to explore here is the question of the nature, quality and place of the infantile in the analytic relationship, with the aim of furthering the formulation of hypotheses concerning the role of this infantile in the psychoanalyst’s functioning during the session. In every scientific discipline, the appearance of a new concept must meet a double requirement: the first, addressing the past, is to unite under one term the multiple descriptions that have in common a major and specific characteristic of the concept proposed. Insofar as it is retrospective, this requirement is supposed to bring clarification and simplification to the conceptual apparatus of the discipline under consideration. The other, oriented towards the future, is that the concept proposed must prove to be a useful parameter for the pursuit of research and reflection in the discipline in question. While what I have said so far offers a response to the first of these requirements, we still have to explore from various angles the future possibilities offered by the concept of the infantile in the field of the daily clinical work of the practising psychoanalyst. Owing to the instinctual drive force that emerges from it, one of the essential characteristics of the infantile is its power to arouse unbound excitation at its point of impact on another mind. In every subject, the normal fate of this excitation aroused by the infantile of others is to be diversified and bound by means of the ego’s defence mechanisms such as displacement and sublimation, on one hand, and to undergo a new repression aimed at preserving a situation in which excitation is warded off in interpersonal relationships, on the other. Secondary repression will not be the only factor that enters into play to deal with this problem. Instinctual drive excitation will also be met by the primary system of defences organised around primary repression, splitting, denial and projective identification, while it will be the task of secondary repression to oversee this first level of defences through the intervention of the post-oedipal superego. The next chapter explores the evolution of this excitation which can produce blind spots and give rise to forms of interpretation during the course of an analysis that are often questionable. 192
The concept of the infantile The analytic situation allows us to sharpen our observation of the elements of this impact of the infantile in one subject upon another subject. What are the elements of the patient’s instinctual drive functioning that are liable to have an exciting impact on the analyst? The density of the infantile instinctual drive organisation and the paradoxes of the expression of the patient’s cathexes in the transference movement in the “here and now” of the session: 1 The burden of the relational and identificatory infantile history of this patient on his way of cathecting phantasy life and external stimuli, as well as on his capacities to differentiate one from the other 2 His different forms of infantile thinking rooted in the transference neurosis at the points of fixation that have constituted his infantile neurosis, to which may generally be added traumatic and transgenerational elements We can appreciate the complexity of the situation of the psychoanalyst, who will have the difficult task of having to listen internally and simultaneously to two heterogeneous infantiles: the one that the analysand projects into him, owing to the transference, and his own, owing to the countertransference. This creates a situation that encourages the emergence of “blind spots” (see Chapter 13). Faced with this risk, the qualities and characteristics of the infantilein-the-psychoanalyst will play an essential role. The infantile-in-theanalysand is indeed always ready to put itself in the service of someone who represents an object of love and dependence from the past – in this case, the analyst. Depending on how the analyst manages his own infantile, he will (or will not) make use for his own personal narcissistic and instinctual benefit the blind spot of the excitation aroused in his mind by the encounter of his own infantile with the infantilein-his-analysand. This may very well constitute a stumbling block for the possible existence of perverse tendencies in the analyst that have not been elaborated. It is thus the preconscious functioning of the psychoanalyst that will determine whether what prevails is acting out involving the destruction of the analytic situation or repression with the waste that it implies at the level of the evolution of the analytic work or, alternatively, the structuring/containing utilisation of this recognition of the infantile in oneself and in others. 193
The concept of the infantile
Criteria for terminating the analysis of the psychoanalyst and the status of his repression The importance for the psychoanalyst of cathecting the infantile puts him in a very particular situation with regard both to the criteria for terminating his own analysis and to the post-analytic reorganisations of the repression of his infantile in face of the demands of his professional function. It should be relatively easy to obtain a consensus concerning the requirement, for a future psychoanalyst, to undertake a sufficiently thorough and detailed personal analysis of his defensive organisation. Such a requirement is not sufficient, however, to settle the question of the status of the infantile in his daily analytic functioning. Indeed, while we may hope that the elements that had given rise in him to an infantile neurosis have been “dissolved” by the effect of the analytic process through the “resolution” of his transference neurosis, he will nonetheless be faced on a daily basis with the emergence of the infantile in his relations with each patient. As the very matrix of the passage of instinctual drive functioning into the psychic, the infantile will continue to give its density and complexity to the objectrelations of each human being, whether analysed or not, while at the same time marking the mode of conceptual thinking with the stamp of the primal phantasies through the intermediary of unconscious infantile sexual theories. The dissolution of a neurotic formation through an analysis does not imply, however, that instinctual drive, relational and identificatory elements that were caught in its nets have been dissolved. On the contrary, one can expect that these elements will be liberated and that part of them will be reorganised and recathected in modified narcissistic and object-related dimensions, while another part will undergo a new repression that is less invalidating because more adequate. One of the most important aspects of these new cathexes in the psychoanalyst for exercising his function is constituted by his ability to make more adequate use of the limits of his ego – strengthened and better circumscribed thanks to his personal analytic work – as the container of his own infantile. This ability, which is an antidote to the pathological excesses of narcissism, reduces the danger for the psychoanalyst to let himself be seduced and governed by this infantile in him. In fact, it is also necessary to rely on the characteristics of this infantile which, in the adult, seeks to impose the omniscience and omnipotence of “His 194
The concept of the infantile Majesty the Baby”. Thus, this omniscience in the psychoanalyst could lead him to include the patient in a narcissistic image to which he would apply projective interpretations in a stereotyped way, and there would be a risk of his omnipotence leading him to engage in various forms of countertransference acting out. As repression takes hold, by definition, of what gravitates around infantile drive functioning, traumatic experience and the pathology of internal objects (objects of internal objects and transgenerational issues), the new editions of the post-analytic repression in the psychoanalyst will attract not only aspects that were not spoken about or left unanalysed during his personal analysis but also what I might refer to as the constitutive elements of his Weltanschauung: in particular, his infantile sexual theories, which underpin his metapsychological theories, as well as his screen-memories (Guignard, 2014b). Furthermore, in the psychoanalyst like in any other human being, the status of the infantile, as I have defined it earlier, is situated at the point of articulation between drives and psychic formations. This has a very important consequence for the functioning of the mind of the psychoanalyst at work. As he has responsibility for the infantile neurosis of his patient in the guise of his transference neurosis, he will have to be constantly attentive in his analytic listening to his patient’s infantile. Nevertheless, I think he will only be able to be so in a really psychoanalytic way insofar as he does not satisfy himself with listening to the infantile-in-his-patient but also observes the functioning of his own infantile in the here and now of the session. Now this countertransference attitude, which may seem self-evident, is, in reality, the expression of a situation that is far from simple. Indeed, it assumes that the analyst at work spends his time struggling against the repression that occurred in him “tertiarily”, normally, in a post-analytic phase, at the level of a large part of his infantile elements freed from their neurotic organisation. Consequently, the excitation linked to the instinctual drive forces of the infantile in himself will be artificially diverted from a part of its fate, which is repression, in order to remain in the service of his professional activity. This brings us back to the question raised by Freud of terminable or interminable analysis: It seems that a number of analysts learn to make use of defensive mechanisms which allow them to divert the implications and demands of analysis from themselves (probably by directing them 195
The concept of the infantile on to other people), so that they themselves remain as they are and are able to withdraw from the critical and corrective influence of analysis. (1937, p. 249) And a little further on he adds: It would not be surprising if the effect of a constant preoccupation with all the repressed material which struggles for freedom in the human mind were to stir up in the analyst as well all the instinctual demands which he is otherwise able to keep under suppression. (ibid.) It will be recalled that Freud follows up these remarks with the recommendation, for every analyst, to submit himself to a new period of analysis every five years, which leads him to observe, “This would mean, then, that not only the therapeutic analysis of patients but his own analysis would change from a terminable into an interminable task” (ibid.). Considered from the angle of the infantile-in-the-adult, the rhythm proposed by Freud for undertaking a new phase of personal analytic work – every five years – cannot fail to evoke for us the age of the height of the Oedipus complex.
Infantile illnesses in the countertransference To introduce the question of the transference and the countertransference, which I will be dealing with more extensively in the second volume of this book, it is important to put forward without further delay the hypothesis that the excitation produced in the psychoanalyst by the impact on his Pcs., of the infantile-in-his patient, is maintained artificially outside the normal process of repression in the interests or needs of his analytic listening. This excitation does not stem only from the infantile conflicts that may have eluded his personal analysis but much more from the obligation to maintain experimentally his own infantile as close as possible to his conscious awareness. This constant listening to the point of entry of instinctual drive functioning into the psychic sphere in the form of his infantile must therefore remain for the psychoanalyst a particularly strong and permanent object of cathexis, failing which he would no longer be able to continue to listen attentively to the infantile suffering of his patients. 196
The concept of the infantile Now, as we have seen, the impact of the infantile of one subject on the Pcs. of another subject produces excitation that both carries and generates oedipal impulses and primal phantasies. Consequently, at least in neurotic/normal functioning, this excitation, and everything that goes with it, is usually subjected to repression, whose nature and quality will govern the forms taken by the return of the repressed, ranging from act to thought. We may thus ask ourselves how and, above all, at what price, the practising psychoanalyst manages to escape this normal functioning. Freud noted two exceptions to this rule of “normal” psychic functioning: the state of being in love and the transference relationship. With the advent of the crucial works of Winnicott (1958) and then of Bion (1962a, 1962b), two others were added: the “ordinary illness of the mother” (Winnicott) and the “capacity for reverie” (Bion). Now, owing to the work of the countertransference, analytic listening requires the psychoanalyst to maintain artificially, outside the normal process of repression, the impact of the excitation produced on his system Pcs. by the infantile-in-his-analysand. The study of the Infantile thus leads us to designate the countertransference relationship as a fifth exception to normal psychic functioning.
