Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Anal Phallus/Echoism- perfection-death/ the not-finite/autism

I was curious last class about the difference between primary and secondary autism and I think that there are probably many factors going on. However, I think that judging from the Ellen Stockdale report that what she is experiencing could be better related to schizoid phenomena then autism. Firstly, Tustin is clear that there is a very early etiology for the ‘shapes’ and interaction she is talking about:

In this paper, the author presents a revision of these views, in that she now reserves the term autism to refer solely to pathological conditions. Her present view is that autism is a system of protective, but alienating auto-sensual aberrations which have developed to deal with an infantile trauma of seeming to be wrenched away from a motheringperson's body. She suggests that in an unduly fused nursing situation, mother and child had felt undifferentiated from each other. Thus, the infant had taken it for granted that the mother's body was a permanent part of 'its' body. It was an unbearable shock when this was found to be not so. The author suggests that autistic reactions to this shock are the source of the autistic child's many deficits (Tustin, Revised Understandings of Psychogenic Autism, p. 589-9)

Secondly, Tustin is familiar with Asperger’s and clearly says it is different

I have come to view autistic processes as being reactions that are specific to traumas. In the Kanner-type syndrome, the traumas occurred in the suckling situation of infancy when both mother and baby were assaulted by sudden and unexpected awareness of their separatedness from each other after an abnormally close association of ‘at-oneness’ with each other. The Asperger-type children seem to have encountered traumatic situations later in life, not necessarily at the suckling stage, and to have used autistic manoeuvres to protect themselves against these seemingly life-threatening disasters. The insulating manoeuvres of the Kanner-type children throw light on the Asperger disorder, just as the speaking Asperger children help us to understand the non-speaking Kanner-type children more fully (Tustin, Autistic Children Who Are Assessed as Not Brain-Damaged, p. 113-4).

For Ellen Stockdale to be “painfully shy, and lacking in self-confidence” and unable to look others in the eye requires much more development of ego then the child can have at the early suckling stage which Tustin and Segal and others point to as earlier than Klein’s paranoid-schizoid phase.

Painful self-conscious shyness is often related to the increase of ego that goes along with the anal stage. Wilhelm Reich, for example, talks about ‘anal shyness’ in Character Analysis.

I think that the most useful way to consider asperger’s or secondary autism would be based upon the model of narcissism that functions within mental bisexuality. Freud writes:

This is the place for two remarks. First, how do we differentiate between the concepts of narcissism and egoism? Well, narcissism, I believe, is the libidinal complement to egoism. When we speak of egoism, we have in view only the individual's advantage; when we talk of narcissism we are also taking his libidinal satisfaction into account. As practical motives the two can be traced separately for quite a distance. It is possible to be absolutely egoistic and yet maintain powerful object-cathexes, in so far as libidinal satisfaction in relation to the object forms part of the ego's needs. In that case, egoism will see to it that striving for the object involves no damage to the ego. It is possible to be egoistic and at the same time to be excessively narcissistic—that is to say, to have very little need for an object, whether, once more, for the purpose of direct sexual satisfaction, or in connection with the higher aspirations, derived from sexual need, which we are occasionally in the habit of contrasting with ‘sensuality’ under the name of ‘love’. In all these connections egoism is what is self-evident and constant, while narcissism is the variable element. The opposite to egoism, altruism, does not, as a concept, coincide with libidinal object-cathexis, but is distinguished from it by the absence of longings for sexual satisfaction. When someone is completely in love, however, altruism converges with libidinal object-cathexis. As a rule the sexual object attracts a portion of the ego's narcissism to itself, and this becomes noticeable as what is known as the ‘sexual overvaluation’ of the object. If in addition there is an altruistic transposition of egoism on to the sexual object, the object becomes supremely powerful; it has, as it were, absorbed the ego. (Introductory Lectures, p.417-8).

At the phallic level in which love for the other is recalled- ‘phallic narcissism’ means that a man can date women and have sex with them but not really be attached or care for them in any way. However, if we entertain this idea at the earlier anal level then we have a notion that “very little need for an object” becomes a full out incomprehension of the object. At the same time, instead of the ‘cockiness’ of the phallic-narcissist we’d have what Freud in other places has called the ‘omnipotence of thought’ in which the anal narcissist believes he is God-like in his thought and overvalues thinking like the narcissist over-values his ‘image’ or the impression he makes on others.

Freud, in this bisexual structure, shows that the altruist (the passive or feminine side) can relinquish her egoism and make the object powerful. At the anal stage we can say that the child’s interaction with the mother stands for ‘all people’ with transference to god-like people while the later phallic interaction stands for the good class with transference to heroes, while at the later genital stage (after Oedipus) the authority stands for bosses and teachers, and more mundane authorities. Ellen Stockdale’s problem then might be more easily understood as ‘echoism’[1] at the anal stage in which she makes all individuals supremely powerful in analogy to a woman at the phallic stage waiting for a prince to find her and not seeking to develop her own skills to work and establish her own independence that way. Going along with this we would point to the anal echoist as truly ‘repeating’ what other people say (as an echo) rather than finding a pleasure in intellectual understanding. This needn’t mean that the person will flunk school. There are other factors like gaining the approval of the parents, etc. which will drive the child. Instead the issue is one of pleasure in the intellect. Another person may find it fun to learn another language the anal echoist would not find it fun. Also the “love” at the anal stage isn’t the same as it is at the phallic stage but is better characterized as a symbiosis of losing one’s own identity. In the Ellen Stockdale report she writes:

