Tuesday, February 14, 2012

feminine subject- subject masochist

I've sound some good examples of the subject masochist position that I've equated with Hermes. The subject masochist position is generally one of devotion and the corresponding idealization of the other. In the figure of Artemis I claimed that her status as a virgin and her masculine attributes weren't about her being a war goddess but about an identification with the father whom was abandoned as a love object. In the figure of Hermes the devotion isn't in a romantic relationship but one in which the assertive strivings require that one is doing something for, with the approval of, or for the glory of another person.

John Murray in a classic article on the ego ideal writes:

During the war, psychiatrists of the Air Force worked in convalescent hospitals with combat crew members who had been rotated home after their tour of flying duty. Many of these young men were suffering from various degrees of reactive depressions. I had the opportunity to participate in the treatment programs of many such cases and found that there was a classical pattern which occurred repeatedly. As illustration: a passive, dependent young man served as gunner, and for a time found it a grand and exciting experience; then some severely traumatic missions occurred and the lad seemed to have exhausted his emotional resources. He weathered this, however, by regressing to an identification with his ideal—his pilot. He was thus able to carry on through further missions until the pilot was killed. From this point he barely staggered through the remaining ones to complete, finally, his tour of twenty-five missions. By then, however, he was a clear-cut case of "operational fatigue—severe."

In the hospital he was given pentothal interviews during which the gamut of war experience was rerun with full emotional impact. Often the interview opened with a burst of anger and hatred at the planes, which at first had promised so much and later left him in his present disastrous state. Never again would he enter a plane or have anything to do with one. He raged in hate for the enemy and asked, "Why did they have to kill my wonderful captain and leave me so lonely?" All day long he sat and dreamed of his old friend, mainly indulging in angry thought toward the pilot for letting himself be killed—a proof that the pilot did not love his gunner enough.

Then feelings shifted and he told of the earlier, more glorious days when he felt like his pilot. Now would come the restitution he longed for. With a firm, strong voice he would say that if the captain were alive today he'd fly anywhere with him—Lorient, Regensburg, Schweinfurt—any or all of the hard ones. This was his big hope and its fulfillment would provide the strength he had to have. The future would now set aside the fears and provide the promise of his dreams—if only the captain. …
The elements of such an interview, repeated so frequently in wartime experience, clearly illustrate many of the basic principles which concern us. In the first place we see the hopeful, expectant young man with a highly adequate self-image, part of a fine group of which he is justly proud. His legitimate narcissistic feelings ride easily and lightly on his shoulders. After the loss of these through traumatic experiences, we see a regression to identification and the partially successful struggle for effectiveness by this device. Next the loss of the strong loved one sets the stage for further regression—introjection and a narcissistically oriented preoccupation with his ideal expressed in anger and depressive longings. Such rejection of reality and the substitute fantasies can be valid only when regressive primitive narcissistic entitlements are stronger than the sense of reality. Restitution results when the fantasy of the return of the pilot makes the world again appropriate to fit his expectations and gives them a sense of imminence.

All this shows clearly the classic elements in the pathology of depression. But one aspect often misses adequate consideration. We see in the foreground the shock and loneliness over the loss of the libidinal object and the problem of restoration of balance through finding new libidinal objects as replacements. At this point I wish to emphasize the significance of the loss of an object which was a symbol of all the patient hoped to be; the pilot embodied and gave a sense of imminence to the patient's hopes and dreams; when this symbol was lost any hope of fulfillment of these longings and expectations was completely shattered. The validity of his ideal self-image died with the pilot: alone he was too weak and helpless.

In the course of treatment of these depressive reactions one had first to help the patient accept and overcome the pain of, and often guilt associated with, the libidinal loss, but before the ego was strong enough to accept the future it was necessary in some measure to restore the hope for an ideal, gone when the external symbol of this was killed. Therapy was not truly complete until a new orientation occurred, one which restored the healthy narcissistic conception of self, embraced the feeling that the future held hope, and included a replacement for the pilot as a symbol of these essential self-image feelings. Incidently, Robert Waelder in his paper on narcissism given at the Boston Symposium (27) recalled that during the First World War official psychiatry interpreted war neuroses as escape motivated by self-preservative urges, seeing in them a refutation of the psychoanalytic doctrine of the sexual etiology of the neuroses. Freud pointed out that the experience of the trenches constituted not only a danger to life and limb but also to the narcissistic equilibrium and the erotic feelings about oneself, and that the cause of the traumatic neuroses might well lie here rather than in the threat to the loss of life. His point is clearly confirmed in my experience in treating and caring for war neuroses; the loss of the proper esteem for the self-image is paramount (Murray, J.M. (1964). Narcissism and the Ego Ideal p..476-9)

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