Monday, May 30, 2016

The straw-man of the relationalists.

The more I read of relational psychoanalysis, the more I can see that they made Freud into a straw-man. I can sympathize, and since their ego psychologist educators valorized Freud, I'm sure they couldn't rebel against them  without rebelling against him too. However, instead of another political division, they could have returned to Freud's texts and showed the ego psychologists that they misunderstood their foundation.    

They can't pretend like Freud wasn't concerned with the relations between others:

The contrast between individual psychology and social or group psychology, which at a first glance may seem to be full of significance, loses a great deal of its sharpness when it is examined more closely. It is true that individual psychology is concerned with the individual man and explores the paths by which he seeks to find satisfaction for his instinctual impulses; but only rarely and under certain exceptional conditions is individual psychology in a position to disregard the relations of this individual to others. In the  individual's mental life someone else is invariably involved, as a model, as an object, as a helper, as an opponent; and so from the very first individual psychology, in this extended but entirely justifiable sense of the words, is at the same time social psychology as well.
The relations of an individual to his parents and to his brothers and sisters, to the object of his love, and to his physician—in fact all the relations which have hitherto been the chief subject of psycho-analytic research—may claim to be considered as social phenomena; and in this respect they may be contrasted with certain other processes, described by us as ‘narcissistic’, in which the satisfaction of the instincts is partially or totally withdrawn from the influence of other people. (Freud, 1921, p. 69)

How can they ignore that there are facts like the 'omnipotence of wishes,' feelings of depersonalization, and loss of "faith" that aren't relations in which the individual measures himself in relation to others, but relations between him and studying efficacy over time, his body, and the environment/world?

Moreover, these relations that aren't measured against others aren't simply regarded as a one person model, but are still expression of parental imagos that were internalized. 

"Pathology has made us acquainted with a great number of states in which the boundary lines between the ego and the external world become uncertain or in which they are actually drawn incorrectly. There are cases in which parts of a person's own body, even portions of his own mental life—his perceptions, thoughts and feelings—, appear alien to him and as not belonging to his ego; there are other cases in which he ascribes to the external world things that clearly originate in his own ego and that ought to be acknowledged by it. Thus even the feeling of our own ego is subject to disturbances and the boundaries of the ego are not constant.
Further reflection tells us that the adult's ego-feeling cannot have been the same from the beginning. It must have gone through a process of development, which cannot, of course, be demonstrated but which admits of being constructed with a fair degree of probability. An infant at the breast does not as yet distinguish his ego from the external world as the source of the sensations flowing in upon him. He gradually learns to do so, in response to various promptings. He must be very strongly impressed by the fact that some sources of excitation, which he will later recognize as his own bodily organs, can provide him with sensations at any moment, whereas other sources evade him from time to time—among them what he desires most of all, his mother's breast—and only reappear as a result of his screaming for help. In this way there is for the first time set over against the ego an ‘object’, in the form of something which exists ‘outside’ and which is only forced to appear by a special action. A further incentive to a disengagement of the ego from the general mass of sensations—that is, to the recognition of an ‘outside’, an external world—is provided by the frequent, manifold and unavoidable sensations of pain and unpleasure the removal and avoidance of which is enjoined by the pleasure principle, in the exercise of its unrestricted domination" (1930, 66-7)

There is a lot that Freud didn't fully theorize fully, and there are passages in his work that are misleading, but he's given us a strong foundation that is still better than any other model of the mind that I've seen. 

No comments:

Post a Comment