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Elements of Psychoanalysis

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Elements is a discussion of categorising the ideational context and emotional experience that may occur in a psychoanalytic interview. The text aims to expand the reader's understanding of cognition and its clinical ramifications.

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CHAPTER ONE

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BECAUSE PSYCHO-ANALYTIC theories are a compound of observed material and abstraction from it, they have been criticized as unscientific. They are at once too theoretical, that is to say too much a representation of an observation, to be acceptable as an observation and too concrete to have the flexibility that allows an abstraction to be matched with a realization. Consequently a theory, which could be seen to be widely applicable if it were stated abstractly enough, is liable to be condemned because its very concreteness makes it difficult to recognize a realization that it might represent. Conversely, if such a realization is available, the application of the theory to it may seem to involve a distortion of the meaning of the theory.1 The defect therefore is twofold: on the one hand description of empirical data is unsatisfactory as it is manifestly what is described in conversational English as a “theory” about what took place rather than a factual account of it2 and on the other the theory of what took place cannot satisfy the criteria applied to a theory as that term is employed to describe the systems used in rigorous scientific investigation.3 The first requirement then is to formulate an abstraction,4 to represent the realization that existing theories purport to describe. I propose to seek a mode of abstraction that ensures that the theoretical statement retains the minimum of par-ticularization. The loss of comprehensibility that this entails can be made up for by the use of models to supplement the theoretical systems. The defect of the existing psycho-analytic theory is not unlike that of the ideogram as compared with a word formed alphabetically; the ideogram represents one word only but relatively few letters are required for the formation of many thousands of words. Similarly the elements I seek are to be such that relatively few are required to express, by changes in combination, nearly all the theories essential to the working psycho-analyst.5

 

CHAPTER TWO

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PSYCHO-ANALYTIC theories suffer from the defect that, in so far as they are clearly stated and comprehensible, their comprehensibility depends on the fact that the elements of which they are composed become invested with fixed value, as constants, through their association with the other elements in the theory. This phenomenon is analogous to the phenomenon of alphabetic script where meaningless letters can be combined to form a meaningful word. The elements in Freud’s theory of the Oedipus situation, for example, are combined, by their association to form the narrative of the Oedipus myth, and so achieve a contextual meaning that gives them a constant value. As elements in a description of a realization that has been already discovered this is essential to their usefulness: as components of a theory that is to be used in the illumination of realizations yet to be discovered it is a defect because the constant value impairs the flexibility needed.

The abstractions intended to be elements of psychoanalysis should be capable of combination to represent all psycho-analytical situations and all psycho-analytical theories. For this to be true the chosen elements must be essential in the sense described on p. 7. I propose to devote discussion to this topic before pursuing the problem of abstraction1 of which the solution is so important if the elements chosen, as the elements of psycho-analysis, are to be capable of use in the construction of theoretical systems. The first step is to consider what phenomena of those present in analytical practice appertain to the elements of psychoanalysis. We may proceed by following three courses:

 

CHAPTER THREE

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THE elements are functions of the personality.1 Of them all it may be said that each is a function of something else and each has a function. In so far as each is a function the term “function” has a meaning similar to that with which it is associated in mathematics. It is a variable in relation to other variables in terms of which it may be expressed and on the value of which its own value depends. In so far as each function has a function the term “function” is used as the name for a set of actions, physical or mental, governed by or directed to a purpose. Whenever I use the term “function” I use it to denote something which is and has a function. In so far as it is a function it has factors: in so far as it has a function it has aims.2

For the present I propose that the elements of psycho-analysis are all without exception functions using the term in the sense I have just adumbrated. The sign representing an abstraction must therefore represent a function that is unknowable although its primary and secondary qualities (in the Kantian sense) are. As I propose to consider the elements as observable phenomena it must be assumed that I am talking about primary and secondary qualities of elements and not the abstractions or signs by which I represent them. What, of all that can be seen in the course of any analysis, are we to choose as the functions of personality that are also elements of psycho-analysis? The choice is already limited by the criteria I have proposed (Chapter 1, p. 6). We must now limit it further because the element must be a function in the sense that I have proposed for this term and, furthermore, must be “seen” in the course of analytic work. But how are the qualities of elements to be pronounced “seeable” in view of the notorious fact that some analysts purport to be able to see things the very existence of which is denied by others, a disagreement that is common enough between patient and analysand even though they share the “seen” experience?

 

CHAPTER FOUR

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IN the first chapter I said that the development of psycho-analytical practice was hindered through lack of work on the elements of psycho-analysis and gave examples of what might be objects of a search for such elements. In the second chapter I discussed criteria by which objects proposed as elements might be judged, stressing observability in practice as one essential. In the last chapter I laid down that all elements must be functions of the personality and that they should be conceived of as having dimensions which, in the mind of the analyst, would be sense-impressions, myth and passion.

