What is Love and Hate (Psychoanalysis)?

Introduction

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.

Who was Karl Abraham?

Introduction

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’.

Life

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.

Collaborations

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, Psychoanalyst (1)
Karl Abraham, Psychoanalyst.

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).

Death

Abraham died prematurely on December 25, 1925, from complications of a lung infection and may have suffered from lung cancer.

Who was Melanie Klein?

Introduction

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.

Life

Melanie Klein, 1952
Melanie Klein in 1952.

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:

  • Kleinian;
  • Freudian; and
  • Independent.

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.

Infant Observations

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.

Child Analysis

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.

What is Foreclosure (Psychoanalysis)?

Introduction

Foreclosure (also known as “foreclusion”; French: forclusion) is the English translation of a term that the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan introduced into psychoanalysis to identify a specific psychical cause for psychosis.

Brief History

According to Élisabeth Roudinesco, the term was originally introduced into psychology ‘in 1928, when Édouard Pichon published, in Pierre Janet’s review, his article on “The Psychological Significance of Negation in French”: “…[and] borrowed the legal term forclusif to indicate facts that the speaker no longer sees as part of reality’.

According to Christophe Laudou, the term was introduced by Damourette and Pichon.

Freud vs Laforgue

The publication took part against the background of the Twenties dispute between Freud and René Laforgue over scotomisation. ‘If I am not mistaken’, Freud wrote in 1927, ‘Laforgue would say in this case that the boy “scotomises” his perception of the woman’s lack of a penis. A new technical term is justified when it describes a new fact or emphasizes it. This is not the case here’. Freud went on to suggest that if one wanted to ‘reserve the word “Verdrängung” [“repression”] for the affect, then the correct German word for the vicissitude of the idea would be “Verleugnung” [“disavowal”]’.

Lacan’s Introduction of Foreclosure

In 1938 Lacan relates the origin of psychosis to an exclusion of the father from the family structure thereby reducing this structure to a mother-child relationship. Later on, when working on the distinctions between the real, imaginary and symbolic father, he specifies that it is the absence of the symbolic father which is linked to psychosis.

Lacan uses the Freudian term, Verwerfung, which the “Standard Edition” translates as “repudiation”, as a specific defence mechanism different from repression, “Verdrängung”, in which “the ego rejects the incompatible idea together with its affect and behaves as if the idea has never occurred to the ego at all.” In 1954 basing himself on a reading of the “Wolf Man” Lacan identifies Verwerfung as the specific mechanism of psychosis where an element is rejected outside the symbolic order as if it has never existed. In 1956 in his Seminar on Psychoses he translates Verwerfung as forclusion, that is foreclosure. “Let us extract from several of Freud’s texts a term that is sufficiently articulated in them to designate in them a function of the unconscious that is distinct from the repressed. Let us take as demonstrated the essence of my Seminar on the Psychoses, namely, that this term refers to psychosis: this term is Verwerfung (foreclosure)”.

Lacan and Psychosis

The problem Lacan sought to address with the twin tools of foreclosure and the signifier was that of the difference between psychosis and neurosis, as manifested in and indicated by language usage. It was common analytic ground that “when psychotics speak they always have some meanings that are too fixed, and some that are far too loose, they have a different relation to language, and a different way of speaking from neurotics.” Freud, following Bleuler and Jung had pointed to ‘a number of changes in speech…in schizophrenics…words are subjected to the same process as that which makes the dream’. Lacan used foreclosure to explain why.

When Lacan first uses the Freudian concept of Verwerfung (repudiation) in his search for a specific mechanism for psychosis, it is not clear what is repudiated (castration, speech). It is in 1957 in his article “On a question preliminary to any possible treatment of psychosis” that he advances the notion that it is the Name-of-the-Father (a fundamental signifier) that is the object of foreclosure. In this way Lacan combines two of his main themes on the causality of psychosis: the absence of the father and the concept of Verwerfung. This ideas remains central to Lacan’s thinking on psychosis throughout the rest of his work.

