Thursday, November 8, 2018

Psychoanalysis in the 1940s: We have lost so much of what we knew.

PreamblePsychoanalysis is very familiar with the conceptions of identification and projection. It is less outspoken about the obvious difference between the mechanism of identification, and its result: a figure, a phantom existing in us because of identification. If we identify—and this is always an unconscious act in contradistinction to conscious emulation—with a great man whom we admire, we might identify with his handwriting, the way he walks, clears his throat, smiles and shakes hands. The result is a phantom of the great man living in us. Part of our personality is then expressed in terms of this phantom; people who watch us recognize the phantom and our behavior may make us appear even slightly ridiculous. Our ambition to be as great as our model has chosen the wrong way. The correct way: to acquire the great man's real values, those for which he is admired, and to continue his work, is evidently much more difficult, meaning years of hard work with the possibility of failure because of inefficiency. To erect a phantom of the great man by identification is easier. It is accomplished without much pain or strain using the well lubricated machinery of identification. You wish to equal him? Very difficult, almost impossible, says reality. Very easy, says the dream; I can do it “in no time”.
It so happens that this narcissistic wishfulfillment crowds our psychic space with a number of phantoms, all of them results of identifications. They contribute to the structure of our personality, can be integrated and disintegrated. Unconscious tendencies of all kinds exist in us in the form of phantoms. Many of them are well known to psychoanalysis and were given the names of figures of myth and literature. Usually they wear the quite superfluous supplement complex (Oedipus complex, Jehovah complex, etc.).
This supplement—although universally accepted and very popular —is to my mind regrettable. It bestows a sort of scientific dignity upon our phantoms, but it bleeds them by depriving them of their life, their “incarnation” value. No one has an Œdipus complex, but everyone is somewhere an Œdipus revolting against fathers (authorities) and longing for mothers. No one has a feminine, a masculine, an inferiority complex, but we impersonate man, woman, child, devil and saint, conqueror and vanquished, and not in a vague general sense; we find definite individual phantoms in each case. All the world is a stage not only surrounding us but even more so within. There are phantoms that we have to live up to; there are others whom we fear, others we hate or secretely love. Some of them we consider to be our real self. Some of them must be punished, others cajoled. It is not always easy for the poor “ego” to find his way in such a crowd.
The more primitive unconscious layers in us defend themselves all our life long against the abstractions of civilized language by retranslating them into figures. Beauty and the wish for beauty live in the shape of a secret Venus within, failure in the shape of a kitchen-slavery-Cinderella. Villainy is a witch, virtue is “incorporated” in phantoms of saints. It is not even correct to call this process a translation because our phantoms are incomparably deeper rooted than any abstract conceptions which, as the word so appropriately calls it are abstracted from the phantoms.
Analyzing the deeper layers means to unearth phantoms—our own creations in the beginning, but later often our tyrants who force us into conflicts. Our conflicts are battles between two or more incompatible phantoms and can be appeased by throwing the searchlight of our mind upon them. I try to show their phantoms to my patients. Psychotherapy, when dealing with abstract conceptions, is in a precarious situation because abstractions cannot be felt and experienced. We experience our world in the shape of figures who, when chased from daylight into the obscure abysses of our soul, turn into phantoms. They become apparent in dreams, in artistic creations and also in the strange delusions of the psychotic, e.g. the megalomaniac. The psychotherapist therefore has to do sculpturing of a kind, artistic work which makes his reluctant patients see and understand the phantoms by which they are vexed and which they cannot control because they usually know very little about them.

Friday, February 16, 2018

The Echoism of Major Differences

Freud uses the narcissism of minor differences to denote how groups who are similar in many ways will get into hostilities over their minor differences.

I'd like to coin the echoism of major differences to denote how a group can behave like their love or kindness towards others will result in a major difference for others.

On one listserv that I'm on, people are debating with a psychoanalytic conference should happen in Israel because of this state's mistreatment of Palestinians. To my eye, this is an idealistic view of the effect that the loss of a psychoanalytic conference would have on others.

Similarly, I saw some people talking about when is the right time for white people to go see the new Black Panther movie so as to not interfere with the enjoyment of black people who are going to enjoy a movie about a black superhero. Do they really think their presence will have such a major impact on black movie goers?

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Being "fixed" in early childhood as the precursor of the superego

It's always amazing to return to a writer like Ferenczi and see that your ideas were already intuited by someone else who just lacked the larger structure picture to make them stick.