In this chapter I propose to approach the problem afresh by seeking an answer to the following question: considering any psycho-analytical session as an emotional experience, what elements in it must be selected to make it clear that the experience had been a psycho-analysis and could have been nothing else?

Many features of a psycho-analysis may be regarded as typical but they are not exclusively so. Departures from the common rule of meetings between two people may seem insignificant, but the number of such apparently insignificant departures taken together ultimately amounts to a difference that decides the need for a special term. A catalogue of such difference is likely to establish what constitutes an imitation of psychoanalysis rather than what is genuine, unless the difference can be stated in elements.

 

CHAPTER FIVE

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THE conclusions of the previous chapter suggest that decision requires further discussion; does it involve the translation of thought into action, or some analogous process, for example of thought into a fixed idea, a variable as it were into a constant? Since the analyst is constantly called upon to decide whether to intervene with an interpretation, decision, and its components of loneliness and introspection, should be regarded as an element of psycho-analysis at least from the point of view of the analyst and therefore probably from the point of view of both patient and analyst.

Introspection, that any practising analyst can carry out for himself, into what cliches he most commonly uses often suggests that the problem in analysis is to know which of possible interpretations is at a given time correct; it arises from awareness of the number of ideas expressed in papers on analysis and even more from the variety of human behaviour as it is experienced in ordinary life. In practice the impression is not so formidable: analytic interpretations can be seen to be theories held by the analyst about the models and theories the patient has of the analyst. It is believed and intended that the analyst’s theories, if correct in content and expression, exert a therapeutic effect. Introspection will I believe show most analysts that the theories they employ are relatively few in number and may be seen to fall into the following categories:

 

CHAPTER SIX

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THE classification I have suggested for analytic interpretations can be applied to all statements whether made by patient or analyst. But I wish to introduce another mode of classification for the same material and for this I propose to draw on experience with patients suffering from disturbances of thought. In contrast with the scheme I have drawn up in the last chapter this will be framed genetically not systematically. Whether there is a realization approximating to it is a question I leave open for the present.

1. β -elements. This term represents the earliest matrix from which thoughts can be supposed to arise. It partakes of the quality of inanimate object and psychic object without any form of distinction between the two. Thoughts are things, things are thoughts; and they have personality.

2. α-elements. This term represents the outcome of work done by α-function on sense impressions. They are not objects in the world of external reality but are products of work done on the sensa believed to relate to such realities. They make possible the formation and use of dream thoughts.

 

CHAPTER SEVEN

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I SHALL represent the table set out in the last chapter by the sign I.1 I do not propose to discuss what meaning if any is to be attached to classes represented by co-ordinates such as 5.1. We need not suppose that such elements exist. Nevertheless I do not wish to discard them for the present; I propose to reconsider the axes of the framework in the search for elements. When I use the sign I, I mean it to represent either the whole table or any one or more of the compartments I have distinguished by co-ordinates. As an example suppose that in the course of an analysis the material suggests the predominance of I. This impression should be gained as a result of relaxed or free-floating attention; this state of mind approximates to that represented by D4 (since I am already disposed by my personality and psycho-analytic training to entertain certain expectations). A state of attention, being receptive to the material the patient is producing, approximates to a pre-conception and therefore the change from attention to preconception is represented by a move from D4 on the grid to E4. If I seek confirmation from other material that the patient is presenting, E3 and E5 are swept into activity; if I begin to verbalize my impressions F5 is also involved. If it now appears that the time is ripe for an interpretation a further shift takes place, this time towards G6 with a view to a formulation intended to affect the patient.

 

CHAPTER EIGHT

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CERTAIN contradictions and confusions must now be considered even though present knowledge may be inadequate for their resolution. First I propose to review the genetic axis in the light of the aspect of projective identification I have represented by . Anticipating what I have to say in Chapter 17, I shall assume that the operation is benign and, as I have suggested, that it is responsible for the developments implied by the genetic ordering of the lettered axis, A to H. (To understand what I mean by the benign operation of see the model on page 35.) Inspection of A to H in the light of shows that the categories have a common relation to each other in that each category depends on changes, in the previous category, that fit it to operate as a preconception as well as a record. Thus E1 depends on mating D1 with a realization that enables the formation of a conception which is in turn capable of leading to F1 Putting this in other terms the element represented by D1 say, is increasing the scope of its function of notation in such a way that its function of attention (the terms “notation” and “attention” being employed in the sense used by Freud1) is also increased. Using the table to say this again in a different way, D1 develops through the stages represented by D3 and D4 to become E1.

