Tuesday, March 13, 2012

narcissist and masochist- the oedipal node of instinctual renunciation

I've posted before on the myths of Heracles and Perseus and believe that the period of development which these myths cover also generates a few interesting repetition-compulsions.

The basic outlines of the myths are

1. child left alone with the mother (manifest in Perseus being in a box in the ocean with his mother, latent in Heracles who kills his children and is therefore left alone with his wife and latently his mother)

2. instinctual renunciation of the resulting sexual impulses and formations of an active/masculine/narcissistic ego ideal of exhibitionism and a passive/feminine/masochistic ego ideal of scopophilia. These two ideals best explain the types of interactions the heros have. Heracles does a labour in which he faces off with a monster or some huge task and overcomes it and is “the best!” “the strongest” etc. as opposed to there being a project to realize his uniqueness through going after a position of symbolic prestige or being the most talented at some art or craft. With Perseus the reference is to the function of looking and avoiding the Medusa’s gaze which I take to be a problem with the vicarious pleasure associated with the happiness or pleasure of the other in scopophilia.

3. Heracles performs his labours and faces the polyphallic hydra and Perseus kills the polyphallic Medusa.

I take this to mean two things: Firstly, the castration of the mother and the transcription of power over to the father. Secondly, the failure of the ego ideal and a resulting aggression turned inwards and splitting of the ego (narcissism) and aggression turned outwards and splitting of the object (masochism).

Pegasus appears from Medusa and in the next sequence of development Heracles kills a centaur who as half man and half horse points to horse aspect of the Pegasus (i.e. the new parental imago). Perseus uses Hermes' flying shoes to save Andromeda and fight the serpent which points to the flying aspect of Pegasus.

The next stage I take to be the phallic-narcissistic which needn’t happen in a child’s development. I have shared in many other posts from McDougall and Chass-Smirg that the name of the father is denigrated by the mother and she creates a new object cathexis of her person which in turn is instinctually renounced and forms a phallic ego ideal which I’ve referenced as conquer-be conquered or love-be loved and characterlogically would correspond to cockiness and “confidence” as well as deception. In the previous form of this post I put forward the idea that the passive or masochistic form wasn’t based upon the denigration of the father but how the masochist turned to the father who didn’t show sufficient interest which meant that the mother was taken back as the object of power (i.e. the phallic mother). However, some experience with a patient and following the logic of the narcissistic development I’ve decided this must be changed.

The work of Edith Jacobson has been very important here. She writes:

“So far we have neglected to consider the vicissitudes of aggression in the development of ego interests. In fact, the above-discussed energetic shifts and changes, though reinforced by the ambivalence conflict with the love objects, support also its solution. The development of ego interests calls away from the love object not only part of the libido but also part of the aggression which, after being fused with libido and likewise neutralized, can become vested in the new objects. At the same time the experience of learning how to function independently turns aggressive forces inevitably and increasingly away from the love objects toward the self, since the child in his beginning, independent activities meets with constant hurts and failures. What he once experienced as disappointments and frustrations, hurts for which he blamed the parents only, he now begins to regard partly as injuries that he has inflicted upon himself. This attitude is greatly supported by his efforts to master his aggression and to build up enduring libidinous cathexes of his love objects. Thus he is apt to undergo experiences of realistic physical and of mental hurt, accompanied by feelings of inferiority and self-criticism which clearly manifest an increasing cathexis of the self-representations with aggression turned away from the love objects. They indicate the onset of "secondary masochism" which in pathological cases may invade the psychosexual life, may color the ego attitudes and actions, or may develop mainly in the direction of moral masochism. (The Self and Object World, P. 92).

Jacobson points out that only with the growth of cognitive abilities the narcissist is forced to recognize his failures as his own. She mentions a flipping point of “secondary masochism” in which feelings of inferiority, self-criticism, and moral masochism (i.e. irrational guilt) take hold.

In another sense we can say that the narcissist becomes masochistic in relation to his ‘image’ which would be a development of the self-representation which isn’t a body ego (i.e. hypochondria and feelings of deadness relating to a de-cathexis of the self-representation qua body ego). The phallic-narcissist wants to live up to the ideal ‘image’ of himself and may lie to do so and may undergo many hardships for it.

The only problem with this account is that it is very linear and doesn’t account for an earlier sense of conscience that is shown in Judaism appearing at the time of polytheistic religions and what early analysts referred to as ‘sphincter morality’. This is probably related to the body ego and the sense of harming another’s body while later aggression is sadistic as opposed to destructive because it has the aim at bringing about another person’s psychic pain rather than physical destruction (i.e. the humiliation of the other or vindictiveness).

However, for the moment it’s the only theoretical version of ego development that makes much sense and I think it’s worth while to let it inform the passive or masochistic subjects position.

So, in reversal, I think that the phallic stage is when the narcissist becomes dependent on (and masochistic in regard to) his image while the masochist becomes narcissistic (and aggressive) about her object.

Then in the phallic-narcissistic stage the masochist is assertive enough to rescue the object (Andromeda) and narcissist cares enough about the opinions of others that he will lie to appear a certain way to them (the lie Nessus tells Deianara is the externalization of Heracles' impulses to lie).

The aggression previously directed outwards in the narcissist becomes directed inward in the superego. With the masochist the feelings of aloneness or deadness and general sense of fear becomes directed outward in pity for the Other's loss.

The narcissistic character defends against the feelings of inferiority in superiority and the masochistic character defends against his pity in idealization of the other (what Freud has called fascination).

While the narcissist has a mother who denigrates the name of the father and gives him a second chance at his poly-phallic exhibitionism the masochist, in seeing the mother’s depression or lack of happiness in relation to the father, gets another chance at her scopophilia.

So, in the myth Perseus saves/rescues Andromeda who represents the mother in her unhappiness with the father. The masochist can exercise aggression now but still only for the object and not for herself, just as the narcissist is dependent on his image but not dependent on the love object or subject to a leader until he goes through the Oedipus instinctual renunciation and identifies with the Oedipal father as possessor of the mother and possessor of superior skill.

So love here is a devotion and desire to be the protector of the object/to rescue the object while experiencing pleasure vicariously through its pleasure and narcissism. With identification with the mother (i.e. the outcome of the Oedipal instinctual renunciation) the female masochist is able to express aggression on her own behalf. However, it is tenuous and narcissistic injury can lead her to devotion and resignation in which self-assertion isn't possible.

The oedipal node of instinctual renunciation represents the precarious place of having switched to the opposite sex parent and having the beginning of conscience (i.e. remorse) and social feeing in the narcissist and the beginning of self-assertion and desire for glamour in the masochist but without it being solidified in identification with the father complex-genital imago.

1 comment:

  1. This is the most accurate description of myself that I have ever come across. It is disturbing and it has helped me to look inside myself. I can clearly see that I switch roles depending on which one of my parents I chose to identify with. I feel more at peace knowing the exact nature of my personality disorder. I never thought of myself as a narcissist but clearly see that I am. This also explains the dynamic of my current relationship with a beautiful and sadistic narcissist.