25 Chapters
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CHAPTER FOUR. The language of dreams: the symbolic and the unconscious

West, Marcus Karnac Books ePub

“The most skilful interpreter of dreams is he who has the faculty of observing resemblances”

(Aristotle, 1941, pars 464b, 7–8)

The most valuable and immediately useful thing I have learnt in my career as a psychotherapist (so far) is how and why the unconscious works the way it does. This not only has an immediate significance and application for understanding dreams and the nature of symbols, but I have also found it invaluable in understanding all manner of behaviours and difficulties with which we struggle as human beings, and which had previously been either mysterious or downright incomprehensible to me.

My understanding largely comes from the work of the South American psychoanalyst, Ignacio Matte Blanco, who explored Freud’s five characteristics of the unconscious,1 as outlined in The Interpretation of Dreams (1900a) and “The unconscious” (1915e), and concluded that the unconscious functioned by recognizing the sameness—what he called the “symmetry”—between one thing and another (Matte Blanco, 1975, 1988). In an earlier book (West, 2007), I explored some of the clinical ramifications of this understanding and linked it, in particular, to recent developments in attachment theory, infant development research, and neuroscience.

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CHAPTER ONE: The clinical picture

West, Marcus Karnac Books ePub

Introduction

An outline of the theoretical picture having been given in the Introduction, this chapter first describes the analysis of a patient, whom I will call Rachel, with whom the themes in this book began to take more substantial shape for me. The chapter then introduces theory relevant to the clinical picture, and outlines the identity-affect model, before returning to complete the clinical narrative, drawing together the theoretical and clinical threads.

Rachel's analysis was far from a model one. It represents, in part, the story of my analytic development from inexperience, struggling with boundary issues, and trying to come to grips with this kind of clinical situation, to a more developed analytic attitude. The “errors” were crucial to the generation of the model developed herein and tell us, I believe, much that is important about the nature and functioning of the psyche.

Clinical outline

I had been seeing Rachel four times a week for about six years and, despite my best efforts, things were not going well. Rachel had originally sought analysis to help her deal with her many fears and anxieties: she felt she had no substance or resources in herself, she was powerfully reliant on others, and feared she would not survive in the world. She was frightened that she would black out in public and had done so on at least one occasion.

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CHAPTER NINE: The hysteric personality

West, Marcus Karnac Books ePub

Overview

Regarding the hysteric, Bollas writes,

The mother is in conflict over her child, whom she knows she has failed. In the presence of this primary object, the child seeks out who he or she is to the mother and then tries to identify with this object of desire and to represent it to the mother. The hysteric's ailment, then, is to suspend the self's idiom in order to fulfil the primary object's desire. [Bollas, 2000, p. 12]

Kohon sees the hysteric from a different perspective. He understands that the hysteric individual cannot choose whether to identify with mother or father. This follows from a natural “divalence”, representing a hysterical stage, common to all, which the hysteric is unable to move through. As a result the hysteric

creates the game of multiple identifications, which ultimately leaves the hysteric empty and desperate: the labyrinths of her desire lead nowhere—except to the preservation of that very desire … . She will reject whoever loves her and will die in desperate passion for an inaccessible other. [Kohon, 1999, p. 20]

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CHAPTER FOUR: Klein, Bion, projective identification, and the paranoid-schizoid position

West, Marcus Karnac Books ePub

Introduction

As James Grotstein writes, “questions about the concept of projective identification still persist” (2005, p. 1051). This chapter offers a reframing of the concepts of projective identification and the paranoid-schizoid position. It challenges Klein's classical framing of these phenomena yet is largely, though not wholly, consonant with Bion's later model. Klein's original formulation was in terms of projective identification being the prototype of an aggressive object relationship, and was set firmly within the context and understanding of the paranoid-schizoid position. Bion's developments distinguished normal from excessive projective identification, understanding the former as a mode of communication. Bion developed therefrom the notion of containment, the container-contained, and a theory of thinking. Meltzer took the notion of the container-contained and further described the concept of the claustrum, while Steiner elaborated the notion of psychic retreats. While these later developments have made substantial reference to Bion's frame, they remain superimposed on Klein's classical frame, often without directly addressing the underlying structure. The identity-affect model developed herein offers an alternate framework that, in this chapter, is elaborated in respect to projective identification and the paranoid-schizoid position.

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CHAPTER FIVE. Unlocking the network of associations: the objective, subjective, transference, and archetypal levels of dreams

West, Marcus Karnac Books ePub

Ihave already touched on the different levels in dreams in previous chapters, but I now look at them in some depth, as it is here that we can see how best to explore and work with the symbolic nature of dreams. Perhaps it is worth stating at the outset, however, that, ultimately, in working with dreams the therapist will ideally move fluidly between these different levels, seeing how the essential symbolic meaning will apply in any particular situation and on all levels: on the ordinary, everyday level (objectively), within oneself (subjectively), in the relationship with the therapist (the transference level), and in so far as the dream expresses universal principles, early patterns of relationship, or is particularly powerful or “numinous” (the archetypal level).

In other words, it is not necessary to consciously recognize that you are interpreting a dream on, for example, the subjective or transference levels, this is just a framework that can help think about the different ways that the dream might apply and might, therefore, be thought about. It is helpful to be aware of these different levels, however; if the therapist notices that they rarely look at how the dream applies to the relationship with the therapist (the transference level) they might realize that they are missing a very important and, some would say, vital, facet of the dream. Indeed, there are some schools of thought that treat all dreams that the client has while they are in therapy as relating significantly to the therapeutic relationship, a viewpoint I discuss below.

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