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3. Dreams: who writes the script?

Sanders, Kenneth Karnac Books ePub

The idea of structure, of anatomy of the mind, began in psychoanalysis with the ego, superego, and id (Freud, 1923b). From that beginning has grown a picture of the mind as a population of children and parents. The children of the mind experience externally and internally an oedipal problem that engages them in a flux of integration and disintegration, of projection and introjection, inside and outside an internal mother’s body, which combines in various modes with an internal father.

In 1897, Freud, engrossed in self-analysis, wrote to his confidante Fliess:

One single thought of general value has been revealed to me. I have found in my own case too, falling in love with the mother and jealousy of the father, and I now regard it as a universal event of early childhood…. Our feelings rise up against any arbitrary individual compulsion of fate, but the Greek legend seizes on a compulsion, which everyone recognises because he feels its existence within himself. Each member of the audience was once, in germ and in phantasy just such an Oedipus and each one recoils in horror from the dream fulfilment here transplanted into reality, with the whole quota of repression which separates his infantile state from his present one. [Freud, Letter, 71, 1950 (1892-1899), p. 265]

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10. Epilogue: claustrophilia and the “perennial philosophy”

Sanders, Kenneth Karnac Books ePub

A historical approach to psychoanalysis and the study of confusion between internal and external reality leads the enquirer on to other related areas of thought: to the lives and works of artists and scientists, and to the history of religion and philosophy, where I imagine psychoanalysis lying dormant, awaiting discovery.

Freud wrote of religion as an illusion; he declared himself a pagan and wrote of man as “a creature of weak intelligence who is ruled by his instinctual wishes” (Freud, 1927c, p. 49). Hence his theory of dreams—wish-fulfilments—but in practice he largely ignored the theory and treated them as communications between inner and outer reality (Meltzer, 1983).

The two realities are the key to Klein’s work. She found 10-year-old Richard living in an internal world very different from that of his parents’ home, a world inhabited by superegos who had usurped his ego-ideals (Klein, 1961). Freud’s view that oedipal ambivalence to the parental couple is a source of pain was amply confirmed, and splitting of the ego was revealed as a primary mechanism of defence against it.

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7. The combined part-object in infant observation and practice

Sanders, Kenneth Karnac Books ePub

Infant observation seminars were introduced at the Tavistock Clinic, London, in 1948 when the course in Child Psychotherapy began. In 1960 they were added to the curriculum of the London Institute of Psycho-Analysis, as their help to students in developing a psychoanalytical model of the mind was established (Bick, 1964, p. 240).

Melanie Klein had written in her paper, “On Observing the Behaviour of Young Infants”:

The new-born infant suffers from persecutory anxiety aroused by the process of birth and by the loss of the intra-uterine situation. A prolonged or difficult delivery is bound to intensify this anxiety. Another aspect of this anxiety situation is the necessity forced on the infant to adapt himself to entirely new conditions. These feelings are in some degree relieved by the various measures taken to give him warmth, support and comfort, particularly by the gratification he feels in receiving food and in sucking the breast. These experiences culminating in the first experience of sucking, initiate we may assume, the relation to the “good mother”. It appears that these gratifications in some way also go towards making up for the loss of the intra-uterine state. From the first feeding experience onwards, losing and regaining the loved object (the good breast) become an essential part of infantile life. [Klein, 1952, p. 94]

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5. The mermaid and the sirens

Sanders, Kenneth Karnac Books ePub

The series of dreams described here illustrates the themes of geographical confusion and the improvement in the structure of the personality following its resolution.

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The analysand was apparently well, but she complained of a loss of meaning in the direction her life was taking. She likened herself to a mermaid who can see men on land but is unable to reach them. This thought came at a family wedding, when her attention was caught by a graceful, petite young woman in a full-length sequinned dress. As she approached her fortieth year, she described herself as a creature who might wish to be human and live on land but who was confined to her own watery medium and her gloomy asexual view of the world. Her sense of sanctuary came from identification with a group of like-minded friends: but evidence from her dream life was that her child self inhabited an interior world, inside her internal mother, and attempts to rescue her were frustrated by her timidity about life outside.

After this, I looked again at the Hans Christian Andersen story of the little mermaid, whose famous likeness in the form of a pensive adolescent sits on rock in Copenhagen harbour. Her story is that she is allowed on her fifteenth birthday to come to the surface and look at the world above. A storm blows up, and she rescues a prince from a shipwreck, swimming with him to the shore and to safety. The prince is grateful but has plans to marry a princess. The little mermaid returns, very upset, to her home in the sea. She meets an undersea witch, who gives her a knife and the ability to walk on land so that she can kill the prince on his wedding night. However, when the moment comes, she cannot do it, and for her good she deed lives happily ever after, but as a mermaid.

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6. The combined part-object: from “the woman with a penis” to “the breast-and-nipple”

Sanders, Kenneth Karnac Books ePub

This brief history of the psychoanalytic concept of the combined object—and the combined part-object—begins with a line from a letter Freud wrote in 1897 to his friend Fliess about his hope of discovering in witches a link with hysteria. “Their ‘flying’ is explained; the broomstick they ride on is probably the Great Lord Penis” (Freud, 1950 [1892-1899], p. 242).

This persecutory object—”the woman with a penis”—was taken up later by Klein but disappeared from Freud’s theoretical concepts: “the object” was seen as mindless, as, indeed, were the instincts. In 1905, the definition of the “object” was the person from whom sexual attraction proceeds (Freud, 1905d, p. 135). When the details of pregenital infantile sexuality, anal and oral, were worked out in the following decade, the “partial object” was formally established in connection with it in the developmental table drawn up by Abraham (1924).

By 1932 Melanie Klein had introduced the idea of “the object” as a parental presence that had a value—good or bad—and the term “combined object” signified the mother and father experienced in phantasy as a “bad object”—that is, the sexual couple in the “woman with a penis” tradition of Freud’s witch. “Splitting and idealization” of the mother saved the “good object”—the asexual mother, and at part-object level, her breast—from the depressive consequences of ambivalence.

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