This almost incurable megalomania of mankind is only apparently contravened by these neurotics with whom behind the feverish search for success one at once comes across a feeling of inferiority (Adler), which is well known to the patients themselves. An analysis that reaches to the depths reveals in all such cases that these feelings of inferiority are in no sense something final, an explanation of the neurosis, but are themselves the reactions to an exaggerated feeling of omnipotence, to which such patients have become “fixed” in their early childhood, and which has made it impossible for them to adjust themselves to any subsequent renunciation. The manifest seeking for greatness that these people have, however, is only a “return of the repressed,” a hopeless attempt to reach once more, by means of changing the outer world, the omnipotence that originally was enjoyed without effort.
We can only repeat: All children live in the happy delusion of omnipotence, which at some time or other—even if only in the womb—they really partook of. It depends on their “Daimon” and their “Tyche” whether they preserve the feelings of omnipotence also for later life, and become Optimists, or whether they go to augment the number of Pessimists, who never get reconciled to the renunciation of their unconscious irrational wishes, who on the slightest provocation feel themselves insulted or slighted, and who regard themselves as step-children of fate—because they cannot remain her only or favourite children. (Ferenczi, S. (1952). First Contributions to Psycho-Analysis,  pps. 231-2)

Thursday, October 5, 2017

deflating as a feminine form of aggression



There are many forms of aggression related to the breast (which can also be transcribed to the penis). I've been able to corroborate Klein on tearing up the breast into pieces, on sucking it dry and withering it, but I'd like to add another that I've encountered a few times now as popping and deflating it.

It's strange because it is cartoony, but when a patient is in the throes of anger, they have been able to discharge it through the idea that a person is a skin sack or has no substance or depth to them, and popping them with a pin or small blade will cause them to deflate. In projective identification it also belongs to the idea of increasing one's size and becoming huge ("bigger than an elephant").

There are also other relations, such as crushing, but I'm not yet sure if they are masculine or feminine.




Wednesday, October 4, 2017

working with thing presentations and fantasies

When a client "projects" out a thing or symbols from the area in which they feel sensation, the first thing is to ascertain if there is a second step.

In the previous post the balloon on the nails naturally makes you think of the next step, the popping.

One client projected out the image of a goblin with a metal mask or more precisely a metal covering on his head. The metal sheet is strange and when I asked the patient what is under it he told me that he picture the exposed brain and he was able to "introject" the exposed brain into his own brain and map it onto the sensations of his brain.

At the point when the image is fully embedded, I ask the if there body wants to do anything with it, or if their mind wants to take them to when this image came into them. Some people's bodies want to process the image but some people feel a mental connection with it.

Sometimes a whole fantasy is projected out. If this happens you ask them to tell a story that leads to an event. Often the event will be an infantile anxiety situation, but sometimes the fantasy leads to them correcting what is wrong with the parental imagos themselves. Regarding the former, here is an example:


I ask client to focus on all the people he felt judged by and to see who registers the strongest for him. He stops the BLS and tells me that his mother does and tells me that he feels tension in his shoulders from when he focused on her.

I ask him to see if the sensation there wants to develop (i.e. grow bigger, move somewhere, becoming a feeling, etc.) and he says that it doesn't. I ask him to project it out (i.e. if someone or something looks on the outside like this feels inside your shoulders, what do you picture?). He tells me that he sees a rope bridge. He elaborates that he pictures himself standing on it and that there are wooden boards going across ropes on the bottom and ropes running higher to hold. He also adds that some boards are missing. I ask him to make a story up. He's on one side and wants to get to the other and there are some boards missing, so I ask him to tell me what he imagines might happen. He first says, he makes it to the other side and smiles as if he knows that he's getting away with something. He then tells me that there's a "big gap" and he has to jump it. I ask him if he imagines that he makes it or not and he seems coy about the answer and so I ask him to tell me what would happen if he doesn't. He tells me that "it's a long way down... and then splat". I begin BLS and ask him if he focusses more on the fall or the splat and he says the fall. He stops me and says the fall. He reports that his shoulders get more tense and he begins to move them around in the chair. I tell him that the tension relates to the fall and that constriction can often relate to simple fight and flight impulses. I ask him to picture himself falling and to get a sense for the tone of the movement. I begin BLS. He tells me that it's flight and he feels like flailing his arms. I get him to imagine he's falling and to flail and keep doing it until he feels like the energy is discharged.

