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On Private Madness

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Andre Green occupies a unique position in psychoanalysis today, and his work represents a synthesis of the traditions of Lacan, Winnicott and Bion. This volume collects fourteen of his papers together with a substantial introduction. The papers range widely across clinical and theoretical issues including borderline states, the true and false self, and narcissism. On Private Madness has achieved the status of a modern psychoanalytic classic, and this new impression will be welcomed by all those admirers of Dr Green who wish to have these seminal papers collected together.

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14 Chapters

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1: Psychoanalysis and Ordinary Modes of Thought



Psychoanalysis and Ordinary Modes of Thought

In an unfinished work written in London during the autumn of 1938, Freud wrote: ‘Psychoanalysis has little prospect of becoming liked or popular. It is not merely that much of what it has to say offends people's feelings. Almost as much difficulty is created by the fact that our science involves a number of hypotheses – it is hard to say whether they should be regarded as postulates or as products of our researches – which are bound to seem very strange to ordinary modes of thought and which fundamentally contradict current views. But there is no help for it’ (Freud 1940b, p. 282). Freud is alluding here to the unconscious. He explains that the resistances to the unconscious are not only due to a moral censorship but to an intellectual one as well, as if its existence threatened reason and logic. In this opening chapter I will try to show that the progression of Freud's work compelled him to recognize the existence of modes of thought even more extraordinary then he could have expected when he proposed his first hypothesis on the unconscious.


2: The Analyst, Symbolization and Absence in the Analytic setting



The Analyst, Symbolization and Absence in the Analytic Setting

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright

In the forests of the night

What immortal hand or eye

Dare frame the fearful symmetry?

W. BLAKE The Tyger

but something

Drives me to this ancient and vague adventure,

Unreasonable, and still I keep on looking

Throughout the afternoon for the other tiger,

The other tiger which is not in this poem.

J. L. BORGES The Other Tiger

Every analyst knows that an essential condition in a patient's decision to undergo analysis is the unpleasure, the increasing discomfort and ultimately the suffering he experiences. What is true of the individual patient in this connection is equally true of the psychoanalytic group. Despite its appearance of flourishing, psychoanalysis is going through a crisis. It is suffering, so to speak, from a deep malaise. The causes of this malaise are both internal and external. For a long time we have defended ourselves against the internal causes by minimizing their importance. The discomfort to which the external causes subject us has now forced us to the point where we must attempt to analyse them. It is hoped that, as a psychoanalytic group, we carry within us what we look for in our patients: a desire for change.


3: The Borderline Concept



The Borderline Concept

A Conceptual Framework for the Understanding of Borderline Patients

However, there are some things the Other cannot see.

Charlotte, in A. MORGENSTERN'S

Experiences within a Borderline Syndrome

Just as the hysteric was the typical patient of Freud's time, the borderline is the problem patient of our time, remarked Knight (1953) more than twenty years ago. We may question Knight's opinion regarding Freud's own patients, for they can no longer be understood simply within the limits of their hysterical neurosis (Deutsch, 1957). But there is little question when it comes to borderline patients and our time. In fact, Freud's own case of the ‘Wolf Man’ (Freud, 1918b) may well serve as the paradigm for many of our current concerns in psychoanalytic treatment and theory. The mythical prototype of the patient of our time is no longer Oedipus but Hamlet.

Since the first clinical descriptions of the borderline patient almost half a century ago (Stern, 1938), an enormous amount of work – clinical data, technical variations, theoretical constructs – has accumulated in the psychoanalytic literature. We now say we are ready for a decisive confrontation of our established ideas with a new insight. If we limit ourselves to the clinical data, we can safely assume that we will find large areas of common experience. If we discuss techniques, however, it is more probable that we will disagree. If we speak of theory, it is almost certain that we shall part ways. In short, we can share our perceptions but not our conceptions – perhaps because we nurture different preconceptions.


4: Projection




From Projective Identification to Project

The verb to project, the adjective projective, the nouns projection and project do not belong exclusively to the terminology of psychoanalysis. These terms are used in a number of other disciplines; ballistics, physics, geometry, architecture, and physiology all attribute their own specific meanings to projection. Even philosophy, thanks to Condillac, has a theory of projection, according to which ‘sensations, felt originally as simple modifications of the mental state, are then “projected” outside of the self (that is to say, localized at points in space other than where the thinking subject imagines himself to be), and only then acquire the appearance of independent reality’ (Lalande, 1951). This description brings us quickly to the heart of the problem: the relationship of projection to reality via the medium of appearance. Psychoanalytic theory, which is based on clinical experience, thanks to Freud, lays claim to the concept of projection by specifying it. It is regrettable, however, that Freud either abandoned the idea of clarifying this concept or destroyed the rough draft of the paper which was to have been included in the Metapsychology. Since Freud, there has been no shortage of contributions to the theory of projection. The concept of projective identification has dominated the metapsychology of Melanie Klein and her pupils, most notably Bion (1967). For some time the writings of psychoanalysts have featured a term long considered the preserve of Sartre and his disciples and, even more recently, of molecular biology: the project.


