14 Slices
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1. Primary narcissism and primary fusion/union

Hamilton, Victoria Karnac Books ePub

The difficulty for primary unity theories is the formulation of difference. It takes at least two x’s - people or messages - to make a difference. Without difference, there is no change and no development. When there is only one thing - as expressed in the primary autism postulate - or two things in a relationship of perfect fusion or unison, nothing happens, because there is no new information. Each person is drawn to the other in a relationship of replication. This is an extreme case. Although the state of oneness or fusion can facilitate human development, as in the post-partum period when the close tie between mother and infant guarantees survival, its persistence can lead to various narcissistic pathologies, an excellent illustration of which is offered in the exchange between Narcissus and Echo.

Freud made an all-important qualification to his use of the bird’s egg ‘fiction’ - namely, ‘provided one includes with it the care it receives from its mother’ (Freud, 1911, p. 220). Freud’s point, taken up by writers such as Mahler and Winnicott, is that, in the first hours and days of infant life, the mother seeks to replicate the intra-uterine relationship. For her, this goal is temporary, since she is aware that, in physical reality, she and her infant are distinct. It is proposed that the infant, on the other hand, wishes to maintain the illusory relationship as long as possible. For Freud, the law of conservation of energy appeared to be one of the most powerful organising principles in human psychical development. The wish to maintain the status quo or to return to a previous state of equilibrium is given more weight than the desire for new relationships, accomplishments and knowledge. This gives the psychoanalytic conception of development a curiously backward-turning direction. In much psychoanalytic theory, there is a tendency to assume that the most primitive state not only provides the template for all future experience but is also the preferred state. Freud stated that man is ‘incapable of giving up a satisfaction he had once enjoyed’ (Freud, 1914, p. 94) and, in his paper on narcissism, he concludes that ‘the development of the ego consists in a departure from primary narcissism and gives rise to a vigorous attempt to recover that state’ (Freud, 1914, p. 100). On balance, therefore, reality, relationship and change create an excess of unpleasure when compared to the self-contained state of primary narcissism. The satisfactions of achievement are related to the mastery of anxieties attendant upon the loss of the primary state. In the state of primary narcissism or primary autism, the achievement of a state of near-perfect homeostasis is postulated. But the external world must impinge; change is necessarily painful. The eggshell cracks, the infant feels dismembered or split. These are all absolute terms, in which change is conceived of as traumatic.

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9. The watching agency and its products

Hamilton, Victoria Karnac Books ePub

Freud and transitional phenomena

In this chapter, I examine Freud’s account of the stage of development which falls between primary narcissism and the oedipus complex. Although Freud did not use the concepts of the transitional object and transitional phenomena, his understanding of ‘the watching agency’ and its products can be compared with Winnicott’s work in this area. Though there is some overlap in their accounts of specific transitional phenomena, their views on the developmental significance of these phenomena differ radically.

Freud said that primary narcissism is transformed, via repression, into conscience or the watching agency. The watching agency is both a transformation of the primitive, narcissistic ego and, at the same time, it contributes to the foundation of the mature ego. Contemporary Freudian writers have developed Freud’s ideas and have linked some of the products of the watching agency described by Freud, such as memory, dreaming and the sense of time, to the emergence of transitional phenomena. The development and function of the watching agency, for instance, links closely with Tolpin’s account of the child’s internalisation of the mother’s regulatory, care-taking and soothing functions. The watching agency could be viewed as the mental structure which renders the child’s attachment to his transitional object redundant.

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3. Primary object-love and primary affectional bonds

