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The Matrix of the Mind

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A comprehensive overview of object relations theory from a Kleinian perspective. It includes chapters on phantasy, the paranoid-schizoid and depressive positions, internal objects, and the work of Winnicott on potential space.

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9 Chapters

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1. The Psychoanalytic Dialogue

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We die with the dying:
See, they depart, and we go with them.
We are born with the dead:
See, they return, and bring us with them.

T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets

This book is offered as an act of interpretation. Different psychoanalytic perspectives are much like different languages. Despite the extensive overlap of semantic content of the written texts of different languages, each language creates meaning that cannot be generated by the other languages now spoken or preserved in written form. The interpreter is not merely a passive carrier of information from one person to another; he is the active preserver and creator of meaning as well as the retriever of the alienated. As such, the interpreter safeguards the fullness of human discourse.

Psychoanalysis, both as a therapeutic process and as a set of ideas, develops in the form of a discourse between subjects, each interpreting his own productions and those of the other. Speaking for the moment about psychoanalysis as a theory (or, more accurately, a set of theories), each important contribution provides a degree of resolution for a theoretical or clinical problem, and in so doing creates a new epistemologic dilemma. A subsequent contribution no longer addresses the same issue that an earlier contribution has addressed, for that problem no longer exists; it has been forever altered. The more significant the contribution, the more radically (and interestingly) the epistemologic problem is transformed.

 

2. Instinct, Phantasy, and Psychological Deep Structure in the Work of Melanie Klein

ePub

If you are applying psychoanalytic treatment to children you should meet Melanie Klein, She is saying some things that may or may not be true, and you must find out for yourself for you will not get what Melanie Klein teaches in my analysis with you.

Communication by James Strachey to his analysand
Donald Winnicott

Although a significant proportion of the world’s analysts are Kleinian analysts, a serious consideration of the work of Melanie Klein has not been a major part of the dialogue that constitutes American psychoanalytic thinking. Too often, when Klein’s theory is considered, it is scrutinized only long enough to be dismissed on the basis of one “untenable” idea or another, such as Klein’s conception of the death instinct, her developmental timetable, or her theory of technique.

Although I am not a Kleinian and have profound disagreements with many aspects of her work, my aim is to present Klein’s thinking in a light that may account for the important influence her ideas have had on the development of psychoanalytic thought outside the United States. In particular, Klein has had a powerful influence on the development of British object relations theory, as much through the rejection of her ideas as by their acceptance. The work of Winnicott, Fairbairn, Guntrip, and Balint must in large part be understood as a reaction to Kleinian theory. Klein’s ideas and the reaction against them constitute a good deal of the dialogue underlying the development of object relations theory. The dynamics of this dialogue are incomprehensible if one has never embraced Klein’s ideas for even a moment. One must understand Kleinian theory in order to move beyond it.

 

3. The Paranoides chizoid Position: Self as Object

ePub

The affirmation, “/ live” is only conditionally correct, it expresses only a small and superficial part of the principle, “Man is lived by the It.”

George Groddeck

Melanie Klein’s view of psychological development can be viewed as a biphasic progression from the biological to the impersonal-psychological, and from the impersonal-psychological to the subjective. The first of these developmental advances involves a transformation of the infant as a purely biological entity into the infant as a psychological entity. For Klein, this transformation is mediated by what I have termed psychological deep structures associated with the life and death instincts. Phantasy is a reflection of the operation of these psychological deep structures, just as speech is the “product of linguistic deep structures. For Klein, the shift from the biological to the psychological constitutes the entry of the infant into the paranoid-schizoid position. As will be discussed, the paranoid-schizoid position is a phase of development wherein the self exists predominantly as object. This is a developmental phase of “it-ness,” wherein the infant is lived by his experience. Thoughts and feelings happen to the infant rather than being thought or felt by the infant.

 

4. The Depressive Position and the Birth of the Historical Subject

ePub

Klein was able to make it clear . . . how the capacity for concern and to feel guilty is an achievement. This is Klein s most important contribution in my opinion, and I think it ranks with Freud’s concept of the Oedipus complex.

Donald Winnicott

The paranoid-schizoid and depressive positions are Klein’s conceptualization of psychological organizations that generate distinctive realms of experience or states of being. One does not leave the paranoid-schizoid position behind at the “threshold” of the depressive position; rather, one establishes more or less sucessfully a dialectical relationship between the two, a relationship in which each state creates, preserves, and negates the other, just as the conscious and unconscious mind do in Freud’s topographic model.

The understanding of the depressive position that will be presented in this chapter builds upon ideas introduced by Klein, but substantially goes beyond that which is explicit in Klein’s writing. Melanie Klein was interested primarily in mental contents and as a result left relatively unexplored the implications of her theory for a psychoanalytic conception of fundamental background states of being.

 

5. Between the Paranoid-Schizoid and the Depressive Position

ePub

I thought that Argos and I participated in different universes; I thought that our perceptions were the same, but that he combined them in another way and made other objects of them; I thought that perhaps there were no objects for him, only a vertiginous and continuous play of extremely brief impressions. I thought of a world without memory, without time; I considered the possibility of a language without nouns, a language of impersonal verbs or indeclinable epithets.