She was most afraid of eye contact with those people she felt closest to, of anyone with whom she was romantically involved, because eye contact with them meant a loss of sense of self—of self-identity, or ego structure. “Red” experienced this loss as either “dying” or losing all her feelings, her reality, or as being changed into her nonfeeling self, Ellen. Red felt that people close to her could see inside her, see her feelings, read her mind (p. 14)

In addition Freud writes of such early object cathexes and their resulting identifications once they are ‘abandoned’ potentially leading to MPD:

Although it is a digression from our aim, we cannot avoid giving our attention for a moment longer to the ego's object-identifications. If they obtain the upper hand and become too numerous, unduly powerful and incompatible with one another, a pathological outcome will not be far off. It may come to a disruption of the ego in consequence of the different identifications becoming cut off from one another by resistances; perhaps the secret of the cases of what is described as ‘multiple personality’ is that the different identifications seize hold of consciousness in turn. Even when things do not go so far as this, there remains the question of conflicts between the various identifications into which the ego comes apart, conflicts which cannot after all be described as entirely pathological (The Ego and The Id, p. 30-1)

Also in the Report we are given another way to capture the equivalency of these two states:

When not using Ellen's cover of learned social behavior, “Red” was unable to greet people comfortably as they entered a room; she simply stared vacantly. She once made her therapist refrain from looking at her for an entire session because she felt that her feeling self would “die” if he looked at her. Then she would switch into superficial Ellen, who could not describe the feelings “Red” had experienced. At times when she wanted to preserve her feelings, she would ask people she was close to (and who she felt would understand) not to talk to her or look at her lest she “die.” (p. 14-5)

The feeling of psychic death, which Freud goes to pains to remind us can’t be something that is experienced can be set up as a negation. The not-finite can mean perfection but the not-finite can also mean death (i.e. what is not finite and living = the dead). In Beyond the Pleasure Principle Freud writes:

It may be difficult, too, for many of us, to abandon the belief that there is an instinct towards perfection at work in human beings, which has brought them to their present high level of intellectual achievement and ethical sublimation and which may be expected to watch over their development into supermen. I have no faith, however, in the existence of any such internal instinct and I cannot see how this benevolent illusion is to be preserved. The present development of human beings requires, as it seems to me, no different explanation from that of animals. What appears in a minority of human individuals as an untiring impulsion towards further perfection can easily be understood as a result of the instinctual repression upon which is based all that is most precious in human civilization. The repressed instinct never ceases to strive for complete satisfaction, which would consist in the repetition of a primary experience of satisfaction. No substitutive or reactive formations and no sublimations will suffice to remove the repressed instinct's persisting tension; and it is the difference in amount between the pleasure of satisfaction which is demanded and that which is actually achieved that provides the driving factor which will permit of no halting at any position attained, but, in the poet's words, [‘Presses ever forward unsubdued.’]
The backward path that leads to complete satisfaction is as a rule obstructed by the resistances which maintain the repressions. So there is no alternative but to advance in the direction in which growth is still free—though with no prospect of bringing the process to a conclusion or of being able to reach the goal. The processes involved in the formation of a neurotic phobia, which is nothing else than an attempt at flight from the satisfaction of an instinct, present us with a model of the manner of origin of this supposititious ‘instinct towards perfection’—an instinct which cannot possibly be attributed to every human being. The dynamic conditions for its development are, indeed, universally present; but it is only in rare cases that the economic situation appears to favour the production of the phenomenon (BPP, p. 42).

Another clue is in Ellen’s feelings of shame attached to the body:

As she learned to feel in a consistent way (sexual feelings, hunger, pain, and others needs), she began to become aware of her body. She had always before been repelled by it, feeling herself to be ugly and smelly—she hated the idea of smells coming out of her body. Sometimes she felt that she could smell in herself the food she had eaten, and she feared that others could smell it too. This became an excuse not to get physically close to others. Whether these feelings were legitimate or were an excuse for her fear of physical closeness to others is unclear—possibly a combination of the two. (p. 21)

The anal stage quality of having shameful feces inside of one which emit odours just as dead or putrid flesh does could probably be derived from this[2]. In a similar way the perfection at the anal stage is represented by an ‘anal phallus’ that is seen as a reaction formation to feces:

The anal phallus is uncastratable because it is renewable; it is by definition the only indestructible penis, at once dead and eternal (castration and life are inseparable as are death and anality in the unconscious). Like the phoenix, he is reborn out of his ashes or recreates himself through auto-fertilization. Like the phoenix, he is dressed in dazzling colours that 'make him more beautiful than the most splendid of peacocks' (Grimal, 1958). Thus the myth of the phoenix seems to me to represent the fantasy of the uncastratable phallus (it is reborn out of its ashes), acquired without being connected to the progenitor (it fertilizes itself); its character, necessarily anal on the one hand and idealized on the other, is represented by the ashes and the brilliance of its colours. If in the course of development the anal phallus precedes the genital penis, it becomes after the fact, imitation (prostheses, orthopaedic instruments, likely to replace a member or to aid a deficient function, are identified in the unconscious with the anal phallus and are frequently chosen as fetishes). Through idealization the anal phallus presents itself as a genital penis; masking its essentially excremental characteristics, it preserves the invulnerability proper to itself and plays, so to speak, on two planes.
(Chasseguet-Smirgel, Perversion, Idealization and Sublimation, p.356)

To be uncastratable and self-fertilizing and invulnerable seem to be the hallmark of perfection to me. Other analysts also talk about the fantasy of a single phallus for all people:

