Monday, October 26, 2015

The volar stage house as parental-substitute

This is an excerpt from an article by Susan Kavaler-Adler. She seems to have made a similar discovery about the house as related to parental imago. She also has another article in which she links the parental imago to the relationship to Time. I appreciate her intuition and hope that I'll find other moments of it that will help me find new objects to schematize.

Winnicott (1982a) has written about the false caretaking self that is used by the schizoid character, whom he called “false self” patient. Winnicott's false self operates in the external world to ward off the external world contacts that would feel like “impingements” or intrusions to the sealed-off vulnerable infant/child self of the schizoid character. Such a false caretaking self structure could be seen in Sharon in the early years of her treatment. Her preoccupation with caring for her house as she would try to care for and perfect a fabricated self-structure made the “house” into an external representation of her false self-system. She tried to make her external self by preoccupying herself with cleaning, decorating, and neatness in her house. Simultaneously, in her dreams her house revealed the secret shame-ridden child self within whose “plumbing didn't work.” When Sharon married her second husband, which occurred in her third year of treatment, she focused all her energies and interest on choosing a larger more elegant suburban home, and then on decorating, cleaning, and keeping this new home neat. Her new husband's continual messiness within this new home was a constant irritant to her that resulted in many quarrels and arguments. Sharon's husband told her that she seemed to be totally preoccupied with the house and how it looked, so much so that all the other problems with him and the children seemed secondary. Sharon's husband told her that she based her entire sense of well-being on how the house looked.
Sharon's external home seemed to represent both a false caretaking self and a false narcissistic image self. Taking care of her home, when she felt she was totally impotent in the face of depending on anyone else, seemed to be Sharon's way of maintaining a narcissistic sense of self-sufficiency. Fixing up her home was something she could master. Consequently she became her own caretaking self in the process, while simultaneously enacting an insatiable struggle to repair her own narcissistic image in repairing the image of her home. Not until Sharon could have the profound grief experience of regret could she break the spell of the princess in the perfect house, immured against intrusion by an inanimate object that was more dependable for protection and comfort than any person had been for her (see Kavaler-Adler, 1991, on seclusion and Emily Dickinson). The original person Sharon could not trust was her mother, who had instilled in Sharon her own blueprint of general distrust. The mother had always masked her distance with an attitude of contempt.

Kavaler-Adler, S. (2004). Anatomy of Regret: A Developmental View of the Depressive Position and a Critical Turn Toward Love and Creativity in the Transforming Schizoid Personality. Am. J. Psychoanal., 64:39-76

Her website is  if you want to see some videos of, or read more about, her work. 

Friday, October 23, 2015

object-choice in psychic bisexuality

In general, I can say that subject egoists and object egoists are usually attracted to one another as are subject altruists and object altruists.

However, in pathology, you can often see some cross-fertilization between the two poles.

For example, you can see a female object egoist who has been jilted by male subject egoists become interested in a male object altruist because she is the dominant one in the relationship. The object altruist also experiences her anger as 'loss of love' and takes her criticisms of his inadequacies because he feels them to be true himself.

A subject egoist, in pathology, will also be interested in a subject altruist who is going to imitate his views or idealizes him as powerful even though he might not have any external success or recognition. This "mirroring" she can give him in the object drive relation makes up for the lack in the ego drive relation. She, like the OA, experiences his anger as loss of love which she expects in pathology and is ready to take on the blame for things that go wrong in his life. As I've mentioned in a previous post, the further steps of physical abuse aren't "natural" echoistic behavior. That kind of masochism involves things like an identification with the castrated maternal imago in order for it to be something acceptable or something she will be in denial about as a problem.

There are many combinations in sexual relationships, but I thought that I'd just point out that in health, it seems like egoist is attracted to egoist and altruist to altruist...

I should also mention that along with the OE's problems with sexual difference and wanting to be dominant with an OA, that I've worked with many OAs who would like to be "mannies" or "house husbands" with the woman working. There is a strong sense of "womb envy" or not wanting to compete and exhaustion of the will in them...