5: Aggression, Femininity, Paranoia and Reality



Aggression, Femininity, Paranoia and Reality

According to Freud, aggression is the outward expression of the destructive instincts. Theoretically speaking, aggression makes no distinction between the sexes. Nevertheless, its nature and function lead us to question its specific expression in female sexuality. In contradistinction to the male, the integration of aggression in feminine identification seems less obvious.

In man, masculine identification calls for aggression, both in carrying out the sexual function and in the many activities involving aim-inhibited drives and displacements, especially social ones, such as professional competition, sports, games, as well as the tragic game of war. Of course, social changes are bringing increasingly larger numbers of women to share such activities with men, from infancy on. The opening to women of social activities that used to be reserved for men has led to an attenuation, in its social aspects, of the difference between the sexes. However, we wish to stress that such an attenuation is, to a large extent, superficial. Freud's opinion (1937c, p. 250) that what is repudiated in both sexes is femininity may be aptly recalled at this point.


6: Moral Narcissism



Moral Narcissism

Virtue is not merely like the combatant whose sole concern in the fight is to keep his sword polished; but it has even started the fight simply to preserve its weapons. And not merely is it unable to use its own weapons, but it must also preserve intact those of its enemy, and protect them against its own attack, seeing they are all noble parts of the good, on hehalf of which it entered the field of battle.

HEGEL The Phenomenology of Mind


Because you have no inkling of these ills;
The happiest life consists in ignorance.…



The legendary heroes of antiquity provide the psychoanalyst with an inexhaustible source of material of which he does not hesitate to avail himself fully, Usually he calls upon these lofty figures in order to embellish a thesis. I will work from an opposition that allows each of us to refer from a memory, to a common example that might then recall one or another of our patients. Dodds, in his book The Greeks and the Irrational (1951), opposes the civilizations of shame to the civilizations of guilt. It is not irrelevant to recall here that according to Dodds the idea of guilt is connected to an interiorization, we would say an internalization, of the notion of fault or sin: it is the result of divine transgression. Shame, however, is the lot of fatality, a mark of the wrath of the gods, of an Ate, a merciless punishment barely related to an objective fault, unless it be that of immoderation. Shame falls upon its victims inexorably: without doubt one must inpute it less to a god than to a demon – infernal power. Dodds ties the civilization of shame to a sociotribal mode in which the father is omnipotent and knows no authority above his own, whereas the civilization of guilt, moving toward a relative monotheism, implies a law above the father's. In each of the two cases even the reparation of the fault is different. The passage from shame to guilt is a road leading from the idea of impurity and pollution to consciousness of a moral wrong. In short, shame is a fact where human responsibility barely plays a part: it is a lot of the gods, striking the man liable to pride or hubris, whereas guilt is the consequence of a fault; it carries the sense of a transgression. The first corresponds to the talion ethic, the second to the ethics of a more understanding justice.


7: The Dead Mother



The Dead Mother

If one had to choose a single characteristic to differentiate between present-day analyses and analyses as one imagines them to have been in the past, it would surely be found among the problems of mourning. This is what the title of this essay, the dead mother, is intended to suggest. However, to avoid all misunderstanding, I wish to make it clear that I shall not be discussing here the psychical consequences of the real death of the mother, but rather that of an imago which has been constituted in the child's mind, following maternal depression, brutally transforming a living object, which was a source of vitality for the child, into a distant figure, toneless, practically inanimate, deeply impregnating the cathexes of certain patients whom we have in analysis, and weighing on the destiny of their object-libidinal and narcissistic future. Thus, the dead mother, contrary to what one might think, is a mother who remains alive but who is, so to speak, psychically dead in the eyes of the young child in her care.


8: Conceptions of Affect



Conceptions of Affect

It is no exaggeration to say that, in psychoanalysis as it is practised today, work on the affects commands a large part of our efforts. There is no favourable outcome which does not involve an affective change. We would like to have at our disposal a satisfactory theory of affects, but that is not the case. Unable to have such a theory at our disposal, we would prefer it if we did not have to encumber ourselves with previous theoretical conceptions, in order to have an entirely new look at the question. That is hardly possible. These difficulties have two sources. The first stems from the very nature of affects. It is difficult to speak of something which is, in essence, only partially communicable, as affects often are, at any rate more so than any other phenomena observed in analysis. The second difficulty lies in our preconceptions and in the very manner in which the problems were posed from the beginning of Freudian theory. If the first difficulty constitutes an obstacle which is not easily overcome, the second can lead to an enlightening thought. It is easier to talk about what has been said about affect, and the way in which affect has been conceived, than about affect itself. Affect constitutes a challenge to thought.


