The term “intersubjectivity” was introduced to psychoanalysis by George Atwood and Robert Stolorow (1984), who consider it a “meta-theory” of psychoanalysis. Intersubjective psychoanalysis suggests that all interactions must be considered contextually; interactions between the patient/analyst or child/parent cannot be seen as separate from each other, but rather must be considered always as mutually influencing each other. This philosophical concept dates back to “German Idealism” and phenomenology.
In philosophy, psychology, sociology, and anthropology, intersubjectivity is the relation or intersection between people’s cognitive perspectives.
The Myth of Isolated Mind
Trends in intersubjective psychoanalysis have accused traditional or classical psychoanalysis of having described psychic phenomena as “the myth of isolated mind” (i.e. coming from within the patient). Psychoanalyst and philosopher Jon Mills, has criticized this accusation as a misinterpretation of Freudian theory. However, the intersubjective approach emphasizes that psychic phenomena are contextual and an interplay between the analyst and analysand.
Heinz Kohut is commonly considered the pioneer of the relational and intersubjective approaches. Following him, significant contributors include:
The Talking Cure and chimney sweeping were terms Bertha Pappenheim, known in case studies by the alias Anna O., used for the verbal therapy given to her by Josef Breuer. They were first published in Studies on Hysteria (1895).
As Ernest Jones put it, “On one occasion she related the details of the first appearance of a particular symptom and, to Breuer’s great astonishment, this resulted in its complete disappearance,” or in Lacan‘s words, “the more Anna provided signifiers, the more she chattered on, the better it went”.
Breuer found that Pappenheim’s symptoms – headaches, excitement, curious vision disturbances, partial paralyses, and loss of sensation, which had no organic origin and are now called somatoform disorders – improved once the subject expressed her repressed trauma and related emotions, a process later called catharsis. Peter Gay considered that, “Breuer rightly claimed a quarter of a century later that his treatment of Bertha Pappenheim contained ‘the germ cell of the whole of psychoanalysis’.”
Sigmund Freud later adopted the term talking cure to describe the fundamental work of psychoanalysis. He himself referenced Breuer and Anna O. in his Lectures on Psychoanalysis at Clark University, Worcester, MA, in September 1909: “The patient herself, who, strange to say, could at this time only speak and understand English, christened this novel kind of treatment the ‘talking cure’ or used to refer to it jokingly as ‘chimney-sweeping’.”
There are currently three English translations of Studies on Hysteria, the first by A. A. Brill (1937), the second by James Strachey (1955), included in the Standard Edition, and the third by Nicola Luckhurst (2004). The following samples come from Breuer’s case study on “Anna O…” where the concept of talking cure appears for the first time and illustrate how the translations differ:
In the country, where I could not see the patient daily, the situation developed in the following manner: I came in the evening when I knew that she was in a state of hypnosis, and I took away from her the whole supply of fantasms which she had collected since my last visit. In order to obtain good results this had to be accomplished very thoroughly. Following this, she was quite tranquil and the next day she was very pleasant, docile, industrious and cheerful. The following day she was always more moody, peevish, and unpleasant; all of which became more marked on the third day. In this state of mind it was not always easy even in hypnosis to induce her to express herself, for which procedure she invented the good and serious name of “talking-cure,” and humorously referred to it as “chimney-sweeping.” She knew that after expressing herself, she would lose all her peevishness and “energy,” yet whenever (after a long pause) she was in an angry mood she refused to talk, so that I had to extort it from her through urging and begging, as well as through some tricks, such as reciting to her a stereotyped introductory formula of her stories. But she never spoke until after she had carefully touched my hands and had become convinced of my identity. During the nights when rest could not be obtained through expression, one had to make use of chloral. I tried this a number of times before, but I had to give her 5 grams per dose, and sleep was preceded by a sort of intoxication, which lasted an hour. In my presence she was cheerful, but when I was away, there appeared a most uncomfortable, anxious state of excitement (incidentally, the deep intoxication just mentioned made no change in the contractures). I could have omitted the narcotic because the talking, if it did not bring sleep, at least produced calm. In the country, however, the nights were so intolerable between the hypnotic alleviations, that we had to resort to chloral. Gradually, however, she did not need so much of it.
While she was in the country, when I was unable to pay her daily visits, the situation developed as follows. I used to visit her in the evening, when I knew I should find her in her hypnosis, and I then relieved her of the whole stock of imaginative products which she had accumulated since my last visit. It was essential that this should be effected completely if good results were to follow. When this was done she became perfectly calm, and next day she would be agreeable, easy to manage, industrious and even cheerful; but on the second day she would be increasingly moody, contrary and unpleasant, and this would become still more marked on the third day. When she was like this it was not always easy to get her to talk, even in her hypnosis. She aptly described this procedure, speaking seriously, as a ‘talking cure’, while she referred to it jokingly as ‘chimney-sweeping’. She knew that after she had given utterance to her hallucinations she would lose all her obstinacy and what she described as her ‘energy’; and when, after some comparatively long interval, she was in a bad temper, she would refuse to talk, and I was obliged to overcome her unwillingness by urging and pleading and using devices such as repeating a formula with which she was in the habit of introducing her stories. But she would never begin to talk until she had satisfied herself of my identity by carefully feeling my hands. On those nights on which she had not been calmed by verbal utterance it was necessary to fall back upon chloral. I had tried it on a few earlier occasions, but I was obliged to give her 5 grammes, and sleep was preceded by a state of intoxication which lasted for some hours. When I was present this state was euphoric, but in my absence it was highly disagreeable and characterized by anxiety as well as excitement. (It may be remarked incidentally that this severe state of intoxication made no difference to her contractures.) I had been able to avoid the use of narcotics, since the verbal utterance of her hallucinations calmed her even though it might not induce sleep; but when she was in the country the nights on which she had not obtained hypnotic relief were so unbearable that in spite of everything it was necessary to have recourse to chloral. But it became possible gradually to reduce the dose. —————————  These two phrases are in English in the original.
