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2. The false-self couple: seeking truth and being true

James Fisher Karnac Books ePub

In The Winter’s Tale we have a vivid portrayal of how the couple relationship can become, or perhaps inevitably does become, a setting of intense emotions in which truth itself becomes precarious. In the face of Leontes’ certainty that Hermione has been false to him, all protestations to the contrary are swept aside, whether from Hermione herself or from Leontes’ own courtiers. Indeed, Apollo’s oracle too is dismissed by this husband who knows he has been betrayed, betrayed by his wife, betrayed by his childhood friend, betrayed by his loyal minister. And Shakespeare presents this perversion of truth as an attack on the newborn child, the mother’s baby, as well as an attack on the mother herself.

When questions of truth take centre stage in therapy with couples, one is rightly cautious. We hardly ever encounter these questions in a mood of gentle inquiry. Most often they accost us with an angry, accusatory tone. “Tell me the truthl” seldom feels like a genuine invitation to a constructive coming together in a marriage. And, in therapy, seeking the truth can easily be confused with claims to be in possession of the truth, which in turn feels contrary to a mood of exploration.

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3. From the internal parental couple to the marital relationship

Karnac Books ePub

From the internal parental couple to the marital relationship

Giovanna Rita Di Ceglie

It is not clear when the concept of the parental couple appears in the course of individual development or in the culture of a society. Psychoanalysis views the encounter with the “couple” as the most important psychic event. The cluster of emotions, phantasies, conflicts, and thought derived from that encounter is what is called the “Oedipus complex”.

In the original myth, where people tend to act rather than think, there is a simultaneous encounter with and elimination of the couple: encounter with the father and patricide, encounter with the mother and incest.

In the various permutations of these actions in the theatre of the mind, the common denominator is the splitting of the parental couple and the denial of the generation gap. Psychoanalysis has discovered the connection between adulthood and infancy, between past and present, between the way we have emotionally experienced the parents as a couple and the type of relationships we establish as adults.

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11. A sado-masochistic folie a deux

James Fisher Karnac Books ePub

In this penultimate chapter, I want to return to the theoretical structure that underpins the view of psychoanalytic therapy with couples that I have been describing as a struggle to emerge from narcissism towards marriage. By this point in the story, I hope the reader can entertain an understanding of narcissism in which the expression narcissistic object relating does not appear to be the oxymoron it might be in a different theoretical framework. That is, I am assuming a view of narcissism which sees it not as an object-less state, but rather as a way of relating. My aim in inviting the reader on a journey through The Winter’s Tale, the case study of the Webbs, and The Cocktail Party has been to discover how plausible it is to see in them portrayals of narcissistic object relating. When we turn in the final chapter to the picture that Shakespeare paints in his play Othello, we come, I suggest, to what might be described as the portrayal of the apotheosis of narcissistic relating. But before we look more closely at that most disturbing of interlocking couple stories, Othello and Desdemona, and Othello and Iago, I want to consider some more of the complexity of forms of narcissistic relating.

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2. The projective gridlock: a form of projective identification in couple relationships

Karnac Books ePub

The projective gridlock: a form of projective identification in couple relationships

Mary Morgan

In this chapter I introduce the term “projective gridlock” to describe a particular kind of couple relationship in which the couple have a problem feeling psychically separate and different from each other, and hence create between them a relationship in which they feel locked together in a defensive collusion within which there is only very limited growth. I explore the particular way projective identification is used to create this kind of relationship, drawing on the work of Klein and Rosenfeld. I further suggest that the creation of such a relationship develops from a different kind of “unconscious choice of partner” than that usually understood by the notion of unconscious choice as developed within the Tavistock Marital Studies Institute. I illustrate these ideas with clinical material drawn from couples seen for marital psychotherapy in both single and joint sessions. Finally, I consider some technical issues.

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4. Gesture and recognition: an alternative model to projective identification as a basis for couple relationships

Karnac Books ePub

Gesture and recognition: an alternative model to projective identification as a basis for couple relationships

Warren Colman

In this chapter I propose a modification and limitation of the rather over-extended use of the term “projective identification”. I suggest that some uses of the term may be better understood to refer to a state of fluid ego boundaries, which, in health, may promote a sense of mutual identification between individuals; this needs to be distinguished from the defensive uses of projective identification associated with splitting and denial. Mutual identification is based in early communication processes between mother and infant, which Winnicott (1960b) has described as the mother’s response to her infant’s gesture. These processes occur prior to the establishment of the infant’s own sense of ego boundaries, which are required before projective identification can become a possibility.

My preference is to reserve the use of term “projective identification” for defensive processes subsequent to these early communications between mother and infant in which the mother’s own fluid ego-boundaries—her “primary maternal preoccupation” (Winnicott, 1956) or “reverie” (Bion, 1962a)—enable her to respond appropriately to the infant’s need to experience an illusion of oneness with her. However, since usage is a matter of shared custom rather than any one individual’s definition, we shall probably all continue to think of this distinction as being between the positive, creative use of projective identification for the purposes of communication and its defensive use for the purposes of evacuation, control, and intrusion. My concern is less with the introduction of new terms than with clarifying the different processes to which these terms refer.

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