Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Object Egoist vs. Object Altruist- hysteria

This is from a recent paper of mine and although it shares many things I've already posted here I hope that I may have become more concise in the formulations. Additionally, it also contains a change in my views on hysteria.

In a previous essay I posted here I contrasted the histrionic to the hysteroid as narcissistic neuroses in contrast to the genital (i.e. neurotic) compulsive (OE) and genital hysteric (OA). Having done more work in film analysis and having some new patients I realize that the compulsive-hysteric is a narcissistic neurosis and is a better contrast to the histrionic than the hysteroid.

Part of it also has to do with more research on the influence of Adler on Freud:

When Freud first introduced the ego ideal he actually used conscience as analogy for “a special psychical agency which performs the task of seeing that narcissistic satisfaction from the ego ideal is ensured and which, with this end in view, constantly watches the actual ego and measures it by that ideal” (On Narcissism, p. 95). However, when Freud, for example, writes that the “ego ideal has imposed severe conditions upon the satisfaction of libido through objects; for it causes some of them to be rejected by means of its censor, as being incompatible” he isn’t talking about a moral conscience or some personally ascribed to aesthetic/ascetic ideal that the child chooses (ibid. p.100). Rather the ego ideal is related to ‘self-respect’, ‘self-regard’, and idealization of the self or the object, and the achievement of ‘excellence’ in the self or object. Freud is in dialogue with Adler when he creates the ego ideal, as he is with and Jung when he creates narcissism, and what defines Adler’s work is superiority and the will to power. So, in the above example, a woman with a high ego ideal may limit her potential lovers to only belong to the most successful, ‘excellent’, or powerful men because being with such men will show the glory of her superior beauty or taste. For Adler it isn’t conscience but pride that effects repression and Freud agreed in ‘Analysis Terminable and Interminable’ that the castration complex is the bedrock of character and that it aligns with Adler’s masculine protest. Thus, a woman out of a narcissistic injury and defensive self-idealization may also repress her sexuality because she feels that no man is worthy of her, and a man who strives for perfection or excellence in his work may remove himself from competition with others because of having his pride injured, like Achilles. The ego ideal is Freud’s way of recognizing that “repression… proceeds from the self-respect of the ego” and that “we can say that one man has set up an ideal in himself by which he measures his actual ego, while the other has formed no such ideal” and finally that “the formation of an ideal would be the conditioning factor of repression” (ibid. 93-4). 

Here's the contrast between compulsive-hysteria (OE) and histrionic-hysteria (OA) that I included in a paper on the analysis of Jane Campion's The Piano:

Since Freud relates egoism to not just preservation but the ‘magnification’ of the individual it seems to me that the egoist must go beyond his equal share and conquer what belongs to others or to nature. While food may not always be scarce having the status of being the first in one’s field or being considered a success is always scarce. Thus, the active-passive poles can better be defined in relation to the impulses to conquer and the impulses to love. However, I also think there is much reason to double these impulses into be conquered and be loved. In regards to the former, the idealization of self or locating power in the self finds its extreme and defensive position in narcissism in which object libido is retracted to cathect the self (Introductory Lectures, p.417-8). It seems clear to me that as much as a person can be narcissistic about his physical and/or intellectual potency he can also be narcissistic about his ‘looks’ or attractiveness. In order to avoid confusion or doubling up of the terms active-passive we could differentiate a subject egoist (to conquer), while the latter could be termed an object egoist (to be conquered). The object egoist tries to make herself the object of the subject (the cause of his desire) whose conquering or achievements reflect the potency of her beauty.