While the patient was in the country, where I was unable to visit her every day, the situation developed as follows. I came in the evening, when I knew that she would be in her hypnosis, and removed the entire stock of phantasms that she had amassed since my last visit. For this to be successful, there could be no omissions. Then she would become quite calm and on the following day was agreeable, obedient, industrious, and even in good spirits. But on the second day she was increasingly moody, contrary and disagreeable, and this worsened on the third. Once she was in this temper it was not always easy, even in her hypnosis, to get her to talk things through, a procedure for which she had found two names in English, the apt and serious ‘talking cure’ and the humorous ‘chimney-sweeping’. She knew that having spoken out she would lose all her contrariness and ‘energy’. If, after a comparatively long break, she was already in a bad mood, she would refuse to talk, and I had to wrest it from her, with demands, pleas and a few tricks such as reciting one of the phrases with which she would typically begin her stories. But she would never speak until she had made sure of my identity by carefully feeling my hands. During those nights when talking things through had not calmed her, it was necessary to resort to chloral. I had tried this on a few previous occasions, but found it necessary to give her 5 grams, and sleep was then preceded by a state of intoxication lasting several hours. Whenever I was present, this state was bright and cheerful, but, in my absence, it took the form of an anxious and extremely unpleasant excitement. (The contracture was completely unaffected by this state of severe intoxication.) I had been able to avoid the narcotic, because the talking through at the very least calmed her down, even if it did not also allow her to sleep. But while she was living in the country the nights between those in which she was relieved by hypnosis were so unbearable that it was necessary to resort to chloral; gradually, however, she needed to take less of it.
Mental health professionals now use the term talking cure more widely to mean any of a variety of talking therapies. Some consider that after a century of employment the talking cure has finally led to the writing cure.
The Talking Cure: The science behind psychotherapy is also the name of a book published by Holt and authored by Susan C. Vaughan MD in 1997. It explores the way in which psychotherapy reshapes the through incorporating neuroscience research with psychotherapy research and research on development. It contains clinical vignettes of the “talking cure” in action from real psychotherapies.
The actress Diane Keaton attributes her recovery from bulimia to the talking cure: “All those disjointed words and half-sentences, all those complaining, awkward phrases…made the difference. It was the talking cure; the talking cure that gave me a way out of addiction; the damn talking cure.”
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Neutrality is an essential part of the analyst’s attitude during treatment, developed as part of the non-directive, evenly suspended listening which Freud used to complement the patient’s free association in the talking cure.
In the Little Hans case study of 1909, Freud criticised the boy’s father (the prime ‘analyst’): “He asks too much and investigates in accord with his own presuppositions instead of letting the little boy express himself”. In 1912 he laid down the mirror rule, that the analyst should not reciprocate the patient’s confidences, but only reflect back what they themselves contained. In 1915 he introduced the term neutrality, warning especially against too great eagerness to cure; and in 1919 he wrote against offering guidance or counselling – synthesis as opposed to analysis – as to what form the patient’s cure should take.
Freud’s guidelines, especially with regard to the bracketing of ethical judgements, and personal disclosures, rapidly became accepted in the psychoanalytic mainstream, as did the need to respect the patient’s speech and not impose preconceptions on it.
The principle of neutrality took on especial force as regards manifestations of transference, particularly given the strength of the emotions aroused thereby. Neutrality meant resisting the natural impulse to reciprocate affects, so as to remain in a position to analyse the transference, not respond to it.
Deviations and Criticisms
Freud’s analytic practice was noticeably less austere than the principles of neutrality he laid down: he would argue with, praise, and lend money to patients, and even records feeding the Rat Man on one occasion. However the first theoretical challenge to Freud’s concept came from Sándor Ferenczi, who saw the analyst’s attitude of non-disclosure in particular as part of the problem not the solution. Others would subsequently expand on Ferenczi’s points, Nina Coltart for example suspecting the “austere and benevolently neutral manner which we hold as our working ideal” and stressing that “we can do no harm to a patient by showing authentic affect”.
The centre was founded in 1985 by Bice Benvenuto, Professor Bernard Burgoyne, Richard Klein and Darian Leader. It was established as a charity with the purpose of advancing education for the benefit of the public in particular by the provision of training and seminars in psychoanalysis.
