Saturday, March 7, 2015

mania vs. Dionysian onenes in object altruism

My clinical experience of mania is one of object altruism.

The person isn't a power-based person using their willpower to reach perfection. Rather, the person wants to cause delight, be interesting, and belong.

If this person assumes the place of the parental imago (i.e. projective identification) then he feels that he is interesting and delightful to others and doesn't feel like he needs to prove it. He often just talks on and on about himself like others must be interested. There is a sense of superiority too, the person might think that he thinks more quickly than others and uses more of brain than others, but again, it's not power and achievement based and isn't colored by subject egoism. The grandiosity and judgmental quality (contempt) of projective identification in egoism can't be confused with this by any person with wisdom. 

Just as an altruist wants approval, fears loss of love, and doesn't want to disappoint, the manic person will often register concerns for others and wanting to help or do good as someone who stands in for the parental imago. However, the assumption of the parental imago means that one is no longer driven to do good but is already so. Thus, in some ways, the benevolence doesn't translate into actual beneficence. Especially in object altruism, in which goodness is secondary to being interesting or causing delight, the manic person quickly forgets about the good things they said they were going to do. 

It seems that many ecstatic practices and use of drugs also connects with manic feelings. If the object altruist wants to belong to the group then as the parental imago he or she is the group and no longer has to be driven. 

One patient got over his mania and we began to construct his volar ego ideal. His fantasy was living in city near the ocean in which everyone wore bright colors and had tattoos. Everyone was "real" and never wasted time in chit chat but were just "themselves" all the time in all their uniqueness. 

With drugs or alcohol sometimes one can more easily achieve the phantasy of belonging to a group of unique people like this and dissolve oneself in the participation mystique. 

One final note here is the importance of being borderline of the foreclosure of the paternal imago.

The maternal imago of altruism is death. I've written before that a common repetition-compulsion in substance abuse is for an addict to have parents or a lover who thinks they are good, attractive, and who altruistically want to help them while the addict causing them immense anxiety that she will return to her old life, be with someone else, or die. At higher levels the repetition involves the addict wasting their talent or losing their reputation (to the anxiety of the other person involved) and at lower levels it involves real danger, imprisonment, or death. 

This projective identification with the maternal imago and thus a borderline status is much more prevalent with the criminal populations I work with. When the paternal imago is involved, the mania is not as severe. The person may still have the primal scene repetition in which they play the part of the maternal imago but this is offset by the other functions of the paternal imago. As I mentioned above, the anxiety of the altruist concerns 'loss of love' from paternal substitutes and so if the paternal isn't foreclosed then the separateness of the two people involved is intact. With the maternal imago and the paternal foreclosed there is a strong sense of oneness and merger.

It might be that it's better not to name projective identification with the paternal imago as mania... but the idea of introducing a bunch more names seems anal to me...


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