Lacan considered the father to play a vital role in breaking the initial mother/child duality and introducing the child to the wider world of culture, language, institutions and social reality – the Symbolic world – the father being “the human being who stands for the law and order that the mother plants in the life of the child…widens the child’s view of the world.” The result in normal development is “proper separation from the mother, as marked out by the Names-of-the-father.” Thus Lacan postulates the existence of a paternal function (the “Name of the Father” or “primordial signifier”) which allows the realm of the Symbolic to be bound to the realms of the Imaginary and the Real. This function prevents the developing child from being engulfed by its mother and allows him/her to emerge as a separate entity in his/her own right. It is a symbol of parental authority (a general symbol that represents the power of father of the Oedipus complex) that brings the child into the realm of the Symbolic by forcing him/her to act and to verbalise as an adult. As a result, the three realms are integrated in a way that is conducive to the creation of meaning and successful communication by means of what Lacan calls a Borromean knot.

When the Name-of-the-Father is foreclosed for a particular subject, it leaves a hole in the Symbolic order which can never be filled. The subject can then be said to have a psychotic structure, even if he shows none of the classical signs of psychosis. When the foreclosed Name-of-the-Father re-appears in the Real, the subject is unable to assimilate it and the result of this collision between the subject and the inassimilable signifier of the Name-of-the-father is the entry into psychosis proper characterized by the onset of hallucinations and/or delusions. In other words, when the paternal function is “foreclosed” from the Symbolic order, the realm of the Symbolic is insufficiently bound to the realm of the Imaginary and failures in meaning may occur (the Borromean knot becomes undone and the three realms completely disconnected), with “a disorder caused at the most personal juncture between the subject and his sense of being alive.” Psychosis is experienced after some environmental sign in the form of a signifier which the individual cannot assimilate is triggered, and this entails that “the Name-of-the-Father, is foreclosed, verworfen, is called into symbolic opposition to the subject.” The fabric of the individual’s reality is ripped apart and no meaningful Symbolic sense can be made of experience. “Absence of transcendence of the Oedipus places the subject under the regime of foreclosure or non-distinction between the symbolic and the real’; and psychotic delusions or hallucinations are the consequent result of the individual’s striving to account for what he/she experiences.

What is Censorship (Psychoanalysis)?

Introduction

Censorship (psychoanalysis) (Zensur) is the force identified by Sigmund Freud as operating to separate consciousness from the unconscious mind.

In Dreaming

In his 1899 The Interpretation of Dreams, Freud identified a force working to disguise the dream-thoughts so as to make them more acceptable to the dreamer. In his wartime lectures, he compared its operation to the contemporary newspapers, where blanks would reveal first-hand the work of the censor, but where allusions, circumlocutions, and other softening techniques also showed attempts to work round the censorship of thoughts in advance. He went on to characterise the motivating force, which he called “the self-observing agency as the ego-censor [Zensor], the conscience; it is this that exercises the dream-censorship [Zensur] during the night, from which the repressions of inadmissable wishful impulses proceed”.

Another tool used by the dream-censorship was regression to archaic symbolic forms of expression unfamiliar to the conscious mind. Where all such measures of censorship failed, however, the result could be the development of nightmares and insomnia.

Psychoanalytic Extensions

Freud found the same effects of disguise and omission taking place in the construction of neurotic symptoms, under the influence of the censorship, as in dreams. He would eventually assign the role of censor to the mental agency he would term the superego.

Criticism

Sartre questioned how the censorship could operate unless it was already aware of the contents of the unconscious, and thought the phenomena Freud described could be better understood in terms of bad faith.

What is Repression (Psychoanalysis)?

Introduction

Repression is a key concept of psychoanalysis, where it is understood as a defence mechanism that “ensures that what is unacceptable to the conscious mind, and would if recalled arouse anxiety, is prevented from entering into it.”

According to psychoanalytic theory, repression plays a major role in many mental illnesses, and in the psyche of the average person.

There has been debate as to whether (or how often) memory repression really occurs and mainstream psychology holds that true memory repression occurs only very rarely. American psychologists began to attempt to study repression in the experimental laboratory around 1930. However, psychoanalysts were at first uninterested in attempts to study repression in laboratory settings, and later came to reject them. Most psychoanalysts concluded that such attempts misrepresented the psychoanalytic concept of repression.