The infantile underlying the parental transferences During his day-to-day work, the psychoanalyst is faced over and over again with the questions of the difference between the sexes and the generations. He is led to try to determine, in the discourse of his analysand, what his parental place in the transference is, and it may seem evident to him that he will experience this place in an identical way in his countertransference. But in fact, it is far from evident, as can be seen from the following situation: a severe and rigid post-oedipal parental superego is very often the manifest aspect of the imagos projected by the analysand on to the analyst, but the analyst must also take account, in his interpretive choices, of the simultaneous projection on to him of the complementary latent imago, that is of a weak ego, whose infantile helplessness will be denied by its contrary, infantile omnipotence. However, the latter will make an appeal of narcissistic seduction to the infantile omnipotence of the analyst, an appeal that risks modifying the analyst’s countertransference position with regard to what he will do with the superego-based projection of his analysand. 197
The concept of the infantile This means that the conflictual projection of the infantile neurosis of analysands onto the adult structures of the analyst goes hand in hand with a permanent risk of collusion between the infantile-in-thepatient and the infantile-in-the-analyst, at the point of impact of the first on the system Pcs. of the second. Because it has not been identified, this exciting point of impact forms a blind spot and tends to be repressed before it is subjected to a process of self-analysis by the analyst. It is thus in danger of re-emerging, both in countertransference acting out and in a displaced manner outside the field of the analytic relationship, in somatisations or in forms of acting out in his personal life. Correlatively, and to the extent that the analyst is sufficiently interested and attentive to what the analysand is arousing in him at the level of his own infantile, it is this very excitation that will serve as a basis for generating in his mind a preform of the infantile elements of the transference/countertransference relationship that is containing and capable of warding off excitation. By focusing his attention more specifically on the functioning of the infantile-in-his-patient and in himself, he can discover and analyse the role and weight of these two infantiles in the intrapsychic and interpersonal conflicts at play in the analytic field. Underlying the manifest parental transferences that we are more used to identifying, the trends, both object-related and narcissistic, of these two infantiles play a silent role in the respective primal scenes of the analysand and analyst alike throughout the identificatory movements in the transference/countertransference. Through the question of the double, or mimetic, identification, the economy and dynamics of the exchanges between the two infantiles could also have implications for bisexual complementarity, the parental or therapeutic function of the child, as well as jealousy, rivalry, incest and murder, both in the transference and in the countertransference. Thus, the narcissistic and object-related elements of the transference play their part silently at the level of the primal phantasies of the analyst and particularly in his identifications with the different characters of the primal scene (Freud, 1918). The infantile-in-the-psychoanalyst is particularly stimulated in the domain of identifications with the primary object considered in terms of its two poles: the maternal space and the sexual feminine space (Bokanowski & Guignard, 2002). Faced with the discovery of otherness and therefore, of solitude, it will have recourse to the defensive 198
The concept of the infantile configurations of the relationship in which the mimetic pseudoidentification seeks to spare the ego the painful work of mourning linked to object-loss. The analyst risks projecting this defence – which is always renascent in the infantile in each human being – on to the analysand; worse, they may both find themselves in a “community of denial” (Braunschweig & Fain, 1975) of their mutual projective identifications. The illusion of an idealised fusional complementarity may mask in the analyst the limits of his knowledge and power faced with the omnipotence, destructiveness or erotisation that he encounters in his analysand’s transference. The infantile-the-psychoanalyst can feel resistant when faced with the assumption of a paternal or therapeutic function adopted in the transference by a “wise baby” analysand (Ferenczi, 1923); fraternal jealousy and oedipal rivalry will not spare him when an analysand flaunts his prerogatives as the mother or father’s favourite child; his polymorphism (“the young child is polymorphously perverse”, Freud wrote) will not be insensitive to the phantasies of incest or murder of his analysands. These subtle and complex unconscious exchanges are deployed in the space characterised by Freud (1905) in his Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, namely on the boundaries of polymorphism and perversion. They are thus not without their effects on the development and equilibrium of the psychic life, or even of the life itself, of the two protagonists of all analytic work. In the next chapter I explore this point in greater depth.
13 THE INFANTILE-IN-THEPSYCHOANALYST: BLIND SPOTS AND STOPPER-INTERPRETATIONS
Following Freud’s (1912a) article on “The Dynamics of Transference” and the numerous studies devoted to the countertransference (e.g. Grinberg, 1962; Racker, 1968, Urtubey, 1989), current developments on the concept of the infantile allow substantial progress to be made in the study of the psychic functioning of the analytic pair during the session. During his working day, a significant part of the psychoanalyst’s attention is focused on the emergence of a representation concerning what he is listening to. In particular, he tries to locate within an oedipal perspective the vectors of time (generations) – and gender (masculine/ feminine) which organise the transference/countertransference relationship during the session. Derived from the Freudian model of infantile neurosis (see Chapter 1), the concept of the infantile (l’Infantile) offers the analyst not only a model of the latent functioning of his analysand but also a framework for the discovery and analysis of the movements of his own countertransference in this delicate work. As we have seen, the concept of the infantile rests on two postulates: (a) in every human being, the infantile is the place of impact and communication with another human being and (b) owing to the relatively unbound instinctual drive force that emerges from the infantile, its point of impact on another mind engenders excitation at the level of the infantile of the latter. It is by taking into account the instinctual drive movements of his own infantile that the psychoanalyst can have a living experience of 200
The infantile-in-the-psychoanalyst his own countertransference position and locate himself among the set of characters in the primal scene, as Freud (1918) discovered and described them in connection with the Wolf Man: a scene with four characters, the father, the mother, the little boy and the little girl – to which Meltzer (1967) subsequently added the baby in utero. It is also by focusing his attention on this internal place that the practitioner of psychoanalysis can observe the effects of the patient’s mind on his own archaic elements, his group mentality, as well as his transgenerational issues. As we saw in Chapter 12, the task is not easy for the psychoanalyst in his situation as a clinician and therapist, because it is a matter of observing his own mode of functioning which is to a large extent unconscious. The search for “characters in the session”, an approach that is used by many of our Italian colleagues (e.g. Ferro, 1996, 2011) can be very helpful in allowing the analyst in the session to step back a little in transference/countertransference situations that are too hot or cruel. Nevertheless, certain positions remain difficult to hold, and certain internal objects projected into the analyst arouse negative affects that are all the more violent and anxiety-producing for his countertransference in that, according to the Freudian metaphor of the iceberg, 90 percent of it remains unconscious. There are moments when the analyst may either find himself invaded by a representation with which he does not know what to do or in a state of paralysis and representational emptiness. In both cases, given that nature abhors a void, he risks grasping at an inadequate representation and offering it to his patient or, quite simply, to serve as a guide for his own distraught listening. The result of such an approach is rarely productive for clarifying the transference/countertransference relationship and for advancing the analytic process. It is from this perspective that I have been interested, for twenty years or so now, in the traps of representation in interpretation.
Dynamics of the blind spot in the psychoanalyst An overview of analytic work allows us to consider that the lifting of repression and the reorganisation of splitting in the analysand will lead to the creation of new representations in both protagonists of the treatment. These representations, which concern, at an initial level, the transferential position of the analyst in the here and now of the 201
The infantile-in-the-psychoanalyst session, also concern, at a more unconscious level, which is difficult for the psychoanalyst to grasp, the current state of two intrapsychic conflicts aroused, in both psyches, by the analytic relationship. If we examine the process more closely, we discover first of all that during all analytic work, irrespective of the patient’s age, a basic mode and rhythm sets in, specific to each analytic relationship, whose processual tone the analyst learns to observe. However, ruptures may occur in this rhythm that is original and specific to the relationship. And because this rhythm is like the rhythm of our breathing or blood circulation, tiny disturbances of it are likely to be denied. When they are more important, it is customary to link them to a movement in the transference. However, we may also consider that they stem from the analyst’s countertransference. Be that as it may, we can see that in a “well-tempered” state of analytic conflictuality, every rupture of communication will be translated by a failure to represent. At the unconscious level, this failure is experienced unconsciously, in the analyst and/or the analysand, as the loss of an emotionally significant internal object. It may be a part-object or a whole object, a bad object or a good object; what is important is the experience of loss and momentary shock induced by this unconscious loss in the associativity of the analytic pair. My clinical practice has led me to notice that it is the impact of the infantile in another human being on any subject, even if he has been analysed and is a psychoanalyst, which is the source of unbound excitation, owing to the instinctual force that emerges from it. Either this excitation has not as yet found representational expression due to its very primitive nature or this expression has been subject to splitting and/or repression. In both cases, the intrapsychic conflict aroused by this situation leaves the analytic field devoid of representativity. It is the very definition of a “blind spot”, whose point of impact, as we saw in the last chapter, is located in the Pcs. of the two protagonists of the relationship. It is always an unconscious movement of projective identification towards a split-off part of the ego or internal object of the analysand that leads the analyst to “fall” into the blind spot due to the intrapsychic conflict he experiences in his countertransference. Thus, insofar as the analysand’s and the analyst’s infantile neuroses live and function in the same analytic field, a blind spot in one of them – involving the other person and vice versa – indicates a failure to represent that is located at the meeting-point between their two infantiles. This failure to represent concerns the state of the unconscious relationship 202
The infantile-in-the-psychoanalyst between a part of the analysand’s personality, with its internal objects projected into the analyst, which are equally projected into the analysand. It is here that the degree of personal analysis achieved by the psychoanalyst, as well as his technical competence, will be a key factor. Acquiring great sensitivity through training in listening analytically to his own instinctual drive and projective movements is of primordial importance in the psychoanalyst’s evaluation of what, in the analytic field (Baranger and Baranger, 1964 [1961–1962]), belongs to the transference or to the countertransference.
