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A castration symbol

Joan Riviere Karnac Books ePub

The duplicating of an object in dreams is known to analysts as a representation (by means of an opposite idea) of its absence. It occurs particularly in reference to castration ideas and with penis symbols. The following instance of this mechanism coming up in a phantasy may point to a possible second motivation by which this form of representation comes to be used (the first being the characteristic unconscious one of representation by opposites).

A young obsessional girl said one day during analysis, pointing to the pattern on a curtain near her: ‘Do you see that thing hanging down like a little seal on a man’s watch-chain? I thought of it tied on to your husband’s penis, as if he had two penises; and then I thought the seal would rub against his penis and bruise it, and you would kiss the bruise, and his penis would be all bloody and mangled, and your lips would be covered with the blood.’ Unconscious phantasies of castrating a man and of becoming pregnant by biting off a penis were beginning to come out in projection on to the analyst. Rubbing was an important symptom in the neurosis (washing mania).

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Joan Riviere: Her life and work

Joan Riviere Karnac Books ePub

Athol Hughes

Joan Riviere, colleague of Melanie Klein and strong supporter of her and her ideas, was also the most articulate of Klein’s contemporary exponents, expressing ideas in a graceful and polished form. In addition to being able to interpret the ideas of others with elegance, Joan Riviere’s own papers contain original observations and original ideas. She is also known for her fluent and lucid translations of Freud’s writings. She considered that translation gave her ‘an acute sensitivity about the reader’s point of view’. She was a member of the British Psycho-Analytical Society from its inception until her death in 1962, and she played a prominent part in many aspects of its life.

She was born 28 June 1883 in Brighton, Sussex, the eldest surviving child of Hugh John Verrall and his wife Anna; she was christened Joan Hodgson Verrall. Her parents had had a son who died a few hours after his birth on 9 July 1882. A second daughter, Mary, called Molly, and a son, Hugh Cuthbert, were born two and four years after Joan. Joan’s only child, Diana Riviere, remembered with affection her aunt, Molly, and the part she played in her own upbringing. I am indebted to Miss Diana Riviere for much of the information about her mother’s early life. (Miss Riviere died in December, 1989, while this biographical chapter was still unfinished. She was 81 years of age.)

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CHAPTER FIFTEEN: Early psychological development: London/Vienna

Joan Riviere Karnac Books ePub

Joan Riviere read this paper to the Vienna Psycho-Analytical Society on 5 May 1936, on the occasion of Freud’s 80th birthday. She gave it as a part of the Exchange Lectures instituted by Ernest Jones to discuss the growing differences in the psychoanalytical theories held in London and Vienna, particularly as they pertained to the topics of oral sadism, projection, and intro-jection in infancy. Walder had spoken on these subjects in his Exchange Lecture to the British Psycho-Analytical Society the year before.

There were no further published expositions of differences in points of view until the Controversial Discussions were held in London in the early 1940s after Viennese psychoanalysts had settled there. Joan Riviere played a part in organizing meetings to help to elucidate the differences (P. King and R. Steiner, Freud-Klein Controversies, 1990).

This long paper is the clearest and most beautifully expressed outline of Kleinian theory as it was at that time, and it is a model of lucidity in its description of the sufferings of infants and children as they struggle with their love and their hate for their objects. Riviere singles out the defence mechanisms of introjection and projection for her major consideration and incorporates findings of British psychoanalysts concerning ways in which these processes contribute to the formation of the ego. The individual responds to the reality of his experience by interpreting it, or rather, ‘misinterpreting’ it. And ‘this process continues throughout life for the great majority of even civilized humans’. The indivisibility for the infant, in the early stages of self and object, is shown with her characteristic clarity; the mother and the infant are one as are their needs. The mechanism by which this is effected will find more explicit expression in Melanie Klein’s paper on projective identification in ‘Notes on some schizoid mechanisms’ (1946).

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CHAPTER SIX: Possibly the first contribution concerning envy of the primal scene

Joan Riviere Karnac Books ePub

Riviere makes an original contribution here in understanding and demonstrating with remarkable clarity that it is oral envy that leads the morbidly jealous woman to search for unattainable love and to feel deprived. Envious attacks on the parents of the inner world account for the ‘acute and desperate sense of lack and loss, of dire need, of emptiness and desolation felt by the jealous one of a triangle’. Joan Riviere’s elaboration of envious spoiling that underlies seeming oedipal jealousy paves the way for Melanie Klein’s development of that theme in 1957 when she publishes Envy and Gratitude and describes the influence of envy and gratitude on the earliest object relations and on character formation, as well as their effects as seen in the negative therapeutic reaction and in the outcome of psychoanalytical interventions.

A type of jealousy which is not referred to in psycho-analytic literature first came under my observation in a marked form in one individual; when it had been elucidated by analysis, the now familiar mechanism could be seen, to a minor and hence less noticeable extent, at work in other cases, suggesting some conclusions of general validity.

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CHAPTER FOURTEEN. Kleinian thinking in the 1950s

Joan Riviere Karnac Books ePub

Joan Riviere introduces her readers to developments in psychoanalysis with a masterly survey. She uses her thorough understanding of Freud’s theories to show how Melanie Klein, who brought about many of the developments, is extending his ideas, not deviating from them, as some of Klein’s detracters declare. She points out that Freud often showed indecisiveness about his theories, and this is particularly true of his postulation of the life and death instincts. Nonetheless in his later works he expressed his conviction of ‘the instinctual duality as the foundation of intra-psychic conflict’. Joan Riviere’s makes a highly significant statement—that those analysts who dispute Klein’s findings most vehemently still ‘stand by Freud’s original formulations which were never formally retracted or abandoned; that where Freud later broke new ground and went ahead, sometimes in more intuitive recognition, they have not followed’.

Developments in Psycho-Analysis was conceived as a presentation of the four papers that had been written to elaborate, describe and present Klein’s ideas at the time of the Controversial Discussions in the British Psycho-Analytical Society in 1943/44. The four papers were supplemented by three additional ones by Melanie Klein and a further paper by Paula Heimann. In introducing the book Joan Riviere perceptively describes the significance of Klein’s ideas and shows that her results stand on their own foundations; she produced an integrated theory which, although still in outline, nevertheless takes account of all psychical manifestations, including psychotic processes and mental development in infancy. The importance of infantile development is brilliantly outlined as she presents each paper with comments that are interesting to read as one studies the papers themselves. Her descriptions in simple terms of the difficulties inherent in attempting to understand and convey infantile pre-verbal communications and the expression of unconscious phantasy complement those of Susan Isaacs, who eloquently conveys this problem in the first chapter of the book.

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