Sigmund Freud’s Theory

As Sigmund Freud moved away from hypnosis, and towards urging his patients to remember the past in a conscious state, ‘the very difficulty and laboriousness of the process led Freud to a crucial insight’. The intensity of his struggles to get his patients to recall past memories led him to conclude that ‘there was some force that prevented them from becoming conscious and compelled them to remain unconscious … pushed the pathogenetic experiences in question out of consciousness. I gave the name of repression to this hypothetical process’.

Freud would later call the theory of repression “the corner-stone on which the whole structure of psychoanalysis rests” (“On the History of the Psycho-Analytic Movement”).

Freud developed many of his early concepts with his mentor, Josef Breuer. Moreover, while Freud himself noted that the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer in 1884 had hinted at a notion of repression (but he had only read him in later life), he did not mention that Johann Friedrich Herbart, psychologist and founder of pedagogy whose ideas were very influential in Freud’s environment and in particular with Freud’s psychiatry teacher Theodor Meynert, had used the term in 1824 in his discussion of unconscious ideas competing to get into consciousness.

Stages

Freud considered that there was ‘reason to assume that there is a primal repression, a first phase of repression, which consists in the psychical (ideational) representative of the instinct being denied entrance into the conscious’, as well as a ‘second stage of repression, repression proper, which affects mental derivatives of the repressed representative: distinguished what he called a first stage of ‘primal repression’ from ‘the case of repression proper (“after-pressure”).’

In the primary repression phase, ‘it is highly probable that the immediate precipitating causes of primal repressions are quantitative factors such as … the earliest outbreaks of anxiety, which are of a very intense kind’. The child realises that acting on some desires may bring anxiety. This anxiety leads to repression of the desire.

When it is internalised, the threat of punishment related to this form of anxiety becomes the superego, which intercedes against the desires of the id (which works on the basis of the pleasure principle). Freud speculated that ‘it is perhaps the emergence of the super-ego which provides the line of demarcation between primal repression and after-pressure

Therapy

Abnormal repression, as defined by Freud, or neurotic behaviour occurs when repression develops under the influence of the superego and the internalised feelings of anxiety, in ways leading to behaviour that is illogical, self-destructive, or antisocial.

A psychotherapist may try to ameliorate this behaviour by revealing and reintroducing the repressed aspects of the patient’s mental processes to their conscious awareness – ‘assuming the role of mediator and peacemaker … to lift the repression’. In favourable circumstances, ‘Repression is replaced by a condemning judgement carried out along the best lines’, thereby reducing anxiety over the impulses involved.

Reactions

The philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre challenged Freud’s theory by maintaining that there is no “mechanism” that represses unwanted thoughts. Since “all consciousness is conscious of itself” we will be aware of the process of repression, even if skilfully dodging an issue. The philosopher Thomas Baldwin stated in The Oxford Companion to Philosophy (1995) that Sartre’s argument that Freud’s theory of repression is internally flawed is based on a misunderstanding of Freud. The philosopher Roger Scruton argued in Sexual Desire (1986) that Freud’s theory of repression disproves the claim, made by Karl Popper and Ernest Nagel, that Freudian theory implies no testable observation and therefore does not have genuine predictive power, since the theory has “strong empirical content” and implies testable consequences.

Later Developments

The psychoanalyst Otto Fenichel stressed that ‘if the disappearance of the original aim from consciousness is called repression, every sublimation is a repression (a “successful” one: through the new type of discharge, the old one has become superfluous)’.

The psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan stressed the role of the signifier in repression – ‘the primal repressed is a signifier’ – examining how the symptom is ‘constituted on the basis of primal repression, of the fall, of the Unterdrückung, of the binary signifier … the necessary fall of this first signifier’.

Family therapy has explored how familial taboos lead to ‘this screening-off that Freud called “repression”‘, emphasising the way that ‘keeping part of ourselves out of our awareness is a very active process … a deliberate hiding of some feeling from our family’.

