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13. Reading Donald Meltzer: identification and intercourse as modes of reading and relating

Meltzer, Donald Karnac Books ePub

James Fisher

If a lion could talk, we would not understand him” (Wittgenstein, 1953, p, 223). Ludwig Wittgenstein’s intriguing remark invites us to wonder at the mystery of communication. One response, of course, would be to think that if a lion could talk, he would be like us. And if he is like us, would we not, more or less, understand him? But would he be like us—or should I say, would it be like us? What sort of social intercourse could we have with a lion? What would we talk about? For some people, the more they think about such questions, the less sure but more intrigued they become. For others, there is nothing to puzzle over. Either the lion could make itself understood or it couldn’t. Stanley Cavell suggests that Wittgenstein’s remark indicates a sensibility rather than an assertion to be debated (Cavell, 1969b, p. 71). In this chapter, I want to explore the sensibility to reading as a form of relating that resists a premature wish for sameness, that understanding the other involves an openness to intercourse as well as a capacity for identification.

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6 - The Isolated Adolescent

Karnac Books ePub

Carlos Tabbia

At all ages, involuntary and persistent isolation is a matter for concern. At the end of infancy, it may be worrying, but the isolation that appears in adolescence is frequently a symptom of emotional disturbance and can feel deeply alarming for the family. This conflicting developmental period can be better understood psychoanalytically but remains a common topic in the media, which often focus particularly on the influence of electronic games in causing adolescent isolation.

After infancy and latency, puberty emerges with a vigour that can surprise the young person, the family, and his or her friends. Particularly unsettling is the imbalance created by the unintegrated movement of the personality, prone to splitting while sustained by obsessional defences. Puberty also seems to destabilize the physical “centre of gravity”. This is reminiscent of the physical experience that takes place with ice skaters. The Olympic ice skater Yulia Lipnitskaia won a gold medal when she was 15 years old, at the Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, in 2014. One year later, she had to modify her skating technique because her bodily changes had shifted the centre of gravity she had established over many years of training. While her coaches refer to her physical loss of equilibrium, we might also imagine a loss of emotional balance in the face of the changing states of internal objects.

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3. Development is beauty, growth is ethics

Meltzer, Donald Karnac Books ePub

Clara Nemas

When I received the invitation to participate in this celebration of Donald Meltzer’s work, I thought it would be a good idea to make it into an invitation to explore. The penumbra of associations surrounding the word “exploration” seemed to me to involve romantic ideas of unknown, wild, and virgin lands, a compass in my hand, a survival kit. I imagined myself as part of a team with all my colleagues throughout the world with whom, though I may not have actually met them, I would be sharing this project of exploration. I am not sure whether this made me feel more accompanied, but it did give me a measure of courage, not only for the task at hand, but also for overcoming my shyness in this regard, which instead of easing only increased when I tried to “go beyond the prelude”.

In the process of trying to find the North on my compass, a starting point from which to orient myself, the subject of ethics came into view. The subject of values—their detailed scrutiny, their development in the psychoanalytic process, the challenge they represent—is one that constantly interests and concerns me in my work as a psychoanalyst. In my personal and professional history, I have had analysts, supervisors, and teachers whose close contact with Meltzer’s ideas has had an impact on me, and these ideas, in turn, extend and enrich the theories of Klein and Bion. Their presence in my training, the reading of Meltzer’s work, and personal contact with him in recent years have been important factors contributing to my way of thinking about an ethical position in psychoanalysis. All this has influenced my choice of the contents of this chapter; however, beyond any possible explanation, once I had thought of this subject it ensconced itself in me, insisted, and gained its place in the expedition party, with the result that ethics is to be the name of our journey through a territory whose boundaries are not very well defined.

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4. The issue of respect in a medical context

Cohen, Margaret Karnac Books ePub

The essence of friendship lies… in the exercise of a capacity
to perceive, a willingness to respect, and a desire to
understand, the differences between persons.

Richard Wollheim, The Thread of Life, 1984

A full-term baby, “Monica”, came to the NICU because the doctors were worried by her appearance and floppiness. After extensive investigations it was found that she had a neural migration defect, that her brain had not and could not mature, and she would not live. Monica could not swallow—a nasogastric tube would not stay down—so she received nutrition through a long line. This is a soft, flexible tube that is inserted into a vein and passed to the heart to give the baby all essential nutrients for growth. Her breathing was maintained by a ventilator. The long line had been put in with great difficulty by another hospital, which was in full collaboration with the neonatal unit. Monica’s parents were very popular on the unit: their courage and care for their daughter touched the hearts of the unit staff. They listened to the doctors but also voiced their own opinions, and they had good working relations with the nurses.

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1 - Doing things Differently: An Appreciation of Donald Meltzer's Contribution

Karnac Books ePub

Margaret Rustin

The title of this chapter is intended to draw attention to aspects of Donald Meltzer's ways of working which characterized his practice as a psychoanalyst and which, I think, are important in appreciating his originality. Of course, such observations arise from one's own particular perspective and may not be in accord with the recollections or understanding of others, and it is obvious that doing things differently—which I am interpreting, in part, as Meltzer's characteristic commitment to doing things in his own way—means that there will be conflicting views about whether such differences have a good outcome. This chapter is not going to address the institutional conflicts that were part of the historical picture—in fact, I am sure that I am quite ignorant of much of this history. Instead, I hope to describe things that I have observed both in the years of some personal contact with Meltzer and in reading his books and papers over time, things that have struck me as enlightening and interesting, or sometimes maddening and frustrating features of his work, and which arise from his personal style as a writer and analyst. Perhaps, also, I am going to be doing something rather different from other writers who address his ideas, since their focus is more usually on his clinical contributions.

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