Subjects of Analysis

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In this brilliant contribution to psychoanlaytic theory and practice, Ogden has once again challenged psychoanalytic clinicians to expand the conceptual envelope that confines and constricts their work. Sounding the death knell for the positivist view of the patient and analyst as discrete subject and object, he forges a contemporary, decentred entity - the analytic third.

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1. On Becoming a Subject

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It is too late to turn back. Having read the opening words of this book you have already begun to enter into the unsettling experience of finding yourself becoming a subject whom you have not yet met, but nonetheless recognize. The reader of this book must create a voice with which to speak (think) the words (thoughts) comprising it. Reading is not simply a matter of considering, weighing, or even of trying out the ideas and experiences that are presented by the writer. Reading involves a far more intimate form of encounter. You, the reader, must allow me to occupy you, your thoughts, your mind, since I have no voice with which to speak other than yours. If you are to read this book, you must allow yourself to think my thoughts while I must allow myself to become your thoughts and in that moment neither of us will be able to lay claim to the thought as our own exclusive creation.

The conjunction of my words and your mental voice does not represent a form of ventriloquism. A more complex and interesting human event is involved. A third subject is created in the experience of reading that is not reducible to either writer or reader. The creation of a third subject (that exists in tension with the writer and the reader as separate subjects) is the essence of the experience of reading, and, as will be explored in this volume, is also at the core of the psychoanalytic experience.

 

2. The Freudian Subject

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In the first moments of the opening scene of Hamlet, a sound is heard coming from the darkness outside the palace walls. The guard demands, “Who’s there?” Like an opening dystonic chord of a piece of music, the question, “Who’s there?” reverberates in an unresolved way throughout the play. The same question could be said to be the opening theme that continues unresolved through the history of psychoanalysis. Beginning with Freud and Breuer’s (1893-1895) observations in Studies on Hysteria, the theme of the “splitting of consciousness” (p. 12) and the question of the location of the subject within this “dual consciousness” has reverberated through the succeeding century of analytic thought.

It might be surmised that Freud’s limited use of the terms self and subject is a matter of semantics since Freud used the term Das Ich (poorly translated as the ego) to refer in part to the experiencing subject, “the I.” However, as will be discussed, Das Ich is not coincident with the subject and in fact it is precisely in the difference between the two that one begins to be able to discern the creation of a new conceptual entity: the psychoanalytic subject.

 

3. Toward an Intersubjective Conception of the Subject: The Kleinian Contribution

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Psychoanalytic thought emerging from the British School has contributed in significant ways to the elaboration of the concept of the dialectically constituted (and decentered) subject. Having discussed the Freudian conception of the subject in the previous chapter, I shall now explore the Kleinian contribution to this project. Chapter 4 discusses the Winnicott-ian contribution.

Three of the most important of Melanie Klein’s theoretical contributions to the development of an analytic formulation of subjectivity are (1) the dialectical conception of psychic structure and psychological development underlying her concept of “positions,” (2) the dialectical decentering of the subject in psychic space, and (3) the notion of the dialectic of intersubjectivity that is implicit in the concept of projective identification. Klein’s attention was not focused on the theoretical question of the nature of subjectivity and as a result, we, as interpreters of her work, may be a better position than Klein herself to understand the place of her thinking in the development of the psychoanalytic conception of the subject.

 

4. Winnicott’s Intersubjective Subject

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Winnicott’s work represents a major advance in the development of the psychoanalytic conception of the subject. The implicit dialectics of Freud and Klein became the foundation of Winnicott’s effort to conceptualize in analytic terms the experience of being alive as a subject. At the heart of Winnicott’s (1951, 1971a) thinking is the notion that the living, experiencing subject exists neither in reality nor in fantasy, but in a potential space between the two. The Winnicottian subject is not at the beginning (and never entirely becomes) coincident with the psyche of the individual. Winnicott’s conception of the creation of the subject in the space between the infant and mother involves several types of dialectical tension of unity and separateness, of internality and externality, through which the subject is simultaneously constituted and decentered from itself. I shall focus on four forms of these overlapping dialectics: (1) the dialectic of at-one-ment/separateness of mother and infant in “primary maternal preoccupation,” (2) the dialectic of recognition/negation of the infant in the mirroring role of the mother, (3) the dialectic of creation/discovery of the object in transitional object relatedness, and (4) the dialectic of the creative destruction of the mother in “object usage.” Each of these dialectics represents a different facet of the interdependence of subjectivity and intersubjectivity.