In a number of cases I have found the fantasy that only one grandiose phallus exists in the whole world. When the patient is in possession of it or is identified with it, everyone else is deprived of it and thus totally destroyed. In the negative phase, the tables are turned: the grandiose phallus belongs to somebody else— perhaps to its rightful, original owner— who, full of contempt, now destroys the patient. Either way, the acquisition of this glorified organ is accomplished through violent aggression… the still completely sexualized and glorified object is set up as a primitive ego ideal, as something he longs to be… reverting to magical identification, the patient who has regressed to this infantile level may feel as though he were the magnificent phallus-father, as though he were his own ego ideal. Repair is achieved once more via magic fusion. But after a short time, as we have seen, this wishful identification turns into the opposite; it is doomed to break down, as the uncontrollably mounting aggression destroys the glorified object. To relieve the ensuing intolerable feelings of annihilation, the aggression must be counteracted by a renewed elevation of the object; hence the grandiose phallus is restored to it and the entire process starts all over again (Reich, Pathologic Forms of Self-Esteem Regulation, p.225-6)

We can compare this to Lord of the Rings and the one ring that controls other rings or ‘the Emperor’ in Star Wars that represents the person in control of the galaxy. In other words, the anal phallus of perfection is a very common and powerful motif in culture and in the pursuits of anal obsessionals. I think that the work of Alfred Adler on this front becomes more understandable. Adler shows the regressive nature of the phallic ego ideal to reach back into god-likeness:

This goal introduces into our life a hostile and fighting tendency, robs us of the simplicity of our feeling and is always the cause of an estrangement from reality since it puts near to our hearts the idea of attempting to over-power reality. Whoever takes this goal of godlikeness seriously or literally, will soon be compelled to flee from real life and compromise, by seeking a life within life; if fortunate in art, but more generally in pietism, neurosis, or crime (Individual Psychology. p.8).


[1] Echoism would refer to the nymph Echo who fell in love with Narcissus. She would be the example of “transposition of ego” onto the love object (the opposite of narcissism):

The story is told in Book III of the Metamorphoses, and tells the story of a "talkative nymph" who "yet a chatterbox, had no other use of speech than she has now, that she could repeat only the last words out of many." She falls in love with Narcissus, whom she catches sight of when he is "chasing frightened deer into his nets." Eventually, after "burning with a closer flame," Echo's presence is revealed to Narcissus, who, after a comic, yet tragic scene, rejects her love. Echo wastes away, until she "remains a voice" and "is heard by all."

[2] I’m not the only one who has made the connection between anality and death:

Karl Abraham (1) supplied evidence to illustrate the connection between the mental representation of feces and the dead body. The relationship is also underscored by Bertram Lewin (19). It is most poetically expressed by Shakespeare in Hamlet's thoughts on Yorick's remains. Hamlet: Why not imagination trace the noble dust of Alexander till he find it stopping a bunghole? … Alexander died, Alexander was buried, Alexander returneth into dust; the dust is earth; of earth we make loam; and why of that loam (whereto he was converted) might they not stop a beer barrel? The equation of death, corpses, and feces is the central theme of Fenichel's paper on “Respiratory Introjection” (5). In his paper on the Rat Man (7), Freud discussed the interest of obsessionals in death and in life after death. Freud stated that his patient earned the nickname of "carrion-crow" because he religiously attended funerals. In view of the marked anality of obsessionals, one could anticipate their preoccupation with death (Brodsky, The Self-Representation, Anality, and the Fear of Dying, p. 105-6)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

mental bisexuality- epistemology

a universal vs. a particular
abstract vs. concrete


I came across a passage that reminded me that Freud uses obsessional and hysteric to characterize the masculine and the feminine (which Lacan takes up) and notices a difference in their cognitive styles based upon the former being objective and treating others as a universal and the latter dealing with people as particular:

An anticathexis of this kind is clearly seen in obsessional neurosis. It appears there in the form of an alteration of the ego, as a reaction-formation in the ego, and is effected by the reinforcement of the attitude which is the opposite of the instinctual trend that has to be repressed—as, for instance, in pity, conscientiousness and cleanliness. These reaction-formations of obsessional neurosis are essentially exaggerations of the normal traits of character which develop during the latency period. The presence of an anticathexis in hysteria is much more difficult to detect, though theoretically it is equally indispensable. In hysteria, too, a certain amount of alteration of the ego through reaction-formation is unmistakable and in some circumstances becomes so marked that it forces itself on our attention as the principal symptom. The conflict due to ambivalence, for instance, is resolved in hysteria by this means. The subject's hatred of a person whom he loves is kept down by an exaggerated amount of tenderness for him and apprehensiveness about him. But the difference between reaction-formations in obsessional neurosis and in hysteria is that in the latter they do not have the universality of a character-trait but are confined to particular relationships. A hysterical woman, for instance, may be specially affectionate with her own children whom at bottom she hates; but she will not on that account be more loving in general than other women or even more affectionate to other children. The reaction-formation of hysteria clings tenaciously to a particular object and never spreads over into a general disposition of the ego, whereas what is characteristic of obsessional neurosis is precisely a spreading-over of this kind—a loosening of relations to the object and a facilitation of displacement in the choice of object. (Inhibitions, Symptoms, Anxiety, p. 157-8)


my hesitation to use obsessional vs. hysteric is that obsessional has the connotation, to me at least, of the mind being emphasized over the body. I think that an masculine or narcissistic subject can have two relations to the "anal" stage

The person who is more in their body will have a goal to seek perfection in being manifold: having a strong and able body, looking to have, as one patient put it, all the virtues (i.e. courage and other Aristotelian types of virtue), and into the intellectual realm as well.

