Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Ego and Object drive parallelism (psycho-social and psycho-sexual)

The ego drives in Freud were grossly under-theorized. However, Freud's genius is such that he traces the edges of things so that this work can be done later. In previous posts I've attempted to show the edge of the phallic-oedipal in which the ego ideal takes a father-substitute who is perceived as representing someone of more status or prestige and, how in the castration complex, the ego ideal no longer possesses the 'double tie' to a father-substitute and becomes an individual ego ideal that demands one deceptively appear as having (or about to have) status or prestige (phallic deutero) or that one is driven to achievements of success. The other edge that Freud establishes and that I have been attempting to explicate is the first ego ideal. In the first ideal the ego is measured by some external criteria, which I've attached to a social ontology, and is differentiated from earlier stages in which drives are satisfied in phantasy or in bodily sensations and not measured against others. 

Freud mentions the auto-erotic and the object-love 'edges' to the ego and object drives in several works. In his paper on Schreber for example:

"Recent investigations have directed our attention to a stage in the development of the libido which it passes through on the way from auto-erotism to object-love. This stage has been given the name of narcissism. What happens is this. There comes a time in the development of the individual at which he unifies his sexual instincts (which have hitherto been engaged in auto-erotic activities) in order to obtain a love-object; and he begins by taking himself, his own body, as his love-object, and only subsequently proceeds from this to the choice of some person other than himself as his object. This half-way phase between auto-erotism and object-love may perhaps be indispensable normally; but it appears that many people linger unusually long in this condition, and that many of its features are carried over by them into the later stages of their development" (Schreber, p. 60-1).

In previous posts I have shown that the phallic-oedipal is related to an aim-inhibition of sexuality towards the mother that becomes directed towards the opposite sex. It's not an issue that the boy gets to keep the mother as an object and the girl changes objects. Instead, both have sexual desire cathect the mother and father's exclusive sexual relationship as a model and see on what side they fall. This is based upon the representation of the mother as the imago of the finite and the father as the imago of the not-finite being synthesized into the 'social body' and the actual sex of the parents isn't important. However, the phallic-oedipal stage of the difference between the sexes isn't the first stage of object drives in the individual. Narcissism is halfway between the anal stage and the auto-erotic. “Defaecation” Freud writes, “affords the first occasion on which the child must decide between a narcissistic [egoistic] and an object-loving attitude (Freud, ‘On Transformations of Instinct’, p. 130). He writes:
Preliminary stages of love emerge as provisional sexual aims while the sexual instincts are passing through their complicated development. As the first of these aims we recognize the phase of incorporating or devouring—a type of love which is consistent with abolishing the object's separate existence and which may therefore be described as ambivalent. At the higher stage of the pregenital sadistic-anal organization, the striving for the object appears in the form of an urge for mastery, to which injury or annihilation of the object is a matter of indifference (Instincts and Their Vicissitudes, p. 138-9).

Thus the stage of Narcissism is identified with the phase of incorporating of devouring in which the object isn't separate. The object exists but actual possession of it isn't necessary, or isn't demanded from the ego by the ego ideal. In an analogous way, in other posts, I have shown that Freud attaches this stage of narcissism to the omnipotence of thoughts:

What I have tried to indicate by the foregoing is the Libido Theory of the neuroses, on which are founded all our conceptions of the nature of these morbid states, together with our therapeutic methods of dealing with them. We naturally regard the premises of the Libido Theory as valid also for the normal. We speak of the Narcissism of the infant, and it is to the excessive Narcissism of primitive man that we ascribe his belief in the omnipotence of his thoughts and therefore his attempts to influence the course of events in the outer world by the apparatus of magic (One of the Difficulties, p.19).

