Sunday, August 10, 2014
"a child who is looking for libidinous purposes...wants to look at an object in order to 'feel along with him'" Fenichel- Psychoanalytic Theory of Neuroses
Exhibitionism and scopophilia are supposed to be opposites that also fall along the active/passive binary.
I've written on negative scopophilia in egoistic patients who seem to be fixated on rivals who they imagine to be experiencing much satisfaction when they win some success or the egoist makes a mistake. However, I don't think I've written too much on scopophilia in the altruist.
There has been a vein that's been worked by several prominent analysts. Winnicott has talked about doing vs. being, Michael Eigen has distinction vs. unity, and Wilhelm Reich has the mystical schizoid who can perceive deep psychodynamic processes "although only as through a mirror".
In my work I have tried to keep the passive-altruistic as something separate and not just a reaction formation to the active-egoistic. This isn't from some a priori postulate but because the reaction formations I have seen in egoists have always been noticeable as such.
I've postulated that the deep object of altruism in the not-finite encounter with the death of the other (as opposed to the not-finite object of perfection for the egoist). I've also discussed how these imagos intermingle so that the loss of perfection of the object becomes important for the altruist and the death of the self becomes important for the egoist.
Lately I've been thinking that scopophilia seems to reference the incorporation of death into the altruist.
Many altruists have a pet, a person, or a world-view that they offer up in social interactions as something to talk about instead of themselves. Sessions are filled with one patient talking about her son's problems instead of her own, another person takes their dog for a walk and talks about her dog's life (likes, dislikes, and adventures) and never gets personal, another person brings up Christ's importance and uses it to connect to others. Sometimes it has the flavor of devotion to these objects and sometimes its more along the lines of enthusiasm and the delight that the objects bring.
In a basic way these people seem to be outside of life and social interactions themselves and therefore functionally dead. In the loss of these objects the vicarious enjoyment and connection to the world or social body becomes lifeless, dark, or empty (if not outright anxiety inducing).
If the deutero egoist has a low ego ideal because the mother denigrated the father and made the egoist feel like he or she has some of the father's perfection then it makes sense to see the mother has made herself an object of scopophilic identification with the altruist.
As far as depersonalization of the imagos goes there can be a deutero or 'echoistic' stage at all the levels of development so that at the altruist can feel like a 'fly on the wall' in social gatherings and 'people watch' in a very general way. Every other seems to have more life than him or her and their individuality or sensibility is something that they try to glean. At the higher levels the successes or romantic life of the object is something that excites or is important to know about.
This engagement of looking, or seeking to hear about, seems like a good contrast to the high ego ideal of altruism in which actively assisting or helping drives the person. This would still link to the altruist drawing some power from the reduced father imago by wanting to foster or guide others.
However, as I write this I must admit confusion. Some of the people I have in mind don't have the deutero quality of fostering others but still have their scopophilic objects... maybe the ego function of empathy is a better way to differentiate them. Maybe the deutero stage represents a closer relation to the object so that greater understanding of its feelings or 'mind-reading' is stronger than in the proto stage in which the idealization of the object and the drive are stronger without having a great understanding of what is going on internally...
Also, the proto, deutero, nuclear complex, trito phase model I'm using may eventually have to be discarded if my clinical experience points to something more complicated. But, for the moment, it's offering the most sophisticated model for plotting the characterological differences and correlating them to the parental imagos and relevant id drives.