Vicissitudes of the blind spot, stopper-representations and stopper-interpretations A blind spot organises itself spontaneously both into an activity of repressing the instinctual drive impulse which gives rise to it and into a structuring/containing preform for the ongoing interpersonal relationship. This is why, on the condition that he overcomes it, the blind spot helps the analyst to get a measure of the malaise and suffering of the analysand in relation to his internal objects and to the analyst into whom he has projected them. In order to reach this second level of understanding, the psychoanalyst’s psychic activity must also take a further step in the process of observing his countertransference. Indeed, the difficulty of interpretation lies in the fact that it mobilises simultaneously in the analyst all his levels of identity and all the forms of phantasised expression of his primordial, archaic and oedipal impulses. All the modalities of his sexual affiliation and his psychic bisexuality (David, 1992) will come into play, as they were organised in his infantile and are still active in his preconscious, underlying his adult psychosexual functioning. In the course of the repetition and regression linked to the analytic process, the rupture of communication in the analytic pair, indicated by a blind spot, will consequently also concern remembering and, a fortiori, working-through (Freud, 1914b). In this process engendered by a blind spot, the analyst must not be taken in by the illusion that the dissymmetry of the analytic situation exempts him from the need to do constant work on the state of his own defences, both primary and secondary. Without this work, his free-floating attention, his capacity for reverie and holding might well be blinded; for free-floating attention 203
The infantile-in-the-psychoanalyst favours as much the permeability of the barrier of repression in the analyst as the rule of associativity does in the analysand. The psychoanalyst, who is also taken to the limits of his own capacities for psychic transformation, will thus be faced with his own unconscious regression in the interpsychic situation of the analytic treatment. Normally, the failure to represent will set in motion, at the unconscious level, a process of figuration akin to the dream that follows the same vicissitudes: like the dream, this process will in most cases be engulfed instantly by repression; in some cases, it will appear as a confused welling up of images with a loss of limits between oneself and the other, the outside and the inside, perception and hallucination (Guignard, 2015), unless, in the best of cases, a representation in the twofold register of words and things offers itself for the analytic work of associativity and decondensation. When a blind spot occurs in the adult analysand, we sometimes observe a moment of silence loaded with anxiety to do with not being able to represent anything and sometimes a superficial discourse that is devoid of meaning; in the child, we witness interminable games whose symbolic valency is limited to the phallic interest of winning or losing a situation that is of no significance. These moments of silence, these false discourses and these pseudo-games have the value of a “stopperrepresentation”: it is a matter of saying or doing anything whatsoever rather than concentrating attention on what is hurting. Though they do not concern the domain of hallucination and delusion, these stopper-representations often consist of tautological considerations, closing the question before having examined it. When it is the analyst who has a blind spot, the anxiety linked to the absence of representation brings his level of functioning down a notch, and he abandons the discomfort and uncertainty of his position “without memory or desire” (Bion, 1970) because the need to find an answer to what is going on in the analytic field becomes so urgent. It is then that he will be strongly tempted to diminish the anxious excitation due to this absence of an unknown object by filling this void with a stopper-interpretation. The stopper-interpretation, which has the aim of denying this absence and of stopping the libidinal and object-related haemorrhage that is occurring silently in the analytic field, very often makes use of a “ready-to-wear” pseudo-association, a static image that the analyst had formed previously in connection with some earlier material of the analysand. 204
The infantile-in-the-psychoanalyst Drawing on Umberto Eco’s linguistics to introduce the precious tool of narrativity into the analytic method, several Italian psychoanalysts consider stopper-representations as belonging to the “saturated” interpretations that are unsuitable for opening the analytic field to the processes of thought. As long as they occur in the analysand, these stopper-representations are relatively easy to detect. They are much more difficult to detect when they occur in the analyst insofar as his basic cultural object, his theoretical corpus, is engulfed by this rift. Thanks to this need to interpret, the favourite “tics” of our corporation will appear, of which I only mention the most common ones: recourse to the analysand’s personal history, recourse to psychoanalytic theory and recourse to blaming the patient. 1 Recourse to the analysand’s personal history is used abundantly, particularly when one or several severe traumas have occurred in the course of this history. Even if the trauma is very invalidating for the analysand’s psychic functioning, the repeated evocation by the analyst of this event in the analysand’s history becomes a tautological explanation that blocks the associative process of both protagonists and functions as a stopperinterpretation. What thus amounts to a repetition of the trauma in the transference/countertransference relationship impedes the analysis of the psychic trauma in the full sense, that is to say, in the transferential sense of the term. The instinctual drive excitation remains unbound, thereby eroticising repeatedly the analytic field at an infantile level and leading the process into an impasse through the avoidance of thinking that might prove disagreeable and even painful. It is up to the analyst to exercise his judgement concerning the traumatogenic components of the events related by his patient. Certain details that are considered insignificant by the analysand sometimes contain a traumatic valency that is more important than the events he has related which supposedly constitute the severe traumas of his past. Now, if the analyst is caught up, at the level of his own infantile, in affects of fascination for his patient’s account, he will adhere to the fascination of his patient’s infantile concerning this point of his history. In these conditions, it will be difficult for him to focus his attention on the way the patient is using this traumatic past defensively in the here and now of the analytic relationship instead of trying to 205
The infantile-in-the-psychoanalyst understand it. This “community of denial” (Braunschweig & Fain, 1971) concerning the analyst’s defensive activity stems from a blind spot in the analyst, who is unconsciously identified with the infantilein-the-patient or with one of the internal objects of his past. The analyst’s blind spot, which is related to the personal history of the analysand under the pretext of historicisation and reconstruction, is superimposed on the patient’s post-traumatic amnesia (Freud, 1920b). As in post-hypnotic amnesia (Green, 1993), it is a reaction of a hysterical nature (Freud & Breuer, 1895) aimed at deflecting the violence of an internal affect (anxiety, rage, despair) on to an external event, real or supposed, but, in any case, outside the analytic field. When the analyst refers in his manifest discourse to the analysand’s history, it amounts to saying to him, “It’s not surprising that you are anxious, after what happened to you!” This is a reaction of the infantile-inthe-psychoanalyst, caught up in his projective identification with the violence of his analysand’s affect. The normal bi-logical functioning of the psychical apparatus is masked by a rationalisation of poor quality, like the famous explanation of Sganarelle: “That’s precisely the reason why your daughter is mute!”1 Rather than looking for what, in the present of the analytic relationship, favours the resurgence of anxiety – concerning which the traumatic origin still needs to be analysed in any case – the analyst’s ego tries to get rid of its anxiety caused by the failure to represent due to the blind spot, by establishing a factual link, or “short causal link”. 2 Recourse to psychoanalytic theory was, as we know, one of the weaknesses of the inventor of psychoanalysis. Each one of us is familiar with the temptation of such recourse, which is aimed at circumventing a distressing element of the emotional field in the analytic relationship. The blind spot aroused by the impact on the analyst of the infantile-in-the-analysand sometimes acts as a strong spur for the analyst to have recourse to psychoanalytic theory as a stopper-representation. This was the case, for example, of the infantile sexual theories, which associated, with one wave of the hand, the drives and the defences, Freud’s hypothesis concerning the discovery of infantile sexuality and his own defensive limits protecting him from the extraordinary nature of his own discovery. By remaining at the manifest pregenital level of 206
The infantile-in-the-psychoanalyst these theories, he minimised the scandal of infantile sexuality which lies essentially in the precociousness of its genital component. Faced with Little Hans who was in raptures over the beauty of his little sister’s “widdler”, Freud functioned like a blind man, hearing his castration anxiety only in relation to his own phallic/castrated unisex theory and not in relation to the difference between the genders which the little boy was discovering. However, it is worth recalling here that Freud found himself in a very particular situation, because Hans’s mother had been his patient and Hans’s father was his pupil – a countertransference situation that must have stimulated the oedipal infantile in Freud! Does it need adding that, quite apart from not possessing his genius, we are no less on the defensive today than Freud was in his time and that we in turn often confuse stopper-representations, which the infantile sexual theories are by definition, with the living psychic reality of the child or adult for whom we have analytic responsibility? The use of analytic jargon brings into play another sort of collusion between the infantile-in-the-analyst and the infantile-in-theanalysand. Employing technical terms to describe the affects of an analysand who is in full regression – “What you are telling me is really very oedipal!” – is a way for the analyst to dodge the transference-object situation in which he finds himself. Lacking a specific representation of the analytic relationship that is unfolding, the psychoanalyst resorts defensively to psychoanalytic theory as a stopper-interpretation, leading his analysand in the process towards a level of group mentality that invalidates his oedipal situation in the name of a theoretical pseudoideal. In reality, the analyst rejects his patient’s regressive movement because it confronts him with a blind spot in his countertransference: generally, an unconscious identification with a primary object that could not tolerate the patient’s regressive movements. It goes without saying that the patient’s guilt will also be exacerbated. It has to be said that even Freud let himself be caught in this trap. When he discovered infantile sexuality, he defended himself against it by taking for granted the manifest discourse concerning this scandalous infantile sexuality, namely the infantile sexual theories. Even, today the infantile sexual theories are too often confused with what they mask – the genital valency of the child’s sexuality. Even for psychoanalysts, this sexuality, which destroys the ideal ego that His Majesty the Baby embodies for the infantile, remains scandalous. The defensive compromise constituted by the infantile sexual theories allows the analyst 207