CFAR offers introductory and advanced courses in psychoanalysis, and trains psychoanalysts within the context of its clinical training programme. Seminars are given by visiting Lacanian analysts from France, Belgium, Spain and Australia.
The Centre publishes a Journal JCFAR which contains articles on psychoanalytic themes from a Freudian and Lacanian perspective. In association with Karnac Books CFAR has published The Centre for Freudian Analysis and Research Library which aims to make classic Lacanian texts available in English for the first time, as well as publishing original research in the Lacanian field:
Sexual Ambiguities by Geneviève Morel.
The Trainings of the Psychoanalyst by Annie Tardits.
Freud and the Desire of the Psychoanalyst by Serge Cottet.
Lacan and Levi-Strauss or The Return to Freud (1951-1957) by Markos Zafiropoulos.
Challenge to Health Professions Council
In February 2007 the UK Government published a white paper (‘Trust, Assurance and Safety – The Regulation of Health Professionals in the 21st Century’) which stated that “The government is planning to introduce statutory regulation for…psychotherapists and counsellors…” and that “…psychotherapists and counsellors will be regulated by the Health Professions Council, following that Council’s rigorous process of assessing their regulatory needs and ensuring that its system is capable of accommodating them”.
As a response to this proposed regulation by the Health Professions Council (HPC), CFAR was one of the organisations that contributed to the Maresfield report which opposed the suitability of the HPC as a regulating body for the professions of counselling and psychotherapy in the UK.
Following on from this report, CFAR was one of six organisations that called for a judicial review of whether or not the HPC had, in fact, fully assessed the regulatory needs of the professions or properly determined if it was the most appropriate body to provide such regulation. On Friday 10 December 2010, a Judicial Review Permission Hearing under The Hon. Mr Justice Burton at the Royal Courts of Justice found against the Health Professions Council and granted permission to proceed towards a Judicial Review of the proposals for regulation under the HPC. On 16 February 2011 the UK government – in its command paper ‘Enabling Excellence’ – halted the project to regulate counselling, psychotherapy and other talking treatments via the HPC.
Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis is a private educational institution that focuses on training psychoanalysts, particularly in the field of modern psychoanalysis.
Founded in 1973, it only awards graduate degrees. Its main campus is in Brookline, Massachusetts.
The Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis, including its branch campus in New York, is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Inc. through its Commission on Institutions of Higher Education. It first received accreditation from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) in 1995, which opened psychoanalytic study to any qualified and engaged student irrespective of prior courses of study.
The school is the only regionally accredited school of psychoanalytic studies in the United States to grant graduate degrees.
In Freudian psychology, the anal stage is said to follow the oral stage of infant or early-childhood development. This is a time when an infant’s attention moves from oral stimulation to anal stimulation (usually the bowels but occasionally the bladder), usually synchronous with learning to control its excretory functions – in other words, any form of child training and not specifically linked to toilet training. Freud posited that children who experience conflicts, in which libido energy is under-indulged during this period of time, and the child is perhaps too strongly chastised for toilet-training accidents, may develop “anal retentive” fixations or personality traits. These traits are associated with a child’s efforts at excretory control: orderliness, stubbornness, and compulsions for control. Conversely, those who are overindulged during this period may develop “anal-expulsive” personality types.
Influence and Refutation
Freud’s theories on early childhood have been influential on the psychological community; the phrase anal retentive and the term anal survive in common usage. The second edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-II) introduced obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD), with a definition based on Freud’s description of anal-retentive personality. But the association between OCPD and toilet training is largely regarded as unsupported “pop-psychology” and therefore discredited by the majority of psychologists of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. There is no conclusive research linking anal stage conflicts with “anal” personality types.
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André Green (12 March 1927 to 22 January 2012) was a French psychoanalyst.
Life and Career
André Green was born in Cairo, Egypt, to non observant Jewish parents. He studied medicine (specialising in psychiatry) at Paris Medical School and worked at several hospitals. Then, in 1965, after having finished his training as a psychoanalyst, he became a member of the Paris Psychoanalytic Society (SPP), of which he was the president from 1986 to 1989. From 1975 to 1977 he was a vice president of the International Psychoanalytical Association and from 1979 to 1980 a professor at University College London. He died, aged 84, in Paris.
André Green was the author of numerous papers and books on the theory and practice of psychoanalysis and the psychoanalytic criticism of culture and literature, many of which have also appeared in English translations.
Encounter with Lacan
In the early 1960s, Green could be found attending Lacan’s seminar, without abandoning his affiliation to the SPP – a bold decision which for some time enabled him to straddle the competing strands of French psychoanalysis from an independent position. As the decade progressed however, he moved further from Lacan, and finally broke with the latter in 1970 by criticising his concept of the signifier for its neglect of affect.
By doing so, he replaced the SPP’s normally defensive approach towards Lacanianism with a direct theoretical confrontation. Most tellingly, Green points out that whereas “Lacan is saying that the unconscious is structured like a language…when you read Freud, it is obvious that this proposition doesn’t work for a minute. Freud very clearly opposes the unconscious (which he says is constituted by thing-presentations and nothing else) to the pre-conscious. What is related to language can only belong to the pre-conscious”.
