14 Chapters
Medium 9781855750623

5. Narcissus: an ‘average’ history

Hamilton, Victoria Karnac Books ePub

Let us now turn to the myth and read of the birth of the hero, Narcissus, and the unfolding relationship between him and his mother, Leiriope. In the words Freud used to describe his reconstruction of the Oedipus legend (Freud, 1939), the following account is presented as an ‘average’ story of Narcissus’ short life. We are told that Leiriope gave birth to ‘a child with whom one could have fallen in love even in his cradle, and she called him Narcissus’ (Ovid, 1955, p. 83). Through the naming of her child, Leiriope already announces some of her expectations. Graves tells us that the narcissus was also called ‘leirion’ (Graves, 1955, p. 288). The leirion was a three-petalled blue fleur-de-lys or iris which was sacred to the Triple-Goddess and worn as a chaplet when the Three Solemn Ones, or Erinnyes, were being placated. It flowers in the late autumn, shortly before the ‘poef s narcissus’, which, Graves says, is perhaps why Leiriope has been described as Narcissus’ mother. Leiriope means literally the face of (-ope) the leirion. It appears, therefore, that the narcissus flower either had another name, the leirion, or it closely superseded the flowering of the leirion. We may infer from Leiriope’s choice of a name that a child represented a strong wish for closeness and even for the birth of a version of herself.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781855750623

9. The watching agency and its products

Hamilton, Victoria Karnac Books ePub

Freud and transitional phenomena

In this chapter, I examine Freud’s account of the stage of development which falls between primary narcissism and the oedipus complex. Although Freud did not use the concepts of the transitional object and transitional phenomena, his understanding of ‘the watching agency’ and its products can be compared with Winnicott’s work in this area. Though there is some overlap in their accounts of specific transitional phenomena, their views on the developmental significance of these phenomena differ radically.

Freud said that primary narcissism is transformed, via repression, into conscience or the watching agency. The watching agency is both a transformation of the primitive, narcissistic ego and, at the same time, it contributes to the foundation of the mature ego. Contemporary Freudian writers have developed Freud’s ideas and have linked some of the products of the watching agency described by Freud, such as memory, dreaming and the sense of time, to the emergence of transitional phenomena. The development and function of the watching agency, for instance, links closely with Tolpin’s account of the child’s internalisation of the mother’s regulatory, care-taking and soothing functions. The watching agency could be viewed as the mental structure which renders the child’s attachment to his transitional object redundant.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781855750623

3. Primary object-love and primary affectional bonds

Hamilton, Victoria Karnac Books ePub

Michael Balint

Michael Balint, who was born in Budapest in 1896 and was analysed by one of Freud’s earliest followers and colleagues, Sandor Ferenczi, was one of the foremost pioneers of the object-relations school. Together with the Scottish psychoanalyst, W. R. D. Fairbairn, he might be regarded as the forerunner of the British ‘Middle Group’ of analysts - a group which continues to play an important role in the integration and clarification of Freudian and Kleinian theory. In 1939, Balint came to England, where he made important contributions both to the developing theory of psychoanalysis and to general psychiatry and medicine. He is particularly well-known for his innovative groups for general practitioners; through these groups, which were attended by doctors from all over Britain, Balint was able to bring psychiatric and psychoanalytic insights into the lives of the general public (Balint, 1957). Balint’s relational concept of ‘primary love’ brought an entirely new perspective to the theory of infancy and a focus on relationships which was quite different to that of Anna Freud and Melanie Klein. Ferenczi had made a particular study of mother-child relations and his interest in the strength of the mother-infant relationship continued to inspire the Hungarian school of psychoanalysts centred in Budapest. Ferenczi introduced the phrase ‘passive object-love’ to describe the infant’s self-centred, but absolutely dependent, love for the mother. In the 1930s, Michael Balint, his wife, Alice, and colleague, I. Hermann, published a series of papers in which they emphasised the importance of the infant’s primary instinct to cling. Hermann observed clinging and grasping movements in the early weeks of the life of infant apes and human babies. He did not postulate that these behaviours were evidence of a primary object-relationship, but Alice and Michael Balint combined his observations with Ferenczi’s concept of passive object-love to form their new concept of ‘primary object-love’. Primary object-love acknowledges the active role played by the infant, illustrated by his clinging tie to the mother. Primary love is thus descriptive of an active love of the mother. The Balints’ view of a primary object-relationship is similar to that of Melanie Klein in that the infant is active and his love is egocentric. However, although unaware of his mother’s interests, the infant’s relationship is neither destructive nor dominated by orality.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781855750623

2. Primary internal object-relationships

Hamilton, Victoria Karnac Books ePub

Melanie Klein

In the early years of psychoanalysis, Anna Freud and Melanie Klein pioneered the field of child psychoanalysis in Europe. Both sought to portray the inner life of the child from infancy to adolescence. Through the medium of play and the tools provided by Freud for adult analysis, they tried to understand the ways in which the child constructed external reality to form a ‘psychic reality’ or ‘phantasy’ world. Anna Freud’ came over to England with her father from Vienna in 1938. Melanie Klein was born in Vienna but had trained and undergone personal analysis in Budapest and Berlin with two eminent psychoanalysts, Sandor Ferenczi and Karl Abraham. In 1926, she arrived in England at the invitation of a Welshman, prominent in the British Society of Psycho-Analysis, Ernest Jones. As Freud had shocked the intellectual world with his revelation of the sexual life of ‘innocent’ young children of only 3-4 years of age, so Klein exposed this world to the ruthless, innately destructive desires of infants’ wishes, which, moreover, were directed specifically towards their principal love-object, the mother. Whereas Anna Freud adapted her father’s technique to the developmental levels of children of different ages, Klein pursued the rigorous, analytic technique employed in adult analysis. She believed that children could form a transference on to the analyst and that the analysis should be confined to interpretative interventions. Unlike Freud and Anna Freud, she believed that the young infant was a moral creature. (This belief is reflected in the dating of the development of the ‘super-ego’.) Maturity was marked by a modulation of this persecutory, archaic morality, a development which usually took place after about four months of age.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781855750623

7. The concept of transitional schemas

Hamilton, Victoria Karnac Books ePub

Between the two stages of development named after the two great myths of psychoanalysis, Narcissus and Oedipus, I posit a transitional stage - a stage characterised, as you might expect, by the use of transitional objects and the emergence of transitional phenomena. According to my interpretation, the myth of Narcissus and Echo illustrates a relationship of synchrony, undiffer-entiation and mutual illusion; the Oedipus Rex dramatises various conflicts related to individuation, agency, responsibility and knowledge. During the first stage of development, the mystery for both partners is to join in the dance;1 during the second stage, each partner must solve the problem of disjunction that is part of the riddle of life. Oedipus’ task is to clear away the delusions in which he was all too happily enmeshed before he consulted the Oracle. By his answer to the riddle of the sphinx, Oedipus “becomes a man’ who walks on his own two feet. In the tragic myth of Narcissus and Echo, echoing and mirroring synchrony is achieved at the expense of mutuality and dialogue. Oedipus’ journey from Corinth to Thebes ends in tragedy because he is implicated in two dramas, adoption and incest, which bring his project to no avail. In the play,2 Sophocles’ use of both themes makes nonsense of the notions of adult intentionality and responsibility which, in the play, the character of Oedipus portrays. Tragedy reaches an excess when the mother, who discarded her offspring on the barren hiUside, gives willing entry to his seed, and when the son, whose father practised philocide, commits parricide.

See All Chapters

See All Chapters