 

5. The Analytic Third: Working with Intersubjective Clinical Facts

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And he is not likely to know what is to be done unless he lives in what is not merely the present, but the present moment of the past, unless he is conscious, not of what is dead, but of what is already living.

T. S. Eliot, “Tradition and Individual Talent,” 1919

On the occassion of the celebration of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the founding of The International Journal of Psycho-Analysis I shall endeavor to address an aspect of what I understand to be “the present moment of the past” of psychoanalysis. It is my belief that an important facet of this present moment for psychoanalysis is the development of an analytic conceptualization of the nature of the interplay of subjectivity and intersubjectivity in the analytic setting and the exploration of the implications for technique that these conceptual developments hold.

In this chapter, I shall present clinical material from two analyses in an effort to illustrate some of the ways in which an understanding of the interplay of subjectivity and intersubjectivity influences the practice of psychoanalysis and the way in which clinical theory is generated. As will be discussed, I consider the dialectical movement of subjectivity and intersubjectivity to be a central clinical fact of psychoanalysis that all clinical analytic thinking attempts to describe in ever more precise and generative terms.

 

6. Projective Identification and the Subjugating Third

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We are still in the process of discovering what projective identification “means,” not that Mrs. Klein meant all that in 1946, consciously or otherwise.

Donald Meltzer, 1978, p. 39

In this chapter, I shall offer some reflections on the process of projective identification as a form of intersubjective thirdness. In particular, I shall describe the interplay of mutual subjugation and mutual recognition that I view as fundamental to this psychological-interpersonal event.

In Klein’s (1946, 1955) work, projective identification was only implicitly a psychological-interpersonal concept. However, the concept as it has been developed by Bion (1952, 1962a) and H. Rosenfeld (1952, 1971, 1987), and further enriched by Grotstein (1981), Joseph (1987), Kernberg (1987), Meltzer (1966), Ogden (1979), O’Shaughnessy (1983), Segal (1981), and others, has taken on an increasingly complex set of intersubjective meanings and clinical applications. The understanding of projective identification that I shall propose is founded on a conception of psychoanalysis as a process in which a variety of forms of intersubjective “thirdness” are generated that stand in dialectical tension with the analyst and analysand as separate psychological entities. In projective identification, a distinctive form of analytic thirdness is generated in the dialectic of subjectivity and intersubjectivity that I shall refer to as “the subjugating third,” since this form of intersubjectivity has the effect of subsuming within it (to a very large degree) the individual subjectivities of the participants.

 

7. The Concept of Interpretive Action

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We say ourselves in syllables that rise
From the floor, saying ourselves in speech we do not speak.

Wallace Stevens, “The Creations of Sound,” 1947*

At this point in the development of psychoanalytic thought, it is generally accepted that action (other than verbal symboliza-tion) constitutes an important medium through which the analysand communicates specific unconscious meanings to the analyst, for example through the actions mediating projective identifications (Ogden 1982a, H. Rosenfeld 1971), “role responsiveness” (Sandler 1976), “evocation by proxy” (Wangh 1962), “enactments” (McLaughlin 1991), and so on. However, it has been very little recognized that many of the analyst’s most critical transference interpretations are conveyed to the analysand by means of the analyst’s actions. It is this aspect of the analytic process, the analyst’s “interpretive actions,” that is the focus of this chapter.

