Thursday, November 1, 2012

autistic (masculine) vs. schizoid (feminine)/ active and passive drives

I’ve brought up the schizoid in class before. I mentioned that on the oral level that there seems to be a choice of preferring the mnemic trace of people to people. There are primitive fantasies of ‘being eaten’ (that seem to culturally show themselves in zombie movies) that contribute to this, or in turn fantasies of eating others. These two poles of active and passive (eat- be eaten) are related to active-masculine and passive-feminine positions, however while the active is usually associated with the masculine it is not so in all cases. For example, when the superego is set up with a guilt conscience in the active masculine position (after the Oedipal complex which is the masculine castrates and feminine is castrated[1]) the fear of the superego would be experienced as a passive -be attacked while the feminine as shown in Antigone opposing Creon or the Danaides killing their husbands with daggers shows the feminine to be aggressive. Shakespeare has Macbeth imagine a dagger which is often held to symbolize his guilt which gives us the masculine-passive as be stabbed. In Dorian Gray the title character uses the same knife he used to kill Basil to attack the painting which would symbolize the guilt attacking him. I’ve also dealt with two hysterics who have mentioned possessing knives metaphorically. 

In Inhibitions, Symptoms, and Anxiety Freud claims that there is a signal anxiety at every stage of development (phallic, anal, oral, etc.) and I believe that the formula holds that after every stage of signal anxiety that the active-masculine trend internalizes a prohibition and forms a conscience[2] that causes the drive to be passive. To return to the case of ‘eat’, which at the oral stage was preceded by swallow-masculine and be swallowed-feminine, the ‘eat’ regards the mnemic trace of others. In contrast the ‘be eaten’ masculine form would mean that avoiding others and taking refuge in the ego functions of noticing the details of things (inanimate objects). Thus the masculine oral schizoid is interested in details and fears people while the feminine oral schizoid is hungry for impressions or signs from people. As Fairbairn says, the schizoid’s ‘love is hungry’ and this means that the mother may ‘want to eat her child up, it is so cute’ but on the intellectual level she is hungry for signs and knowledge of her object.       

At the anal level there is another form of this dualism that mirrors the one at the oral. However, instead of saying the oral stage is generally schizoid for both active-masculine and passive-feminine as the object relations school does it agrees more with phenomenology to notice that the detail oriented oral type is autistic (masculine) and save schizoid for the impression craving feminine. As opposed to the post-signal anxiety internalization the stage of relevance here is the pre-signal anxiety deutero stage. As a deutero stage is not universal and is based upon parental care. While the oral and phallic stages are stages that are based upon sexuality or pleasure at large and have deutero stages that are created by over-mothering (i.e. the phallic deutero is the mother seducing the child and denigrating the father) the anal deutero is from the absence of the mother. Perhaps, more profoundly it is the sense that the mother isn’t interested in the child or interested in it as separate from herself. While the mnemic trace is the cognitive object at the oral stage and cognition is a simple absence and presence, at the anal stage it is the more complicated picture-thought. The picture-thought is easiest understood as binary relations and the make up of things having different qualities and parts. This is the masculine and objective take, and the feminine is closer to the creation of symbols and taking impressions of people and relating them to animals. This can mean saying someone is a ‘silly goose’ or someone’s aggression making them into a wolf.

This level of cognitive engagement is what we find in an interesting article on the autistic character in contrast to the schizoid character. I have to still dig up the references but I think that the aggressive impulse here is bite (active-masculine) and be bitten (passive-feminine). It must be remembered that for a long time the child's mouth is the strongest zone of attack. Even after it begins walking its arms are still relatively weak and it's legs are unsteady. However there is also an interesting parallel between the autistic character fearing being invisible and the schizoid character wanting to be invisible. The red cloak in little red riding hood[3] and Hades' helmet of invisibility are salient examples of this on the feminine side. It makes me wonder if the active and passive form of the aggressive drive isn’t paralleled by an active and passive form of the affectionate drive…       

[1] This active passive relation at the Oedipal conflict can change as the myth of Oedipus shows in his self-castration (blinding himself) and as Chasseguet-Smirgel shows with feminine subjects fearing that self-assertion on their part castrates the father. I don’t know, but suspect, the same would apply at earlier signal anxiety conflicts.
[2] Earlier forms of conscience wouldn’t have the self-conscious guilt of the genital stage internalization but, as Freud remarks in Civilization, remorse after acting destructively towards someone would be an example. Also, Melanie Klein draws our attention to stories like Humpty Dumpty in which attack on an object can lead to reparation, but since the reparation can’t fix the internal object it is experienced as distress.
[3] The wolf dressed up as the grandmother and threatening to bite or gobble up Little Red is important here.

Bernstein, J.S. (1975-76). The Autistic Character. Psychoanal. Rev.

The autistic character is someone who shows unrelatedness, distance, and coldness in his interpersonal relations as a consequence of not being sufficiently responded to and stimulated by the interpersonal world. The schizoid character also shows unrelatedness, distance, and coldness, but if we look beyond the apparent similarity of these symptoms, we find discrete differences between the autistic character and the schizoid character as to feeling states, formative object relations, and the meaning and function of the symptoms themselves. Both do show unrelatedness, distance, and coldness in their interpersonal relations, but whereas the schizoid character experiences relief from distancing people, the autistic character feels depressed and anxious over his distance from people.* This occurs because the schizoid has been intruded into and overwhelmed, while the autistic character has been ignored. Thus the schizoid becomes unrelated in order to defend himself against overwhelming interpersonal intrusion, whereas the unrelatedness of the autistic character is the primitive state of sensory readiness frozen into his personality by protracted ignoring from the interpersonal world (537-8)