The Greenian Synthesis
Over the decades since, R. Horacio Etchegoyen concluded that what he called “the complex itinerary of Andre Green’s prolific work” has continued to demonstrate the intellectually independent way in which “Green is a Freudian analyst who has managed to integrate in a lucid synthesis the influence of authors as diverse as Lacan, Bion, and, especially, Winnicott”.
The result was to make André Green one of the most important psychoanalytic thinkers of our times – the creator of what has been called a Greenian theory of psychoanalysis (Kohon, 1999). Building on Freudian metapsychology, Green elaborated a further theory of the unrepresentable, relating thinking to absence as well as to sexuality.
While containing a multiplicity of local contributions – on the central phobic position; subjective disengagement; unconscious recognition; the dead mother; and more – the Greenian psychoanalytic framework has been seen as a totality, producing something greater than the sum of its parts.
On the Work of the Negative
A significant part of Green’s contribution to contemporary psychoanalysis has centred on his exploration of ‘the different modalities of the work of the negative’. He has highlighted the way ‘accepting the negation of what was there is necessary for relationships to new things to become possible’ – the way that ‘to accept the reality of lack…opens the door, through a process of working-through, to new experience, new ideals and new object-relationships’.
On the Analytic Setting
For Green, the analytic setting is in itself a recreation of psychic reality. ‘The symbolism of the setting comprises a triangular paradigm, uniting the three polarities of the dream (narcissism), of maternal caring (from the mother, following Winnicott), and of the prohibition of incest (from the father, following Freud). What the psychoanalytic apparatus gives rise to, then, is the symbolisation of the unconscious structure of the Oedipus Complex ‘.
Dreams are, ‘for Andre Green, negative states trying to accede to symbolization’, so that, as ‘summed up by Adam Phillips: “Dreams and affects, and states of emptiness or absence have been the essential perplexities of Green’s work because they are the areas of experience…in which the nature of representation itself is put at risk”‘.
Green saw moral narcissism as the attempt to elevate oneself above ordinary human needs and attachments – an ascetic attempt at creating an impregnable sense of moral superiority.
Love and hate as co-existing forces have been thoroughly explored within the literature of psychoanalysis, building on awareness of their co-existence in Western culture reaching back to the “odi et amo” of Catullus, and Plato’s Symposium.
Love and Hate in Freud’s Work
Ambivalence was the term borrowed by Sigmund Freud to indicate the simultaneous presence of love and hate towards the same object. While the roots of ambivalence can be traced back to breast-feeding in the oral stage, it was reinforced during toilet-training as well. Freudian followers such as Karl Abraham and Erik H. Erikson distinguished between an early sub-stage with no ambivalence at all towards the mother’s breast, and a later oral-sadistic sub-phase where the biting activity emerges and the phenomenon of ambivalence appears for the first time. The child is interested in both libidinal and aggressive gratifications, and the mother’s breast is at the same time loved and hated.
While during the pre-oedipal stages ambivalent feelings are expressed in a dyadic relationship between the mother and the child, during the oedipal conflict ambivalence is experienced for the first time within a triangular context which involves the child, the mother and the father. In this stage, both the boy and the girl develop negative feelings of jealousy, hostility and rivalry toward the parent of the same sex, but with different mechanisms for the two sexes. The boy’s attachment to his mother becomes stronger, and he starts developing negative feelings of rivalry and hostility toward the father. The boy wishes to destroy the father so that he can become his mother’s unique love object. On the other hand, the girl starts a love relationship with her father. The mother is seen by the girl as a competitor for the father’s love and so the girl starts feeling hostility and jealousy towards her. The negative feelings which arise in this phase coexist with love and affection toward the parent of the same sex and result in an ambivalence which is expressed in feelings, behaviour and fantasies. The negative feelings are a source of anxiety for the child who is afraid that the parent of the same sex would take revenge on him/her. In order to lessen the anxiety, the child activates the defence mechanism of identification, and identifies with the parent of the same sex. This process leads to the formation of the Super-Ego.
According to Freud, ambivalence is the precondition for melancholia, together with loss of a loved object, oral regression and discharge of the aggression toward the self. In this condition, the ambivalently loved object is introjected, and the libido is withdrawn into the self in order to establish identification with the loved object. The object loss then turns into an ego loss and the conflict between the Ego and the Super-Ego becomes manifested. The same ambivalence occurs in the obsessional neurosis, but there it remains related to the outside object.
In the Work of Melanie Klein
The object relations theory of Melanie Klein pivoted around the importance of love and hate, concern for and destruction of others, from infancy onwards. Klein stressed the importance of inborn aggression as a reflection of the death drive and talked about the battle of love and hatred throughout the life span. As life begins, the first object for the infant to relate with the external world is the mother. It is there that both good and bad aspects of the self are split and projected as love and hatred to the mother and the others around her later on: as analyst, she would find herself split similarly into a “nice” and a “bad” Mrs Klein.
