Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Nuclear Complexes- Antigone


Previously I said that the Polydectys myth in Perseus was the nuclear complex for the subject altruist (SA). In some ways I still see it as so, but it represents the behaviour of the subject altruist with the good father transference or seeking to establish it so the SA can have her ego ideal of independence and self-assertion. I think the myth of Antigone is better to illustrate the actual complex or repetition once the father transference is lost. Although, as my analysis shows, the story is not about the repetition itself so much as the inability to set it up. This results in either taking a perverse solution or a regression (Antigone wanting to lie with the body of her dead brother and ultimately committing suicide).

By looking at Antigone alone it’s similar to only doing a single case study with a patient when what is theoretically valuable is finding the commonality between multiple cases.

I’ve had a patient who has shared her Elektra complex with me, and have read of a couple instances in others, so I know what it looks like. A woman is in love with a man, and that man chooses another woman who the initial woman feels quite superior to and she wants to murder both the man and the chosen woman because she can’t bear her satisfaction of being chosen. In the Elektra myth the way that this situation would correspond to the myth while still representing the original family triangle would be that Agamemnon represents the initial ‘good father’ who chose Elektra and Clytementstra’s lover represents the ‘bad father’ who is the same person but now seen as the betrayer. Additionally, in the myth Orestes commits the murder so we must read him as representing Elektra (maybe her masculine part) or someone who is merely carrying out her intention.

In psychoanalysis it is well established that drives take active and passive forms (eat-be eaten, exhibition-scopophilia, sadism-masochism, etc.). So the first important thing about reading this myth again is that while Elektra has active destruction towards her mother and her new lover, in Anitgone’s case it is she and Haemon as the new lovers who aren’t yet married who have destruction turned upon themselves (they both commit suicide). If we also read the brother as a part of Antigone then we have a cause for her unhappiness in the unfairness that Polyneices faced. He agreed with his brother to take turns ruling the city but when it came to his turn his brother wouldn’t step down and Creon, the father in this situation, chose to see him as in the wrong.

-So Elektra begins as a girl who is feeling sexually accepted by the man and in revenge for not being chosen she murders him and his chosen lover.
-she begins as an object egoist who wants to cause desire in the man and then her ‘masculine’ side rises up when she feels wronged.

-Antigone begins with a girl trying out her sexuality and when it is treated as unfeminine or not acceptable she then turns her aggression inward upon herself
-she begins as a subject altruist who love her father and masculine sexuality or enactment of masculine sexual roles toward the father (i.e. being active in approach the sexual object) are met with disapproval if not censor and lead to a retraction of this activity in self- destructive pull to death.

So the good father is the one who chooses the object egoist over her rivals and the good father is the one who treats the subject altruist's sexual assertion as acceptable . These will continue to take place with father substitutes.

Freud used to refer to his daughter at Antigone or Anna Antigone which gives a further reading to this myth.  Freud has detailed,  “Analysis very often shows that a little girl, after she has had to relinquish her father as a love-object, will bring her masculinity into prominence and identify herself with her father (that is, with the object which has been lost), instead of with her mother” (The Ego and the Id, p.32). In this sense, her brother wouldn't stand for her but for father Oedipus who is also her brother. He has died and she wants to see to it that his name and honour live on. It's clear that Anna remained unmarried and a virgin and fought for orthodox Freudianism to remain. It's possible the myth can be read this way but, as I've suggested, there's more strength in reading several myths together. Moreover, if such is the case then Antigone would be a myth about perversion

Chasseguet-Smirgel recognizes that the Oedipus complex represents the crucial experience of the difference between the sexes and the generations. She, along with McDougall, holds that this can be a turning point for a regressive ideal of perversion, that denies these differences. She uses the work of the Marquis de Sade to illustrate this effacement of difference:

men and women, children and old people, virgins and whores, nuns and bawds, mothers and sons, fathers and daughters, brothers and sisters, uncles and nephews, noblemen and rabble: 'All will be higgledy-piggledy, all will wallow, on the flagstones, on the earth, and, like animals, will interchange, will mix, will commit incest, adultery and sodomy'… (Chasseguet-Smirgel, J.  Perversion and the Universal Law, p. 294).

Having elders and children and men and women engaged in homosexual acts, incest, or sodomy is clearly a effacement of these differences. However, for all intensive purposes for a girl to identify with her father and live out her life in imitation of him and with continuing the glory of his name (or to take care of him when he’s alive) is to get rid of the difference between the sexes and the generations as far as she is concerned. She doesn’t have a child or husband and establish herself as an adult and by staying a virgin she doesn’t recognize the difference of the sexes. Similarly, the perversion of the object egoist is narcissism in the sexual sense. She becomes in love with her own beauty, particularly her face since perversion involves a displacement upwards from below as Ferenczi indicates. The sexual narcissist, like the Queen in Snow White who is forever looking into the mirror and imagining herself to be the most beautiful and remains unmarried, also gets past the difference between the sexes and generations by sexualizing herself.