Jorge Luis Borges, “The Immortal”

In this chapter I will, through a series of clinical vignettes, attempt to capture something of the experience of moving between the paranoid-schizoid and the depressive positions. My examples are offered as illustrations of the ways in which the concepts of the paranoid-schizoid and depressive positions, as interpreted in the previous two chapters, serve to enhance the clinical work of the non-Kleinian therapist.1

Before moving to the clinical material, I would like to outline a classification of psychopathology built upon the conceptualizations of the paranoid-schizoid and depressive states of being that were developed in the previous chapters. This conception of levels of psychopathology will serve as a background for the subsequent clinical discussion. (This classification represents a synthesis and extension of the work of Bion [1967], Freud [1896a, 1914, 1915b], Klein [1935, 1975], Fairbairn [1941, 1944, 1946], Kernberg [1970], McDougall [1974], Winnicott [1959-1964], and others.)

 

6. Internal Object Relations

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Object relations theory, often erroneously thought to be an exclusively interpersonal theory that diverts attention from the unconscious, is in fact fundamentally a theory of unconscious internal1 object relations in dynamic interplay with current interpersonal experience. The analysis of internal object relations centers upon the exploration of the relationship between internal objects and the ways in which the patient resists altering these unconscious internal object relations in the face of current experience. Classical theory does not include a concept of internal objects. Instead there are related and, in part, overlapping concepts of memory traces, mental representations of self and object, introjects, identifications, and psychic structures.

It is the thesis of this chapter that the “internalization” of an object relationship necessarily involves a splitting of the ego2 into parts that, when repressed, constitute internal objects which stand in a particular unconscious relationship to one another. This internal relationship is shaped by the nature of the original object relationship but does not by any means bear a one-to-one correspondence to it, and is potentially modifiable by subsequent experience. The internal object relationship may be later reexternalized by means of projection and projective identification in an interpersonal setting, thus generating the transference and countertransference phenomena of analysis and all other interpersonal interactions.

 

7. The Mother, the Infant, and the Matrix in the Work of Donald Winnicott

ePub

A book which does not contain its counterbook is considered incomplete,

Jorge Luis Borges, “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis, Tertius”

Donald Winnicott developed his contribution to the psychoanalytic dialogue in the intellectual and social climate of the British Psychoanalytical Society during the 1920s through the early 1970s. During much of this period, the British Society was sharply and often bitterly divided between the ideas and personalities of Anna Freud and Melanie Klein. Winnicott was analyzed first by James Strachey and then by Joan Riviere, one of the early Klein-ian “inner circle”; he was supervised by Melanie Klein in his psychoanalytic work with children. Although Winnicott’s thinking developed in a direction different from that of Klein, he never denounced Kleinian thinking, as did many analysts who had at one point been open to her ideas (e.g., Glover [1945] and Schmideberg [1935]).

Winnicott was a dialectician. His thinking thrived in the medium of the intense debate between the classical Freudian and the Kleinian groups. He understood that once we feel that we have finally resolved a basic psychoanalytic issue (either in our theory or in our understanding of patients), our thinking has reached an impasse. Winnicott (1968) states, I think without false humility, that he offered his patients interpretations to let them know the limits of his understanding. Many of Winni-cott’s most valuable clinical and theoretical contributions are in the form of paradoxes that he asks us to accept without resolving, for the truth of the paradox lies in neither of its poles, but in the space between them.

 

8 Potential Space

ePub

Perhaps the most important and at the same time most elusive of the ideas introduced by Donald Winnicott is the concept of potential space. Potential space is the general term Winnicott used to refer to an intermediate area of experiencing that lies between fantasy and reality. Specific forms of potential space include the play space, the area of the transitional object and phenomena, the analytic space, the area of cultural experience, and the area of creativity. The concept of potential space remains enigmatic in part because it has been so difficult to extricate the meaning of the concept from the elegant system of images and metaphors in which it is couched. This chapter is an attempt to clarify the concept of potential space and to explore the implications that this aspect of Winnicott’s work holds for a psychoanalytic theory of the normal and pathological development of the capacity for symbolization and subjectivity.

Although potential space originates in a (potential) physical and mental space between mother and infant, it later becomes possible, in the course of normal development for the individual infant, child, or adult to develop his own capacity to generate potential space. This capacity constitutes an organized and organizing set of psychological activities operating in a particular mode. The concept of the dialectical process will be explored as a possible paradigm for understanding the form or mode of the psychological activity generating potential space.

 

9. Dream Space and A nalytic Space

ePub

In this chapter, aspects of two forms of potential space will be considered: dream space and analytic space. Dreaming is understood as an internal communication in which a dream presentation is generated by one aspect of self and understood by another aspect of self. The dream presentation as thing in itself is brought into a dialectical process by another aspect of self through which process symbolic meanings and dream experience are generated. The schizophrenic, when unable to maintain a psychological dialectical process, transforms the dream presentation into a hallucination.

The analytic space is viewed as an intersubjective state, generated by patient and therapist, in which meanings can be played with, considered, understood, etc. The patient’s projective identification is a “direct” form of communication that undermines the therapist’s capacity to maintain a psychological dialectical process. The therapist undermines the analytic space when his interventions constitute “statements of facts.” The latter contribute to a foreclosure of the realm of personal meanings and experience.

 

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