 

CHAPTER NINE

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THE mechanism of projective identification enables the infant to deal with primitive emotion and so contributes to the development of thoughts. The interplay between the depressive and paranoid-schizoid positions is also related to the development of thoughts and thinking. It has been pointed out (by Melanie Klein and Segal) that symbol formation is related to the depressive position. It is compatible with a connection between a capacity for thinking and the interplay between the two positions. It would seem that there is a connection between Ps ↔ D and yet the dissimilarity makes it hard to see what form the connection, if there is one, could take.1 The bringing together of elements that have apparently no connection in fact or in logic in such a way that their connection is displayed and an unsuspected coherence revealed, as in the example from Poincaré,2 is characteristic of Ps ↔ D. The operation Ps ↔ D is responsible for revealing the relationship of “thoughts” already created by . But in fact it seems as if Ps ↔ D is as much the begetter of thoughts as . The development requires examination in some detail.

 

CHAPTER TEN

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IN the second paragraph of the last chapter I described behaviour designed to develop thought by the interaction of Ps ↔ D and objects in external reality that were regarded as β-elements. I likened the process to doodling or writing as a method of evacuating objects that could then be scrutinized or dealt with in some way that would cause them to yield a meaning. This process I have described as part of the development of a capacity for thought, the manipulation of β-elements by the mechanism PS ↔ D, may also be regarded as a stage in the development of self-consciousness; for β-elements are felt to contain a part of the personality in their composition. The significance of this will be seen to lie, when we reconsider what the elements of psycho-analysis are, in their supposed possession of characteristics such as greed, love, hate, envy, curiosity. The mechanisms involved in these primitive phenomena can be regarded, at their simplest, as PS ↔ D (or fragmentation ↔ integration) and (or expulsion ↔ ingestion). I shall describe these mechanisms now by reformulations in terms of models.

 

CHAPTER ELEVEN

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DISCUSSION of the Oedipus myth as a part of the content of the mind meets with inherent difficulties at the outset. The first is typified by the employment in this context of a locution that implies the model of a container. The second is the peculiar feature of the myth in that the following elements seem to correspond to the numbered axis of the grid.

1. The pronouncement of the oracle defines the theme of the story and can be regarded as a definition, or definitory hypothesis. It resembles a preconception, or an algebraic calculus, in that it is an “unsaturated statement” that is “saturated” by the unfolding of the story; or an “unknown,” in the mathematical sense, that is “satisfied” by the story. It is the statement of the theme of the story that is to unfold; the description of the criminal who is wanted.

2. Tiresias may be regarded as representing the hypothesis, known to be false, that is maintained to act as a barrier against the anxiety anticipated as a concomitant of any hypothesis or theory that might take its place.

 

CHAPTER TWELVE

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THE model of reversible perspective, when applied to the analysis, reveals a complex situation. The patient detects a note of satisfaction in the analyst’s voice and responds in a tone conveying dejection. (What was said is irrelevant to our immediate concern.) The patient detects a moral supposition in an interpretation : his response is significant for its silent rejection of the moral supposition. That which makes one person see two faces and the other a vase remains insensible, but in the domain of sense impressions there is agreement. The interpretation is accepted, but the premises have been rejected and other silently substituted.

In any interpretation there is a significant assumption, one being that the analyst is the analyst: this assumption may be denied silently by the patient. Although he appears to accept the interpretation he denies its force by having substituted another assumption. Further associations may show what his assumption is.

The debate between analysand and analyst is therefore unspoken;1 what the analyst says is shown to be agreed by both parties to the analysis, but—it is insignificant. The conflict is therefore kept out of discussion because it is confined to a domain which is not regarded as an issue between the analyst and analysand. The supposition that the analyst is the analyst and the analysand the analysand is but one of these domains of disagreement that is passed by silently.

 

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

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REVERSIBLE perspective is evidence of pain; the patient reverses perspective to make a dynamic situation static. The work of the analyst is to restore dynamic to a static situation and so make development possible. As I said in my last chapter, the patient manoeuvres so that the analyst’s interpretations are agreed; they thus become the outward sign of a static situation. Since the analyst’s interpretations are unlikely to permit this and the patient is unlikely always to command sufficient nimbleness of mind to match the interpretation with a shift that reverses the perspective in which the interpretation is viewed, the patient employs an armoury that is reinforced by delusion and hallucination. If he cannot reverse the perspective at once he can adjust his perception of the facts by mis-hearing and misunderstanding so that they give substance to the static view: a delusion is in being.

If this is not sufficient to keep the situation static the patient resorts to hallucination. For simplification, I can restate this as hallucination in order to preserve, temporarily, an ability to reverse perspective; and reversed perspective in order to preserve a static hallucination.