The person who is more schizoid or more at home in their head will be the "obsessional" who tries to study religion, philosophy, some kind of science, and even in trying to capture the colours, shades, and forms in art, in order to get to the secret of life. They will be god-like not in balancing both body and mind and cultivating their wholeness and independence but by knowing that which God knows and all others don't

Maybe you can say the non-schizoid is 'obsessed' with his manifoldness but, as I said, the word has a certain connotation and the use of narcissism as denoting powering in the self explains both of these positions... but then narcissism as an operation of bisexual repression is obscured...

I am extremely loathe to create new jargon here so maybe I should use obsessional...

Monday, March 19, 2012

egoism and altruism/ narcissism and masochism

Some people have been confused about my use of narcissism and masochism.

Freud’s concept of narcissism in its ontogenetic form:

In estimating the influence of organic disease upon the distribution of libido, I follow a suggestion made to me orally by S├índor Ferenczi. It is universally known, and we take it as a matter of course, that a person who is tormented by organic pain and discomfort gives up his interest in the things of the external world, in so far as they do not concern his suffering. Closer observation teaches us that he also withdraws libidinal interest from his love-objects: so long as he suffers, he ceases to love. The commonplace nature of this fact is no reason why we should be deterred from translating it into terms of the libido theory. We should then say: the sick man withdraws his libidinal cathexes back upon his own ego, and sends them out again when he recovers. ‘Concentrated is his soul’, says Wilhelm Busch of the poet suffering from toothache, ‘in his molar's narrow hole.’ Here libido and ego-interest share the same fate and are once more indistinguishable from each other. The familiar egoism of the sick person covers both. We find it so natural because we are certain that in the same situation we should behave in just the same way. The way in which a lover's feelings, however strong, are banished by bodily ailments, and suddenly replaced by complete indifference, is a theme which has been exploited by comic writers to an appropriate extent. (On Narcissism 82-3)

Freud solidifies this point when he writes:

Hypochondria, like organic disease, manifests itself in distressing and painful bodily sensations, and it has the same effect as organic disease on the distribution of libido. The hypochondriac withdraws both interest and libido—the latter specially markedly—from the objects of the external world and concentrates both of them upon the organ that is engaging his attention (on narcissism 83)

Freud uses ego interest to talk about ego drives which are different than narcissism, not in the ontogenetic sense but a bisexual sense, and discusses this plainly in The Introductory Lectures:

This is the place for two remarks. First, how do we differentiate between the concepts of narcissism and egoism? Well, narcissism, I believe, is the libidinal complement to egoism. When we speak of egoism, we have in view only the individual's advantage; when we talk of narcissism we are also taking his libidinal satisfaction into account. As practical motives the two can be traced separately for quite a distance. It is possible to be absolutely egoistic and yet maintain powerful object-cathexes, in so far as libidinal satisfaction in relation to the object forms part of the ego's needs. In that case, egoism will see to it that striving for the object involves no damage to the ego. It is possible to be egoistic and at the same time to be excessively narcissistic—that is to say, to have very little need for an object, whether, once more, for the purpose of direct sexual satisfaction, or in connection with the higher aspirations, derived from sexual need, which we are occasionally in the habit of contrasting with ‘sensuality’ under the name of ‘love’. In all these connections egoism is what is self-evident and constant, while narcissism is the variable element. The opposite to egoism, altruism, does not, as a concept, coincide with libidinal object-cathexis, but is distinguished from it by the absence of longings for sexual satisfaction. When someone is completely in love, however, altruism converges with libidinal object-cathexis. As a rule the sexual object attracts a portion of the ego's narcissism to itself, and this becomes noticeable as what is known as the ‘sexual overvaluation’ of the object. If in addition there is an altruistic transposition of egoism on to the sexual object, the object becomes supremely powerful; it has, as it were, absorbed the ego. (Introductory Lectures, p.417-8)

So there is an active egoistic side and a passive and altruistic side which would correspond to the feminine masochism talked about in the Economic Problem of Masochism in the sense of “turning the other cheek” and not self-mutilation or humiliation which are defences against the superego sense of aloneness and depressive anxiety as opposed to the persecutory anxiety of the narcissist.

Narcissism seems to be a closing down of one’s passive or feminine side and turning that energy upon the ego while the idealization of the object is treated as a closing down of the active or masculine egoism. The latter is shown when Freud talks about hypnotism being related to masochism in the 3 Essays.

After Freud introduces the structural model everything that was previously an ego drive and built around ego interest becomes related to the superego. The superego, as a structural relation, gives the ego the ideal to be superior to others or, suffer from superego inferiority feelings. There are other ego ideals that can be gleaned from Freud’s work that I've posted on before. Anyway, I hope to have shown that Freud uses narcissism as both an ontogenetic or vertical level of development (to which one regresses) as well as a bisexual or horizontal level in which the passive is reinforced by the active and vice versa.