The infantile-in-the-psychoanalyst who is suffering from a blind spot to escape from his anxiety by using this handy lure that psychoanalytic theory can become. 3 Recourse to making the analysand feeling guilty should be an ultimate system of alert for every analyst in search of his blind spots. Like a bad student, the analysand refuses to listen to an interpretation that is nonetheless deemed to be clear by the analyst who, in addition, has repeated it several times without success. Sometimes it is the analysand who best expresses the situation, when he complains, at this precise moment, that he has “fallen into a void”, because he no longer feels contained or supported by the analytic situation. The analyst’s ignorance of his own blind spot does not allow the underlying drive excitation, arising from the encounter between two infantiles, to transform itself by organising itself at a representable level of psychic conflictuality. The analytic material thus remains in limbo, unrepresentable and therefore inaccessible to the secondarised defensive reorganisations in the order of repression. This situation is not only a waste of time for the two protagonists, as well as of the analysand’s finances – which is not insignificant – but above all we witness an increase of guilt in the analysand who, at the unconscious level of his infantile, feels guilty for the analyst’s blindness, just as, in real life, children always feel unconsciously guilty for the splits and conflicts that occur in their parents. The repeated reference to an interpretation that has not reached the patient should induce the psychoanalyst quickly to undertake an exploration of his own infantile omnipotence, that is to try to examine what, in his listening, resists the free functioning of his projective identification with the psychic state of the patient. Whenever the analyst is unaware of his blind spots, the drive excitation arising from the encounter of the two infantiles can only increase. In the treatment of children, it is motor agitation that will dominate the clinical picture; with adults we will be confronted with an erotisation of the transference which masks an unanalysed negative transference. From the point of view of the analytic process (Meltzer, 1967), the repetition of the past no longer takes the path of transformation. Freud’s (1900) description of dream functioning enables us to understand easily, and in a complementary way, that every failure to represent 208
The infantile-in-the-psychoanalyst leads to a failure to repress. The analytic pair will therefore quickly find itself invaded by a repetition of the past without any value at the level of working through or even of remembering (Freud, 1914b).
Overcoming a blind spot Let us recall that the blind spot is one of the most useful instruments available to the psychoanalyst because, provided that he overcomes it, it allows the analyst to get a better sense of the analysand’s malaise and suffering in connection with his internal objects and thus with the analyst into whom he has projected them. How do we overcome a blind spot, and above all, how do we know it has been overcome? Concerning the means, group clinical work and assisted listening are, in my opinion, extremely fruitful situations, irrespective of the age and degree of experience of the analysts concerned. When the psychoanalyst does not have access to these means, the only reference points he has available to him are the emotions, positive and negative, that he experiences, joy, pain, enthusiasm and excitement, but also impatience, irritation, a sense of helplessness, anxiety and hate in the countertransference of which Winnicott (1947) speaks. These intense emotions, which are often disagreeable, distressing and extremely painful, always arouse a sense of disquiet in the psychoanalyst in that they deeply disturb his sense of identity. The risk of acting out these emotional situations in the countertransference is a delicate issue. It is therefore important to stress that it is precisely a movement of protest at the level of the analyst’s sense of identity that is the sign that he has overcome his blind spot. The sense of identity is based on the sense of belonging to his own primal scene.2 It is a matter, then, of restoring a foundational triangulation of identity which had been lost during the experience of the blind spot, owing to the analyst’s unconscious identification with an internal object or a part of the patient’s ego. This personal triangulation is unique and the psychoanalyst rediscovers it in a very intense, and even violent, way, along with his own emotional and physical limits. In addition, the overcoming of a blind spot also marks the end of fascination with the trauma. Ever since Bion (1970), the psychoanalytic world has known that projective identification is the tool par excellence of the psychoanalyst’s free-floating attention. The blind spot, obviously, is part of the 209
The infantile-in-the-psychoanalyst vicissitudes of projective identification. Indeed, the concept of the blind spot aims to circumscribe the small supplementary portion of space/time during which the psychoanalyst remains immersed, or confined, in projective identification with the space/time of the internal objects of the patient, which is operative in the here and now of the transference/countertransference repetition. While I agree, therefore, with some of Grinberg’s (1985) proposals, I must also distance myself from others because I do not consider that what we are dealing with here is a countertransference “illness” but only to extend the analogy to the medical sphere, a vaccine dose. Just as in chemical analysis, transformation is inherent to psychoanalytic analysis due to the very introduction of this “measuring instrument” that is the psychoanalyst. Blind spots and stopper-interpretations punctuate the trajectory of this transformation, reminding every psychoanalyst of a twofold imprint, namely that of his own infantile and that of his analysand’s, on the dynamic and economy of the analytic treatment.
Clinical examples In the analytic treatment of an adult Lucien is an engineer in his forties. He is the only child of very emotionally deprived parents and when he was about one year old was sent to live with his godmother in a town quite far away from where his parents lived. He was an acutely intelligent, extremely sensitive and rather withdrawn child and formed very ambivalent relationships with a warm neighbouring family whom he visited on almost a daily basis. The rivalry with the two children, a boy and a girl, who were of a similar age to him, dominated the clinical picture when Lucien was in the home of these very welcoming people. On the other hand, when he was playing alone with one of the children, he was capable of communicating relatively authentically. However, even then, analysis revealed a significant degree of persecution, used defensively in the form of jealousy and envy to ward against the frustration at not having had the same kind of family of origin. It seems that the godmother had been unable to perceive the emotional states of this sensitive and insecure little boy. In the transference relationship, at first, Lucien was very relieved to be listened to by his analyst (a woman), and the analytic work was 210
The infantile-in-the-psychoanalyst satisfying for an initial period. However, as was to be expected, elements of underlying negative transference prevented the patient from fully developing his capacities in his life in the outside world. In particular, and in spite of various interpretations directed at these negative aspects of the transference, Lucien continued to show considerable determination to engage in masochistic emotional relationships and furthermore in such a repetitive way that his analyst began to lose hope of finding some form of “mutative” interpretation (Strachey, 1934) that was likely to change this state of things. The sexual excitation linked to this situation was evident and recognised by Lucien as an element that he was unable to do without, particularly at times of separation from his analyst. His sexual fantasies were looked at from all angles possible, but nothing enabled Lucien to “let go” of this paranoid position, which seemed to serve him as an identity and to rise from the ashes like the phoenix no sooner than the analysis seemed to have dissolved it. This, at least, was the thought that the analyst had one day after she and her patient had gone through a three-month period that was arid and not very productive, revolving for the umpteenth time around the situations of frustration of early childhood, the absence of a maternal psychic container and a very deficient paternal presence that had presided over Lucien’s destiny. It was at this point that, thanks to a dream, the analyst began to think again about her fantasy of the phoenix rising again from the ashes. She asked herself what the loss, passed over in silence, might be that nourished the persecutory and masochistic excitation of her patient/ phoenix. Her listening must have been modified by this space left for the advent of a meaning that was still unknown to the analytic pair, because shortly after, Lucien mentioned, as if in passing, that he had been kept at a distance when the mother of the warm family, of whom he had spoken, had died. Until then, in his memory it had just been one more situation of rejection and perfectly logical because, after all, he was nothing for this family, who meant nothing to him either. The analyst picked up on the word nothing, and it did not take long to discover the intense suffering that Lucien had repressed at the time of this death and the melancholic fixation point that was organised around this absence of mourning, with its procession of pathological projective identifications with the dead woman whom he had been prevented from loving. Admittedly, what was involved here was the second phase of a trauma from early childhood, which had itself been extensively 211
The infantile-in-the-psychoanalyst analysed as such. But the analyst’s capacity for reverie finally enabled her to overcome her blind spot created by her identification with this “dead mother” (Green, 1980) and to identify the “stacking”, in her patient, of two failures to represent: that of preverbal early childhood, repeatedly worked on throughout the treatment, and that of second childhood, obliterated by the blind spot of the analyst who was probably preoccupied by the question of the patient’s erotic transference onto her. From then on, all the clinical material of the trauma became significant again and could be used in the analysis through the analysand’s associativity, following the analyst’s own associativity. There is no question that it was the eroticisation of Lucien’s relationship with this deceased maternal substitute that allowed him to keep the affects concerning this death that were without authorised representations, and that had thus remained illegitimate, split off. This example clearly shows the limits of having recourse to what, in the patient’s personal history, has already acquired a representable and verbalised meaning according to an analytic model that is too manifest to be the last word of the story. When Lucien’s analyst was able to free herself from a stopperrepresentation that was too charged with the maternal image that he, in good faith, had made her take upon herself and to gain access to this maternal imago that was at once sexual, extraneous and dead, the patient’s unconscious guilt clearly diminished while his masochistic object-relations lost interest for him and the analysis began to evolve again at a certain rhythm. Now – and this is the central point of my reflections – the patient’s guilt contributed to maintaining the blind spot of the analyst, whose stopper-representation had the unconscious aim of stopping a libidinal haemorrhage that was rightly felt to be a vital threat for the good analytic work previously accomplished. For his part, if the analysand wanted to be able to continue to count regressively on his first containing objects, he needed to maintain a split between his anaclitic relationship with the analyst and the repetition in the transference of his relationship with this extraneous and dead woman who had counted so much for him, literally, against the wishes of his body – his erotic body, needless to say. The repetition of the past thus got the upper hand, in the form of the analyst’s denial of the importance that this woman had had in Lucien’s life. By doing so, the analyst was endorsing a twofold rivalry with this essential maternal imago: that of an internal mother who 212
The infantile-in-the-psychoanalyst had abandoned her child and that of an internal godmother who was envious of the psychic richness of the woman from outside the family. At the same time, it was the analyst herself who impeded this specific configuration of the oedipal triangulation from emerging because, in the feminine third party that this outside woman was, the paternal figure was obviously included, represented by this woman’s husband, on one hand, and by the genital oedipal psychic organisation of this maternal imago, on the other. By identifying herself in the countertransference with the unwillingness of this dead woman from the past to recognise herself as Lucien’s genital oedipal love-object, the analyst had prevented herself from rising again from the ashes and of speaking to the excited oedipal infantile-in-the-patient. She had thus implicitly suggested to him that only his close relatives had the right to be the foundational objects of his psyche and that he was thus permanently excluded from a normal oedipal elaboration, owing to the real psychic deficiencies of his original environment.
