Tuesday, May 29, 2012

psychoanalytic basics- transference and signal anxiety

The first post I wrote was on 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.

I'd like to get into more specifics about it over a number of posts.

There are a few considerations I have in laying out the groundwork:

Freud only wrote about the characterlogical consequences of the Oedipus complex in any detail although he clearly recognized the importance of the pre-oedipal. So it is where I'll begin.

In other posts I've tried to explicate various ego ideals that are formed from identification with infantile parental images of perfection.

Important in this discussion is the (proto) phallic and the phallic-narcissistic ego ideals. The first is simply an ideal to belong to the power possessing group of people symbolized in possessing the phallus. This changes between different cultures, classes, and even families as to what represents a powerful or glorious exploit or what is 'good' and what is weak, inferior, or bad. Essentially one desires to have a good reputation based upon those one identifies with as peers or superiors. At the phallic-narcissistic stage one has been seduced by the mother into seeing oneself as special or above mere reputation or what is ordinary. This isn't to say that this ideal means that one doesn't care about reputation but that it's not as important. Here one is going after the mother's phallic image that is more particular and in some sense contrasted to just doing what's reputable. The previous posts on this contain quotes from Joyce McDougall and I'll refer my reader to them for more details (http://psychoanalysis-tcp.blogspot.com/2012/01/reichs-sociology-ii.html)

After these two stages with the mother the father imago comes into ascendence and the ego ideals become exchanged for the relationship with the group leader:

“A primary group of this kind” Freud writes, “is a number of individuals who have put one and the same object in the place of their ego ideal and have consequently identified themselves with one another in their ego” (Group Psych, p.116).

This 'subject supposed to lead' becomes, as Freud writes, a role model:

In this way the Oedipus complex… leads to an ever-increasing detachment from parents, and their personal significance for the super-ego recedes into the background. To the imagos they leave behind there are then linked the influences of teachers and authorities, self-chosen models and publicly recognized heroes, whose figures need no longer be introjected by an ego which has become more resistant. The last figure in the series that began with the parents is the dark power of Destiny which only the fewest of us are able to look upon as impersonal (Economic Problem of Masochism, p.167-8).

This role model is a model that will actually impact the behaviour of the child and is oriented to how the child will consider his relations to groups or people at large. This can be contrasted to the child having an ‘idol’ who epitomizes potency in the phallic ego ideal or the phallic image that one seeks to be like but without any reference to the leadership, fairness, or any goodness of the person. This isn't to say that a group or 'mob' leader is always a good or fair person. Freud understood very well the regressive nature of groups and how the individual's conscience could be given up to the leader in violent and heinous acts. However, at the same time the ability to identify with a leader and feel oneself equal to others is seen as progress from an individual ego ideal. Moreover, to be clear, this role model relation to the father is before he is actually internalized after the castration threat. The child may not internalize the mother or father in the Oedipus complex and thus never develop the rudiments of a conscience. Freud writes of this internalization:

Just as the father has become depersonalized in the shape of the super-ego, so has the fear of castration at his hands become transformed into an undefined social or moral anxiety. But this anxiety is concealed. The ego escapes it by obediently carrying out the commands, precautions and penances that have been enjoined on it. If it is impeded in doing so, it is at once overtaken by an extremely distressing feeling of discomfort which may be regarded as an equivalent of anxiety and which the patients themselves liken to anxiety (ISA, p.128) 

The full guilt conscience arises in the father complex in the next stage following the internalization:

Religion, morality, and a social sense—the chief elements in the higher side of man—were originally one and the same thing. According to the hypothesis which I put forward in Totem and Taboo they were acquired phylogenetically out of the father-complex: religion and moral restraint through the process of mastering the Oedipus complex itself, and social feeling through the necessity for overcoming the rivalry that then remained between the members of the younger generation. (The Ego and The Id, p.37).

From the phallic, and the phallic-narcissistic if this non-universal stage is experienced, the earlier relationships with the mother are repeated with the father. With the latter, the father must admire and make the child special as the mother did, and from the former the father is just a rival. If the child doesn't internalize the father then we have the condition in which the son must become his own father:  

The son shows his gratitude by wishing to have by his mother a son who is like himself: in other words, in the rescue-phantasy he is completely identifying himself with his father. All his instincts, those of tenderness, gratitude, lustfulness, defiance and independence, find satisfaction in the single wish to be his own father (A Special Type of Choice of Object made by Men, p. 173).

I'm leaving out the examination of the passive-feminine ego ideals that are part of the rescue phantasy for simplicity, but one way to think about the internalization of the paternal phallus is that the child gets to accept his father as his procreator. The father is the first group leader (i.e. the family) for the child and it is by identifying with him that the child can satisfy a need for meaning and immortality in having his own children that carry on the family name. The last name you get from the father has been passed down from generations and will be passed on for generations and a sense of immortality can be conceived of in belonging to this- so much so that some people wouldn't want a child that wasn't their own 'blood'. Otherwise, to become one's own father means to have to "make a name for oneself" or become famous or one will pay with neurosis or others will pay because of one's criminality or need to blame or scape-goat others for one's lack of recognition.  To internalize the father means that the pressure to be 'great' is reduced and one has more social feelings.

The universal (proto) ego ideal and the non-universal narcissistic (or deutero) ego ideal, the relationship of 'subject supposed to', the moment of signal anxiety in a personal relationship with him based upon previous ego ideals, and then internalization or failure to internalize can occur at all the levels of signal anxiety. This is captured by Ives Hendrick:

The process which normally serves as the final solution of these successive anxiety situations is comprehensible to us through the phenomena by which we recognize identification [internalization]. Those identifications [internalizations] resulting from each successive type of aggression contribute functions to the ego which, on the one hand, are essential to the permanent mastery of the corresponding anxiety, and, on the other hand, to the full development of the functions which constitute the ego.

The failure to complete any of these identifications [internalizations] results in a defect in ego-organization which is manifest in adult life by one or another type of defect in the management of instinctual impulses in a mature way without an excess of inhibition (Ego Development and Certain Character Problems, p. 338).

What seems to be part of 'ego maturation' for the patient is to receive the 'subject supposed to' transference and allow the internalization of, in this case, the paternal phallus.

In the next post I'll handle the anal stage.

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