Client reports that the tension is diminished but that it's not all gone. I ask him to go in to the fantasy again, and to again see what his body wants him to do and if there might not be a different kind of action that might express the "flight" better. I begin BLS and after client stops me, he reports that he ended up in the fetal position. He reports that he also imagined himself hitting the ground, and that it was with a "thud" instead of a splat. I ask him if he survived it and he casually tells me that he died still. I ask him to picture the intact corpse and to see if he can picture the intactness of it and feel it into his shoulders and I begin BLS. He tells me that it doesn't feel right to do so, but adds that he felt a pin prick of pain flash in right under his shoulders and that he can feel the tension moving to his chest. I ask him to focus on the development that wants to happen and continue BLS. He tells me that the tension grew in his chest but that it just stopped again. Because of the idiosyncrasy of the rope bridge and the commonality of phallic and breast symbols that I usually encounter in my work, I ask him to tell me what the first picture is that comes to mind when he thinks of rope. He tells me that "big and thick... like in the movies" comes to mind and adds that "the end is frayed." I ask him to picture it in his chest and shoulders and see if it feels right in either place. He tells me that it feels right in his chest and continues to picture it there, as I continue BLS, and he lets it embed all the way. He reports that the tension dissolved in his chest and that it moved to his right bicep. I ask him to stay with it there and see if it wants to get bigger, move, or has any process in it. He tells me that it stayed the same. 


I ask client to return to the original memory of his mother.  He gets into it more now and talks about how she "threw him away," turned her back on him, and judged him. He expresses that you might expect your father to turn his back on you but your mother is never supposed to. She is supposed to be there no matter what. He focusses on the memory, but this time there is affect there. I ask him to express it to her from the memory and that if he feels like the words are not enough, that he needs to act on whatever his body tells him to do. I begin BLS. When he stops me, he tells me that he expressed his anger, in words, and that she got angry back at him and said that she was ashamed of him and that he ended up walking away from her. I am not sure if this is growth, as similar thoughts have been for others, or whether this is a failure to deal with his maternal imago. I ask client to watch the scene replay again but to watch it from the 3rd person ("as if it is in a movie") and to see if his body has a reaction to it. Client reports he still feels the bicep pain. I ask him what he thinks of his mother's reaction. He says that she never apologizes, acts like she is perfect and never makes mistakes, thinks she's better than other people. He tells me that it's as if "she denies being a drug addict herself back in the day." I ask him if he ever told her these thoughts and he says that he has tried but that she "just talks over me." I explain to him that he has to get her to listen to him and really hear him. I explain that when she turned her back on him that it hurt him so much that a part of him became frozen and continues to feel like every other authority in his life sees him as bad as she does. I tell him that he needs to tell her that she has hurt him and is carrying this with him. I begin BLS and after a while he reports that he explained this to her, took accountability for what he had been doing, and that she admitted that she had been harsh, as a parent, and that she hadn't been there for him and his siblings like she should have been. He tells me that the scene ended in a hug. I ask him to focus on this hug and see if his body has any reactions to it. He tells me that the tension in his bicep is gone and that he can breathe easier. I continue the BLS and ask him if there are any other shifts or developments that still need to complete. He takes a bit of time but then tells me that he's good. I then ask him to focus on the openness he now feels to tell me if he's ever felt this way before. He tells me at the birth of his child. I ask him to visualize all the details he can of the room, the doctor, etc. and to tell me when they have come into him as much as they can and begin BLS. He laughs during the process but continues and signals that he's done. I ask him what happened and he tells me that a man from another hospital room stopped by and said that his little girl "has lungs on her" (i.e. regarding her crying). 

thing presentations

Lacan famously said the unconscious is structured like a language.

Freud did not and talked about thing presentations as being equal to word presentations. Words can become things (visual representations) in dreams and things can become words.

Freud, S. (1915). The Unconscious. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XIV (1914-1916): On the History of the Psycho-Analytic Movement, Papers on Metapsychology and Other Works, 159-215

Freud, S. (1917). A Metapsychological Supplement to the Theory of Dreams. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XIV (1914-1916): On the History of the Psycho-Analytic Movement, Papers on Metapsychology and Other Works, 217-235


The ego is first a body-mind or psyche-soma and it doesn't think in words but in images/pictures/mimesis.

When one realizes this, then the associations and fantasies one produces with a patient as well as the zones in the body which register the repressed feelings or drives can be worked with somatically.