By “interpretive action” ( or “interpretation-in-action”) I mean the analyst’s communication of his understanding of an aspect of the transference-countertransference to the analysand by means of activity other dian that of verbal symboli-zation.1 At times such activity is disconnected from words (e.g., the facial expression of the analyst as a patient lingers at the consulting room door); at times the analyst’s activity (as medium for interpretation) takes the form of “verbal action,” for example, the setting of the fee, the announcement of the ending of the hour, or the insistence that the analysand put a stop to a given form of acting in or acting out; at times interpretive action involves the voice, but not words (e.g., the analyst’s laughter).

 

8. Analyzing the Matrix of the Transference-Countertransference

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The analyst must have a theoretical framework with which to conceptualize not only the nature of the relationships between transference figures occupying the analytic stage, but also the matrix (or background experiential state) within which the transference-countertransference is being generated.

Over the past forty years there has been an expanding appreciation of the importance of the analytic context, not simply as a framework for the containment of the analytic process, but as a pivotal dimension of the transference-coun-tertransference. Melanie Klein (1952b), for example, stressed that one must “think in terms of total situations transferred from the past to the present as well as emotional defences and object relations” (p. 55). Betty Joseph (1985) has elaborated on this idea: “By definition transference must include everything that the patient brings to the relationship. What he brings in can best be gauged by our focusing our attention on what is going on within the relationship, how he is using the analyst, alongside and beyond what he is saying” (p. 447).

 

9. Personal Isolation: The Breakdown of Subjectivity and Intersubjectivity

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It remains to learn in what delicate, exquisite region of Being we shall encounter that Being which is its own Nothingness.

Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness

In the course of the past decade, I have come to view the concept of personal isolation as central to an understanding of human development. My own conception of personal isolation is based upon ideas derived from the psychoanalytic study of autistic phenomena as well as Winnicott’s conception of isolation as a necessary condition for psychological health.

Winnicott’s work will be taken as a starting point for the understanding of personal isolation as an essential facet of the experience of being alive. I shall then attempt to describe a primitive form of isolation that involves the disconnection of the individual not only from the mother as object, but also from the very fabric of the human interpersonal matrix.

The idea that there is an aspect of experience in which the individual must be insulated from being in the world has its origins in Freud’s (1920) concept of the stimulus barrier (Reizschutz). Freud believed that the preservation of the organism is as much dependent upon the capacity not to perceive as it is upon the capacity to register internal and external stimuli: “[The organism] would be killed … if it were not provided with a protective shield against stimuli. It acquires the shield in this way: its outermost surface ceases to have the structure proper to living matter, becomes to some degree inorganic and thenceforward functions as a special envelope or membrane resistant to stimuli … By its death, the outer layer has saved all the deeper ones from a similar fate” (p. 27). In this chapter, I shall make use of concepts emanating from the psychoanalytic study of autistic phenomena to further develop the idea that the experience of being alive as a human being is safeguarded by forms of suspension of being.

 

10. Questions of Analytic Theory and Practice

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In this chapter, a series of questions posed by Dr. Stephen Mitchell, editor of Psychoanalytic Dialogues: A Journal of Relational Perspectives, provides the structure for the consideration of a wide range of analytic topics concerning analytic metapsychol-ogy, clinical theory, developmental theory, and analytic technique. Each of the questions and responses addresses different aspects of psychoanalytic theory and practice that are fundamental to the conception of the psychoanalytic process being developed in this volume and in the work that has led to it. (I am grateful to Dr. Mitchell for the thoughtfulness and creativity that are reflected in his questions.)

Practice and Technique

Mitchell: In your description of the initial analytic session (Ogden 1989a), you stress the importance of the analyst’s grasping and addressing himself to the patient’s anxiety and dread. This idea seems quite different from the idea that it is necessary to create a feeling of hope in the initial meetings and the view that the patient is fundamentally seeking a “new beginning.” How do you think about the relationship between hope and dread in the initial phases of analysis?

 

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