Freud’s point about having two main instincts becomes very clear with this ontogenetic picture because at each stage of development in which a new object is internalized/the ego is split it is the same aggressive reaction but with the enhancement of the current level of ego functioning:

“It is thus possible to distinguish an indeterminate number of instincts, and in common practice this is in fact done- For us, however, the important question arises whether it may not be possible to trace all these numerous instincts back to a few basic ones… after long hesitancies and vacillations we have decided to assume the existence of only two basic instincts, Eros and the destructive instinct” (Outline, p.148)

So, as I’ve said several times, the determinate destructive drives of biting, swallowing, cannibalism, beating, mutilation, killing, murdering, etc. are all the destructive instinct at different levels of ontological development. For example, mutilation can be a drive once the child is able to conceive of its parents as built up of different body parts (i.e. arms, legs, head, etc.). Killing betrays the knowledge that death is permanent while murder betrays the knowledge that it is wrong (i.e. superego after the Oedipus complex).

However, just as destructiveness always takes an object eros too must have an object. I’ve pointed out in previous posts that Freud talks about both an active and a passive relation of the ego. The active egoistic side deals with a conflict with the object through destruction but the passive altruistic side must deal with aloneness or absence of the object. This means that along with the various forms of aggression there are forms of longing which would be the best way to represent it.

Freud’s error then is captured most clearly here in what would be a reversal of his judgment on the life and death drives:

“If we assume that living things came later than animate ones and arose from them, then the death instinct fits in with the formula we have proposed to the effect that instincts tend towards a return to an earlier state. In the case of Eros (or the love instinct) we cannot apply this formula. To do so would presuppose that living substance was once a unity which had later been torn apart and was now striving towards re-union” (Outline, p.248-9)

Once again, how can an instinct aim to conserve something it has never experienced? And, in contrast, since the ego has to be derived from the id is there not a period in which there is no differentiation of inside and outside in the baby and therefore the child takes the universe as a piece of itself? Then through the consecutive imagos of the caregiver the child slowly internalizes the universe first as amodal lights and smells, then as mnemic traces, and so on…

Anyway, this longing for the original union and the aloneness felt in response to it would mean drives that were based upon the longing to be touch, to be held, to have someone do something for you, to have tenderness, to bask in the presence of, sexual contact, etc. and ego ideals the are based upon trying to re-unite with the object based upon impressions of it, i.e. fantasy, symbols, mimetic impressions, telling stories, rescuing the object, etc.

We find all these drives in pop songs or other forms of art or entertainment when people say “I almost died in your arms tonight”, or “I just want you to pull over and hold me, until I can’t remember my own name” etc. or drug users searching for oblivion of their egos so at to unite with the object.

The "classical" analyst, by dealing with the objectless erogenous zones is dealing with a secondary phenomenon. As I’ve pointed out before… primary repression of an destructive or longing expression requires not just that the child repress the impulse mentally but also physically suppress it. Additionally, the child can externalize his aggression onto feces and consider it a weapon, as Klein amply points out, and he can also externalize his longing onto it and become a coprophiliac. However, these impulses were originally towards an object.

Ultimately, narcissism and masochism are dynamic functions related to bisexuality. Egoism and altruism are a better way to characterize the positions but they too only relate to the anal and phallic levels in which enough cognition exists to have these relations to objects. The same relation of antagonism with the object or resonance with the object exists earlier than this because the ego is derived from the id dynamically (i.e. intersubjectively) from the very beginning.

When Freud makes masochism primary and talks about narcissism directing the self-destruction outward towards the object and taking libido from the object cathexis and making it into an ego cathexis he uses narcissism in the sense in which he had previously used egoism. This is why I have called the active or masculine subject the narcissist and the passive or feminine subject the masochist (and merely following Edith Jacobson who already did so).

If we get rid of deriving active from passive or passive from active and have them as two fundamental stances that are on their own then narcissism and masochism shouldn't be used and egoism and altruism shouldn't be used either.

But why these semantic issues? Why aren't we talking about the different ego ideals and dynamic issues that matter in dealing with a patient?

An update of this post is here

http://psychoanalysis-tcp.blogspot.com/2012/06/economics-of-libido-pt3.html

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.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Marxian Basics- alienation-commodity fetishism


In Marx’s 1844 Manuscripts we are given important coordinates for identifying him with a romanticism that isn’t merely a view of art communicating feelings but also a view that certain individuals possess different emotional make-ups as well as different affinities for certain types of labour [i]. Marx gives us a very simple example of alienation in a person who has a talent or a ‘calling’ to study in university but who doesn’t have the money and therefore, has no effective calling. However, he also draws our attention to aspects of personality like charisma and the ability to love which point to a more subtle version of alienation:

if you want to exercise influence over other people, you must be a person with a stimulating and encouraging effect on other people… If you love without evoking love in return- that is, if your loving as loving does not produce reciprocal love; if through a living expression of yourself as a loving person you do not make yourself a loved person, then your love is impotent- a misfortune (p. 51)

I believe Marx is making two very simple propositions here. The first is that alongside a gift for learning, a person might similarly be gifted in wisdom or emotional intelligence. He or she might intuit other people’s feelings and/or know how to inspire others, or be able to capture different feelings in art. I’d like to call this the vertical axis of alienation. As mentioned above, it is expressed when individuals of lower classes might have gifts or callings in science or the humanities but don’t have access to the necessary education (or freedom from violence in their neighbourhoods) because of their lack of money while other less talented people due have access because of (their parents’) money. Another example is that a company might be taken over by someone because he or she gets the company through inheritance. Therefore, the person who runs the company might not have the same ability to manage the workers or put out quality products. In this sense Marx is talking about how an individual’s merit is sometimes defeated by inheritance and nepotism. Of course today these differences have been softened. Scholarships allow those of the lower classes to go to university and bigger companies mean that an individual inherits stocks in a company who hires a CEO who must demonstrate increased sales and returns to shareholders. However, this problem is far from being overcome. And, while a debate would ensue about how the imperfections of capitalism are better than the horrors of communism the second, or horizontal axis of alienation, will show that no governments who have called themselves ‘communist’ have ever in fact been communist.