Round things (breasts) and long cylindrical things (penises) often show up to correspond to certain body zones and, as Klein pointed out, these things are phantasied as destroyed in various ways.

But fuller images and also representations of people in action also show up.

Here's a quick example, but many vignettes from previous posts already have such things in them too:


I’ve done assertiveness work with client and he reports that some people in his life have been “shocked” with him saying no. I ask him what’s going on in his life and he tells me he watched 'The Goonies' and he loves Data. This develops into a theme of how client identifies as the person in his friend group who has to have crazy ideas, music, or something to offer the others. He’s not a full member but a cartoon character of sorts. He can’t just be there and be a “person” but has to do something. However, as we go further into this theme he brings up a friend, his “best friend,” who has no job, plays video games all the time, and would just be alone if it wasn’t for him. I ask him what he thinks would happen to him if client was no long in his life and he says that he’d ‘disappear and  go off the grid”. Client goes into how he’s “the charismatic one” and his friend is the asocial one, and gets into some more particulars of the relationship. Afterwards I ask client how much this resembles the relationship with his mother (who he had previously referred to as having been his best friend) and if he was the asocial one with her. He said that she “tried to make him the asocial one” but that he would talk and say things “with no filter” and that she’d often “get butt hurt about it”. He suddenly adds “I talk to much” and “I need to shut up”. I ask him to focus on this feeling and begin bilateral stimulation (BLS). He registers it in his heart. I ask him to stay with the feeling and to see if it wants to develop (get bigger, move, get smaller) and continue the BLS. He feels like it is the same, so I ask him to project it out. He says it seems like a balloon on a bed of nails. I ask him to explain and he says that a balloon on a nail will pop it but when it is “10 nails” then it evens out the pressure and it doesn’t pop. I ask him to pay attention to this set up and if the balloon just stays there, resting on the nails, or if anything eventually happens. He stays still and thinks and then slams his hand down on the desk signaling that the balloon will be popped. I ask him where his attention goes, to the bed of nails or to the left overs of the balloon. He says the latter and I ask him to picture the deflated remnants and to see if they feel right in his heart or chest and begin BLS. He signals that it feels right and he tells me that as it embeds there, that it slowly begins stretching across his chest. I tell him to follow the process to completion and he does.

I ask him what it feels like and he tells me that it reminds him of when he gets in trouble and how his heart beats really hard. He also tells me that when he talks with “no filter” that it’s a rush too, and maybe even talking in general is a rush. We talk about the asocial side of him and how he used to be quiet but he feared “becoming invisible”. He adds that “being center of attention is cool” but that part of the issue is that he “doesn’t like the quiet”. He suddenly switches gears and renames his asocial side the “timid” side and talks about how as a kid that “even [his] birthdays were never about [him]” He says that his parents invited over their friends and got drunk. He adds that his parents friends were his friends and he didn’t have any his age. He adds poetic phrases like “I don’t like living behind a curtain” and adds the he “doubt[s] that anyone wants to talk to [him]; [he] just talks to talk”. I ask him to focus on this feeling and he reports that his stomach feels “empty” I continue the BLS and he says it is also a little painful and squeamish. I ask him to imagine that someone sees him from the outside and how they might imagine he looks and he says “sad” (with nothing else coming to mind). I ask him to put these into object statements and he says that his grandpa comes to mind. He tells me about how his grandpa is alone and no one visits him and that its sad. I ask him to picture his grandpa looking this way and to see if a reaction shows up in his body. He does so says it feels like “shit/garbage” in his stomach. I ask him to stay with this feeling and see if it wants to develop. He says no and I ask him to project it out. He tells me that it looks like an asshole who is pissed off and screaming. I repeat asshole? He asks me if I know Alex Jones and explains how he has a red face and begins to do an impression of him saying that the tap water is making the frogs gay. I ask him to bring it in and to see where it feels right. He says in the jaw and I continue the BLS. He tells me his jaw “is straining super hard” and he opens it and I tell him to stop and just to let the asshole fully embed. He eventually signals that it is in and then I ask him what his body is doing with it now that it’s in. He tells me that its being dissolved. I continue the BLS and he then signals that it’s done. I ask him if there is any sense of well being or relief in his jaw and he says yes and I ask him when he’s felt like this. He says in high school when he felt like his opinion counted and he was listened to. He tells me that having his opinion valued even though he didn’t have a BA was a big deal. I ask him to let the memory soak in and anchor it.