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10. (1918) The Wolf Man (the Primal Scene)

Meltzer, Donald Harris Meltzer Trust ePub

CHAPTER TEN

The Wolf Man (the primal scene)

The case of the ‘Wolf Man’ is to my mind the most important case history in the whole of psychoanalytic literature and in all of Freud's work; for the Wolf Man was what might be called an encyclopaedia of psychopathology. Moreover, I believe this particular case was Freud's premier clinical experience because all the work that follows seems to be deeply involved with it. It opened up the phenomenon of the primal scene to him. Now this was something which Freud had in fact conceptualized very early on, but which – probably owing to his diminished interest in the idea of specific aetiology – he later put aside. It was not until he was faced with the Wolf Man and his extraordinary dream and the evidence of the impact of the dream on the child's development, that Freud took it up again. In a way it is this theory that gives proper psychoanalytic form to all of Freud's theories about sexuality; for although they had been, as it were, announced in the Three Essays on Sexuality, they were not built upon a foundation of psychoanalytic data, but merely from psychoanalytical modes of thought applied to ordinary medical and psychiatric data.

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1. (1895) Why History?

Meltzer, Donald Harris Meltzer Trust ePub

CHAPTER ONE

Why history?

The recommendation that people who are interested in learning to practise psychoanalytic therapy should apply themselves diligently to the study of Freud seems at first glance to scent of the cult of the personality, to ring of the gospel, and to suggest that nothing else is worthy of study. While it is certain that the recommendation has been used in all these ways, to the detriment of students and psychoanalysis alike, there is another rationale for the advice. There is a cogent justification which has to do with the essential nature of science: namely that it is truly rational in its history. This is formed around a thread of logical necessity. To borrow an image from Freud's early writing, in the history of psychoanalysis revelations or discoveries – whichever they be – adhere to a chain of logically necessary propositions as garlands of flowers wind about a wire.

It may be objected that this does not justify its discoveries being taught as the personal history of a particular worker, even if he can reasonably be called ‘the father of psychoanalysis’, or the greatest figure in its development, or the foremost authority, etc. It will be said, as it has been said, that Lavoisier was the father of chemistry, but we do not teach chemistry by starting with Lavoisier's life, not even his laboratory life, to say nothing of his intimate personal life. It is true that chemistry's history is not the history of people; its logical necessity lies in the relation of particles to one another under varying conditions. However, when you look at the curriculum for the training of chemistry scientists you will find that it adheres absolutely, of necessity, to a sequence which corresponds to the historical development of the science.

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7. Tyranny

Meltzer, Donald Harris Meltzer Trust ePub

Introduction by Irene Freeden

The chapter on “Tyranny” is the culmination of Meltzer's original thinking in his book Sexual States of Mind—a collection of lectures and papers set meticulously in a comprehensive structure. Its first part, “History”, succinctly summarises the theories of Freud, Abraham and Klein on sexual development. Using them as a springboard, Meltzer offers his novel reading of Freud's theory of sexual psychopathology, a reading that insists on the crucial distinction between polymorphism and the perversity of infantile sexuality. The fundamental nature of that difference lies in its definition of the structure of the internal world.

The second part of the book, “Structural Revision of Sexual Theory”, unfolds Meltzer's own view of psychosexual development. It emphasises infantile polymorphous sexuality as opposed to its perverse counterpart that tends to contaminate adult sexual life. “Dread, persecution and terror” (to reverse the original order) of the internal dead babies is the basis for his “structural revision of the theory of perversions and addictions” and their clinical manifestations in the “perversion of the transference”. The clinical and metapsychological basis of Meltzer's future book on the Claustrum is beginning to emerge here.

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CHAPTER THREE: Temperature and Distance

Meltzer, Donald Harris Meltzer Trust ePub

Introduction by Neil Maizels

This pivotal paper could be considered an experiment in notation. Selecting a session, with a view to analyzing his own technique, Meltzer attempts to find a way to observe and write down the non-lexical aspects of his communications to the patient. This takes on directly what had previously only been framed indistinctly and indirectly in psychoanalytic theory—the issue of tone, distance and “music” that is conveyed and modulated in the analytic interpretation. Meltzer conveys the possibility, and even necessity, of a constantly refreshed self-refection by the analyst on the internal dynamics underpinning the range of tones intimated in one's interpretative oferings. Whilst this sort of refective adhocracy is often present in supervisory moments, it had never been taken so fully seriously, on an equal footing with levels of anxiety “correctness” in interpretative work.

The paper belongs to the period when Meltzer was beginning to consider more seriously the nature and requirements of psychoanalysis as an art form. This encompasses such problems as crafting a private language, and developing a feel and pitch—through mysterious but ingenious identifications with one's internal guides—for addressing diferent parts of the patient's self, in the heat of the transference drama. It involves a constant re-sculpting of basic principles of technique into a more fexible resonance of holding-tone, within each session, as the analyst struggles with the limits of mere cleverness or adhesive theoretical adherence. This brings up the interesting question of how much of the psychoanalytic craft is teachable in seminars and lectures and how much can only be imbibed and developed through internal identifications.

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12. Sign, Symbol and Allegory

Meltzer, Donald Harris Meltzer Trust ePub

Introduction by Grete Tangen Andersen, Morten Andersen, Trond Holm, Jon Morgan Stokkeland, Lilian Stokkeland, Eirik Tjessem

In this selection of extracts from some of his later papers and talks, Meltzer elaborates on the essential distinction between signs and symbols. This is perhaps a good place to start for new students of his work: it marks the difference between mind and mindlessness; mindlessness here signifying all the essential adaptational and conventional processes (the use of signs) which do not require the meaning-generating and symbol-forming mind.

This vital distinction has many different roots and ramifications. Among the sources that he mentions are Wittgenstein's linguistic philosophy, Cassirer and Langer on symbolic forms, and—of course—Bion's work. One of the many, and highly interconnected, implications is the difference between received (conventional) symbols and autonomous (original) symbols. What distinguishes the autonomous symbols is that they “are created in the mind of the speaker.” It makes one wonder; how is it that simple and even conventional words uttered, suddenly become true and meaningful? To convey emotional meaning by language is “not just a matter of symbol, not just a matter of words; it is also a matter of the music”. This leads on to the relation between “saying it” and “meaning it” (Wittgenstein, 1953)—being sincere—and to Bion's distinction between “learning from experience” and “learning about”. Learning from experience rests upon symbol formation, which in its essence is an intuitive and mysterious process. It cannot be controlled or negotiated. This gives an answer to the question about what kind of science psychoanalysis is: an observational and descriptive science—it cannot explain and predict.

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