In the analytic treatment of the child The scene3 takes place in an institution which quite simply “accommodates” its psychotherapists in premises that are often strange and somewhat disused, “while awaiting” funds for restoration work. In one of his very first sessions of psychoanalytic therapy, a little boy aged five was playing for quite a while with a shower hose that was without its head. His face reflected a mixture of excitement and disquiet, and he did not speak. Then he asked if he could go to the toilet. When he returned to the psychotherapy room, looking relieved, a dialogue started up with the analyst: “Perhaps after playing with the hose, you felt the need to go and check that everything was all right with your willy”. “Be quiet, will you?!” The little boy replied, very frightened. “Don’t use bad (gros) words!” “Did I use a bad word?” “Well, yes! ‘Willy’ is a bad word!” “Oh! And what happens when we say bad words?” “You don’t know? When we say bad words, we go deaf!” The young analyst who reported this clinical fragment to me criticised herself for having used, she said, an interpretation that was too 213
The infantile-in-the-psychoanalyst stereotyped, bordering on paraphrase. This nonetheless helped us to orient our joint reflections, as it is only too true that paraphrase is the most commonplace parasite of analytic discourse both in clinical accounts and in theoretical developments. In particular, it is the main ingredient of stopper-interpretations that are apt to emerge whenever we find ourselves at grips with the infantile in a blind-spot configuration. In this brief dialogue between the child and the analyst, we find the whole cascade of the primary processes that Freud (1900) enumerated when he analysed a dream narrative: condensation, displacement, symbolisation, reversal into its opposite and a hallucinatory flash linked to the illusion of perceptual identity. Everything suggests that the child feared the adult’s interference in his psychic functioning: his game with water is barely symbolised; there is no scenario or temporal process. A short-circuit occurred in his psychic economy between the emotion that followed the sensory excitation and the sensory-motor discharge in acting out. It was only subsequently, following the interpretation offered by the psychoanalyst, that the dream-thought would express itself concerning the castration anxiety linked to unconscious primal phantasies, as they are expressed through masturbatory daydreaming. In his solitary and silent game at the beginning of the session, the little boy was both excited and anxious. He was consciously excited because, contrary to what happens in daily life, the adult woman he was with allowed him to play with water without interfering in his game. He was also unconsciously excited because he experienced this excitation at the level of his sexual organs, most probably in the form of an erection masked by the probable need to urinate – these two elements are only “probable” because he was not obliged to tell the truth when he asked to leave the psychotherapy room to go to the toilet. He was also unconsciously anxious because the absence of the shower hose head awakened in him his castration anxieties and the impression that the situation with this woman, the hose without a head and the water was a rather strange or even dangerous situation. So, he tried to protect himself by replacing the flow of the verbal exchange by the flow of water. But this was clearly not enough to reassure him, and so he acted out again by asking to go to the toilet. As is always the case, his acting out condensed several meanings: it was a good pretext to leave the room which was beginning to become a claustrum (Meltzer (1992), and it was equally a good opportunity to go and relieve his excitatory tension and to check the integrity of his own hosepipe. 214
The infantile-in-the-psychoanalyst From this point of view, the psychoanalyst’s intervention was pertinent. She was looking for a point of impact on the child’s preconscious in order to understand and relieve, by putting things into words, the more unconscious issue brought into play by the frightening sexual excitation. In accordance with the rules of the art, she used a commonplace word in a child’s vocabulary to refer to his genital organ. Now the child reacted as if the analyst had caught him in the act of masturbating. In a language obeying the logic of the primary processes, he expressed the prohibition imposed on him by his superego. His response was equivalent to a dream narrative. The little boy opposed the adult’s proposed line of causality with another line of causality of a magic order, namely that certain words have dangerous effects on health. He was indignant to see that the adult could so easily transgress this taboo and further that she seemed unaware of the dramatic consequences of doing so. Conclusion: one is better off not only if one speaks less but also if one thinks less. The sense of unease expressed by the analyst concerning her intervention was the mark of a blind spot: at the level of her infantile, the little girl that was still alive in her was struggling against the idea of a little boy urinating. The difference between the sexes . . . castration . . . “Oedipus has struck again!”, as another little girl once said to me . . . In the logic of the primary processes, the verbal symbol and the thing symbolised stand in a relationship of symbolic equation. One must not say the word willy because it – the word/thing – becomes “gros”4 in certain situations of excitation. Another condensation, another symbolic equation: the word/thing becomes gros because it has been touched. The erection that probably occurred during the exciting and frightening game with the shower hose must have had a cause, which was prior to the moment when, in the toilet, he probably touched his penis with the aim of urinating. So, it was because he had thought about something that the word/thing became “gros”. We can appreciate the scale of the catastrophe: “the lady” had started talking about what had happened as if she had been in his trousers! As if? Was it still at the level of a metaphor, or had the word become the thing? Did the lady really touch his penis? He reacted as if “someone” had touched his penis. This “someone” consisted of him and her, mixed with a movement of projective identification, under the sway of excitation, oedipal desire and the primal phantasies: seduction, castration, primal scene and a return to the womb. Was there a confusion of tongues, as Ferenczi (1932) would say? In any case, there 215
The infantile-in-the-psychoanalyst was a confusion of desires when faced with the prohibition of incest. As should be the case, the interpretation brought about a breach in the child’s auto-erotic economy. The interpretation invited the child with some insistence to engage in verbal communication: under the influence of panic, the little boy felt obliged to use the same weapons as the aggressor and, consequently, he overcame his state of silence. Who was he speaking to when he came out with the old refrain according to which masturbation makes you deaf? The thousand-year-old threat was transformed and had invaded the sphere of language: through this “magic of the bad word”, the word had become the thing; so speaking makes you deaf! It is a fine metaphor for psychoanalysts! “I is another” ( Je est un autre) wrote Arthur Rimbaud (1871) in his “Lettre du voyant” (“Letter of the Seer”). I consider that the blind spot is the crucible par excellence of an extremely modest and ephemeral creation, the only one we, as psychoanalysts, can lay claim to in exercising our functions. It is a “discovery”, common to both protagonists of the treatment – a pair is required for any kind of creation − which consists in a new edition of psychic functioning, a better integrated, more flexible and more alive edition, not only in the analysand but also in the analyst. It is worth recalling that the only difference that exists between the two lies in the fact that the analyst is “one length ahead”, so to speak, of his analysand due to his own personal analytic work, followed up by the pursuit of daily self-analysis. This length ahead is the space/time in which the analyst can observe the relations that his own infantile maintains with his adult parts, on one hand, and the intensity and mode of impact that the infantile-inhis-analysand has on his own infantile parts on the other. Child analysis provides us with an eloquent example, in its transference/countertransference complexity, brilliantly identified by Esther Bick (1962) half a century ago already. To give a quick panoramic view of the situation, I would say that the child psychoanalyst not only represents, from the outset, the oedipal third party of both the mother and the father of the child he is seeing; he must also consider, in his countertransference, his own oedipal desires for each of the parents of the child, his fraternal jealousy towards either one of them and his phantasy of stealing the mother’s babies by treating the child. To this may be added the possible traumas of the child that have been communicated to the analyst by a third party, and we can see how 216
The infantile-in-the-psychoanalyst many possibilities there are for the psychoanalyst to fall into blind spots, but also to overcome them in a fruitful way. It might be added, by way of concluding this first volume, that an experienced analyst must be able to listen to the infantile-in-hisanalysand irrespective of the latter’s age, without ever forgetting to lend an attentive ear to the spontaneous, sometimes violent, sometimes persecuted and sometimes depressed movements of his own infantile.