Experimental Attempts to Study Repression

According to the psychologist Donald W. MacKinnon and his co-author William F. Dukes, American psychologists began to attempt to study repression in the experimental laboratory around 1930. These psychologists were influenced by an exposition of the concept of repression published by the psychoanalyst Ernest Jones in the American Journal of Psychology in 1911. Like other psychologists who attempted to submit the claims of psychoanalysis to experimental test, they did not immediately try to develop new techniques for that purpose, instead conducting surveys of the psychological literature to see whether “experiments undertaken to test other theoretical assertions” had produced results relevant to assessing psychoanalysis. In 1930, H. Meltzer published a survey of experimental literature on “the relationships between feeling and memory” in an attempt to determine the relevance of laboratory findings to “that aspect of the theory of repression which posits a relationship between hedonic tone and conscious memory.” However, according to MacKinnon and Dukes, because Meltzer had an inadequate grasp of psychoanalytic writing he misinterpreted Freud’s view that the purpose of repression is to avoid “unpleasure”, taking the term to mean simply something unpleasant, whereas for Freud it actually meant deep-rooted anxiety. Nevertheless, Meltzer pointed out shortcomings in the studies he reviewed, and in MacKinnon and Dukes’s view he also “recognized that most of the investigations which he reviewed had not been designed specifically to test the Freudian theory of repression.”

In 1934, the psychologist Saul Rosenzweig and his co-author G. Mason criticized Meltzer, concluding that the studies he reviewed suffered from two basic problems: that the studies “worked with hedonic tone associated with sensory stimuli unrelated to the theory of repression rather than with conative hedonic tone associated with frustrated striving, which is the only kind of ‘unpleasantnesss’ which, according to the Freudian theory, leads to repression” and that they “failed to develop under laboratory control the experiences which are subsequently to be tested for recall”. In MacKinnon and Dukes’s view, psychologists who wanted to study repression in the laboratory “faced the necessity of becoming clear about the details of the psychoanalytic formulation of repression if their researches were to be adequate tests of the theory” but soon discovered that “to grasp clearly even a single psychoanalytic concept was an almost insurmountable task.” MacKinnon and Dukes attribute this situation to the way in which Freud repeatedly modified his theory “without ever stating clearly just which of his earlier formulations were to be completely discarded, or if not discarded, how they were to be understood in the light of his more recent assertions.”

MacKinnon and Dukes write that, while psychoanalysts were at first only disinterested in attempts to study repression in laboratory settings, they later came to reject them. They comment that while

“the psychologists had criticized each other’s researches largely on the grounds that their experimental techniques and laboratory controls had not been fully adequate, the psychoanalysts rejected them on the more sweeping grounds that whatever else these researches might be they simply were not investigations of repression.”

They relate that in 1934, when Freud was sent reprints of Rosenzweig’s attempts to study repression, he responded with a dismissive letter stating that “the wealth of reliable observations” on which psychoanalytic assertions were based made them “independent of experimental verification.” In the same letter, Freud concluded that Rosenzweig’s studies “can do no harm.” MacKinnon and Dukes describe Freud’s conclusion as a “first rather casual opinion”, and state that most psychoanalysts eventually adopted a contrary view, becoming convinced that “such studies could indeed be harmful since they misrepresented what psychoanalysts conceived repression to be.”

Writing in 1962, MacKinnon and Dukes state that experimental studies “conducted during the last decade” have largely abandoned the term “repression”, choosing instead to refer to the phenomenon as “perceptual defence”. They argue that this change of terminology has had a major effect on how the phenomenon is understood, and that psychoanalysts, who had attacked earlier studies of repression, did not criticise studies of perceptual defence in a similar fashion, instead neglecting them. They concluded by noting that psychologists remained divided in their view of repression, some regarding it as well-established, others as needing further evidence to support it, and still others finding it indefensible.

A 2020 meta-analysis of 25 studies examined the evidence that active memory suppression actually leads to decreased memory. It was found that in people with a repressive coping strategy, the wilful avoidance of remembering certain memory contents leads to a significant reduction in memory performance for these contents. In addition, healthy people were better able to do this than anxious or depressed people. These results indicate that forgetting induced by suppression is a hallmark of mental wellbeing.

