Friday, November 11, 2011

Reich's masochist

Reich, like Klein, may be wrong on some major theoretical points but look how masterful he is in noting the pre-oedipal influences on the patient's behavior. He turns what Kleinians discuss as very involved phantasies into something simple and observable.

Here's some of what he writes on the masochist in Character Analysis

Genetically and historically, a deep disappointment in love lies behind the [masochist’s] provocation. The masochist is especially fond of provoking those objects through whom he suffered a disappointment. Originally, these objects were intensely loved, and either an actual disappointment was experienced or the love demanded by the child was not sufficiently satisfied. 243

His complaints showed the following stratification with respect to their meaning, corresponding to the genesis of his masochism: “You see how miserable I am— love me!” “You don’t love me enough— you are mean to me!” “You have to love me, I will force you to love me. If you don’t love me, I’ll make you angry!” The masochistic passion for torment, the complaints, the provocation, and the suffering can, in terms of their meaning… be explained on the basis of the fantasized or actual non-fulfillment of a quantitatively inordinate demand for love… and the predisposition to anxiety (or danger of loss of love)… the former is not antithetical to the predisposition to anxiety as a source of masochistic reaction, for again it is typical of the masochistic character to check the threat of anxiety by demanding love. Just as the complaining represents a disguised demand for love and the provocation, a desperate attempt to force love, the total formation of the masochistic character represents an abortive attempt to rid oneself of anxiety and unpleasure… the feeling of suffering corresponds to a concrete fact, namely the continually high-pitched inner excitement and predisposition to anxiety. We shall understand the situation better when we compare it with the affect-block of the compulsive neurotic character. Here the binding of anxiety has been carried out with complete success, with the forfeiture of psychic mobility. But the inner tension is completely consumed by a well-functioning character apparatus. There is no restlessness. 245-6

We have thus far spoken of the inordinate demand for love on the part of the masochistic character. Now we have to add that this demand for love is based on a fear of being left alone that was intensely experienced in very early childhood. The masochistic character cannot endure being alone any more than he can endure the possibility of losing a love relationship. The fact that masochistic characters so often are lonely is ascribable to the success of a secondary mechanism embodied in the attitude “See how unhappy, alone, and deserted I am”. Once, while discussing his relationship to his mother, our patient exclaimed in great excitement: “To be left alone is to be dead— my life is cut off!” 246

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