Notes 1 Molière (1666) Le Médecin malgré lui, Act 2, Scene 4. 2 Note that the term primal scene refers specifically and only to the phantasy concerning the parental sexual relationship from which the subject originated. 3 This example is taken from Guignard (2002a): “La magie des gros mots”. 4 Translator’s note: In French un “gros” mot is a bad or dirty word, but gros can also mean big or large, as is the case here.
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References Spitz, R. (1946). Anaclitic depression: An inquiry into the genesis of psychiatric conditions in early childhood. The Psycho-Analytic Study of the Child, 2: 313–342. New York: International Universities Press. Spitz, R. (1955). The primitive cavity: A contribution to the genesis of perception and its role for psychoanalytic theory. Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 10: 215–240. Spitz, R. (1957). No and Yes: On the Genesis of Human Communication. New York, NY: International Universities Press. Spitz, R. (1965). The First Year of Life: A Psychoanalytic Study of Normal and Deviant Development in Object Relations. New York: International Universities. Press. Strachey, J. (1934). The nature of the therapeutic action of psychoanalysis. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 15: 127–159. Urtubey, L. (1989). Le travail de contre-transfert. Revue française de psychanalyse, 58(5): 1268–1374. Winnicott, D.W. (1947). Hate in the countertransference. In: Winnicott, 1958, pp. 194–203. Winnicott, D.W. (1956). Primary maternal preoccupation. In: Through Paediatrics to Psychoanalysis: Collected Papers, pp. 300–305. London: Tavistock, 1958. Winnicott, D.W. (1958). Through Paediatrics to Psychoanalysis: Collected Papers. London: Tavistock. Winnicott, D.W. (1960). Ego-distortion in terms of true and false self. In: Winnicott, 1965, pp. 140–152. Winnicott, D.W. (1965). The Maturational Processes and the Facilitating Environment. London: Karnac, 1990. Winnicott, D.W. (1967). Mirror-role of mother and family in child development. In: Playing and Reality, pp. 111–118. London: Routledge, 1971.
Note: Numbers in bold indicate a table α-elements 26, 123 α-function 26, 52, 90, 122, 123 Abraham, Karl 9, 27, 70–73, 75, 77, 146, 181 Abram, Jan 34 addictive expressions 165, 167 adolescence, adolescents 139, 144, 153, 155; Oedipus (see Oedipus complex); and psychotic states 60; and self-identifications 156; see also puberty “aesthetic conflict” 23, 110, 180 allergies 166 amygdala 3 “anaclitic relationship” 18, 93, 189, 190, 212 anal impulse 74, 105, 109; phase 70; see also genital impulse anality 150 analogon 12, 178 animal kingdom 3 anorexia 44, 76, 154, 166 “anticipatory idea” 87 “antœdipus” 144
anxiety 1, 4, 11, 29–31, 111, 208; absence of 75; anger and 105; annihilation-anxiety 177, 179; castration 207, 214; catastrophic 125, 126; death 76, 137, 154; and depression 97, 109; and destructiveness 55, 74; and the ego 39–40; Klein’s approach to 138; latent 157; masochism and 116; neurosis 135; paranoidschizoid 108; primordial 182; and sexuality 169 aporia 14–15 apperception xv, 33–35, 53, 83, 90, 97 après-coup xxn1, 7, 131, 158, 164–165; biological factor and 19–20; latency, repression and 153–154; locus of 45–47; movements of 161; and Oedipal complex 154–157; operation of 140, 152, 158; post-pubertal 164–165 attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder 4
Index auto-eroticism 70, 71, 86, 93, 110, 170, 216 auto-narcissism 37, 40–41 automatism 57 avant-coup xviii, xxn1, 188 β-elements 25–26, 46, 122, 123 Balint, Michael 70, 145 Balzac, Honoré de 87 Baranger, Madeleine and Willy 61 “basic assumptions” 80–83 Bastille 66 “bedazzlement” 24, 27 Berlin Psychoanalytical Society 70 Beyond the Pleasure Principle 15 Bick, Esther 216 biological 19 biological: adult 163, 166, 167; “bedrock” 145, 147, 148, 150–151, 157; capacity 171, 172; clock 170; destiny 94; factor 19; mother 162; puberty 161; sexual maturity 168–169; tendency 71 Bion, Wilfred R. 7, 11, 116–117 bisexuality 185, 198; see also psychic bisexuality Blanchot, Maurice 85 blind spot xi, xviii, 10; in the analytic relationship 46–49, 192, 193, 198; overcoming 209–216; and stopper-interpretations 200–217; and transference 142 Botella, Sára and César 43 Bovary, Emma (Madame) 96–97 bulimia 166 cannibalistic phase 70, 72, 73 “capacity for reverie” 18, 25, 26, 31, 47, 49, 56, 149, 191, 197; analysist’s capacity for 158;
mother’s capacity for 52, 77, 83, 90, 108, 120, 124, 125, 170, 179, 184; “sojourn” 123 Castel, Pierre-Henri 97 Castoriadis, Sparta xi Chasseguet-Smirgel, Janine 86 claustrophobia 59 Claustrum, The 60 claustrum 67, 214 Cohen Herlem, Fanny xi compulsion 10, 46, 48, 111 Condillac, Etienne Bonnot de 3 Conscious (Cs.) 108, 114, 135 consciousness 69, 119, 128 consensus 10 “community of denial” 10, 199, 206 “confusion of tongues” 215 countertransference xi, xviii, 10, 22, 46, 57, 209; and the analyst 190, 201–203, 207, 209, 216; attitude 195; blind spot 48, 49, 142, 193, 201, 207; infantile illness in 196–200; and psychic conflict 134; and transference (see transference/ countertransference); unconscious 115; trap 60 cystitis 166 Darwinism 4 death anxiety 74, 79, 116, 123 death drive xvi, 14–17, 19, 135; denial of 135, 136; effect of 40; and libido 88, 138, 177; and life drive 43, 72, 77, 83, 89; and masochism 95, 116 decadence 164 Deleuze, Gilles 68 De Masi, Franco 86 denial 74, 151
Index Denis, Paul 86 depressive position 23, 26, 29, 31, 33, 57, 61; according to Klein 107, 125; and paranoid-schizoid position 76, 98, 125, 139, 176–185 de-symbolised 48; see also symbolisation Deutsch, Helen 70 Diderot, Denis 12 dominant identificatory register 184 double helix 190 double registration 164 dream 3, 14, 17, 46, 56, 136; activity of 122; and delusions 59; functioning 208; interpretation of 99; and myth 70; narrative 32, 115, 214, 215; unconscious 119; work 58 dream-thought 12, 52, 118, 124, 214 “drives” 6, 10, 12, 13, 47, 86; concept of 114; ego (see ego drive); death (see death drive); defences against 178; destructive 51; genealogy of xi, 10–20, 42, 53, 72, 76–79, 89, 97, 131; generational structure of 62; of the infant 25, 37; instinctual (see instinctual drive); life 43, 83, 89; nature of 146; and their objects 6–7; psychic form of 22, 195; sexual (see sexual drive); theory of the 61, 119, 132, 136; to thought 114–129; see also Freud “drive tripod” 19 dysmenorrhoea 166 Eco, Umberto 134, 205 “Economic Problem of Masochism, The” 13, 14, 87
ego xvi, xix, 32, 37, 42, 51, 56; bodily 132; “containing” 117, 134; emerging 41, 74–75; and id (see id); ideal x, 84, 86, 140, 165; impulses 90; infant 47; instincts 6; objects 118; splitting of 12, 30, 38–40, 43–45, 83; and superego (see superego) ego drives xv, xviii, 12, 16, 17, 71, 77, 89; of the infant 19, 97; and repression 134, 136 Ego and the Id 117, 124 epistemological axes 119 epistemophilic drive 19 epistemophilic impulse (+K) x–xi, xvi–xvii, 79–80, 101–113, 156; entropy of 90; and erotogenic masochism 87; and the infantile 188; Klein’s discoveries 120; masochism and 94–95; mother’s 93; and the Oedipus complex 147, 154; sadism and 80, 84, 86, 97, 99, 140, 153; sexual co-excitation 92, 152; vicissitudes of 89 epistemophilic instinct 128 Eros 43, 46; and Thanatos 16 erotogenic masochism see masochism “essential depression” 182 “excessive projective identification” 121 “external world” 14, 18 feminine masochism see masochism “feminine, the” xv, xvii, 87, 99; and the question of gender identity 85; repudiation of 146, 148, 151 feminine 83; denial of 145, 148; ideal 68; and maternal xviii, 22, 87, 141, 151; see also masochism; the “primary feminine space”