Repressed Memories

One of the issues Freud struggled with was the status of the childhood “memories” recovered from repression in his therapy. He concluded that “these scenes from infancy are not always true. Indeed, they are not true in the majority of cases, and in a few of them they are the direct opposite of the historical truth”. Controversy arose in the late 20th century about the status of such “recovered memories”, particularly of child abuse, with many claiming that Freud had been wrong to ignore the reality of such recovered memories.

While accepting “the realities of child abuse”, the feminist Elaine Showalter considered it important that one “distinguishes between abuse remembered all along, abuse spontaneously remembered, abuse recovered in therapy, and abuse suggested in therapy”. Memory researcher Elizabeth Loftus has shown that it is possible to implant false memories in individuals and that it is possible to “come to doubt the validity of therapeutically recovered memories of sexual abuse … [as] confabulations”. However, criminal prosecutors continue to present them as evidence in legal cases.

There is debate about the possibility of the repression of psychological trauma. While some evidence suggests that “adults who have been through overwhelming trauma can suffer a psychic numbing, blocking out memory of or feeling about the catastrophe”, it appears that the trauma more often strengthens memories due to heightened emotional or physical sensations (However these sensations may also cause distortions, as human memory in general is filtered both by layers of perception, and by “appropriate mental schema … spatio-temporal schemata”).

What is Oral Stage?

Introduction

In Freudian psychoanalysis, the term oral stage or hemiataxia denotes the first psychosexual development stage wherein the mouth of the infant is their primary erogenous zone.

Spanning the life period from birth to the age of 18 months, the oral stage is the first of the five Freudian psychosexual development stages:

  • The oral;
  • The anal;
  • The phallic;
  • The latent; and
  • The genital.

Moreover, because it is the infant’s first human relationship – biological (nutritive) and psychological (emotional) – its duration depends upon the child-rearing mores of the mother’s society. Sociologically speaking, the duration of infantile nursing is determined normatively; in some societies it is common for a child to be nursed by their mother for several years but in others this period is much shorter.

Oral-Stage Fixation

Psychologically, Sigmund Freud proposed that if the nursing child’s appetite were thwarted during any libidinal development stage, the anxiety would persist into adulthood as a neurosis (functional mental disorder). Therefore, an infantile oral fixation (oral craving) would be manifest as an obsession with oral stimulation; yet, if weaned either too early or too late, the infant might fail to resolve the emotional conflicts of the oral, first stage of psychosexual development and they might develop a maladaptive oral fixation.

The infant who is neglected (insufficiently fed) or who is over-protected (over-fed) in the course of being nursed, might become an orally-fixated person. Said oral-stage fixation might have two effects:

  • The neglected child might become a psychologically dependent adult continually seeking the oral stimulation denied in infancy, thereby becoming a manipulative person in fulfilling their needs, rather than maturing to independence; and
  • The over-protected child might resist maturation and return to dependence upon others in fulfilling their needs.

Theoretically, oral-stage fixations are manifested as garrulousness (talkativeness), smoking, continual oral stimulus (eating, chewing objects), and alcoholism. Psychologically, the symptoms include a sarcastic, oral sadistic personality, nail biting, oral sexual practices (fellatio, cunnilingus, analingus, irrumatio), et cetera.

Criticism

Since Freud’s presentation of the theory of psychosexual development in 1905, no evidence has confirmed that extended breast-feeding might lead to an oral-stage fixation, nor that it contributes to a person becoming maladjusted or to developing addictions (psychologic, physiologic). The paediatrician Jack Newman proposed that breast feeding a child until they choose to wean (c. 2-4 years of age) generally produces a more psychologically secure, and independent person. Contradicting the Freudian psychosexual development concept of oral-stage fixation, the Duration of Breast-feeding and the Incidence of Smoking (2003) study of 87 participants reported no causal relation between the breast-feeding period and whether or not a child matures into a person who smokes.

What is a Negative Therapeutic Reaction?

Introduction

The negative therapeutic reaction in psychoanalysis is the paradoxical phenomenon whereby a plausible interpretation produces, rather than improvement, a worsening of the analysand’s condition.