To strengthen my interpretation I think that the failure of Polyneices to be given his turn to rule would fit even better with the ego ideal aspect of the complexes. So far I have been dealing with the private or sexual aspect of these complexes but there is also the public or social aspects to. For the object egoist it isn’t just causing desire or love in the man in regards to herself, on the social level she can seek to do the same with her command of education, art, and refinements. She can seek to take pride in bringing refinement to others and the art world and the church have never been short on women patronesses who wish to elevate others. This isn't from altruism but from having others accept their superior refinement. In regards to the subject altruist the same satisfaction that is found in the sexual assertion is found in social assertion in which she will try to be independent and work. As on female analyst writes:

the hysteric seeks sustained interest, excitement, and especially approval… while all interacting persons manipulate others to fulfil personal needs, the hysteric achieves his particular goal by seeming relatively helpless and dependent… To the extent that I’m hysterical I care more that you like me than that you agree with me or even understand me… hysterical approval seeking is a search for emotional holding, though phrased as if help is what is needed. The hysteric can behave quite independently as long as a fantasy is maintained that another presides over that activity as a parent, authority, seat of power, and fount of love (Lionells, ‘A Reevaluation of Hysterical Relatedness, p. 571-3).

Without the good father fantasy in a subject altruist will regress to a place in which she feels that she can't do things on her own. Antigone approaching her sister to help with the burial, may be a triangulation of the "castrated girl" approaching the castrated mother for help but it not being enough. All other people are happy with their jobs, marriages, or children but this is not a possibility for the subject altruist, aggression is directed inward at her "inner" married couple or "inner" hope for happiness in independent work. Chasseguet-Smirgel has made a hugely important contribution which still seems to be ignored. In Feminine Guilt and the Oedipus Complex Chasseguet-Smirgel takes a sober look at the place of women in society.

I would readily see this as the source of one of woman’s main conflicts, that of being relative to men, just as nearly all of woman’s cultural or social achievements are. Women are said to produce few original works; they are often the brilliant disciple of a man or of a masculine theory. They are rarely leaders of movements. This is surely the effect of a conflict specific to women… [they] are cured of their symptoms only in order to make publicity for their analyst; they feel they are a successful product, and experience their analysis as though the future and the reputation of the analyst depended on it (131).

She relates this to
“A girl’s guilt toward her father does not interfere merely with her sexual life but extends to her achievements in other fields if they take on an unconscious phallic significance. Inhibition related to this guilt seems to me chiefly responsible for women’s place in culture and society today… I found that in patients suffering from chronic headaches their guilt over surpassing their parents on an intellectual level (… as though reproducing an autocastration of the intellectual faculties) was usually linked to the father, in both male and female patients. For both sexes successful intellectual activity is the unconscious equivalent of possessing the penis. For women this means they have the father’s penis and have thus dispossessed the mother, the Oedipal drama. In addition they have also castrated the father. 106

She again points out what is obvious in society and what she continually finds with her patients

Far from being autonomous with regard to the object, she is closely dependent on it and is also its complement. She is the right hand, the assistant, the colleague, the secretary, the auxiliary, the inspiration for an employer, a lover, a husband, a father. She may also be a companion for old age, guide, or nurse. One sees the basic conflicts underlying such relationships in clinical practice. 124During her analysis, she thinks of taking up some professional activity. At the beginning of his career  her husband had written some commercial songs to earn money. She had contributed the main ideas for these, so he now suggested that she write her own songs. But she says she is incapable of doing that- she could never be inspired unless the song could be considered his creation. 127

Reading Antigone as only living for the glory of her brother-father doesn't help us understand why the mother commits suicide later. However, in this interpretation, the daughter feels unable to surpass mother or father. At best she gets herself a subordinate position under a man but even then she must be self-effacing regarding co-employees and worried of her own selfishness or presumptuousness. Where before she had the sense she could find her own independence although with modesty in what she could accomplish (she would never presume to take the father's place), now she might not even deserve a very subordinate place.   

Thus, the suicide of the mother creates a necessary triangle of self-effacement and putting the happiness or pleasure of others before one's own or not feeling entitled to have what they don't have. After the suicide of Antigone and Haemon as those who would have the future happiness of family and love- again, this reading would require the parallel between (active) death of the parental couple in Elektra and a displacement of the (passive) death of the inner parental couple-  the mother (Creon's wife) would represent the place of Antigone. She can't enjoy her life because they can't enjoy their lives. Reich's writing on the 'masochist' complaining to authority figures also seems to capture Antigone's relationship to Creon in that she challenges his laws in relation to the unhappiness of another (i.e. her complaining is a triangle). The masochist doesn't complain about her unhappiness but about things on behalf of others.

If I'm right, maybe Antigone complex should be reserved for the reference to the triangular repetition
of needing to find a friend or intimate who can "help" one to be independent or do things that require self-assertion and the self-effacement of not having more than others- maybe even pushing potential love interests towards friends and others.    

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