 

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

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IN Chapter 3 I described personal myth as an important tool in psycho-analytic work. In chapters 11 and 12 I attributed augmented though similar significance to the Oedipus myth because it has public and racial, as opposed to private, status. The advantages of transition from private to racial myth are analogous to the transition from private to public communication.1

The Oedipus myth will be differently read by different people, but the measure of agreement makes it a channel of public communication as Freud’s use of it has shown. I shall use the myths of the garden of Eden and the Tower of Babel to reinforce the expression, already implied by the Sphinx in the Oedipus myth, of attitudes of a god inimical to the gaining of knowledge by human beings whose search is felt to imperil his supremacy.

In the garden of Eden, possessed by the Father, eating of the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil is forbidden. The serpent, or Satan disguised, incites the woman to defy the ordinance of the Almighty. The relevation of disobedience is associated with guilt and nakedness. The outcome is banishment as it is in the Oedipus myth. In the Babel myth the use of the tower is to effect an entry into realms regarded by Jahweh as his own—heaven. The outcome is exile, as in the garden of Eden and Oedipus myths, but an important precursor is the destruction of a common language and the spreading of confusion so that co-operation became impossible.

 

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

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IN this chapter I reconsider transference. The elements of the transference are to be found in that aspect of the patient’s behaviour that betrays his awareness of the presence of an object that is not himself. No aspect of his behaviour can be disregarded; its relevance to the central fact must be assessed. His greeting, or neglect of it, references to couch, or furniture, or weather, all must be seen in that aspect of them that relates to the presence of an object not himself; the evidence must be regarded afresh each session and nothing taken for granted for the order in which aspects of the patient’s mind present themselves for observation are not decided by the length of time for which the analysis has endured. For example, the patient may regard the analyst as a person to be treated as if he were a thing; or as a thing towards which his attitude is animistic. If ψ (ξ) represents the analyst’s state of mind vis-a-vis the analysand it is the unsaturated element (ξ) that is the important one in every session.

 

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

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PROBLEMS of instinct and emotion belong to the main body of psycho-analytic theory and must be considered for inclusion amongst the elements of psycho-analysis as they appear in psycho-analytic practice.

The emotion to which attention is drawn should be obvious to the analyst, but unobserved by the patient; an emotion that is obvious to the patient is usually painfully obvious and avoidance of unnecessary pain must be one aim in the exercise of analytic intuition. Since the analyst’s capacity for intuition should enable him to demonstrate an emotion before it has become painfully obvious it would help if our search for the elements of emotions was directed to making intuitive deductions easier. The sexual instinct is an integral part of psycho-analytic theory, but the element of sex in the sense of something for which I need to look is not sex but that from which the presence of sex may be deduced. But for my purpose the term “element” cannot be properly used to denote something that would appear to be a property of some more fundamental thing whose presence it betrays. Therefore the element I choose is not a sign of sexuality but a precursor of sexuality. Amongst the elements that we seek there must be the precursor of emotion, not an emotion itself unless it is the precursor of some emotion other than itself. Thus, if the hate that a patient is experiencing is a precursor of love its virtue as an element resides in its quality as a precursor of love and not in its being hate. And so for all other emotions.

 

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

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THE grid itself can obviously be categorized in accordance with its own categories. Thus the horizontal axis may be described as a series of definitions of various uses. In so far as it is employed to define the horizontal axis belongs to the categories of column 1. But as it is, its use could qualify it for inclusion in row F. But suppose it were desired to test out the value of some of the suggestions made in this book; in that case the horizontal axis might be regarded as a pre-concep-tion to which one wished to find a matching realization. As the object of investigation it would fall in the category of a bound constant conjunction, a definitory hypothesis that stated that certain elements are constantly conjoined. As the object of further investigation it would then be treated in a manner intended to invest it with meaning or expose whatever meaning it might have.

As I have set it out in the grid the horizontal axis is represented by abstract signs, in a manner, as I said above, that can qualify it to belong to one of the categories of row F. But, following a suggestion implicit in the grid, I shall take the “uses” of the horizontal axis and substitute personifications, thus incidentally restating it in terms that would qualify it for categorization in row C.1

 

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

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THE vertical axis (A-H), related to a genetic rather than a systematic exposition, involves a premiss of growth dependent on (a) psycho-mechanics, (b) an alternation of particularization and generalization, (concretisation and abstraction), (c) successive saturations, and (d) emotional drives.

(a) The relationship between the mechanisms of projective identification and the alternation of paranoid-schizoid and depressive positions in K presents difficulties that seem due to an incompatibility. A solution may be approached through investigation clinically of the destructive splitting attacks that transform into fragments which nevertheless retain in their fragmented form an association with each other sufficient to permit penetration of a problem. Similar fragmentation of leaves an association of fragments that still perform the function of ingesting or introjecting. The objection to attributing priority to splitting lies in the fact that it does not allow primary quality to the alternation between paranoid-schizoid and depressive positions: yet both projective identification () and paranoid-schizoid ↔ depressive positions must be regarded as potentially primary.

 

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