The horizontal axis is derived from the concept of wisdom mentioned above and involves the recognition of Marx’s comments on a person’s charisma or ability to love in a way that inspires love. These comments point to what is just beginning to be recognized in Nietzsche scholarship as a ‘doctrine of types’[ii]. This doctrine of types recognizes that different individuals have different emotional make-ups as well as different desires. For some people love is the most important thing, for some people success is the most important thing, some people are much more social than others, and some strive to be as self-sufficient as possible. Additionally, we recognize others as shy, arrogant, enthusiastic, competitive, vindictive, etc[iii]. These character traits might become exacerbated and become the personality disorders in the DSM, but so long as the individual is under the sway of Eros they are also responsible for our cultural achievements.

The DSM, or the psychoanalysts who contributed to it, didn’t create the concept of character. Similar typologies have been expressed in pre-scientific cultures in relation to the humours, the Taoist elements, and most clearly in the representations of the gods in polytheistic religions. In the myths of Ares, Aphrodite, Dionysus, Apollo, etc. we have a certain characterological outlooks at the world. For example, Hermes is seen as the trickster and messenger god and shows a characterlogical desire of some people to devote themselves to the service of a group as well as the fear of physical violence leading to a sublimated aggression towards others in trickery. In the work of Nietzsche polytheism is given a special place as a reflection of a profound recognition of the affects. He writes:

For an individual to posit his own ideal and to derive from it his own law, joys, and rights- that may well have been considered hitherto to be the most outrageous of human aberrations and idolatry itself; indeed, the few who dared it always felt the need to apologize to themselves, usually as follows: “Not I! Not I But a god through me!” The wonderful art and power of creating gods- polytheism- was that through which this drive could discharge itself, purify, perfect and ennoble itself… above and outside oneself, in a distant overworld, one got to see a plurality of norms: one god was not the denial of or anathema to another god! Here for the first time one allowed oneself individuals; her one first honoured the rights of individuals… [it] was the invaluable preliminary exercise for the justification of the egoism and sovereignty of the individual: the freedom that one conceded to a god in his relation to others gods one finally gave to oneself in relation to laws, customs, and neighbours. Monotheism, in contrast, this rigid consequence of the teachings of a normal human type- that is, the belief in a normal god next to whom there are only false pseudo-gods – was perhaps the greatest danger to humanity so far… (Gay Science- 143).

Here Nietzsche recognizes a plurality of norms in each god that were allowed to exist side by side and therefore represent a celebration of the individual differences of different types[iv]. Looking at artistic depictions of greek gods, Norse, Hindu gods, etc. we can see that different colours, different symbols, and different relations to sexuality, aggression, love and competition were expressed. Nietzsche also draws attention to how the following monotheistic religions, while representing a vertical move forward for civilization in terms of increases in science and making a virtue of self-honesty- a virtue that eventually led to the demise of religion itself- it is actually a loss as far as horizontal axis is considered. Instead of a recognition and celebration of different types the types are all forced to submit to identification with one God and one set of norms[v]. These two differences in the horizontal axis make sense of two trends running through Marx’s comments on alienation and commodity fetishism.

Regarding commodity fetishism, Marx famously writes that:

a definite social relation between men, assumes… the fantastic form of a relation between things. In [the religious] world the productions of the human brain appear as independent beings endowed with life, and entering into relation both with one another and the human race. So it is in the world of commodities… (Capital, Vol. 1, chapter 1 section 4).

If the recognition of different human types was projected into the metaphysical world of the gods, then Marx, recognizing the world trade between different countries is drawing our attention to how a similar projection was later made at a national level. In other words, when a European would buy American leather it would represent an adventurous spirit, a rugged independence, and the untamed nature that the idea of America represented for those who had never been there[vi]. Rather than moving to America and having this relation between one’s self and others and between one’s self and nature one buys the commodity and personally day-dreams about it or shares ones enthusiasm for it with friends.  
Thus as the as the Greeks had Aphrodite as the goddess of love to contemplate, the French culture received the projection of a place that produced romantic lovers or the most beautiful and elegant women or fashion. Another example is in the Spaniards who were seen as hot-blooded, unpredictable, and passionate. This could be seen as inheriting the festival and madness mentality of Dionysus. So, rather than having a community that worships such a god and re-enacts different rituals and surrounds itself by meaningful symbols, the commodity is bought by isolated individuals for similar purposes[vii]. But, again, Marx isn’t asking us to go back and worship gods again, rather he is showing a progressive alienation of the human essence that goes through the Gods, and then through representations of other nations, and an end of alienation once humans recognize the different characters among them and affirm them in production. This will allow for a relation to other people, to nature, and to different societies based upon human essence as opposed to money alone[viii]. Marx is very clear that even if health care is universal and wages are the same then alienation in this horizontal sense won’t be overcome:

Indeed, even the equality of wages demanded by Proudhon only transforms the relationship of the present-day worker to his labour into the relationship of all men to labour. Society is then conceived as an abstract capitalist (Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts, p. 48).