Freud’s Formulations

Freud first named the negative therapeutic reaction in The Ego and the Id of 1923, seeing its cause, not merely in the analysand’s desire to be superior to their analyst, but (more deeply) in an underlying sense of guilt: “the obstacle of an unconscious sense of guilt….they get worse during the treatment instead of getting better”. The following year he offered the alternative formulation of a need for punishment instead; but in his thirties summation it was again unconscious guilt to which he attributed “the negative therapeutic reaction which is so disagreeable from the prognostic point of view”.

Precursors to the idea can be found in his own article Criminals from a sense of guilt, as well as in Karl Abraham’s 1919 article on envy and narcissism as enemies of the analytic work.

Later Developments

The negative therapeutic reaction is unusual in psychoanalytic history in never being the subject of major controversy, while still be steadily worked on and reformulated in later analytic phases. These have added additional motivations behind the reaction to that singled out by Freud. Joan Riviere pointed to the neurotic’s fear of any change in condition, even from worse to better, while the desire to spite the analyst may also be a motive. Lacan highlighted the role of amour propre in the hatred of being helped by any outside force. Object relations theory has also pointed to the way that underdoing defences means the patient experiencing their underlying conflicts more fully, and reacting negatively to that.

What is Demand (Psychoanalysis)?

Introduction

In the theory of Jacques Lacan, demand (French: demande) represents the way instinctive needs are inevitably alienated through the effects of language on the human condition.

The concept of demand was developed by Lacan in parallel to those of need and desire to account for the role of speech on human aspirations. Demand forms part of Lacan’s battle against the approach to language acquisition favoured by ego psychology, and makes use of Kojeve’s theory of desire. Demand is not a Freudian concept.

Language Acquisition

For Lacan, demand is the result of language acquisition on physical needs – the individual’s wants are automatically filtered through the alien system of external signifiers.

Where traditionally psychoanalysis had recognised that learning to speak was a major step in the ego’s acquisition of power over the world, and celebrated its capacity for increasing instinctual control, Lacan by contrast stressed the more sinister side of man’s early submergence in language.

He argued that “demand constitutes the Other as already possessing the ‘privilege’ of satisfying needs”, and that indeed the child’s biological needs are themselves altered by “the condition that is imposed on him by the existence of the discourse, to make his need pass through the defiles of the signifier”. Thus even in speaking one’s demands, the latter are altered; and even when they are met, the child finds that it no longer wants what it thought it wanted.

Desire

In Lacanian thought, a demand results when a lack in the Real is transformed into the Symbolic medium of language. Demands faithfully express unconscious signifying formations, but always leave behind a residue or kernel of desire, representing a lost surplus of jouissance for the subject, (because the Real is never totally symbolisable).

As a result, for Lacan, “desire is situated in dependence on demand – which, by being articulated in signifiers, leaves a metonymic remainder which runs under it”. The frustration inherent in demand – whatever is actually asked for is ‘not it’ – is what gives rise to desire.

The Other’s Demands

The demands of human society are initially mediated via the Mother; with the discourse of whom the infant comes to identify, subsuming its own non-verbal self-expression.

The result in the neurotic may be a dominance of parental demand, and of the social objects valued by such demands – jobs, degrees, marriage, success, money and the like. Lacan considered indeed that for the neurotic “the demand of the Other assumes the function of an object in his phantasy…this prevalence given by the neurotic to demand”.

Transference

Lacan considered that the transference appears in the forms of demands from the patient – demands which he stressed the analyst must resist.

Through such demands, he states, “the whole past opens up right down to early infancy. The subject has never done anything other than demand, he could not have survived otherwise, and…regression shows nothing other than a return to the present of signifiers used in demands”.

François Roustang however has challenged the Lacanian view, arguing that the patient’s demand, rather than undermining the analysis, may be a positive attempt to get the analyst to shift their therapeutic stance.

What is Acathexis?

Introduction

Acathexis is a psychoanalytic term for a lack of emotional response to significant memories or actual interactions, where such a response would normally be expected.

The term also refers more broadly to a general absence of normal or expected feelings.

Acathexis has been linked to anxiety, bipolar disorder and dementia, while the phenomenon also appears in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Refer to Cathexis, Decathexis, Body Cathexis, Anticathexis, and Alexithymia.