Thursday, September 5, 2013

Altruism and Death: towards the Antigone complex

I've come across the work of Leon Wurmser who seems to be both a proponent of the preoedipal superego and to have enough good clinical sense to judge altruistic impulses in his patients. I've mentioned the Antigone complex in previous posts and he notes some ideas that suggest a complex without formally naming it.

There exists a deep ambivalence, above all toward the mother, whereby separation is being equated with crime, murder, and death. Modell (1984) speaks in a similar context about separation guilt: “The right to a separate life is perhaps invariably [with narcissistic patients] accompanied by an unconscious fantasy that separation will lead to the death or damage of the other…. They were possessed of a basic belief that they had no right to a better life” (pp. 56-57). Above all, every success may represent a symbolic separation, hence destruction of the other, and has to be prohibited or undone.

Loyalty is more than an ordinary bond, more than an “object relationship”: It sets up the other as a beloved authority over oneself toward whom one has to keep faith. It is a kind of superego relationship and superego bond. Contradictory loyalties tear apart one's innermost self as probably no other conflict does.

Wurmser, L. (1988). “The Sleeping Giant”: A Dissenting Comment About “Borderline Pathology”. Psychoanal. Inq., 8:373-397

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