The second element of the horizontal split recognizes that in different periods of history religion doesn’t allow for a plurality of types but seeks to represent a single type as the only type to be. Upon entering capitalism, the species-ties between individuals have been broken and religion, though still existing in idea, no longer supplies the group cohesiveness to limit individual greed[ix]. Previous to this, the periods of a single type would represent the breaking of the will of the child so that selfishness and willfulness become an ‘identification with the aggressor’ and the community had leverage upon the individual to appeal to the dignity of other members of the group[x]. In psychoanalysis but more explicitly in the Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler we find the concept that the neurotic is most easily defined not by problems with his sexuality but rather his or her self-absorption (whether about one’s greatness, one’s badness, or concern with psycho-somatic illness). “The neurotic and the desolate person” Adler writes, stem from among those who were deprived in their younger years of being able to develop the feeling of community” (Individual Psychology, p.9).

The failure in capitalist culture to form ‘identifications with the aggressor’ is implicit in many of Marx’s early writing on alienation. Again and again he brings up the idea that the worker is an isolated “physical subject” and that “life appears only as a means to life” or that work grants a means of subsistence only. Capitalism, Marx writes, puts “egoism and selfish need in the place of these species-ties, and dissolve the human world into a world of atomistic individuals who are inimically opposed to one another” (On the Jewish Question). Thus, when Marx draws our attention to vertical alienation he also comments on the neurotic psychological reaction to it (from horizontal alienation) when he writes:

If I have the vocation for study but no money for it, I have no vocation for study- that is, no effective, no true vocation for it… money transforms real essential powers of man and nature into what are merely abstract conceits and therefore imperfections- into tormenting chimeras…(Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts, p. 50)

Previously, when kings or aristocrats were believed to be of different blood or divinely chosen the neurotic could identify with their ‘perfection’ in serving them. He did not have any hopes to rise above his station in life, and more community feeling would be established through traditions among the lower classes. However, after children were increasingly segregated from adults and given the notion that they could rise to the top in capitalist culture, it is small wonder that the injustice of a gifted individual being kept from realizing his ability could torment him. Marx makes the further psychological point that confronting the mendacity of the world means that workers often only feel free in their “animal functions” which I take to mean that sex, food, and alcohol are used to distract one from life rather than to celebrate it with others. Additionally, employers who feel no bond with their fellow men will squeeze as much surplus value as they can from the workers without care for how it harms their bodies. I don’t want to insinuate that only in capitalism does an employer or ‘master’ treat his inferiors poorly. Surely in the medieval guilds, and in ancient Greece employers could be sadistic or unsympathetic towards their employees (not to mention their slaves!) but Marx’s concept of species-ties existing in religion seems to recognize that the group has social leverage against the individual which is why that even though money existed in ancient Greece it is not a capitalist society. In other words, there has been a general trend that as civilization advances the average labourer works longer hours and Marx’s suggestion seems to be that failure to create a bond between employer and employee, which sees them both sacrifice egotism for identification with a belief in religion, has the employer on the lookout to get more out of the employee. The rich are driven to become richer, religious sentiments become mere rhetoric used to rationalize “the job creators’” deserving more wealth, and eventually the spiritually inclined children of the wealthy will begin to hunger for new experiments in living. This won’t be nihilistic dandyism as many former Nietzscheans claimed but something deeper and in greater reaction to the specialization of labour and PCism of post-modern culture:

"Facing a world of ‘modern ideas’ that would banish everybody into a corner and
‘specialty,’ a philosopher- if today there could be philosophers- would be compelled to find the greatness of man, the concept of ‘greatness,’ precisely in his range and
multiplicity, in his wholeness in manifoldness. He would even determine value and rank in accordance with how much and how many things one could bear and take upon himself, how far one could extend his responsibility." BG&E- 212

Ironically, Nietzsche turns out to be a better theorist of the revolution than Marx and Marx gives a superior formulation of the aesthetic experiments in living that Nietzsche called for.


[i] “…man’s feelings, passions, etc., are not mere anthropological phenomena in the [narrower] sense, but truly ontological affirmations of essential being (of nature), and… they are only really affirmed because their object exists for them as an object of sense” 48

[ii] Nietzsche quickly moves from the claim that being causa sui involves a contradiction, however, to an argument that depends on his picture of human agency. Nietzsche accepts what we may call a “Doctrine of Types” (Leiter 1998), according to which,

Each person has a fixed psycho-physical constitution, which defines him as a particular type of person.
Call the relevant psycho-physical facts here “type-facts.”

Type-facts, for Nietzsche, are either physiological facts about the person, or facts about the person's unconscious drives or affects. The claim, then, is that each person has certain largely immutable physiological and psychic traits that constitute the “type” of person he or she is.

Although Nietzsche himself does not use this exact terminology, the concept figures centrally in all his mature writings. A typical Nietzschean form of argument, for example, runs as follows: a person's theoretical beliefs are best explained in terms of his moral beliefs; and his moral beliefs are best explained in terms of natural facts about the type of person he is (i.e., in terms of type-facts). So Nietzsche says, “every great philosophy so far has been…the personal confession of its author and a kind of involuntary and unconscious memoir”; thus, to really grasp this philosophy, one must ask “at what morality does all this (does he) aim” (BGE 6)? But the “morality” that a philosopher embraces simply bears “decisive witness to who he is” — i.e., who he essentially is — that is, to the “innermost drives of his nature” (BGE 6).