9: Passions and their Vicissitudes



Passions and their Vicissitudes

On the Relation between Madness and Psychosis

Everything in the sphere of this first attachment to the mother seemed to me difficult to grasp in analysis, so grey with age and shadowy and almost impossible to revivify, that it was as if it had succumbed to an especially inexorable repression. But perhaps I gained this impression because the women who were in analysis with me were able to cling to the very attachment to the father in which they had taken refuge from the early phase that was in question.

Childhood love is boundless, it demands exclusive possession, it is not content with less than all.

‘Female sexuality’ (FREUD, 1931b)


Not so long ago, before it was considered fashionable by certain radicals to call themselves mad, ‘madness’ was exiled from our vocabulary. In the language of that time, one was not ‘mad’, one ‘suffered from nerves’. Nervous disorders covered a variety of states, from ‘le mal du siècle’ to mental alienation. Madness was also banished from professional jargon. No one was mad; psychiatric science sorted and differentiated. It firmly traced boundaries between normality, neurosis, perversion and psychosis. Freud himself did not escape from taxonomy to which he even richly contributed.1 Madness thus disappeared from the classification of disorders as a shameful reference, witness to the era when psychiatry was stumbling through its infancy. Was not to speak of madness perhaps to refer to a terminology with as little scientific bearing as that of the vocabulary pertaining to possession? Or, was it not a way of consecrating the symptom together with all those who were afflicted with it, and at the same time forbidding oneself the possibility of an enlightened gaze – an exorcist's gaze – at that which called rather for a zoologist's or, better still, a botanist's observation? Long did psychiatry bear witness to the efforts of its greatest minds to conform to the ideal, not of medical science, which was still largely empiric, but to that of the natural sciences. Psychiatry still needed naturalists to bring the disorders of the mind within the boundaries of the disorders that nature imposes on the victims of its whim.


10: Negation and Contradiction



Negation and Contradiction

He had spoken the very truth and transformed it into the veriest falsehood.

It is a curious subject of observation and inquiry, whether hatred and love be not the same thing at bottom. Each, in its utmost development, supposes a high degree of intimacy and heart-knowledge; each one renders one individual dependent for the food of his affections and spiritual life upon another; each leaves the passionate lover, or the no less passionate hater, forlorn and desolate by the withdrawal of his object. Philosophically considered, therefore, the two passions seem essentially the same, except that one happens to be seen in a celestial radiance, and the other in a dusky and lurid glow.

         HAWTHORNE The Scarlet Letter


At the meeting of the American Psychoanalytic Association in December 1974 S. Abrams and P. Neubauer presented a paper entitled ‘Object-orientedness: the person or the thing’. Using all the resources of psychoanalytic egopsychology in the comparison of two children, faithfully and regularly observed in minute detail, their paper studied two types of object-orientedness: toward people and toward things. The discussion contrasted the child whose object relationship bound him mainly to persons, and the child whose object-relationship was bound to things. As I listened I was struck, apparently more than were the authors of the communication, by one fact. At a given age, each child possessed a vocabulary of five words. At least on first catching the ear, so to speak, there was no notable difference as far as four of these words were concerned. They designated persons who normally were around the children: Mummy, Daddy, little sister or brother, the maid, etc. But they differed significantly on one point: the child whose object relationships created a bond between him and things said ‘This’, while the child whose object relationships were oriented toward persons said ‘No’. I was struck by this connection between the predominant interpersonal (or intersubjective) relationship and the use of negation.


11: Potential Space in Psychoanalysis



Potential Space in Psychoanalysis

The Object in the Setting


On several occasions, Freud was led to assert that psychoanalytic concepts have chiefly an heuristic value and that only secondarily can they be defined more rigorously or replaced by others. No concept since the founding of psychoanalysis has been more broadly utilized than that of the object. According to Littré, the French Academy Dictionary gives the same illustration in defining the word ‘subject’ as it does in defining the word ‘object’: natural bodies are the subject of physics; natural bodies are the object of physics. Rather than deplore the confusion that arises here, or protest against philosophies which would divide subject and object absolutely, I wish instead to emphasize that their relationship is one of symmetry or of complementarity: no object without a subject, no subject without an object. From Freud's time to ours psychoanalytic theory has not been able to avoid facing up to the truth of this.


