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CHAPTER SIXTEEN: Recent suggestions concerning the treatment of cases resistant to the therapeutic effect of analysis

Andre Green Karnac Books ePub

An overall view of the technical positions defended by psychoanalysts concerning the dangers to which analytic treatment is exposed reveals great disparity. The first observation, one I have already made, is that the authors point to the fact that the current population of analysands, or, more broadly, those who turn for help to psychoanalysts, does not constitute a homogenous mass but, on the contrary, forms a diverse ensemble depending on the types of structure to which they are attached. In other words, the time is over when neurosis was the exclusive model of analytic activity and when it was important to distinguish a plurality of typologies, which, taken together, formed a composite image of the analytic population. To this heterogeneity of structures there often corresponded a pluralism of techniques. This diversity was not only to be explained by the global situation of polymorphism, but also by the options chosen by psychoanalysts, not to mention the local traditions which proposed different ways of distinguishing the diverse categories of patients, of comparing them, of treating them, and so on.

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6. Maternal sexuality

Andre Green Karnac Books ePub

Anglo-Saxon conceptions of development, when they are examined critically, reveal a collective level of denial. Just like the child at its beginnings, they block out the fact that the mother is a woman. Is it the secular power of the Virgin Mary in the West that is responsible for this widespread desexualisation of the maternal imago? Or does the fruit of the Immaculate Conception—Saint Anne’s conception of the Virgin—support a still more general fantasy, that the mother knows nothing of a woman’s pleasures? The stereotypical opposition of Mummy and the Whore still persists, right up to the contemporary theo-risations of psychoanalysis. Is this a question of another return of Puritanism? I include in my accusation a psychologism which prefers to skirt around the embarrassing question of the precocious emergence of libidinal life in children and its encounter with that of the object.

If it is in fact permissible to identify in the baby certain crude outlines of sexual life, advance warnings of a libido which will openly bloom later, then it is remarkable that the maternal image bound up in the mother-child relationship is completely desexualised. For all the bodily intimacy linking the partners in this couple, we find in the very latest accounts an image of a frigid mother. If she is ever given the right to have drives, it will hardly be the erotic drives that are highlighted. In searching the depths, the most repressed part of the unconscious, it will be easier to acknowledge the existence of ambivalence, or even hostility towards the child; or, deeper still, of destructive or murderous desires. So it goes, from Anna Freud to Melanie Klein, and from the latter to Daniel Stern. Serge Lebovici occupies a place apart, as his conception of early relationships actually deals with fantasmatic interactions, which at least does not exclude sexuality. The psychoanalytic mother described by Freud, if she may be ‘the first seductress’, is never the object of a seduction, in the strongest sense, on the part of the child. Yet the less restricted of mothers admit to having experienced a pleasure of a frankly sexual nature in breast-feeding their child. Could that have no effect on the baby?

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(II): Hypotheses concerning the negative beyond clinical findings

Andre Green Karnac Books ePub

“We are living in a specially remarkable period. We find to our astonishment that progress has allied itself to barbarism. In Soviet Russia they have set about improving the living conditions of some hundred millions of people who were held firmly in subjection … With similar violence, the Italian people are being trained up to orderliness and a sense of duty. We feel it as a relief from an oppressive apprehension when we see in the case of the German people that a relapse into almost prehistoric barbarism can occur as well without being attached to any progressive ideas. In any case, things have so turned out that to-day the conservative democracies have become the guardians of cultural advance …”

(Freud, 1939a, p. 54)

The reader who has just finished these pages may reasonably consider that he or she has come to the end of the book. Everything that follows should be considered as an independent prolongation serving as an annex and constituting a sort of post-scriptum added to the book, but whose source of inspiration is fortunately more precise. Illusions and Disillusions of Psychoanalytic Work is a book guided by analytic practice and the theory that that practice gives rise to. What is the reason for this split, then, indicating the wish to separate this conclusion from the rest of the text?

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14. Eros: drives of life or love

Andre Green Karnac Books ePub

It is in the name of Freud’s superannuated Romanticism that one distances oneself from such conceptions to offer others, less poetic but more solid. One could argue, equally, that far from attaching himself to Romanticism, Freud breaks with it—in other words, that Freudian themes turn their back on it, to the extent that their conception of the soul is resolutely different (cf. Kahn 1993). Freud’s position can be better understood by considering the constant sense of indebtedness he felt to ancient thought. Indeed, this is reflected by the final choice of the term ‘Eros’.70 It is not incidental if we recall that this choice is declared in Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego (1921:92); it is thus not in the name of some metaphysical vitalism that Freud is led to it, but on the basis of highly perceptible and current phenomena in day-to-day human life. He even goes beyond such a testimony to the present moment, as became tragically clear a posteriori. Freud describes, in anticipation, the totalitarian state of society which was still to come. One is tempted to think that he was offering our imagination a vision of just how great a sickness might break out, and calling for a much more widespread reflection. This sickness was even able to impinge upon the institutions of psychoanalysis.

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CHAPTER THIRTEEN: The modifications of the ego and the work of the negative

Andre Green Karnac Books ePub

It remains for me now to consider those manifestations which are the most difficult to describe. When Freud envisages in “Analysis terminable and interminable” (1937c) the factors that are attributable to the modifications of the ego, he admits his perplexity and recognizes that there is much that could be said about it, but remains discreet. We cannot be satisfied today with mentioning the characteropathic distortions of the ego, the description of which is very partial. I have described a syndrome of psychic desertification (Green, 2002c) to characterize cases where, when one tries to establish the analytic setting with a patient, one finds that he or she is, in fact, unable to tolerate it. One witnesses functional psychical paralyses caused by the traumatic effect exerted on the mind when it is required to abandon itself to free association. In such cases, patients experience a state of psychic emptiness, a libidinal desert, with the feeling that what is required of them simply faces them with their vacuity, with intense feelings of anxiety linked to profound distress, entailing a serious danger of disorganization. The sense of the ego’s unity is jeopardized and the psychic desertification brings with it a risk of psychic annihilation. The analyst is soon obliged to break off an experience which has all the signs of an impending catastrophe, and to return to a more reassuring face-to-face setting, reinforcing relations with reality and avoiding the danger of mental breakdown. It is clear that the face-to-face situation mobilizes defences against a regression that does not just involve the libido, but also concerns the ego, which is seeking to overcome the distress of this state of psychic helplessness.

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