Index femininity 87, 107 Ferenczi, Sándor 34, 37, 40, 41, 46, 70, 145, 215 Ferruta, Anna xx fetish, fetishism 36, 97, 135 Flaubert, Gustave 96 Freud, Sigmund 4, 5, 6, 25; on consciousness 119; on “dream thoughts” 52; on “drives” 13–19, 42, 71, 129; on the ego 54, 55; influence of 11, 70, 73, 74, 117; on love 56; on masochism 72, 86–97; on narcissism 53, 77; “Negation” 41, 45; on neurosis 8; on the Oedipus complex (see Oedipus complex); on primal phantasies 21–22, 28; on the question of society 128; on reality principle 37, 125; on sadism 69; on “splitting” 36, 43–45; on sublimation 12; theory of anxiety 40; on transference 61; on the unconscious 58 Freudian ix, 123; concept of the “drive” xiii, 38, 120; discovery of infantile sexuality (see infantile sexuality); era x; matrix xiv; metapsychology 24, 38, 45, 53; model of intrapsychic conflict 23; post-Freudian xv; thingpresentations 32; tradition 24 “frontier concept” 6, 10, 12, 15, 40, 119, 160 “frontier creature” 39–40; see also ego fusion (Mischung) 14, 16, 43–44
intensification of 28; pregenital 114, 120, 146 Gestalt 36, 164 gestural origin of speech 3 Glover, Edward 29, 70 Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von 102–103 “good enough” (suffisamment bonne) 125, 140, 182 “good objects” 52 Goriot, Jean-Joachim 96–97 Green, André 121 Grinberg, Leon 117, 210 Grotstein, James 117 group mentality 80
Galileo 2 genital impulse xviii, 26, 95, 104–105, 107, 131, 149;
id 11, 19, 28, 37, 61, 71, 79, 114, 117, 140; see also sadism impulse for knowledge 120
hate see love heliocentrism 2 helplessness (Hilflosigkeit) 55 “hiatus” 12 Higgs boson 2 hippocampus 3 “holding” and “handling” 53, 125 Homo erectus 4 Homo faber 174 Homo sapiens sapiens 5, 174 hubris 120, 121, 128 human psychological apparatus 6 human sexuality see sexuality hyperactivity 4, 139, 161 hypercathexis 154, 155 hypermaturity 47, 139, 153 hypochondria 59, 61, 112, 167 Hysteria 13 hysteria 14, 59, 115, 133, 135, 166 hysterical projective identification 112
Index incest 147, 170, 198; phantasies of 199; prohibition of 156, 216 infantile, the (l’Infantile) xi, xvii, 7, 8, 48, 60, 63, 148, 151; concept of 187–199, 200 infantile (adj.) 187 infantile 87, 163, 174; conflict 11; distress 74; impulses 155; omnipotence 107, 161; vectors 185 infantile helplessness (Hilflosigkeit) 64, 109 infantile history 134–135 infantile-in-the-analysand 48, 206 infantile-in-the-analyst 48, 200–217 infantile-in-the-patient xix infantile neurosis 8, 115, 130–131, 141–143, 144, 154; in the adult 164, 187; 188, 193, 200 infantile psychosexuality 14 infantile sexual theory x, 21, 25, 148; and genital desire 104–105 infantile sexuality 6, 8, 17, 141, 166, 187, 207; development of 147–148, 151, 153; Freudian discovery of xvii–xviii, 130–137, 144, 146; regressive temptation of 169–171 “influence of the external world” 14 infraverbal communication 3 Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety 177 instinctual drive xviii, 6, 13, 71, 88, 138, 140; apparatus 83; cathexis 42, 94, 136, 150; conflict 27; context 96; “debasement” 153; defusion 99; dynamics 7; economy 43, 51, 89, 115, 130, 178; excitation 192; foundations 129; functioning 41, 193–196; fundamental 17; fusion 44, 62,
75; and the id 61; impulses 47, 74, 92, 120, 184, 191, 203; of the infant 25, 93–94; infantile 188–189; integration 98; movements 55, 148, 200; organisation 63; satisfactions 90, 97; tension 10, 11; part- 69, 176; and primal phantasies 21; 42, 61, 69, 71, 97, 116, 140, 153, 176, 188 “instinctual drive tripod” 119 Instinkt 6 “internal object” 116 intrication 14 intuition 3, 27; Abraham’s 70, 73; Freud’s 58, 90–93; Keat’s 121 jealousy 102–103, 104, 198, 210; fraternal 199 K impulse xvii, 89, 90–91; see also Bion; epistemophilic impulse Keats, John 121 Klein, Melanie x, xi, xv, 19–20, 23, 24; and death anxiety 123, 137, 138; and the “depressive position” 107, 125, 177–180, 182; and the ego 29, 54, 149; and the epistemophilic impulse 89, 103; and “excessive projective identification” 121, 128; influence on Bion 117, 118, 120; on narcissism 55; and oedipal stages 145, 151, 176; and the “primary feminine space” 26–28; psychotic 181; on sadism 55, 74–80, 108; on schizoid mechanisms 52, 53; on “splitting” 37, 44; and the whole-object relationship 98 Krafft-Ebing, Richard von 63, 69, 85, 87, 98
Index Lacan, Jacques 119 Laius 172 Laplanche, Jean xv, 21, 77, 120, 132, 149 Leonardo da Vinci 90, 102, 105, 108 “Leonardo da Vinci and a Memory of his Childhood” 101, 105–107, 114, 120 libidinal: cathexes 177; drive 188; economy 146; energy 91; haemorrhage 204, 212; impulses 76, 87, 93; relations 120; satisfaction 96; stages 69–71, 70; tie 179 libido 6, 13, 14, 15, 17; and anxiety 136; and the death drive 16, 138; early 177; of the id 39; nature of 93; primacy of 97; sublimation of 105, 109 Little Hans 19, 101, 104–105, 207 logic of the unconscious 11, 12, 15, 32, 190, 191 love (L) 108; falling in 173; and hate (H) 106–107, 112–113, 120, 125; genital 171; infant for mother 109–110, 127; and pain 182; primary 110 love-object 27, 96, 178, 193 Malle, Louis 170 mania 67 masochism xvii, 63, 86, 135; erotogenic 88–97, 116; feminine 87, 92–94; maternal 22, 93; moral 88; see also sadomasochism masturbation 214–216 “maternal, the” 87; see also primary maternal sphere Materialism 4
Matte Blanco, Ignacio 6, 11 McDougall, Joyce 86 Meltzer, Donald xi, 23–25, 76; “aesthetic conflict” 110; anal impulse 74; on Bion 128; claustrum 60, 67; infantile 201; influence on De Masi 86; Oedipal complex 120; and passive splitting 34, 37, 40; and projective identification 58; somatic illness 59, 112; “terror of dead objects” 125 merycism 44 messianism 65, 153 metapsychology ix, xiii, 8, 17, 24, 64, 180; “aesthetic conflict” 110; conceptualisations of 25, 36, 83, 101; consequences for 54–56; death drive 88; and ego 37–39, 45; error 49; Freudian 61, 114, 144, 187; history of 138; Lacanian 119; Oedipal complex 144; and “positions” 184–185; reflections 53, 178; representations 176, 177; research 141; status 127; theories 195 “Mirror-Role of Mother and Family in Child Development” 34 Molière 1; Molièresque causality 1 Mona Lisa 110 moral masochism see masochism “mother, the” 16 mother 55–56, 147; absent 41, 74, 103, 150; biological 162; body 26–27, 60, 75, 105; breast 28; and child xviii, 104; and daughters 105, 170; death of 34, 212; desire of xvii; exhausted 27; face 34; gaze 33; genital femininity 95; “good enough” 125, 140;
Index identification with 161, 212; loss of 28; murder of 83; “normal illness” 93, 96, 197; psychic organization 53; separation from 94, 162; sexuality 151, 155, 171; and her son 25, 83, 108; substitute 44, 67, 149; uterus 170–171; see also “capacity of reverie”; woman mother/infant xv, 18, 46, 93, 98, 109, 110, 117, 121 mother/object xvi mourning 7, 54, 64, 73, 165; absence of 211; authentic 168; elaboration of 95; pathologies of 77, 116, 177; process of 84, 92, 150, 171, 178; states of 180; work of 161–163, 174, 199 “Mourning and Melancholia” 73, 92 mysticism 85 Nachträglichkeit 8, 139–141, 154, 158, 164 narcissism 17, 53, 55, 116; destructive 164; excesses of 194; and masochism 86; of newborns 93, 110; pathological 93, 96 “Negation” 15, 37 “negative drive impulses” 121 negative hallucination 11, 79 Neri, Claudio 117 neurosis 8, 29, 112, 159; “actual” 115; concept of 158; contemporary relevance of 115–143; dethroning of xviii; and the ego 36; infantile (see infantile neurosis); Freudian concept of 7, 8; narcissistic 130; structured x; symptoms of 69; transference 8, 115, 130, 188, 193, 195, 198