12: Surface Analysis, Deep Analysis



Surface Analysis, Deep Analysis

The Role of the Preconscious in Psychoanalytical Technique

Every analyst knows that his work aims to analyse each patient as an individual, through his most personal self. Can one even talk of single analytical technique when one knows how, in the course of one day, several techniques have been used, each adapted to suit individual patients or even individual types of patient? Nevertheless just as one always uses approximate diagnostic references, so one talks of a technique, as some ideal or average practice, even if the facts belie this ideal or this average. One can therefore say that there is an implicit theoretical model.


The analytical situation favours transference through regression. This regression is temporal, dynamic, and topographical. If, however, one considers only the temporal (or genetic) regression, one ceases to consider the topographical one. This, as we know, leads to mistakes. Thus the substitution of one content for another (incorporation fantasy) which is attributed to the breast rather than to the penis is neglected in favour of a content-structure equation. In the example I have just given, the oral content refers to oral regression without considering the relationship between topographical expression and the method of the presentation. In fact only the structure can tell us if the patient is having an oral or phallic regression. Analysts know that in order to grasp the structure one cannot merely study the content. Freud already knew this. The lack of reliability of the presentation has resulted in more importance being attached to the affects. The presentation, therefore, is almost completely ignored in favour of the affects. Consequently the communication from patient to analyst occurs by means of empathy and therefore the communication from analyst to patient, i.e., the interpretation, is marked by a greater or lesser neglect of the patient's speech and the part language plays in it. Making the unconscious conscious is no longer, as Freud thought, achieved by using links between word-presentations and thing-presentations. The preconscious is less and less used as a mediator, it is short-circuited and communication is almost established between unconscious and unconscious. This is in agreement with Freud's point that affects are capable of becoming unconscious independently of their link with the preconscious (Freud, 1923b). The tendency to use the id derivatives directly may have the consequence that silence is no longer being used as a technical means. Indeed, silence in Freudian theory induces regression. In other words, just as in dreams it is the impediment of discharge activity and therefore the impossibility of obtaining satisfaction which forces thoughts in the dream to change into images by means of regression, so it is the analyst's silence and the supine position which force the patient to express himself in the language of the primary process when censorship, obsessional defences or the most archaic psychotic defences are not too strong. As for hysterical defences, these present themselves through the activity of affects which are restrained because it is not possible to discharge by acting out or conversion.


13: The Double and the Absent



The Double and the Absent

If it is true that the existence of motion is proved by the act of walking, a similar logic may relieve us of the need to justify applying psychoanalysis to the study of literary texts. There are, in any case, a considerable number of works which argue in favour of just such an approach (Clancier, 1973). The act of walking, however, does not exempt us from posing questions about our course. All the more since, despite authoritative contributions to the field, the efforts of psychoanalytical criticism are greeted with such reticence. Freud himself experienced this. Today, psychoanalytical criticism is even more thoroughly challenged – to begin with, by literary theorists who criticize it for all sorts of reasons. They claim, for example, that it ties the work too closely to an analysis of the author, even though many works of psychoanalytical criticism deal exclusively with the text and leave aside the always conjectural biographical approach. In cases where criticism confines itself to the text, the psychoanalytical critic is blamed for attaching too much importance to one meaning of a work while neglecting the others (social meanings, for example), even though the analyst has always pointed out that his approach in no way claims to be exhaustive. Finally, criticisms will be levelled at the fact that his perspective focuses on the non-literary, and neglects the ‘literal’ aspect of the work – as though the literal were not a means of gaining access to the non-literal which always underlies and shapes it.


14: The Unbinding Process



The Unbinding Process


The question of the relationship between literature and psychoanalysis has already been abundantly documented, and yet there seems to be plenty more to say about it, since fresh testimony is continually being called to the witness stand. Whether it be a mere coincidence OF a meaningful correlation, the literature-and-psychoanalysis theme has never received such lavish attention as it does today precisely at a time when another surreptitious theme keeps cropping up with strange obstinacy: the theme of the death of literature. While some will mourn over literature's demise, others, in spite of their desire to be seen as avant-garde participants in this battle (indeed, one wonders what battle!), wish it would come about sooner. No doubt they look forward to its corpse serving as fertilizer for a new culture. In this respect, one could argue that psychoanalysis may be one of the signs of the imminent death of a senescent culture characterized among other things by the decay of literature, which, to put it optimistically, may herald the appearance of the yet-unborn thoughts on which tomorrow's culture may be founded. For that matter, one can argue just as easily that the death of literature would inevitably bring in its wake the death of psychoanalysis, for despite the profound changes the latter has wrought in the movement of ideas, it belongs to the same culture. While we cannot endorse such judgments without further examination, neither is it possible to dismiss as purely fortuitous this simultaneous emergence of studies bringing psychoanalysis to bear on literature, and of this peculiar sense of literature's decline – be it temporary or definitive.



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