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. 

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