Thursday, October 22, 2015

phallic monism

In response to Freud's alleged phallic monism.

An anatomical man can have fantasies that he is "castrated" and has no phallus.

It also appears that even in the masculine lines of development that an object altruist can have a pregnancy fantasy (i.e. one which doesn't come from his OE or SA positions).

A anatomical woman can also have a fantasy of having a penis that doesn't come from her masculine positions (SE OA).

I try to spell this out in The Economics of Libido; the phallus is the symbol for both the masculine and feminine positions since it represents the not-mother.

In Greek mythology Athena has a spear, Artemis has an arrow, Hermes has his caduceus, Dionysus has a cone scepter, etc....

Freud avowed that he didn't understand femininity and therefore he can't be accused of totally covering up femininity because of his misogyny/psychosexual fixations. I do think misogyny was at play in him, but he was at least strong enough to admit he didn't understand women and not give into his weakness at all times.

Representations of being castrated in women is real (but also in men).

What Freud seemingly neglects when he talks about women's castration and the inferiority of her genitals is that men often feel like their penis is small and inferior too. I think Freud would acknowledge that, but his failure (and possibly his misogyny) was not to fully record the parallels.

This is also a point from Chasseguet-Smirgel and I posted it to the list too:

For example, She points out that Freud later changed is Oedipal theory so that both girl and boy take the mother as the primary object:

The boy enters the Oedipus phase; he begins to manipulate his penis and simultaneously has phantasies of carrying out some sort of activity with it in relation to hismother, till, owing to the combined effect of a threat of castration and the sight of the absence of a penis in females, he experiences the greatest trauma of his life and this introduces the period of latency with all its consequences. The girl, after vainly attempting to do the same as the boy, comes to recognize her lack of a penis or rather the inferiority of her clitoris, with permanent effects on the development of her character; as a result of this first disappointment in rivalry, she often begins by turning away altogether from sexual life. (An Outline, p. 155).

Although Freud's language is "inferiority of clitoris" here, Chasseguet-Smirgel points out that the boy will also feel his small penis is inferior to the adult one too. There are many ads/emails for penis enlarging pills and inventions on the internet that bear this out.

div 39 post on sex and gender

I sent a post on sex and gender to the Div 39 listserv.  I thought I'd put it on here to see if anyone has a take on it.

Hi all

I thought I'd send this out based upon the response to the Feminine Pathologies issue.

I haven't fully entered into contemporary debates about gender and sex in psychoanalysis. I've worked my way up from Freud into Klein, Kohut, Lacan, Jacobson, Horney, etc. and still have a lot to process there. However, Freud's ideas in this area do seem subtle and complex to me despite some obvious blind spots that he has.

I was hoping that people might point out where any contemporary sex/gender theorist deals with an issue in a more sophisticated way.  

1. Freud isn't essentialist in the way that he sees men being active and women being passive as written into nature. He draws our attention to how women are the larger more competitive ones in some species of animals.

That being said, in the human species, men generally have more musculature and activity, competitiveness, and egoism are generally linked to the male sex.
2. Even though Freud links activity to males, his concept of psychic bisexuality means that women can also have fixations on their active-egoistic pole and men can have fixations on their passive-altruistic pole.

There have been male "hysterics" just as there has been female obsessionals.

This active-egoism vs. passive-altruism has generally been noted in many theorist's dichotomies: Horney and the expansive vs. self-effacing; Klein and the
bad object and competition vs. the good object and reparation; Kohut and the self-idealization vs. other idealization; etc.

3. The motivational systems of the active-egoistic or passive-altruistic ego and object drives that comprise sex, can come into conflict with the 'difference between the sexes' of gender. Boys and girls, men and women, can be shamed by being compared to the opposite sex. A man who can't stick up for himself can be called a "pussy" for example.

So, despite the anatomical fact that leaves one open to potentially be judged by gender roles, the sex (ego and object drives) of his psychosexual development is what will cause the problem here.