However, the object egoist still impresses one as having a sense of self-respect or pride that comes from feeling that her physical beauty and/or aesthetic or spiritual refinements are special or superior to those of others. Observing this from the pathological extreme Wilhelm Reich writes:

the woman suffering from hysteria, for example, will be apprehensively silent and behave timidly; the woman having a compulsive neurosis will be obstinately silent or behave in a cold, haughty way towards the analyst. The transference resistance employs various means in warding off the positive transference… the woman suffering from hysteria will always defend herself in a way expressive of anxiety, while the woman suffering from a compulsive neurosis will always defend herself aggressively, no matter what unconscious content is on the verge of breaking through (Reich, Character Analysis. p. 51).
It is only from this active-egoism vs. passive-altruism split that I have been able to understand all the contradictory things written about the hysteric[1]. Reich’s compulsive here is, in fact, the same as Freud and Lacan’s hysteric. Freud’s Dora would be much better described as cold, haughty, aggressive, etc. than as apprehensively silent, timid, self-effacing, or dramatizing emotions in a histrionic sense. When Lacan describes the hysteric as not wanting the man to get off on her and leaving him sexually unsatisfied it is similarly coming from a place of pride and competition between subject and object egoist (A Clinical Introduction to Lacanian Psychoanalysis, p. 127). While many writers notice the tendency of the altruist to idealize the sexual object they leave the relation between the egoist and the sexual object unformulated. Following Freud’s remarks on sensual love that is satisfied after sexual contact and hate being earlier than love (Group Psychology, p. 111, Beyond Pleasure Principle, p. 53). It seems more salient to say that the egoists want to possess or control the sexual object and feel jealousy in regards to the idea of the sexual object regarding another as more powerful or desirable and this is followed by hate/sadism. In contrast, with the altruist, the sexual object is idealized and showing the wish to merge or resonate with it and loss of the beloved is followed by mourning and aloneness. This conserves some of the insight of Freud’s remarks on the narcissism of women but allows for a completely different stance to emerge from the altruistic pole (On Narcissism, p. 88-90). Additionally, it conserves his remarks about finding vestiges of the beloved in the character of the lover that in extreme form could become multiple personality disorder (Freud, The Ego and The Id, p.29). In a person who seeks to be the ‘possessor’ of the sexual object and experiences jealousy one doesn’t find that they had become interested in entirely different kinds of music, hobbies, etc. as they dated different people- as one would find with the altruist who loves the sexual object.  

The complement to narcissism in the altruistic pole of the personality is a retraction of ego libido to cathect the object. While Freud brings this up in several places in regards to masochism involved in hypnotism and love turning into fascination or bondage I want to stick to the social or public aspect of this in which we say someone is self-effacing, a people pleaser, servile, (etc.). This also goes by the heading of ‘feminine masochism’ but when it isn’t pathological it can simply be called being ‘nice’ to others and getting vicarious pleasure from doing things to give others pleasure. Anyway, it seems clear to me that just as we can talk about someone masochistically being meek or putting the desires of others before one’s own, it’s also possible to talk about someone masochistically needing to have the approval of others. Instead of going out of one’s way to not be regarded as selfish or ‘taking a hit for the team’ one can want to be liked by other people not for one’s power, achievement, beauty or refinement but for one’s humour, cuteness, charm, spontaneity, one’s good energy, one’s ability to understand and express feelings and make the world magical, dynamic, or interesting. Whether one masochistically sacrifices for others or one needs to be liked, in either case the power is in the other and not in the self. Thus we have a subject altruist who risks emotional investment in love and an object altruist who desires to ‘be loved’ by the subject- to be the cause of delight in him or her[2]

In an article entitled ‘A Reevaluation of Hysterical Relatedness’ Marylou Lionells paints a picture of the histrionic-hysteric that provides a foil to the compulsive-hysteric. She uses the terms self-as-agent and self-in-relation for what I’ve identified as egoistic vs. altruistic trends in the personality and places the hysteric in the latter category (Lionells, ‘A Reevaluation of Hysterical Relatedness, p. 577). She quotes Freud’s position that “being loved, is the most important thing in life” for this character type (ibid, p. 571). She does a literature review in which she supports a view of “emotionality as an interpersonal tool designed to elicit approval” and her findings are as follows:

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 (ibid, p. 571-3).

