Saturday, September 1, 2012

Bisexual conflict (active ego vs. passive ego drive conflict) (SE vs. OA)

I found a nice case study that illustrates a number of concepts I've been working on.

Identification and Individuation- David E. Schecter (1968) J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn.

A clinical example of decision conflict was seen in a lawyer who was in the throes of determining his career when he embarked on psychoanalytic treatment. The choice of a law practice in a small community was for him associated with active, intrusive, masculine fantasies, "getting into the community," "influencing and moving people," "plunging through the scrimmage line." These fantasies turned out to be connected with idealizations of his father as a traveling salesman fearlessly making his way into unfamiliar territory. The alternative of an academic career was associated with passive dependent and incorporative fantasies. The fame of the scholar would make him the favored and chosen son who would be rewarded with oral and masturbatory "goodies" by big-breasted women. Academic work became suffused with feelings of shame related to the patient's passive yearnings, with feelings of inferiority and failure regarding his masculine assertive strivings, and with the guilt of surpassing his father as an intellectual. On the other hand, the desire to practice law and politics, insofar as it was bound to an identification with an idealization of father's work life, became undermined by the patient's increasingly realistic appraisal of his father as well as by his mother's basic disrespect and derogation of her husband as a "crude businessman." The patient also experienced his father as being constantly pitted against a maternal uncle who was idealized by his mother and held up as the model for the patient's own development.9
9 I have been impressed by the frequency and importance of the particular constellation in which mothers take idealized images of brothers, fathers or grandfathers as models for their sons. These idealizations can often be understood as derivatives from the mother's early life when she could be so impressed with and perhaps envious of these male relatives—in contrast to her more realistic, or more distortedly critical evaluations of her husband. Moreover, by having her son live up to her idealized masculine image, the mother can finally triumph over past humiliations and feelings of defeat and inferiority. I recently witnessed an illustration of early occupational bitterness in a nine-year-old girl who felt slighted by her family's differential attitude toward her ambitions as against those of her older brother: "They call him Doctor Ronnie, but do they call me Actress Harriet?" No doubt other constellations can be studied in similar fashion, e.g., fathers' expectations of daughters, husbands' of their wives, etc.
- 56 -
Here we see both an active-masculine and passive-feminine ideals related to the patient's work life. Along the egoistic line the analyst calls attention to what I've pointed to as the phallic deutero stage in which the mother denigrates the father's imago and creates her own phallic image for the child based upon her father, brother, or past lover. The two images seem best understood in psychopathy. The subject supposed to lead transference cements one into a group of peers with 'social feeling' that is the pre-guilt conscience of the egoist (usually associated with remorse). The mother's phallic image allows the pursuit of an ideal not attached to social feeling and therefore one in which harming or taking advantage of others is acceptable in pursuit of the ideal. Again, it's not a natural stage. The altruistic line is clearly about being loved. It sounds like there is a Bellerphon complex (object altruist). 

My patient thus became conflicted by (i) an identification with mother's ideal, and (ii) an identification with an image of father as failing to fulfill this ideal. The latter identification may be elaborated into the theme of father-victim, exploited and humiliated by an essentially dominating woman. To put it somewhat metaphorically, as the patient moves toward fulfilling his mother-inspired ego ideal he suffers pangs of guilt in relation to his father-derived ego identification. And so he becomes paralyzed into inaction because of the potentially dangerous and conflict-ridden meaning of ambitious and assertive activity.
The theme of father-as-victim is not only a source for ego identification; it may also inspire a perverted "masochistic ideal" whose virtue, nobility, and even "decency" lie in the capacity to suffer as passive victim in contrast to the hated exploiting aggressor. By the conversion of the active into the passive, the ideal of suffering victim also helps to conceal forbidden aggressive strivings, to relieve the guilt of surpassing the rival parent, and to earn the bitter social compensation of being "the nice guy."
As one often sees in such identification conflicts, my patient attempted to move toward a harmonious combination and compromise of the two major career trends. Further analytic work revealed that his decision making could become more autonomous to the extent that he was able to work through the underlying affects of shame and guilt and the primitive object ties associated with the conflicting identifications.

My claim is that the author's use of identification masks the altruist's complexes and deutero stages. They are observed by analysts in rescue fantasies, scapegoating oneself, wanting a mentor, fear of success, etc. but are always touted as reaction formations to the masculine or generically called identifications.

In the decision-making process only certain aspects of the conflicting forces come into consciousness, at which point we become aware of wrestling with the alternatives. There is a silent preconscious activity going on "below" our conscious thrashings about, consisting of a complex process of decision integration, using the mechanisms of fantasy, compromise, condensationdisplacementrationalization, and experimentation in action; no doubt other mechanisms, including as yet unknown ones, are also involved. This process of integration has also been referred to as part of the synthetic function of the ego, a highest level function
- 57 -
from the point of view of differentiation and hierarchy of structures; hence it is prone to break down under stress. When it works at its best, it presumably accounts for that rare but blissful sense of "things falling into place."
After a certain point of conscious deliberation we know that we must put a decision aside and "sleep on it." Further conscious effort and rational deliberation may at times actually impede the work of integration, which needs free play in scanning the alternatives and trying them out in fantasy (conscious and unconscious) and experiment to experience how they fit underlying identifications and the overall sense of identity. Psychoanalytic treatment aims to free the underlying identifications from a certain primitive rigidity of structure, from their irrational hold on the whole personality, and to clear the way for reorganization of the component identifications and other structures into a more coherent self identity. One of the indispensable means of achieving these goals involves the analysis of associated crippling affects which confer upon certain identifications overriding power in the economy of the whole personality and, at the same time, help maintain potentially creative areas of the self in dissociation. Treatment with psychoanalytic goals rarely seems to require the analyst's verbal formulation of the integration process. This integration apparently occurs spontaneously if the ego is not too damaged or underdeveloped, when the primitive origins and fixation points of various relevant identifications and object attachments have been brought into awareness and worked through.

The author also uses 'economy of the whole personality' and seems to use 'component identifications' as the parallel to the sexual 'economy of the libido' and component or partial drives. His observation that integration occurs spontaneously also suggests that 'subject supposed to' transferences that are part of the very nature of our psychic structure and thus shouldn't be treated as idiosyncratic identifications. As Murray pointed out with his passive pilot, it's not that an identification is de-identified with but rather that the ego ideal is freed up to find a new object or one is capable of making a transference that was previously obstructed by the exchange of self and object images in melancholia:

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. 

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