neurotic compromise 135–136 newborn xvi, 22–25, 28–29, 56, 71–76, 90, 93 Neyraut, Michel 11 Nirvana 14, 15 oedipal: configuration 18, 75, 148, 159, 169, 177; conflict 22, 28, 76, 108, 145; constellation 24; desires 170; disappointment 155; elaborations 123; elements 64, 154, 158; identifications 120, 171; impulses 197, 203; infantile 207; objects 164, 174; organisation 44, 128, 153, 176, 178, 188, 190; perspective 200; poles 142; post-oedipal 54, 118, 139, 156, 179; pre-oedipal 145, 146, 151; renunciations 161; rivalry 199; situation 37, 39, 56, 57, 103; space 150; structure 25, 149; superego 192; topography 117; triangulation 62, 213; turn 166; vision xv, 33 Oedipus 172 Oedipus complex xix, 7, 8, 26, 31, 53–54; adolescent 160–174; configuration of 105; dawn of 109; decline of 136; early 95, 124; elaboration of 56, 101, 107; formation of 102; Freudian concept of 120, 144–159; and hubris 128; and infantile neurosis 115, 138–143; and puberty 154, 161–164; stages of 74, 108; 173 oral: biting 105; impulses 41; phase 70, 71; sadism 27, 30, 72–78, 108–109, 138; see also stages of psychosexuality
Index order of the world 1 Outline of Psycho-Analysis, An 17 paranoia 30, 77, 78, 112, 127, 154, 183, 186n1 paranoiac 154, 186n1 paranoid 154, 186n1 paranoid-schizoid position xv, 23, 29, 31, 33, 61; anxiety 108; imprisonment of 98; see also depressive position paraphreniac 186n1 perinatality 71, 149 persecution 29, 30–31, 55, 78, 179, 211; aim of 84; and envy 109; guilt 104; and jealousy 210; and neurosis 140; and paranoia 127, 180; sense of 98 persecutor 54 “pervers” 98 perverse 86; defences 99; formation 135; perverse sadism 79, 83, 84, 98; tendencies 193 perversion 17, 49, 63, 110, 111, 141; domain of 54; dysfunctioning 77; fetishistic 36; field of 87; and the marquis de Sade (see Sade); and masochism 92, 96; and neurosis 142; organised 75, 97; pathologies 116; and polymorphism 185; and psychopathy 85; and sadism 69 perversity xvi, 66 pervert xvii, 64, 125, 177 Petot, Jean-Michel 182 phallic: culture 87; interest 204; mentality 72; stage 70, 146; organ 105; performance 110; values 155 phobias 59, 60, 61, 75 Piaget, Jean 1, 175n2, 181
Pieyre de Mandiargues, André 85 pleasure principle 14, 15, 17, 39, 42, 44; “beyond the” 112; cathexis of 91; functioning of 54, 109; and the reality principle 120, 123, 125, 144, 154, 156, 185 plurality of meanings xix, 56 points of fixation 48, 151, 168, 184, 188, 189 polymorphous 86, 187 “polymorphous pervert” 177, 199 Pontalis, J.-B. 21, 120, 132, 180 Preconscious (Pcs.) 37, 114, 135, 188, 191, 196–198 preconscious 14, 16, 18, 99, 105, 148, 173; communication 51, 131; derivatives 191; functioning 193; impulses 193; mind 53; strata 116 “primal horde” 5, 127, 128, 155–156 “primary depression” 182 “primary feminine space” xi, xv, 22, 26–28; primary feminine sphere 95, 149 primary maternal sphere xi, xv, 22–26; primary maternal space 148–150, 198 primary repression 184 “primary sadism” see sadism “primordial drive conflict” 25 “Project for a Scientific Psychology, A” 6 projective identification 7, 45, 74, 164 proprioception 43, 170 psyche 3, 5, 12, 82, 132, 202; psyche-soma 42, 112; see also psychosomatic psychic bisexuality 18, 37, 91, 150, 152, 155, 171–173, 188, 203
Index “psychic air” 43 “psychic digestion” 45–47 psychic conflict 134 psychic expressions 166–167 “psychic microprocesses” 7 psychic space x, 12, 45, 58, 72, 116–118, 150, 184; primordial 22–28 “Psychoanalysis” 6 psychoanalysis 7, 8 psychoanalyst see infantile-in-the-analyst psychoanalytic theory 9 psychopathic, psychopathy 49, 85 psychosomatic 49, 134; illness 50, 112, 182; pathological 51; survival 71; symptoms 133 psychotic 181, 183 psychotic 32, 125, 182; confusion 57, 60; defences 29; delusion 78, 167, 172; functioning 183–184; mechanisms 92, 121; states 183 puberty 139, 144, 147, 154, 161; and adolescence 163–164; after 166; impact on identity 167; see also Oedipus complex quantum physics 4, 16 Racamier, Paul-Claude 144 Rank, Otto 23, 24 reality principle see pleasure principle regression xvii, 1, 10, 11, 141, 184, 203, 207; analytic 47; and despair 83; figuration and 130–131; to infantile sexuality 169; intrapsychic movement toward 115; and neurosis 188; and Oedipus complex 95; pathology
of 77, 79; and splitting 40; topographical 38, 203 Reik, Theodor 70 relation d’inconnu x repetition 10, 11, 38, 48, 185; automatism 57; compulsion 46, 110–111; deadly 80; and fixation 189; infant 123, 130; and neurosis 189; of the past 208–209, 212; of pleasure principle 54; and regression 203; and somatisation 168–169; of transference 210, 212; of trauma 49, 103, 205; unconscious 115 repression 12, 57, 61, 189; in analyst 194–197, 201, 202, 204; and anxiety 136; lifting of 191; and neurosis 135, 140; and the Oedipus complex 146, 153–154; post-oedipal 179; primary 184, 192; secondary 74, 192; and sexuality 139; and sublimation 89, 105; transgenerational 141 reverie xv, 11, 44, 160; see also capacity for reverie Rey, André 1 Rimbaud, Arthur 216 Rosenberg, Benno 86 Roussillon, René 12 Sacher-Masoch, Leopold von 63, 67–69 Sade (Marquis de) 63, 64–67, 80 sadism 110; chimera of 83–85; of the id 19, 76; necessary 74–75; perverse 79; primary 75–80, 97; of the superego 20, 76; unraveling of 80–83; see also masochism; sadomasochism sadomasochism xi, xvi, 8, 30, 63–99
Index schizophrenia 6 Searles, Harold 97 Segal, Hanna 19, 48, 66, 124 “Sexual Aberrations, The” 69 sexual co-excitation 87–94, 96 sexual drive xv, xviii, 6, 16–20, 43, 76–77, 88; impulses 147, 152 sexuality 5, 6, 127; abuse 140; affiliations 203; in the child 131; bisexuality (see bisexuality); female 8; latency 140; relationships 163; see also infantile sexuality “short therapies” 4 soma and psyche 3; see also psyche somatic: developments 2, 27; expressions 165–166; shocks 137; survival 77 somatic illness 59 somatisations 92, 168–169, 198 “somato-psychic” 37, 40–41, 73–74, 112, 169; see also psychosomatic somatoses 77 splitting x, xviii, 7, 12, 31, 36, 51; in the analytic situation 45–49; concepts of 135; and denial 149, 173; of the ego 30, 41–45, 54, 83, 111; and identification 23; mechanisms of 92; normal 38–40, 47; passive 34; pathological 40–41; in perversion 116; processes of 59; question of 36–38; reorganisation of 191, 201; and repression 202 splitting, denial, idealisation and projective identification 51, 55, 61, 83, 86, 89, 162, 179, 184, 192; see also primary defences Spitz, René 18
stages of psychosexuality 146–147 stopper-interpretation xi, xviii, 47, 200–217 sublimation xiv, 6, 12, 89, 105, 140, 153; desexualisation 139; libido 109; paths of 153; theory of 114 superego 45, 61; adolescent 173; archaic 128; as one of the agencies 11, 28, 36–37, 71, 114, 173; child’s 137; grotesque 66; ideal 144; parental 156; postoedipal 147, 192; and repression 136; sadism of 20, 76, 77, 79, 84, 99; severity of 37, 108, 157; and sexual latency 140 Swiss National Science Foundation 1 symbolisation xvi, 12, 24, 26, 87, 95, 133–134; activity of 33, 165; avoiding 174; capacity of 31, 39, 63, 92, 97, 146, 154, 161; in children 162; deficiencies of 99; disorders of 139; and emotions 118; and “empty concepts” 122; function of 57, 59, 75–77, 147; necessity of 141; pathology of 116; processes of 27, 48, 66, 156, 184, 188; sense-making and 96; and somatisations 168–169 Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality 8, 88 theory of knowledge 116 transference/countertransference 22, 46, 157, 184, 191, 216; infantile elements of 198; relationship 200–201, 205; repetition 210 transference neurosis 8 Trieb 6
Index uncanny 28, 134 Unconscious (Ucs.) 37, 114, 135, 188, 190 unconscious mind 6, 11, 32, 53, 75, 134; see also logic of the unconscious “Ur-Ur-Triebe” 16, 89 “Venus in Furs” 68, 85 voyeur/exhibitionist 155 Wallon, Henri 181 Weltanschauung 1, 29, 115, 180, 182, 195 whore 149; see also mother
“will to power” 88 Winnicott, Donald xv, 29, 33, 34, 52, 116; apperception 53, 83; countertransference 209; “good enough” 140; “holding” and “handling” 53, 125; false self 60; “mother’s normal illness” 93, 96, 197 Wissbegierde 101, 105 woman 64, 68, 80, 85; dead 211–213; masochistic 94; maternal 149, 151; older 153; pregnant 173; sexual 150 woman-as-lover 27, 170 womb 110; return to 28, 215