Instead of the distance we find with the compulsive-hysteric whose pride can remove her from relationships, the histrionic-hysteric attempts to form relationships by making herself vulnerable, attempting to be interesting, or being sexual. While the compulsive-hysteric wants to be beautiful or have superior inner beauty (religion, art, ideas) and is resentful towards men for her power not causing desire in them, the histrionic-hysteric may have overlap but the emphasis is very different. “Being cute (not necessarily beautiful), alert, responsive, and cheerful are common attributes”, Lionell writes, “[b]udding hysterics often seem to have an innate sense of humour. They spontaneously clown and entertain. They show a quick wit, making use of analogy and metaphor…” (Lionells, ‘A Reevaluation of Hysterical Relatedness, p.583). What can be endearing or charming in health can become dramatic and sloppy in pathology. Similarly the desire to find oneself, establish one’s uniqueness, or inspire others can turn to desperately conforming to fashion, changing one’s identity after every relationship, or cultivating eccentricity.   

Although Abraham sticks to the classical formulation that sexual relation of the child to the parent causes neurosis instead of recognizing the parallelism of the ego drive/ideal and sexuality he is still honest and perceptive enough to notice these two characterlogical positions in the castration complex[3]. He sees the two trends of being the most beautiful (OE) as well as wanting approval for one’s uniqueness (OA):

In some of our patients we come across phantasies which refer to the possibility of a recognition of the man and to the formulation of conditions under which the patient, after their fulfilment, would be prepared to reconcile herself to her femininity. I mention first of all a condition I have met with many times; it runs: 'I could be content with my femininity if I were absolutely the most beautiful of all women'. All men would lie at the feet of the most beautiful woman, and the female narcissism would consider this power not a bad compensation for the defect so painfully perceived… I have previously mentioned an example of a phantastic form of this idea from one of my psycho-analyses. I was able to follow the development of a similar phantasy through different stages in the psycho-analysis of another patient. The original desire ran: 'I should like to be a man'. When this was given up, the patient wished to be 'the only woman' (at first 'the only woman of the father' was meant). When also this wish had to give way to reality the idea appeared: 'As a woman I should like to be unique' (Abraham, Manifestations of the Female Castration Complex, p.25-6)[4].

Once again I’d like to underscore that these are pure types and people will be mixtures as every characterologist has pointed out. The point has always been that there is an emphasis on one side over another or that the pure types emerge from suppression of a facet of the personality[5]. It is possible to say that a histrionic hysteric has competitive feelings with other women regarding her beauty and some resentment towards men but, that there is more emphasis on her being cute, dramatic, funny, having crushes, (etc.). As Freud, Reich, or any person of decent judgment will point out, it shows up in the person’s appearance and bodily comportment- the severity or seriousness of the compulsive vs. the exuberance or excitability of the histrionic[6]. If you read through any good novelist you will find careful descriptions of the body types of the characters and in the “artistic” films of Fellini or Tarkovsky plot and narrative are often reduced so that the bodily and visual aspect can convey the feelings. Dullards often search for symbols to give meaning to such films when the meaning is already present in witnessing the emotions carved into someone’s face and body and those that unfold in the scene. One can’t be looking for black or white and but must be open to looking for how the grey is closer to black in one place and closer to white in another.

[1] The compulsive-hysteric and histrionic-hysteric don’t exhaust all forms of hysteria either but they do represent the two most prominent forms to my eye. For example, Easser and Lesser discuss another pre-oedipal form called the ‘hysterioid’ and also give the post-oedipal hysteric with more secure relationships (Easser & Lesser, Hysterical Personality, p.398-9).

[2] Freud mentions ‘being loved’ in (Instincts and Their Vicissitudes, p.133, Libidinal Types). Early analysts like Wilhelm Reich also clearly saw this position at work in their patients: "his desire to be a child who is loved by everyone-- at the same time realizing that he himself neither wanted to love nor was able to love" (Reich, Character Analysis, p.113). Additionally, Theodor Reik claimed that many authors, notably Goethe, could be best understood by their need to ‘be loved’ (Reik, The Need to be Loved).