In the 'omnipotence of thoughts' one's wishes towards the object are enough to satisfy the ego drives. One can wish harm to the object or wish its safety as seen in magical concepts like the evil eye, energy healing, (etc.). This is also attached to Freud's idea of a 'pleasure ego', but I will save this for another post. Freud for the most part sticks to the object drives because they are what show up in the clinic in the transference to the analyst. He never found an organizing principle for theorizing how the ego drives worked although he admired Ferenczi's attempt and recognized that the psycho-social development of the ego instincts no doubt played an important role in dispositions to certain pathologies:

The stages of development of the ego-instincts are at present very little known to us; I know of only one attempt—the highly promising one made by Ferenczi (1913)—to approach these questions. I cannot tell if it may seem too rash if, on the basis of such indications as we possess, I suggest the possibility that a chronological outstripping of libidinal development by ego development should be included in the disposition to obsessional neurosis. A precocity of this kind would necessitate the choice of an object under the influence of the ego-instincts, at a time at which the sexual instincts had not yet assumed their final shape, and a fixation at the stage of the pregenital sexual organization would thus be left. If we consider that obsessional neurotics have to develop a super-morality in order to protect their object-love from the hostility lurking behind it, we shall be inclined to regard some degree of this precocity of ego development as typical of human nature and to derive the capacity for the origin of morality from the fact that in the order of development hate is the precursor of love (Freud, The Disposition to Obsessional Neurosis, p. 325).

Moreover, the object drives are actually seen as derivatives of the ego drives:

We learn in this way that the sexual instincts find their first objects by attaching themselves to the valuations made by the ego-instincts, precisely in the way in which the first sexual satisfactions are experienced in attachment to the bodily functions necessary for the preservation of life. The ‘affection’ shown by the child's parents and those who look after him, which seldom fails to betray its erotic nature (‘the child is an erotic plaything’), does a very great deal to raise the contributions made by erotism to the cathexes of his ego-instincts, and to increase them to an amount which is bound to play a part in his later development, especially when certain other circumstances lend their support (On the Universal Tendency to Debasement in the Sphere of Love, p. 180-1, emphasis mine).

These ideas provide the ground for the 'parallelism' between the ego and object drives: 

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. We are now faced by the important consideration of how the ego behaves if its libido leaves a strong fixation behind at some point in its (the libido’s) development. The ego may accept this and consequently become to that extent perverse or, what is the same thing, infantile. It may, however, adopt a non-compliant attitude to the libido's settling down in this position, in which case the ego experiences a repression where the libido has experienced a fixation (Introductory Lectures, p. 351-2).

The parallelism of the ego and object drives is important. I've mentioned it in several posts. One can be jealous of someone who one's sexual object seems to admire and one can be jealous of someone who has something that bestows status or prestige (which one feels should be one's own). A man's work often has the symbolic status of a woman. This can be seen in how some men name their car, boat, or some aspect of their business after a woman. Thus in the phallic primal scene one can either experience humiliation in regards to one's work or in regards to one's love object. In the latter one finds one's sexual object with another man and in the former one finds one's work has been taken by another or the other ridicules one's work in public and makes it seem inadequate (as one's sexual object looking for sex with another makes one's love-making look inadequate). 

I also need to mention here, following Chasseguet-Smirgel and Lacan, that Freud recognizes that psycho-sexual fixations don't automatically become perversions. Freud writes:

THE MENTAL FACTOR IN THE PERVERSIONS It is perhaps in connection precisely with the most repulsive perversions that the mental factor must be regarded as playing its largest part in the transformation of the sexual instinct. It is impossible to deny that in their case a piece of mental work has been performed which, in spite of its horrifying result, is the equivalent of an idealization of the instinct (Three Essays, p. 161).

Chasseguet-Smirgel convincingly shows that the phallic-oedipal is the establishment of the difference between the sexes and the generations and that pervert turns away from this to idealize his pre-genital instincts. I also must remind my reader that Freud saw kissing, oral sex, and other acts as perversionS. However, perversion or the pervert is a different category. In perversions the sex drive 'leans on' pre-genital stages of development and these things become foreplay that is subsumed under the desire for sex in a monogamous love relationship (i.e. the genital stage/father complex drive to marriage). In perversion love doesn't play a role and pre-genital sexual impulses are idealized in and for themselves.     