Freud writes:

There is one particularly constant relation between femininity and instinctual life which we do not want to overlook. The suppression of women's aggressiveness which is prescribed for them constitutionally and imposed on them socially favours the development of powerful masochistic impulses, which succeed, as we know, in binding erotically the destructive trends which have been diverted inwards. Thus masochism, as people say, is truly feminine. But if, as happens so often, you meet with masochism in men, what is left to you but to say that these men exhibit very plain feminine traits? (New Intro lectures, p.115-6)

I understand this to mean that

a) despite psychic bisexuality, we don't all simply have both poles of the personality fully developed with gender roles being decisive about one acting like a "man" or not. There are passive-altruistic men I work with, for example, who have never been very competitive, never felt strongly motivated to define themselves by being the strongest, the smartest, the most skilled, etc. but, who instead are often "nice guys" who are "people pleasers" and have a lot of people borrow money from them, give others rides, and often have others take advantage of them.

They can feel the tensions between how they are passive-altruistically driven to strive for happiness and the normativity that they should be "a man" and demand their money back, be angry at the people who disrespect them, and dump the girlfriends who have cheated on them.

I run substance abuse groups in which I watch these tensions occur when passive-altruistic man shares about his life and some egoists in the group tell him what to do or try to shame him. And, some of the egoists are women.

b) despite one's psychosexual psychic constitution, or motivation systems, one's parents, teachers, educators, etc. can try to inculcate certain traits in one or not.

It's possible that a boy with a passive-altruistic personality might have his father, for example, teach him how to fight. Even though the boy doesn't like violence, his father may force him to fight others and stand up for himself. The boy may then get past his "constitutional" aggression block and be able to stand up for himself. However, if the boy isn't forced to do so by an educator or by friends later on, he might go through his whole life being scared of fighting and be a push over. Obviously, more boys will be taught this than women because of gender roles. Also, many children won't need to be taught to fight and due to their psychic constitution, they will already be quick to aggression.

Along with fighting, many of the passive-altruistic men have problems asking for raises from their bosses because they feel like the boss should see that they are working hard and it's presumptuous to ask. They often have relationships with women that they "rescue" from substance abuse, homelessness, etc. They have problems saying no, problems accepting compliments, and often have fears of being rejected. Psychoanalysts don't have a monopoly on wisdom and good parents, good friends, etc. can help them get past these issues, but almost always these people don't have good relationships.

4. If you toss out the sex of active-egoism and passive altruism, then you lose the basis for the many "gendered" phantasies that show up in patients despite their anatomical sex. Biological males can have a phantasy that they are missing their penis even though they do posses one.  

5. I believe that the simple active-egoistic vs. passive-altruistic isn't sufficient for phenomenological analysis of patients. I used the work of Freud and some other analysts to create two expressions of each pole, so that there is masculine and feminine expression on each pole.

A person can be competitive about his or her physical strength, being the smartest, or being the most skilled in his trade or field

A person can also be competitive about being the most beautiful, having the best taste in things, or in his or her judgments of the beauty of virtues of others.

A person can be concerned about the belonging of others and want to help them feel included in the group or help them to do better and find their happiness.

A person can be concerned about his or her belonging and want to feel like they fit in the group, appear interesting, or make other people laugh or have a good time.

I call the first two the subject and object egoist, respectively, and the last two are the subject and object altruist and I detail them in my book The Economics of Libido.

As Freud says of libidinal types, ideally a person is a mixture of these. However, it's clear with many patients that they aren't functioning with all these motivations/drives. 


Monday, October 19, 2015

4th imago

I've written before about 3 types of imagos.

There is the personalized imago which has particular features in common with the parent who formed it (i.e. hair color, eyes, body type, gait, etc.)

There is the depersonalized imago which references the difference between the generations in which the love object is of a higher or lower class, more or less popular, better or less good looking, etc.

There is the repersonalized imago which is the actual parent who is seen and treated as the child saw and treated the parent as a child. The depersonalized transferences (Prestige, Superlative, etc.) are given to the parent without regard to the social measurements in which they are usually conveyed.

To this I need to add something like the archetypal imago.