[3]  It is not our belief that a person's libidinal interests are from the first in opposition to his self-preservative interests; on the contrary, the ego endeavours at every stage to remain in harmony with its sexual organization as it is at the time and to fit itself into it. The succession of the different phases of libidinal development probably follows a prescribed programme. But the possibility cannot be rejected that this course of events can be influenced by the ego, and we may expect equally to find a certain parallelism, a certain correspondence, between the developmental phases of the ego and the libido; indeed a disturbance of that correspondence might provide a pathogenic factor (Freud, p.351-2 –Introductory Lecture XXII).
[4] Abraham doesn’t flesh out this position of uniqueness very well but Hans Sachs does:

The women of whom I am thinking are almost always remarkably charming in appearance and exceptionally attractive socially—at least, to men; they do not usually form any satisfactory relations with other women. A woman of this sort has the power of entering into the idiosyncrasies and interests and ideas of the particular man with whom she happens to be talking, so that he feels she thoroughly understands him and is accordingly greatly attracted to her. We are astonished to see how such women, although they have never followed out any course of mental training or pursued any serious studies, know quite a lot about a number of, often very difficult, subjects. But a finer ear soon detects that what they say is not original, but simply an echo of some man or other whose knowledge and views they have borrowed. All the subjects on which they talk—science or art, sport or religion—can be assigned to particular periods in their lives and to particular men, from whom they have derived their views. They do not even try to reflect upon and reconcile the various points of view: they simply treasure up the individual utterances of different men and actually do not hesitate calmly to advance quite opposite opinions, taken from different sources. (Sachs, ‘One of the Motive Factors in the Formation of the Superego in Women’p.42-3).

Firstly, this is an OA portrait since the women is seen to only have absorbed the opinions of former lovers. The OE follows the control-possess-be jealous of model of the sexual relationship and doesn’t merge with the love object like the altruist. In the next section Deutsch mentions that the women she is concerned with follow the ‘masculine’ model of sublimation. Secondly, although these portraits of women are not flattering it must be remembered that they are women suffering from narcissistic neuroses  and that the same forms can exist in men- they can be OE and OA hysterics too- and have forms of mental illness that are predominate in males and are just as ugly. Moreover, all the great female analysts have backed up Freud on the importance of castration and the repudiation of femininity to be found in women. What they add, however, and what continues to be ignored, is that men can have aggression towards women after disappointments in relationships, and can want to ‘fuck’ women aggressively as revenge as much as a woman may reject men sexually out of revenge in the pole of active-egoism. Additionally, they add that passive-altruistic men can have womb envy just as much as women can have penis envy (Horney, Fear of the Feminine). What’s important is that a psychically bisexual being has to face sexual difference and deal with has his or her self-respect attached to being regarded as a man or woman by others. An OE or OA biological male can envy that women for their children, that socially they aren’t expected to work like men, (etc.). Sexual difference or an ego ideal concerning gender will be discussed in the next section.
[5] However, it is also obvious that there are some people who have never formed the phallic drives/ego ideals on both the egoistic or altruistic side. They would be altruists who haven’t established the willpower to see through any goals or promises they have made or egoists who lack any sense for vulnerable or delicate feelings in people and art and the typology I’m doing. One can always know the academic version of such an egoist by his interpretation that the will to power, or selfishness, and rational game theory can explain everything (if he even deigns to recognize subjective motivation). There are analysts who talk about this stunted development (Reich, Character Analysis, p. 251-3; Klein, Early Stages of the Oedipus Conflict, p. 174).
[6] Observation teaches us that individual human beings realize the general picture of humanity in an almost infinite variety of ways. If we yield to the legitimate need to distinguish particular types in this multiplicity, we shall at the start have the choice as to what characteristics and what points of view we shall take as the basis of our differentiation. For that purpose physical qualities will doubtless serve no less well than mental ones; the most valuable distinctions will be those which promise to present a regular combination of physical and mental characteristic (Libidinal Types, p. 217).

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