Logics of the Mind: A Clinical View

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This collection of papers, spanning the last 15 years, presents a spirited defence of Freud's clinical method, considering the "crisis of psychoanalysis" in the wider context of a crisis of reflective thought in society as a whole. Expressing the wish to "clarify and polish the glass through which we see the psychoanalytic experience", Jorge Ahumada seeks to redefine the functions of psychoanalysis for the era of mass media, in which the classic Freudian neuroses have mostly been replaced by what he terms "pathologies of peremptory gratification".'The Logics of the Mind considers the impact on psychoanalytic theory and practice of the current shift from a culture of the written word to one of 'visual power'; induction, empiricism, and the possibility of establishing a "clinical fact"; acculturation via the media as a spurious substitute for the nuclear family; and television as a pervasive provider of "autistic forms". It discusses a topography of the mind which builds on the work of Wilfred Bion, and the "apparently benign delusion" of one's own goodness.Rather than focusing on theory, Ahumada stresses throughout the logic underlying clinical method, which he sees as the central grounding of psychoanalysis, and the primary source of genuine advances in theory itself. He makes a strong case that "the clinical and conceptual honing of the analytical instrument should be kept firmly away from cultural or intellectual fashions," which can be detrimental to actual clinical practice.

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1. What is a clinical fact? Clinical psychoanalysis as inductive method

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This chapter is an inquiry into the nature of clinical facts in psychoanalysis. The attainment of the representability of psychic reality being a requisite for insight, the author examines inductive processes on the part of both analyst and analysand, which are to be considered proper aspects of the study of clinical facts. It is argued that the analyst chooses his interpretations guided in good measure by non-verbal material that is based on how he intuits that he is “used” by the analysand and the ways the analysand feels “used” by him; such non-verbal clues to the nature of the unconscious relational “frames” operating in sessions guide him to select relevant associations from the universe of the analysand’s verbal utterances. He thus comes to voice his interpretations, purveying a “mapping” of psychic reality that typically makes use of a new viewpoint for description. Insight is achieved when the analysand attains ostensive refutation or redefinition of his unconscious “theories” about the relationship, and this happens only in concrete individual situations, when the effects of his relational unconscious “theories” come to be contrasted observationally in diverse “screens”, perceptual and mnemic, against the background of the analyst’s neutrality: in such a way unconscious “theories” attain the Pcs.-Cs. domain of the “no”.

 

2. The analyst as “base”

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It is unjustifiable to require in analysis that something is remembered consciously when it has never been conscious. Only repetition is possible with subsequent objectivation for the first time in the analysis. Repetition of the trauma and interpretation (understanding)… is therefore the double task of the analysis.

Sandor Ferenczi, Notes and Fragments (1932)

… shadow is of the nature of universal things, all of which are more potent at the start… Darkness is the first grade of shadow, and light the last. Take care then, painter, to make shadow darker close to its origin, and that its end becomes light, so that it comes to seem endless.

Leonardo da Vinci, Trattato della Pittura

When anyone speaks, it gets light.

Sigmund Freud (1905d, 224n)

The analytic situation involves a patient and an analyst in a relationship that is subject to rules that—as is the case for the analyst’s functions—are in a way restated anew by each session and each analytic intervention (Zac, 1971). That patient and analyst are so evidently there—that there is a patient and an analyst and norms implicit in their relationship—is both obvious and essential. This may, however, obtrude on the gap between those aspects of patient—and analyst—that do know this, and other less evident but perhaps no less active aspects in relation to which no such experience exists.

 

3. On the transposition of self and object

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In all our patients, regardless of age, the clinical material presents us with the task of assisting in the differentiation of levels in psychic life.

Donald Meltzer, (1973, p. 64)

This chapter extends the metapsychological description of two organizations in narcissistic object relationship where, as said, objects are partial, omnipotence is prominent, and projective-introjective identification processes erase the identity of, and the limits between, the self and the object. The perverse organization marked by envy shows the destructiveness that Meltzer (1973) ascribes to perversion, whereas the symbiotic organization partly tolerates the object’s goodness and the fusional needs toward it. A mature part of the self, acknowledging the object’s identity, may operate where there is less conflict. My differences with Herbert Rosenfeld (1964a, 1969, 1971) and Meltzer (1967, 1973) arise from: (a) my distinction of two narcissistic organizations, perverse and symbiotic, (b) my use of Bion’s (1962) notion of the need-for-a-breast/bad-breast, (c) my approach to lack, pleasure, terror, and internal tyrannical links.

 

4. The unconscious delusion of “goodness”

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Indeed, there is not one child with conflicting feelings, but several “bits of child”, with different feelings which may temporarily unite only to be again split by the next conflict. And then the dominant bit, which most nearly has the sense of being an ego, will feel threatened and persecuted by the other bits which, like evil spirits, seem to be endangering its world.