This comes from how, for example, a subject altruist can be a caretaker or be preoccupied with someone who is abject, monstrous, or crippled, etc. and this wasn't a real moment with the parents (i.e. part of the personalized imago).

This has to do with psychosexual/social development and the encounters with the imago as Death.

There is Death in regards to the objects Prestige based image-ego, there is literal death at the anal stage, there is death in regards to being monstrous or abject at the volar stage, etc.

In the depersonalized form the subject egoist is concerned with the egoism of their family or work group, this goes on to civilization, then it goes on to all people, and then it's concerned with human essence (the part-ego).  

Thursday, October 8, 2015

your soul is squinting

Nietzsche has a line somewhere about the soul squinting that I have adopted for some conversations in therapy.

Based upon the short time I have with some patients in which exploration/analysis of certain problems won't be able to happen, I've found myself having to say something in a practical way once a problem comes to light.

For example, I've had a patient who got to the point of admitting his loneliness and brought up an old friend who he was thinking about calling. Exploring this, he was able to express that he feared that his friend might be a little upset that he hasn't called him for a few months. However, this is obviously a two-way street and the real fear was that he'd call his friend and his friend might not come back into his life. He was worried that his friend might have been merely tolerating his presence and that he didn't like him.

Parallel with omnipotent wishes or magical thinking at this level, there was a fantasy of some magical badness, or something unacceptable in the patient that others reject. Without time to explore this fantasy I globalized this instance and interpreted it as a matter of courage. Was the patient going to walk around in a twilight state, staying at a distance from others so he could squint and imagine that he might be liked, but without ever testing the truth of this? Or, was he going to call his friend or some new acquaintances and ask them to get together sometime and accept that he might be rejected.

It seems to me that some of the power of group therapy is precisely in the person being encouraged on to action by others, because it's not possible to dynamically explore fantasies in the group. I also can't say whether the individual exploration would have any extra benefits, and the end result, taking action and getting out of fear and squinting, is the same for both.

As much as some analysts might hate this, I can imagine an ideal life coach who doesn't know how analysis but who might be much better and faster at inspiring people to get over their fears in the many different ways that they cling to squinting in life. Of course, there is other work in maturation and overcoming specific pathological defenses that only trained psychotherapists can do, but in this one important area of therapy, I feel a little humbled by people who are much more inspirational than I.


Sunday, October 4, 2015

Auden poem

The pitch that this reaches at the end is incredible.

It's a fantasy of a lot of imagination and it gets to the point of resentment in which happiness cannot be allowed to anyone else. Even the lowest of people, the one legged beggars, should be crawling on their bellies like snakes.

I. Song of the Beggars 
"O for doors to be open and an invite with gilded edges 
To dine with Lord Lobcock and Count Asthma on the platinum benches 
With somersaults and fireworks, the roast and the smacking kisses" 

Cried the cripples to the silent statue, 
The six beggared cripples. 
"And Garbo's and Cleopatra's wits to go astraying, 
In a feather ocean with me to go fishing and playing, 
Still jolly when the cock has burst himself with crowing" 

Cried the cripples to the silent statue, 
The six beggared cripples. 
"And to stand on green turf among the craning yellow faces 
Dependent on the chestnut, the sable, the Arabian horses, 
And me with a magic crystal to foresee their places" 

Cried the cripples to the silent statue, 
The six beggared cripples. 
"And this square to be a deck and these pigeons canvas to rig, 
And to follow the delicious breeze like a tantony pig 
To the shaded feverless islands where the melons are big" 

Cried the cripples to the silent statue, 
The six beggared cripples. 
"And these shops to be turned to tulips in a garden bed, 
And me with my crutch to thrash each merchant dead 
As he pokes from a flower his bald and wicked head" 

Cried the cripples to the silent statue, 
The six beggared cripples. 
"And a hole in the bottom of heaven, and Peter and Paul 
And each smug surprised saint like parachutes to fall, 
And every one-legged beggar to have no legs at all" 

Cried the cripples to the silent statue, 
The six beggared cripples.