During the paranoid-schizoid position, the infant sees objects around it either as good or bad, according to his/her experiences with them. They are felt to be loving and good when the infant’s wishes are gratified and happy feelings prevail. On the other hand, objects are seen as bad when the infant’s wishes are not met adequately and frustration prevails. In the child’s world there is not yet a distinction between fantasy and reality; loving and hating experiences towards the good and bad objects are believed to have an actual impact on the surrounding objects. Therefore, the infant must keep these loving and hating emotions as distinct as possible, because of the paranoid anxiety that the destructive force of the bad object will destroy the loving object from which the infant gains refuge against the bad objects. The mother must be either good or bad and the feeling experienced is either love or hate.
Emotions become integrated as a part of the development process. As the infant’s potential to tolerate ambivalent feelings with the depressive position, the infant starts forming a perception of the objects around it as both good and bad, thus tolerating the coexistence of these two opposite feelings for the same object where experience had previously been either idealised or dismissed as bad, the good object can be accepted as frustrating without losing its acceptable status. When this takes place, the previous paranoid anxiety (that the bad object will destroy everything) transforms into a depressive anxiety; this is the intense fear that the child’s own destructiveness (hate) will damage the beloved others. Subsequently, for the coexistence of love and hate to be attainable, the child must believe in her ability to contain hate, without letting it destroy the loving objects. He/she must believe in the prevalence of the loving feelings over his/her aggressiveness. Since this ambivalent state is hard to preserve, under difficult circumstances it is lost, and the person returns to the previous manner keeping love and hate distinct for a period of time until he/she is able to regain the capacity for ambivalence.
Refer to The Life and Death Instincts in Kleinian Object Relations Theory.
In the Work of Ian Suttie
Ian Dishart Suttie (1898-1935) wrote the book The Origins of Love and Hate, which was first published in 1935, a few days after his death. He was born in Glasgow and was the third of four children. His father was a general practitioner, and Ian Suttie and both of his brothers and his sister became doctors as well. He qualified from Glasgow University in 1914. After a year he went into psychiatry.
Although his work has been out of print in England for some years, it is still relevant today. It has been often cited and makes a contribution towards understanding the more difficult aspects of family relationships and friendships. He can be seen as one of the first significant object relations theorists and his ideas anticipated the concepts put forward by modern self psychologists.
Although Ian Suttie was working within the tradition set by Freud, there were a lot of concepts of Freud’s theory he disagreed with. First of all, Suttie saw sociability, the craving for companionship, the need to love and be loved, to exchange and to participate, to be as primary as sexuality itself. And in contrast with Freud he didn’t see sociability and love simply as a derivative from sexuality. Secondly, Ian Suttie explained anxiety and neurotic maladjustment, as a reaction on the failure of finding a response for this sociability; when primary social love and tenderness fails to find the response it seeks, the arisen frustration will produce a kind of separation anxiety. This view is more clearly illustrated by a piece of writing of Suttie himself: ‘Instead of an armament of instincts, latent or otherwise, the child is born with a simple attachment-to-mother who is the sole source of food and protection… the need for a mother is primarily presented to the child mind as a need for company and as a discomfort in isolation’.
Ian Suttie saw the infant as striving from the first to relate to his mother, and future mental health would depend on the success or failure of this first relationship (object relations). Another advocate of the object relations paradigm is Melanie Klein. Object relations was in contrast with Freud’s psychoanalysis. The advocates of this object relations paradigm all, in exception of Melanie Klein, held the opinion that most differences in individual development that are of importance for mental health could be traced to differences in the way children were treated by their parents or to the loss or separation of parent-figures. In the explanation of the love and hate relationship by Ian Suttie, the focus, not surprisingly, lies in relations and the social environment. According to Suttie, Freud saw love and hate as two distinct instincts. Hate had to be overcome with love, and because both terms are seen as two different instincts, this means repression. In Suttie’s view however, this is incompatible with the other Freudian view that life is a struggle to attain peace by the release of the impulse. These inconsistencies would be caused by leaving out the social situations and motives. Suttie saw hate as the frustration aspect of love. “The greater the love, the greater the hate or jealousy caused by its frustration and the greater the ambivalence or guilt that may arise in relation to it.” Hate has to be overcome with love by the child removing the cause of the anxiety and hate by restoring harmonious relationships. The feeling of anxiety and hate can then change back into the feeling of love and security. This counts for the situation between mother and child and later for following relationships.
In Suttie’s view, the beginning of the relationship between mother and child is a happy and symbiotic one as well. This happy symbiotic relationship between mother and baby can be disrupted by for example a second baby or the mother returning to work. This makes the infant feel irritable, insecure and anxious. This would be the start of the feeling of ambivalence: feelings of love and hate towards the mother. The child attempts to remove the cause of the anxiety and hate to restore the relationship (retransforming). This retransforming is necessary, because hate of a loved object (ambivalence) is intolerable.
In the Work of Edith Jacobson
The newborn baby is not able to distinguish the self from others and the relationship with the mother is symbiotic, with the two individuals forming a unique object. In this period, the child generates two different images of the mother. On one hand there is the loving mother, whose image derives from experiences of love and satisfaction in the relationship with her. On the other hand, there is the bad mother, whose image derives from frustrating and upsetting experiences in the relationship. Since the child at this stage is unable to distinguish the self from the other, those two opposite images are often fused and confused, rather than distinguished. At about six months of age, the child becomes able to distinguish the self from the others. He now understands that his mother can be both gratifying and frustrating, and he starts experiencing himself as being able to feel both love and anger.
