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16. The Transformation of Narcissism through Psychoanalysis

Symington, Neville Karnac Books ePub

What was there after all? Joy, fear, sorrow, devotion, valour, rage – who can tell? – but truth – truth stripped of its cloak of time. Let the fool gape and shudder – the man knows, and can look on without a wink. But he must at least be as much of a man as these on the shore. He must meet that truth with his own true stuff – with his own inborn strength.

(Conrad, 1973)

The core of psychoanalytic method is the use of the transference, a phenomenon whereby the patient expects the analyst to behave in preset ways. These are determined by the patient's inner mental states, which affect how the analyst is perceived. It is frequently stated in the analytic literature that these inner mental states are ‘caused’ by the ways in which people, especially parents, have behaved towards the patient in the infantile environment. What the analyst then experiences in the transference is a projection onto him of this parental imago but what becomes clear in the infantile situation is that the patient is identified with this imago. In other words what is transferred on to the analyst is a hated part of the patient's own self. This identification becomes known when the analyst can see that the patient is behaving in precisely the way that the parent is claimed to have behaved towards the patient.

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Chapter Two: A Creative Principle

Symington, Neville Karnac Books ePub

The proposition is this: that there is in every human being a creative principle. This principle is not known directly but rather indirectly. We infer such a principle therefore from its manifestations. Marion Milner puts this clearly when talking of how artists depict nature:

I began to suspect that they were in fact trying to describe the process of surrendering themselves to the deep spontaneous responses of nature within them, that were stimulated by the contact with nature outside of them. (1987, pp. 222–223)

So what she is saying here is that the “nature outside of them” gave them a picture of what was inside of them. When the function of these manifestations is to point and reveal the invisible inner principles we name them symbols.

The fact that it cannot be known directly is synonymous with saying that it is unconscious—i.e., we are not aware of the thing itself but infer it through things that point to its presence. This is not primarily because the personality defends against it but because the mind is geared to objects but cannot take its own source of activity as an object directly but only indirectly. This ability of the mind to represent one thing by another is the great mutation which took place in the latter part of the process of hominisation.

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CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE: A theory of communication for psychoanalysis

Neville Symington Karnac Books ePub

“. . . philosophy has been misled by the illusion of an isolated formation of the intellect”

(Dilthey, 1989, p. 264)

When I went into psychoanalysis I knew I had in me something that I wanted to be understood by another. On later reflection I realized that I wanted to understand it myself, and that this was only possible if it were first understood by another. That other person could only provide me with the understanding I was looking for provided that I communicate with him. Through inchoate communication with him I was able to come into communication with myself. This suggests that there was a me not easily accessible to the me that busied around the place in daily life and, further, that I felt a strong need to be in communication with that inaccessible me. In a nutshell, that is how I would sum up the situation when I went into psychoanalysis. You might ask, “Well, why didn’t you go to a counsellor or case-worker?” My reply would be that I sensed that the inaccessible me would require the services of someone with a special capacity to reach and communicate with a part of me, perhaps the core of me, that was hidden from view.

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Chapter Eleven: When All-Inclusive Principles are Diffuse

Symington, Neville Karnac Books ePub

In Chapter Five I wrote of the way an all-inclusive principle permeates a range of elements in the personality. The problem is how to locate this principle when it is very diffuse. Grief is easy to detect when it is hitched to a particular event. At a funeral a wife is weeping as her husband's coffin is lowered into the grave, its final resting place. But say the grief is because Natalie's mother was depressed after giving birth to her. Depression means, in this case, that her mother was physically present but her spirit was absent after Natalie's birth. The loss of her mother's spirit caused grief, like the woman whose husband was being buried. Natalie's grief is intense but it cannot be linked to the event that has stimulated it, so it is diffused through the personality. I say that it cannot be linked but this is not quite right. It is with difficulty that it is linked. The two examples above illustrate the matter. In the case of the wife weeping as her husband's coffin is being lowered into the grave there is an inner connection between her and what is happening. It is possible for an inner connection to occur for Natalie also. It would be necessary for her to feel some feature in her personality and to see in a living way the connection to her absent mother. Let us say she has always had a longing to be loved by her brother but knowing always that this is not so. She has the sense of her brother's absence and of seeing suddenly that this pre-dated her longing for her brother in a longing for her mother's love. A moment of illumination occurs that lights up several pathways in her life. I think it is something like this that Bion was trying to describe in his use of the term the selected fact where he says: “The selected fact is the name of an emotional experience, the emotional experience of a sense of discovery of coherence…” (1984, p. 73). Coherence is the crucial word here. In Natalie's longing for her brother, in a moment a pathway of similar longing is lit up, leading to her mother. It is the longing as a principle which receives its essential colouring from her relation to her mother. At that moment the knowledge that her mother was depressed after her birth ceases to be a practical fact like there is a Statue of Liberty at the entrance to New York harbour or the Battle of Waterloo was fought in the year 1815. Instead this disposition known as “longing” becomes shot through with personal significance.

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20. Self-knowledge versus self-consciousness

Neville Symington Karnac Books ePub

The monster is the “ego”, the execrable “ego” of the thankless and presumptuous egoist. It is this “ego” which renders us insensible to sweetest strains and to most pathetic melodies. This rampant being with its coarse and passionate uproar so silences all celestial music that we pass by the claims of Nature and are obsessed by material cares. Many imagine that it is sufficient to be lulled by the murmurs of the forest. Not at all! It is still necessary for Siegfried to exterminate the dragon Fafner. Thus only do we divine a new language, a language marvellously caressing and musical, a language lisped in a former existence, in the far-off fairy days of this world: the language of birds and beasts.

Constantin Photiades, George Meredith:
His Life, Genius and Teaching
(1913, p. 213)

Self-consciousness is often mistaken for self-knowledge; the latter is the real thing, whereas the former is the mimic. Narcissism always masquerades as something else, and in no place is this more true than in the self-knowledge department.

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