One of the means used by some autistic characters to avoid rejection and loneliness is suggested by both the environment and by thinking through deduction: the achievement of perfection. For, he reasons, if he discharges with perfection what he is usually rejected for, then he will not be rejected. But the very essence of the autisticcharacter's plight, that is, nonengagement, presents a seemingly insurmountable obstacle to learning how to achieve perfection: there is no one available to teach perfection, or there is no one whom he dares ask to teach it. The autistic character, however, does surmount this to an extent by becoming his own master teacher: by an enormous psychic feat (using incalculable energy) he stretches his thinking processes to their outermost reaches to derive knowledge of content and technique. And then he teaches himself—he is, for that matter, forever reminding himself, coaching himself, and even testing himself. But for all of this, he is never sure that he has done something perfectly or even well, for his master teacher—his thinking—alas has known of little but his own ivory tower (542)

The autistic character of moderate distance attempts to join life by using his inabilities adaptively: he relates to people, but from behind the inabilities he has been saddled with. One example is the person who would never appear in public without wearing the same frozen-serious face. The autistic character of least distance (but still of distance) joins life by developing certain socially engaging, “party-type” traits. These traits include social warmth, magic tricks, music-playing, and joke-telling. (Freudenberger and Overby tell how W. C. Fields, when a runaway child, would entertain the friends who helped take care of him.) But for all his engaging charm, even this autistic character cannot be easily engaged in substantive and enduring relationships: the risk of overstimulation and/or rejection is still too great. Even sexuality (often a leading mode of interpersonal relationship for this person) is superficial and sometimes promiscuous.
Other effects of nonengagement on interpersonal relations are that the autistic character does not develop self-assertion or hostility-aggression. He does not develop self-assertion because he comes to expect unresponsiveness from the world. He does not develop hostility-aggression, first, because he does not feel hostile but rather empty and drained; second, because he has not been encouraged to develop hostility-aggression (such encouragement along with otherwise autistic character treatment would render him a kind of “grandiose character”); and, third, because he has not been treated with hostility-aggression (such treatment along with otherwise autistic-character treatment would make him psychopathic) (543-4)

The autistic character shows intellectual incapacities which seem to be so fundamental as to derive from native endowment. Sometimes these incapacities will be strongly compensated for by great intellectual achievements, but the intellectual failings still show through. Although the incapacities do seem native, they can be shown to derive from the nonengagements experienced along the sensory-social modalities. Many intellectual abilities are fundamentally based upon skills that are interpersonally derived. The many therapists who have witnessed the intellectual flowering of some of their patients as a function of the development of social relatedness would enthusiastically support this view 544

The autistic character is typically uncreative because, having sustained so much nonengagement along various modalities, he does not know how to translate his experience into products for interpersonal consumption, nor would he risk doing so. He has had experience, but of the prenatal and postnatal sensory kind rather than the interpersonal kind. When the autistic character is creative, it is usually in the nonpersoned, nonartistic fields, such as accounting, computer technology, higher mathematics, and physics, all of which can be shown to involve aspects of primitive sensory experience. It is the people who have as children experienced exquisite, multi-communicative, symbiotic relationships with their mothers, as described by Matthew Besdine, who achieve creativity in the personed, artistic fields: we would see them rather as schizoid. 546

While the autistic character experienced ignoring of his being, the schizoid experienced an overrecognition of and an intrusion into his being. Thus the schizoid is afraid that people want to intrude upon him and control him, while the autistic character is afraid that people want to reject him.* The schizoid is relieved when he has solitude, although he may secondarily experience loneliness, while the autistic character is relieved when he is accepted, although he may increasingly fear the rejection he is sure will come. Further, the schizoid is capable of the most complex of interpersonal relations, manipulations, and assertions (including hostility and aggression), while the autistic character does not know how to carry out such complex behavior, much less have the nerve to try it. The schizoid's thinking is obsessive with thoughts about the presence of people, while the autistic character's thinking is obsessive with thoughts about the absence of people. Related to thinking, the schizoid uses fantasy to help contend with problems around the presence of people, while the autistic character may secondarily use fantasy but more fundamentally uses sensory reverie to help contend with problems around the absence of people. The schizoid is capable of great intellectual and creative achievement in areas related in some way to people or parts of people, while the autistic character is capable of intellectual grasp but particularly of creative achievement in areas related in some way to primitive sensory experience. Finally, the schizoid turns fundamentally to seclusion to remedy his interpersonal problems, while the autistic character turns fundamentally to addiction to remedy his interpersonal problems. This means that, except for the soft addictions and superficial drug use to combat the loneliness that seclusion brings, we would not expect to see a pure schizoid who is a drug addict: the schizoid has sustained too much interpersonal stimulation—he hardly needs substitute gratification for it. Rather than the use of drugs, we would expect to see in some schizoids the use of alcohol where the schizoid has trouble releasing fantasy. It appears that alcohol releases personed material while drugs release nonpersoned, sensory material. 548-550

He [the autistic character] experiences depression over real or imagined rejection when he is strong enough to resist the panic of vanishing into nothingness. Because many intellectual skills are based on inter-personally derived abilities, he usually shows a great number of intellectual deficiencies, although they may be strongly compensated for, and an accompanying naïveté. In the creative sphere he often shows an apparent barrenness because he does not know how to turn his inner experiences into social products, though sometimes he shows a high degree of creativity in areas that require the inner and primitive sensory experience with which he is in constant contact. In the areas of thinking and perception he focuses on the absence of interpersonal engagement and on ways to contend with that absence. Fantasy, as a form of thinking about people, is absent in the autistic character; its place is held by the more primitive process of nonpersoned, sensory reverie (553-4)

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