This ambivalence results in a vacillation between attitudes of passive dependency on the omnipotent mother and aggressive strivings for self expansion and control over the love object. The passive-submissive and active-aggressive behaviour of the child during the pre-oedipal and the early oedipal period is determined by his ambivalent emotional fluctuations between loving and trusting admirations of his parents and disappointed depreciation of the loved objects. The ego can use this ambivalence conflicts to distinguish between the self and the object. At the beginning, the child tends to turn aggression toward the frustrating objects and libido towards the self. Hence, frustration, demands and restrictions imposed by parents within normal bounds, reinforce the process of discovery and distinction of the object and the self. When early experiences of severe disappointment and abandonment have prevented the building up of un-ambivalent object relations and stable identifications and weakened the child’s self-esteem, they may result in ambivalence conflict in adulthood, which in turn causes depressive states.
Karl Abraham (03 May 1877 to 25 December 1925) was an influential German psychoanalyst, and a collaborator of Sigmund Freud, who called him his ‘best pupil’.
Abraham was born in Bremen, Germany. His parents were Nathan Abraham, a Jewish religion teacher (1842-1915), and his wife (and cousin) Ida (1847-1929). His studies in medicine enabled him to take a position at the Burghölzli Swiss Mental Hospital, where Eugen Bleuler practiced. The setting of this hospital initially introduced him to the psychoanalysis of Carl Gustav Jung.
In 1907, he had his first contact with Sigmund Freud, with whom he developed a lifetime relationship. Returning to Germany, he founded the Berliner Society of Psychoanalysis in 1910. He was the president of the International Psychoanalytical Association from 1914 to 1918 and again in 1925.
Karl Abraham collaborated with Freud on the understanding of manic-depressive illness, leading to Freud’s paper on ‘Mourning and Melancholia’ in 1917. He was the analyst of Melanie Klein during the years 1924-1925, and of a number of other British psychoanalysts, including Edward Glover and Alix Strachey. He was a mentor for an influential group of German analysts, including Karen Horney, Helene Deutsch, and Franz Alexander.
Karl Abraham studied the role of infant sexuality in character development and mental illness and, like Freud, suggested that if psychosexual development is fixated at some point, mental disorders will likely emerge. He described the personality traits and psychopathology that result from the oral and anal stages of development (1921).
Abraham observed his only daughter, Hilda, reporting on her reaction to enemas and infantile masturbation by her brother. He asked that secrets be shared with him but he was careful to respect her privacy and some reports were not published until after Hilda’s death. Hilda was later to become a psychoanalyst.
In the oral stage of development, the first relationships children have with objects (caretakers) determine their subsequent relationship to reality. Oral satisfaction can result in self-assurance and optimism, whereas oral fixation can lead to pessimism and depression. Moreover, a person with an oral fixation will present a disinclination to take care of him/herself and will require others to look after him/her. This may be expressed through extreme passivity (corresponding to the oral benign suckling substage) or through a highly active oral-sadistic behaviour (corresponding to the later sadistic biting substage).
In the anal stage, when the training in cleanliness starts too early, conflicts may result between a conscious attitude of obedience and an unconscious desire for resistance. This can lead to traits such as frugality, orderliness and obstinacy, as well as to obsessional neurosis as a result of anal fixation (Abraham, 1921). In addition, Abraham based his understanding of manic-depressive illness on the study of the painter Segantini: an actual event of loss is not itself sufficient to bring the psychological disturbance involved in melancholic depression. This disturbance is linked with disappointing incidents of early childhood; in the case of men always with the mother (Abraham, 1911). This concept of the prooedipal “bad” mother was a new development in contrast to Freud’s oedipal mother and paved the way for the theories of Melanie Klein.
Another important contribution is his work “A short study of the Development of the Libido”, where he elaborated on Freud’s “Mourning and Melancholia” (1917) and demonstrated the vicissitudes of normal and pathological object relations and reactions to object loss.
Moreover, Abraham investigated child sexual trauma and, like Freud, proposed that sexual abuse was common among psychotic and neurotic patients. Furthermore, he argued (1907) that dementia praecox is associated with child sexual trauma, based on the relationship between hysteria and child sexual trauma demonstrated by Freud.
Abraham (1920) also showed interest in cultural issues. He analysed various myths suggesting their relation to dreams (1909) and wrote an interpretation of the spiritual activities of the Egyptian monotheistic Pharaoh Amenhotep IV (1912).
Abraham died prematurely on December 25, 1925, from complications of a lung infection and may have suffered from lung cancer.
Melanie Klein (née Reizes; 30 March 1882 to 22 September 1960) was an Austrian-British author and psychoanalyst known for her work in child analysis.
She was the primary figure in the development of object relations theory. Klein suggested that pre-verbal existential anxiety in infancy catalysed the formation of the unconscious, resulting in the unconscious splitting of the world into good and bad idealisations. In her theory, how the child resolves that split depends on the constitution of the child and the character of nurturing the child experiences; the quality of resolution can inform the presence, absence, and/or type of distresses a person experiences later in life.
