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1. Your Teenager

Martha Harris Harris Meltzer Trust ePub

Martha Harris

The struggle to find an identity is the central task of adolescence. It is a long and slow process during which are laid the final foundations for the personality of the future adult. These foundations, of course, were first begun long ago in the relationship between the baby and its mother and then in that of the infant to both its parents. They have been further developed by later interactions throughout childhood with parents, with brothers and sisters, with friends, school teachers and other important adults. They are affected at every stage not only by the nature of the new acquaintances but also by the child’s approach to these and from the expectations arising from the results of his first encounters with the world. These are then transferred to subsequent relationships.

The very first step in knowing people is to be able to identify with them, to feel your way into their minds, into their personalities, to sense their physical reactions and to learn in these ways what it feels like to be them. Little children do this quite literally when they step into Mummy’s shoes and shufe round the house pretending they are Mummy. The very first way of learning about yourself is also to project yourself, your unknown, unnamed needs and distresses, into your mother and (later) your father. From their greater experience of life and of themselves, and according to their openness to that experience, they may be able to respond to that need, to give you a name for it, a better acquaintance with it and therefore a better grasp of some aspect of yourself (p. 221).

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Medium 9781855756687

IV The Threshold of the Depressive Position

Donald Meltzer Harris Meltzer Trust ePub

IN the first three chapters I have described my tentative reconstruction of the natural history of the analytic process, a sequence dictated by the economics of psychic life, as it unfolds in analysis when adequately presided over and adequately supported by environmental factors outside the analysis proper. It is important to bear in mind that this whole concept of the natural history of the analytic process cannot be used in the moment-to-moment work of the consulting room. It is not a tactical conception but a strategic one, which, like W. R. Bion’s grid,* is for use in mobilising and preserving the therapeutic vitality of .the analyst. Perhaps it is also of use in the retrospection which is required for the making of scientific communications.

It has been described how the gathering together of infantile transference tendencies makes possible a systematic clarification of confusional states, in the course of which there takes place a relinquishment of narcissism (as a principle of organisation) in favour of dependence on internal primal good objects (and externally the analyst and analytic setting and process). I have emphasised that the growth of actual dependence, and the growth of its acknowledgement, proceed independently, the projective relation to the mother (toilet breast) being more easily established than the introjective (feeding breast) which we are about to study. This in turn is more easily accepted than the necessary role of the paternal penis. This conflict, the oedipus complex, at genital and pregenital levels, forms the core of that striving for integration and independence, which we will study in the next chapter.

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Medium 9781855752405

9. Love and destructivity: from the aesthetic conflict to a revision of the concept of destructivity in the psyche

Donald Meltzer Karnac Books ePub

Jean Begoin

I first heard Donald Meltzer speak about the “Aesthetic Conflict” when he presented this new concept in Paris, at a meeting of the GERPEN1 in March 1986, almost fourteen years ago. This paper became the second chapter in his book The Apprehension of Beauty, written with Meg Harris Williams and published two years later, in 1988. As did many others who were listening to Meltzer on this day, I felt that moment deserved to be considered historical, and I still think it was. Many elements were new in this concept, but what was most striking was his evident inspiration: we were listening to a new Meltzer—not so much in his theories, with which I had been familiar for more than twenty years, after having had supervisions and having translated his two first books into French—but especially in what I have to call his “spirit”, a new way of thinking theories, comprising a newly integrated mixture of psychoanalysis, philosophy, and poetry. Actually, it would be more precise to say that we were present at the birth of a higher degree of integration of qualities we had in fact always known in Meltzer since his first papers and his first book, The Psycho-Analytical Process: a unique Meltzerian mixture of science and art.

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Medium 9781855756496

XI: Clinical Application of Bion's Concept ‘Reversal of Alpha-function’

Donald Meltzer Harris Meltzer Trust ePub

When a new theory is proposed in psycho-analysis it can be said to undertake two functions: one is to organise in a more aesthetic (beautiful?) way the clinical phenomena that have already been observed; the other is to provide a tool of observation that will open to view previously invisible phenomena of the consulting room. Bion, beginning with his papers on schizophrenia, sought to amplify the model of die mind which we employ in psycho-analysis so that processes of thinking and disturbances in this capacity could be investigated. The first systematic presentation of this effort, Learning from Experience, formulated an “empty” concept of alpha-function by means of which the “observation of the sense impressions of emotional experiences” were converted into elements, building-blocks for dream thoughts, which could be used for thinking, might be available for storage as memory, and whose continuity formed a “contact barrier” that separated conscious from unconscious mental processes.

The “emptiness” of this model was stressed over and over again by Bion, along with a caution against over-hasty attempts to fill it with clinical meaning. He himself, almost single-handedly, explored its possible meaning in the series of books which followed, namely Elements of Psycho-analysis, Transformations and Attention and Interpretation. It is with a certain trepidation that this paper is offered as a tentative exploration of his fascinating idea that alpha-function can perhaps work backwards, cannibalising the already formed alpha-elements to produce either the beta-screen or perhaps bizarre objects. It is probably best to quote rather than to paraphrase. He writes (page 25, Learning from Experience) in evaluating the analyst's and patient's separate contributions to the situation in which die beta-screen is being formed: “The analysand contributes changes which are associated with the replacement of alpha-function by what may be described as a reversal of direction of the function.” And here he adds a note: “The reversal of direction is compatible with the treatment of thoughts by evacuation; that is to say, if the personality lacks the apparatus that would enable it to ‘think’ thoughts but is capable of attempting to rid the psyche of thoughts in much the same way as it rids itself of accretions of stimuli, then reversal of alpha-function may be the method employed.”

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Medium 9781855756199

XII. Resistance to Dream-analysis in Patient and Analyst

Donald Meltzer Harris Meltzer Trust ePub

Although the practice of psycho-analysis in Freud’s hands more or less starts with dream analysis as the “highroad to the unconscious”, it has had a disappointing history as the decades have slipped past. The literature tells the story clearly, that the painstaking unravelling of dream material through tracing of associations in the manner of the Traumdeutung, gave way gradually to an impressionistic mention of them in passing, and finally almost consistent neglect as writers passed on from investigations of psychopathol-ogy to polemics on psycho-analytical theory. It has been said by more than one distinguished person that even the teaching of dream-analysis is a matter of historical rather than technical interest.

The renewed interest in dreams which is so characteristic of the Kleinian literature stems clearly from the strong affinity between dream material and the playroom phenomena in work with children — their play, drawings, phantasies, direct transference manifestations. While some of the blame for this neglect can be laid at Freud’s door for his more or less pre-psychoanalytic theory about dream mechanics and their trivial place in mental life, the main problem probably resides in the emotional experience of work with dreams. In the previous chapter I have tried to examine the nature of my own method and emotional experience with this aspect of the work, perhaps without fully acknowledging that it has come to play such a central role in my style because I find that it meets some facility, perhaps talent, in me. But while it must be true that patients vary in their talent for remembering dreams, for relating them vividly, perhaps for being able to remember them without progressive distortion, and while it must be similarly true that analysts vary in their talent for envisaging the patient’s dream or a near facsimile, probably the more important factors are emotional on both sides — both for and against the full use of this particular tool of our trade.

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