Hamilton, Victoria Karnac Books ePub

Michael Balint

Michael Balint, who was born in Budapest in 1896 and was analysed by one of Freud’s earliest followers and colleagues, Sandor Ferenczi, was one of the foremost pioneers of the object-relations school. Together with the Scottish psychoanalyst, W. R. D. Fairbairn, he might be regarded as the forerunner of the British ‘Middle Group’ of analysts - a group which continues to play an important role in the integration and clarification of Freudian and Kleinian theory. In 1939, Balint came to England, where he made important contributions both to the developing theory of psychoanalysis and to general psychiatry and medicine. He is particularly well-known for his innovative groups for general practitioners; through these groups, which were attended by doctors from all over Britain, Balint was able to bring psychiatric and psychoanalytic insights into the lives of the general public (Balint, 1957). Balint’s relational concept of ‘primary love’ brought an entirely new perspective to the theory of infancy and a focus on relationships which was quite different to that of Anna Freud and Melanie Klein. Ferenczi had made a particular study of mother-child relations and his interest in the strength of the mother-infant relationship continued to inspire the Hungarian school of psychoanalysts centred in Budapest. Ferenczi introduced the phrase ‘passive object-love’ to describe the infant’s self-centred, but absolutely dependent, love for the mother. In the 1930s, Michael Balint, his wife, Alice, and colleague, I. Hermann, published a series of papers in which they emphasised the importance of the infant’s primary instinct to cling. Hermann observed clinging and grasping movements in the early weeks of the life of infant apes and human babies. He did not postulate that these behaviours were evidence of a primary object-relationship, but Alice and Michael Balint combined his observations with Ferenczi’s concept of passive object-love to form their new concept of ‘primary object-love’. Primary object-love acknowledges the active role played by the infant, illustrated by his clinging tie to the mother. Primary love is thus descriptive of an active love of the mother. The Balints’ view of a primary object-relationship is similar to that of Melanie Klein in that the infant is active and his love is egocentric. However, although unaware of his mother’s interests, the infant’s relationship is neither destructive nor dominated by orality.

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2. Primary internal object-relationships

Hamilton, Victoria Karnac Books ePub

Melanie Klein

In the early years of psychoanalysis, Anna Freud and Melanie Klein pioneered the field of child psychoanalysis in Europe. Both sought to portray the inner life of the child from infancy to adolescence. Through the medium of play and the tools provided by Freud for adult analysis, they tried to understand the ways in which the child constructed external reality to form a ‘psychic reality’ or ‘phantasy’ world. Anna Freud’ came over to England with her father from Vienna in 1938. Melanie Klein was born in Vienna but had trained and undergone personal analysis in Budapest and Berlin with two eminent psychoanalysts, Sandor Ferenczi and Karl Abraham. In 1926, she arrived in England at the invitation of a Welshman, prominent in the British Society of Psycho-Analysis, Ernest Jones. As Freud had shocked the intellectual world with his revelation of the sexual life of ‘innocent’ young children of only 3-4 years of age, so Klein exposed this world to the ruthless, innately destructive desires of infants’ wishes, which, moreover, were directed specifically towards their principal love-object, the mother. Whereas Anna Freud adapted her father’s technique to the developmental levels of children of different ages, Klein pursued the rigorous, analytic technique employed in adult analysis. She believed that children could form a transference on to the analyst and that the analysis should be confined to interpretative interventions. Unlike Freud and Anna Freud, she believed that the young infant was a moral creature. (This belief is reflected in the dating of the development of the ‘super-ego’.) Maturity was marked by a modulation of this persecutory, archaic morality, a development which usually took place after about four months of age.

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6. Narcissus and Echo

Hamilton, Victoria Karnac Books ePub

Let us return to the story of Narcissus, this time to the meeting between Narcissus and the nymph, Echo. Sixteen years have passed. The adorable baby is now a handsome teenager, beloved by many. ‘Among these lovers was the nymph Echo, who could no longer use her voice, except in foolish repetition of another’s shout. We may imagine that Echo is just the sort of woman whom the son of Leiriope would choose and spurn. In Chapter 5, I presented a picture of the baby Narcissus with his mother. In this chapter, I describe the kind of love-affair which can transpire when early symbiosis goes on too long. The exchange between Narcissus and Echo tells us what happens when a certain kind of baby becomes a teenager. For although Narcissus cannot tolerate separateness and difference in a relationship, the folie & deux created by perfect mirroring is also unbearable. He spurns his echo. The myth is, after all, about someone who, in the end, desperately wants to become separated from his illusions and, in particular, his fascination with his own image. The link between Narcissus and his love is like a rubber band or bow-string which never snaps. Over and over again, Narcissus turns his back on his lover. But, in so doing, he turns him or her into his follower, his shadow. He tries to go forward, to put all behind him, but always through the very act of trying to bend the world his way, he springs back to face the same old boring, empty face. He is drawn back to the shadow. Unknowing, since knowledge demands difference and a third term, he is forced to repeat the engulfing twosome.

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