Melanie Klein was born into a Jewish family and spent most of her early life in Vienna. She was the fourth and final child of parents Moriz, a doctor, and Libussa Reizes. Educated at the Gymnasium, Klein planned to study medicine. Her family’s loss of wealth caused her to change her plans.
At the age of 21 she married an industrial chemist, Arthur Klein, and soon after gave birth to their first child, Melitta. Her son Hans followed in 1907 and her second son Erich was born in 1914. While she would go on to bear two additional children, Klein suffered from clinical depression, with these pregnancies taking quite a toll on her. This and her unhappy marriage soon led Klein to seek treatment. Shortly after her family moved to Budapest in 1910, Klein began a course of therapy with psychoanalyst Sándor Ferenczi. It was during their time together that Klein expressed interest in the study of psychoanalysis.
Encouraged by Ferenczi, Klein began her studies by observing her own children. Until this time, only minimal documentation existed on the topic of psychoanalysis in children, Klein took advantage of this by developing her “play technique”. Similar to that of free association in adult psychoanalysis, Klein’s play technique sought to interpret the unconscious meaning behind the play and interaction of children.
During 1921, with her marriage failing, Klein moved to Berlin where she joined the Berlin Psycho-Analytic Society under the tutelage of Karl Abraham. Although Abraham supported her pioneering work with children, neither Klein nor her ideas received much support in Berlin. As a divorced woman whose academic qualifications did not even include a bachelor’s degree, Klein was a visible iconoclast within a profession dominated by male physicians. Nevertheless, Klein’s early work had a strong influence on the developing theories and techniques of psychoanalysis, particularly in the UK.
Her theories on human development and defence mechanisms were a source of controversy, as they conflicted with Freud’s theories on development, and caused much discussion in the world of developmental psychology. Around the same time Klein presented her ideas, Anna Freud was doing the very same. The two became unofficial rivals of sorts, amid the protracted debates between the followers of Klein and the followers of Freud. Amid these so-called ‘controversial discussions’, the British Psychoanalytical Society split into three separate training divisions:
These debates finally ceased with an agreement on a dual approach to instruction in the field of child analysis.
Contributions to Psychoanalysis
Klein was one of the first to use traditional psychoanalysis with young children. She was innovative in both her techniques (such as working with children using toys) and her theories on infant development. Gaining the respect of those in the academic community, Klein established a highly influential training programme in psychoanalysis.
By observing and analysing the play and interactions of children, Klein built onto the work of Freud’s unconscious mind. Her dive into the unconscious mind of the infant yielded the findings of the early Oedipus complex, as well as the developmental roots of the superego.
Klein’s theoretical work incorporates Freud’s belief in the existence of the death pulsation, reflecting the notion that all living organisms are inherently drawn toward an “inorganic” state, and therefore, somehow, towards death. In psychological terms, Eros (properly, the life pulsation), the postulated sustaining and uniting principle of life, is thereby presumed to have a companion force, Thanatos (death pulsation), which seeks to terminate and disintegrate life. Both Freud and Klein regarded these “biomental” forces as the foundations of the psyche. These primary unconscious forces, whose mental matrix is the id, spark the ego – the experiencing self – into activity. Id, ego and superego, to be sure, were merely shorthand terms (similar to the instincts) referring to highly complex and mostly uncharted psychodynamic operations.
Klein’s work on the importance of observing infants began in 1935 with a public lecture on weaning.
Klein states that mother-infant relationships are built on more than feeding and developing the infant’s attachment; the mother’s attachment and bond with her baby is just as important, if not more. Klein came to this conclusion by using actual observations of herself and mothers that she knew. She described how infants show interest in their mothers’ face, the touch of their mothers’ hands, and the infants’ pleasure in touching their mothers’ breast. The relationship is built on affection that emerges very soon after birth. Klein says that as early as two months, infants show interest in the mother that goes beyond feeding. She observed that the infant will often smile up at the mother and cuddle against her chest. The way the infant reacts and responds to their mother’s attitude and feelings, the love and interest which the infant shows, accounts for an object relation.
Klein also goes on to say that infants recognise the joy that their achievements give their parents. These achievements include crawling and walking. In one observation, Klein says that the infant wishes to evoke love in their mother with their achievements. The infant wishes to give her pleasure. Klein says that the infant notices that their smile makes their mother happy and results in the attention of her. The infant also recognises that their smile may serve a better purpose than their cry.
Klein also talks about the “apathetic” baby. She says that it is easy to mistake a baby that does not particularly dislike their food and cries a little for a happy baby. Development later shows that some of these easy-going babies are not happy. Their lack of crying may be due to some kind of apathy. It is hard to assess a young person’s state of mind without allowing for a great complexity of emotions. When these babies are followed up on we see that a great deal of difficulty appears. These children are often shy of people, and their interest in the external world, play, and learning is inhibited. They are often slow at learning to crawl and walk because there seems to be little incentive. They are often showing signs of neurosis as their development goes on.