Freud usually uses idealization with the ego ideal or the ego or object drives and not a specific aggressive or affectionate instinct. Usually he talks of the sublimation of these.
Therefore, just as the pre-oedipal aggressive or affectionate drive is idealized I'd like to say that the early (and in some cases unmeasured) ego ideal becomes sublimated. One forces later ego and object drives and ideals into earlier forms of mental functioning. As with the idealization of instinct there is a perverse type and an anaclitic ('leaning on') type. I would like to suggest that within certain artwork that is generally acknowledged as 'campy' and which goes very far into a genre (ie. horror, sci-fi, etc.) we can say that sublimation is perversion and "loves" pre-genital childhood themes (ontologies of powerful beings fighting for perfection) without "love"  for recognition amongst peers in the community or adult reality. However, good artists can employ genre conventions and deal with magical and fantasy themes in an anaclitic way. It becomes a matter, as Nietzsche says, of "how much 'truth' [one] could take, more clearly, to what degree [one] needed it attenuated, veiled, sweetened, blunted, falsified". 

He who has seen deeply into the world knows what wisdom there is in the fact that men are superficial It is their instinct for preservation which teaches them to be fickle, light and false. Here and there, among philosophers as well as artists, one finds a passionate and exaggerated worship of "pure forms": let no one doubt that he who needs the cult of surfaces to that extent has at some time or other made a calamitous attempt to get beneath them. Perhaps there might even exist an order of rank in regard to these burnt children, these born artists who can find pleasure in life only in the intention of falsifying its image (as it were in a long-drawn-out revenge on life—): one could determine the degree to which life has been spoiled for them by the extent to which they want to see its image falsified, attenuated and made otherworldly and divine. — (Beyond Good and Evil- 59)

To the artist we can generally add 'dreamer', 'magician', 'healer', solitary survivalist, etc. with attention to how capable a person is of friendship and how engaged their work is with reality.   

I have to make another point about the stage of narcissism. I believe Freud's narcissistic object choice insofar as it is a literal love of someone else who reminds you of yourself or your sex is, like the omnipotence of wishes, a defused state (i.e. castration) or defense and not the fused state in which the ego ideal has a father-substitute. 

Following ego and object parallelism an individual can either search for his "self" in the realm of love (object drives) and be attracted to someone who is just like him or he can have a "twinship transference" with the analyst in the ego drives in which the analyst is regarded as the same to him. In both cases there seems to be a projective identification in which 'the self' is put into the object which implies that the individual is identifying with the father imago. 

I have to wait on more clinical evidence but I'd like to say that this projective identification of putting the self into the other without a sense of sadism and criticism of the other is altruistic and not egoistic. Projective identification in which one is grandiose (assumes the place of the father imago), in my limited experience, is tied to putting one's inferiority/castration anxiety into others. In altruism one identifies not with perfection but with the father as dead, injured, unreachable, etc. and puts pity/castration anxiety into others. Again, in altruism the father is seen as being down and one must raise him up through devotion (SA) to him or in delighting (OA) him. To become the dead father is to make others have that feeling about oneself.    

To be clear, projective identification as a defense at the narcissistic (volar) stage concerns the entire self representation that will be elaborated by the phallic-oedipal level cognition. So the analysand will deal with the analyst as if he or she was just like him in his age, appearance, motivations, (etc.). However, projective identification at later stages will be more specific. Narcissistic object choice at the phallic-oedipal will see someone become the father imago at this stage and anxiety will concern the social ontology of prestige and status and not include transferring age, appearance, and other basic traits of self into the analyst. 

Freud sees the importance of the phallic-oedipal in causing the narcissistic injury or disappointment in love that causes regression, but points to a Kleinian like reading that the stage of regression (i.e. defusion at the phallic-oedipal leads to defusion at the anal, volar, or auto-erotic oedipal) is going to define the particular neurosis taken:

People who have not freed themselves completely from the stage of narcissism—who, that is to say, have at that point a fixation which may operate as a disposition to a later illness—are exposed to the danger that some unusually intense wave of libido, finding no other outlet, may lead to a sexualization of their social instincts and so undo the sublimations which they had achieved in the course of their development. This result may be produced by anything that causes the libido to flow backwards (i.e. that causes a ‘regression’): whether, on the one hand, the libido becomes collaterally reinforced owing to some disappointment over a woman, or is directly dammed up owing to a mishap in social relations with other men—both of these being instances of ‘frustration’; or whether, on the other hand, there is a general intensification of the libido, so that it becomes too powerful to find an outlet along the channels which are already open to it, and consequently bursts through its banks at the weakest spot (Schreber, p. 62).


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