Money-Kyrle (1956, p. 328)

”There is none like me” says the Cub in the pride of his earliest kill;

But the Jungle is large and the Cub he is small. Let him think and be still.

Rudyard Kipling, “Maxims of Baloo”,
The Jungle Book (1894r-95, p. 34)

Often enough in psychoanalytic practice, we find patients whose emotional needs are met by caring for others. Enthusiastically dedicated, they are praised and admired as courageous, reliable, generous, and vital and often as amusing when they tend to alleviate tedium or depression placed pro-jectively on others. “Immature” aspects of their personality that require support, love, understanding, relief are sharply split off and allocated to suitable partners. They live for others and do so selflessly, having but remnants of a self of their own. Attempts to rescue a life that can be properly their own meet violent rivalry from the psychic structures based on dedication, so these usually fail from the start.

 

5. Perverse and symbiotic organizations in narcissistic object relationships

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According to Herbert Rosenfeld (1964a), clinical situations relating to Freud’s description of primary narcissism correspond to primitive object relationships. Objects are mainly partial, omnipotence is prominent, and projective-intro-jective identification processes obviate awareness of the separate identities or limits between the self and the object. This is so because recognition of the separateness of self and object leads to feelings of dependence on the object and thus to anxiety. Dependence on the object, says Rosenfeld, implies both love for and recognition of the value of the object, resulting in aggression, anxiety, and pain because of the unavoidable frustrations; also, recognition of the object’s goodness stimulates envy. Omnipotent narcissistic relationships obviate aggressive feelings in the face of frustration and envy. When the infant possesses the mother’s breast omnipotently, it cannot frustrate him or spark his envy.

The purpose of this chapter is to trace a distinction, in the area of omnipotent narcissistic relationships, between two organizations that serve to evade awareness of the separateness of self and object. The first of these, the perverse organization, reflects the full weight of envy, with the qualities Meltzer (1973) attributes to perversion. At the other, which I shall call the symbiotic organization of the personality, the goodness of the object, though not acknowledged, is to a degree respected. I shall point out their clinical and metapsychological differences and outline how they interact.

 

6. On narcissistic identification and the shadow of the object

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Freud introduced narcissism as “narcissistic identification” in 1910 upon a two-person-psychology “clinical” model of “mutual erotic bliss”—with a sinister side; from this the self is torn. Loss-as-trauma entails a splitting of the ego, with the emergence of two mental functionings: direct (primal object-relational) and transposed (the narcissistic identification as “alteration of the ego”). There is, additionally, a splitting-off of traumatized (and secondarily erotized) parts of mind: towards these, split onto partenaires, the narcissistic identification spuriously enacts the place of the object.

Two vignettes on actual losses illustrate, respectively, the enactment of transposition in a dream and the splitting of the ego and then the redressal of transposition by finding again a “place within the (primal) object”. Freud’s 1910c and 1917e concepts of narcissistic identification are compared: identification in melancholia is a “shadow” stage, a loss stage, of narcissistic identification.

 

7. Trauma, identification, evolution

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In a novella some of you may recall, Siddhartha, Hermann Hesse depicts a dilemma often faced in our analytic development. Siddhartha and his friend Govinda hear the words of Gautama, the itinerant Buddha. His alter ego, Govinda, follows the Buddha, listening to his teachings. Siddhartha chooses to stay, believing that it is does not suffice to listen to the teaching—one must follow in the footsteps.

The dilemma between the teachings and re-treading the road comes up when we think through our psychoanalytic task. To take an example, can Freud’s or Klein’s thinking on identification be taken as established concepts, or should we not see ourselves as confronting the same problems or needing to follow similar paths? The life-force of psychoanalysis is here at stake: we must be up to the evolutions (Bion, 1965) that discussing psychoanalysis and our clinical tasks require. How can we put together identification, the establishment of the similar, and evolution, the emergence of the different in patient and analyst? It is in our contacts with patients, as in Siddhartha’s with the river, that the paths can be adumbrated, so I will keep mainly to a clinical approach.

 

8. On the limitations and the infiniteness of analysis

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The limitations of psychoanalysis and its applicability in the session in “Analysis Terminable and Interminable” (Freud, 1937c) are examined in terms of one-person and two-person psychology conceptual frameworks. Freud’s requirement of “distance” between past and present, as well as his emphasis on uncovering the influences of the past and on crisis as a limitation, relate to his use of a one-person (meta)psychology with a biological bent.

Selfless altruism, involving a transposition of self and object, illustrates the conceptual limitation of one-person psychology. The transposed configuration corresponds to the early conflict; prior to the establishment of preconscious memories, it appears through repetition as an actual conflict with the analyst. This early conflict is to be distinguished from childhood conflict that appears through the verbal associations and screen memories of the transference neurosis. Acknowledgement of the infiniteness of emotions is a component of the depressive position.

 

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