While Freud’s ideas concerning children mostly came from working with adult patients, Klein was innovative in working directly with children, often as young as two years old. Klein saw children’s play as their primary mode of emotional communication. While observing children as they played with toys such as dolls, animals, plasticine or pencils and paper, Klein documented their activities and interactions. She then attempted to interpret the unconscious meaning behind their play. Following Freud, she emphasized the significant role that parental figures played in the child’s fantasy life and concluded that the timing of Freud’s Oedipus complex was incorrect. Contradicting Freud, she proposed that the superego was present from birth.
After exploring ultra-aggressive fantasies of hate, envy, and greed in very young and disturbed children, Melanie Klein proposed a model of the human psyche that linked significant oscillations of state, with the postulated Eros or Thanatos pulsations. She named the state of the mind in which the sustaining principle of life dominates the depressive position. A depressive position is the understanding that good and evil things are one. The fears and worries about the fate of the people destroyed in the child’s fantasy are all in the latter. The child tries to repair his mother through phantasm and behaviour therapy, overcoming his depression and anxiety. He employs phantasies representing love and restoration to restore the others he destroyed. Morality is based on the standpoint of depression. Klein named it the depressive position because the efforts to restore the integrity of the damaged object are accompanied by depression and despair. After all, the child doubts whether it can fix everything it hurts. Many consider this to be her most significant contribution to psychoanalytic philosophy. She later developed her ideas about an earlier developmental psychological state corresponding to the disintegrating tendency of life, which she called the paranoid-schizoid position. Klein coined the term “paranoid-schizoid defence” to emphasize how the child’s worries manifest as persecution fantasies and how he defends himself against persecution by separating. The paranoid-schizoid position develops at birth is a common psychotic condition.
Klein’s insistence on regarding aggression as an important force in its own right when analysing children brought her into conflict with Freud’s daughter Anna Freud, who was one of the other prominent child psychotherapists in continental Europe but who moved to London in 1938 where Klein had been working for several years. Many controversies arose from this conflict, and these are often referred to as the controversial discussions. Battles were played out between the two sides, each presenting scientific papers, working out their respective positions and where they differed, during war-time Britain. A compromise was eventually reached whereby three distinct training groups were formed within the British Psychoanalytical Society, with Anna Freud’s influence remaining largely predominant in the US.
Object Relation Theory
Klein is known to be one of the primary founders of object relations theory. This theory of psychoanalysis is based on the assumption that all individuals have within them an internalised, and primarily unconscious realm of relationships. These relationships refer not only to the world around the individual, but more specifically to other individuals surrounding the subject. Object relation theory focuses primarily on the interaction individuals have with others, how those interactions are internalized, and how these now internalised object relations affect one’s psychological framework. The term “object” refers to the potential embodiment of fear, desire, envy or other comparable emotions. The object and the subject are separated, allowing for a more simplistic approach to addressing the deprived areas of need when used in the clinical setting.
Klein’s approach differed from Anna Freuds ego-psychology approach. Klein explored the interpersonal aspect of the structural model. In the mid-1920s, she thought differently about the first mode of defence. Klein thought it was expulsion while Freud speculated it was repression (Stein, 1990). Klein suggested that the infant could relate – from birth – to its mother, who was deemed either “good” or “bad” and internalised as archaic part-object, thereby developing a phantasy life in the infant. Because of this supposition, Klein’s beliefs required her to proclaim that an ego exists from birth, enabling the infant to relate to others early in life (Likierman & Urban, 1999).
Influence on Feminism
In Dorothy Dinnerstein’s book The Mermaid and the Minotaur (1976) (also published in the UK as The Rocking of the Cradle and the Ruling of the World), drawing from elements of Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis, particularly as developed by Klein, Dinnerstein argued that sexism and aggression are both inevitable consequences of child rearing being left exclusively to women. As a solution, Dinnerstein proposed that men and women equally share infant and child care responsibilities. This book became a classic of US second-wave feminism and was later translated into seven languages.
Feminists critical of Klein’s work have drawn attention to an unwarranted assumption of a natural causality connecting sex, gender and desire, stereotypical gender descriptions and in general a prescriptive normative privileging of heterosexual dynamics.
In Popular Culture
Melanie Klein was the subject of a 1988 play by Nicholas Wright, entitled Mrs. Klein. Set in London in 1934, the play involves a conflict between Melanie Klein and her daughter Melitta Schmideberg, after the death of Melanie’s son Hans Klein. The depiction of Melanie Klein is quite unfavorable: the play suggests that Hans’ death was a suicide and also reveals that Klein had analysed these two children. In the original production at the Cottesloe Theatre in London, Gillian Barge played Melanie Klein, with Zoë Wanamaker and Francesca Annis playing the supporting roles. In the 1995 New York revival of the play, Melanie Klein was played by Uta Hagen, who described Melanie Klein as a role that she was meant to play. The play was broadcast on the British radio station BBC 4 in 2008 and revived at the Almeida Theatre in London in October 2009 with Clare Higgins as Melanie Klein.
The indie band Volcano Suns dedicated their first record “The Bright Orange Years” to Klein for her work on childhood aggression.
Scottish author Alexander McCall Smith makes extensive use of Melanie Klein and her theories in his 44 Scotland Street series. One of the characters, Irene, has an obsession with Kleinian theory, and uses it to “guide” her in the upbringing of her son, Bertie.
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