This explanation of a person's moral beliefs in terms of psycho-physical facts about the person is a recurring theme in Nietzsche. “[M]oralities are…merely a sign language of the affects” (BGE 187), he says. “Answers to the questions about the value of existence…may always be considered first of all as the symptoms of certain bodies” (GS P:2). “Moral judgments,” he says are, “symptoms and sign languages which betray the process of physiological prosperity or failure” (WP 258). “[O]ur moral judgments and evaluations…are only images and fantasies based on a physiological process unknown to us” (D 119), so that “it is always necessary to draw forth… the physiological phenomenon behind the moral predispositions and prejudices” (D 542). A “morality of sympathy,” he claims is “just another expression of … physiological overexcitability” (TI IX:37). Ressentiment — and the morality that grows out of it — he attributes to an “actual physiological cause [Ursache]” (GM I:15).

Nietzsche sums up the idea well in the preface to On the Genealogy of Morality (hereafter simply “Genealogy” or “GM”): “our thoughts, values, every ‘yes,’ ‘no,’ ‘if’ and ‘but’ grow from us with the same inevitability as fruits borne on the tree — all related and each with an affinity to each, and evidence of one will, one health, one earth, one sun” (GM P:2). Nietzsche seeks to understand in naturalistic terms the type of “person” who would necessarily bear such ideas and values, just as one might come to understand things about a type of tree by knowing its fruits. And just as natural facts about the tree explain the fruit it bears, so too type-facts about a person will explain his values and actions. This means that the conscious mental states that precede the action and whose propositional contents would make them appear to be causally connected to the action are, in fact, epiphenomenal, either as tokens or as types: that is, they are either causally inert with respect to the action or causally effective only in virtue of other type-facts about the person (Leiter 2002: 91-93 argues for the latter reading; Leiter 2007 argues for the former).

[iii] Besides the ontological status given to the affects in footnote 1, the doctrine of types is also implicit in the criticism of Feuerbach in whom essence is seen as something abstract in each person as opposed to the idea of different historical points of the means of production allowing different characterlogical types to come into prominence in the culture:

Feuerbach resolves the religious essence into the human essence. But the human essence is no abstraction inherent in each single individual.
In its reality it is the ensemble of the social relations Feuerbach, who does not enter upon a criticism of this real essence, is consequently compelled:
To abstract from the historical process and to fix the religious sentiment as something by itself and to presuppose an abstract – isolated – human individual.
Essence, therefore, can be comprehended only as “genus”, as an internal, dumb generality which naturally unites the many individuals. (Theses on Feuerbach- 6)

[iv] The idea of the “true world” or of “God” as absolutely immaterial, spiritual, good, is an emergency measure necessary while the opposite instincts are still all-powerful- The degree of moderation and humanity attained is exactly reflected in the humanization of the gods: the Greeks of the strongest epoch, who were not afraid of themselves but rejoiced in themselves, brought their gods close to all their own affects. The spiritualization of the idea of God is therefore far from being a sign of progress: one is heartily conscious of this when considering Goethe- in his case, the vaporization of God into virtue and spirit is felt as being on a coarser level- (WTP-573, p.308 [1888]).

[v] This isn’t to say that these norms would be static over a whole culture. Class conflict and other factors would mean that there would be differences between different groups as far as what actions would result in social or legal penalties.

[vi] This isn’t to say that all nations have the same view of each other but that the disposition to project different characterlogical traits exists in each nation that has reached a point of development in political economy.

[vii] To be clear here, not only did the Greeks have a society in which the majority of people were slaves but even the free men of the society didn’t express their characterlogical types in a full way. They merely worshipped their gods in isolated locations and, no doubt, one followed family traditions. However, the stories of all the gods and their symbols were available and contemplation and discussion could be shared. However, with commodity fetishism, it is certainly not true that French people are all romantic lovers or that Spaniards are all passionate and impulsive. There might be an objective element that encourages people to identify with such roles within a culture but it doesn’t overwrite the subjective or characterlogical differences of the individuals that make up the nation. So, in some sense Marx uses alienation not about what we used to have and what we’ve lost but rather what we’ve always wanted and what should come to be.
 

[viii] ‘If money is the bond binding me to human life, binding society to me, binding me and nature and man, is not money the bond of all bonds’ (Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts, p.50)


[ix] “Only under the dominance of Christianity, which makes all national, natural, moral, and theoretical conditions extrinsic to man, could civil society separate itself completely from the life of the state, sever all the species-ties of man, put egoism and selfish need in the place of these species-ties, and dissolve the human world into a world of atomistic individuals who are inimically opposed to one another” (On the Jewish Question).

This can also be seen in Protestantism’s position against ‘good works’. Previously good works and the call to live a life like Christ was in place- although part of Luther’s reaction against the Catholics were against the blatant disregard for this in selling indulgences (spots in heaven) for the rich. However, after Luther the world was seen as so full of the devil that earthly ‘good works’ did not guarantee a place in heaven. It was only faith in God, and in some branches of Protestantism, it was a predestination and not the choice of faith that brought about salvation of the soul.
 

[x] The contrast between polytheism and monotheism that Nietzsche makes is for polemical purposes and there would be a more complicated social dialectic at work. For example, Hegel notices that it is within the polytheism of Rome that the egotism of the Greeks is replaced by a group identification that brings out patriotism

To acquire the capacity of self-control, all nations must therefore undergo the severe discipline of subjection to a master... Thus Rome, too, had to live through the strict rule of kings under which natural egotism was broken down, before it could give birth to that admirable Roman virtue of patriotism which was ready to make any sacrifice (Phil of Mind, p.175 [435]).

Similarly, pre-Protestant Catholicism with its saint cults has more pluralism while Protestantism is more unified and codified in its values.