Saturday, October 22, 2011

psychoanalytic basics- transference

In psychoanalysis there is a conception of the individual as having basic transferences towards the world by which there are guarantees of safety or promises of future satisfaction.

Before the analysand comes into the office there is a transference at work in which he or she believes the analyst will have knowledge of them. This is a basic social trust that people who go to university are learning something valuable or important and exists for many people who don't study psychology. I believe it shows up in an even more primitive way as Lacan would talk about in regards to 'the subject supposed to know' and Descartes requiring God to guarantee knowledge, but my social trust example should suffice.

At a more basic level there is a transference to the world involving physical safety which someone might lose and a feeling of terror or panic may begin to crop up.

These transferences exist in every individual, they are present in the mind dynamically, and because of this any person could become psychotic (or more correctly, use a psychotic defense to avoid the anxiety of a broken down transference) if they receive continuous stress and frustration. I'm thinking here of being subject to torture or some other extreme situation.

When Freud talks about this situation there is the idea that one might have a fixation, providing an economic factor, in which there is an internal pressure for a person to use a part of the mind and therefore have a part of the mind which is more likely to break or have the transference fail. However, he also recognizes, as I've pointed out, that neurosis can occur without this economic element being present

He writes:

When we have nothing else at our disposal for explaining a neurosis but hereditary and constitutional dispositions, we are naturally tempted to say that it was not acquired but developed.

But in this connection two points must be stressed. Firstly, the genesis of a neurosis invariably goes back to very early impressions in childhood (1). Secondly, it is true that there are cases which are distinguished as being ‘traumatic’ because their effects go back unmistakably to one or more powerful impressions in these early times—impressions which have escaped being dealt with normally, so that one is inclined to judge that if they had not occurred the neurosis would not have come about either. It would be enough for our purposes if we were obliged to restrict the analogy we are in search of to these traumatic cases. But the gap between the two groups [of cases] appears not to be unbridgeable. It is quite possible to unite the two aetiological determinants under a single conception; it is merely a question of how one defines ‘traumatic’. If we may assume that the experience acquires its traumatic character only as a result of a quantitative factor—that is to say, that in every case it is an excess in demand that is responsible for an experience evoking unusual pathological reactions—then we can easily arrive at the expedient of saying that something acts as a trauma in the case of one constitution but in the case of another would have no such effect. In this way we reach the concept of a sliding ‘complemental series’ as it is called in which two factors converge in fulfilling an aetiological requirement (2). A less of one factor is balanced by a more of the other; as a rule both factors operate together and it is only at the two ends of the series that there can be any question of a simple motive being at work. After mentioning this, we can disregard the distinction between traumatic and non-traumatic aetiologies as irrelevant to the analogy we are in search of (Moses and Monotheism, p.73).

(1) This therefore makes it nonsensical to say that one is practicing psycho-analysis if one excludes from examination and consideration precisely these earliest periods—as happens in some quarters.

(2) I take the opportunity here of warning you against taking sides in a quite unnecessary dispute. In scientific matters people are very fond of selecting one portion of the truth, putting it in the place of the whole and of then disputing the rest, which is no less true, in favour of this one portion. In just this way a number of schools of opinion have already split off from the psycho-analytic movement, some of which recognize the egoistic instincts while disavowing the sexual ones, and others attribute importance to the influence of the real tasks of life while overlooking the individual's past1—and others besides. Now here we have a similar occasion for pointing a contrast and starting a controversy. Are neuroses exogenous or endogenous illnesses? Are they the inevitable result of a particular constitution or the product of certain detrimental (traumatic) experiences in life? More particularly, are they brought about by fixation of the libido (and the other features of the sexual constitution) or by the pressure of frustration? This dilemma seems to me no more sensible on the whole than another that I might put to you: does a baby come about through being begotten by its father or conceived by its mother? Both determinants are equally indispensable, as you will justly reply. In the matter of the causation of the neuroses the relation, if not precisely the same, is very similar. As regards their causation, instances of neurotic illness fall into a series within which the two factors—sexual constitution and experience, or, if you prefer it, fixation of the libido and frustration—are represented in such a manner that if there is more of the one there is less of the other. At one end of the series are the extreme cases of which you could say with conviction: these people, in consequence of the singular development of their libido, would have fallen ill in any case, whatever they had experienced and however carefully their lives had been sheltered. At the other end there are the cases, as to which, on the contrary, you would have had to judge that they would certainly have escaped falling ill if their lives had not brought them into this or that situation. In the cases lying within the series a greater or lesser amount of predisposition in the sexual constitution is combined with a lesser or greater amount of detrimental experience in their lives. Their sexual constitution would not have led them into a neurosis if they had not had these experiences, and these experiences would not have had a traumatic effect on them if their libido had been otherwise disposed. In this series I can perhaps allow a certain preponderance in significance to the predisposing factors; but even that admission depends on how far you choose to extend the frontiers of neurotic illness.

I propose, Gentlemen, that we should name a series of this kind a ‘complemental series’, and I forewarn you that we shall have occasion to construct others of the same kind. (Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, lecture XXII p.346-7).

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