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On primitive love and Amae

Dr. Raquel Zak de Goldstein
Buenos Aires, 1999
Presented at the International Psychoanalytical Congress
Panel on “Amae East and West” in Santiago, Chile, July 27th, 1999

“...if we are concerned by the tendencies of our age, which places the emphasis, much more than Freud’s did, on realistic values and tends to give children training to ready them for the “realities of daily life”. A naive realism would tend to make the satisfaction of needs a goal even for wishes...This is how the mother of the psychotic behaves. We are not pleased with the idea that this may favour adaptation, that is, that tomorrow’s man could be fashioned as a false self, perhaps analyzed by another false self (a “specialist” in psychoanalysis) and well adapted to a society of false selves. Nothing guarantees that we shall know how to avoid such a future.”
Octave Mannoni, “La parte del juego” in Donald
W. Winnicott (1978) Buenos Aires: Trieb

“Psychosis is closely related to health, where innumerable failure situations are frozen, but are reached and unfrozen by the various healing phenomena of ordinary life: namely friendship, nursing during physical illness, poetry, etc.”
Octave Mannoni, Ibid.

"It is assumed here that the task of reality-acceptance
is never completed, that no human being is free
from the strain of relating inner and outer reality,
and that relief from this strain is provided by an
intermediate area of experience (cf. Riviere, 1936)
wich is not challenged(arts,religion, etc.).This
intermediate area is in direct continuity with
the play area of the small child who is 'lost' in play".
("Development of the Theory of Illusion-Disillusionment")
D. W. Winnicot in "Transitional objects and transitional
phenomena", "Playing and reality", Tavistock Public.,1971.


On primitive love and Amae
Introduction to a metapsychology of love

The a priori presumption of a hypothetical “full independence”, not to be confused with necessary autonomy, supports a certain myth in our Occidental culture which, as a Thanatic ideal exigency, tends to disguise the “shameful” wish or demand for love.
Love seen as, we could say, the complex afective state that circulates in amae. Love seen as “giving up what one does not have, to someone who ‘isn’t the one’”..., an expression coined by Lacan that facilitates certain lines for this investigation of the origins of love and of love in relation to primitive love, love for the prehistoric other, the unforgettable love encarnating Eros.
Participation in this Panel has helped me to advance in my understanding of the concept of amae and its meaning [significance?], in the frame of an East-West dialogue. This difficult conjunction, whose risks we accept, enabled me to localize some of these phenomena in metapsychology, and to begin to re-examine the affects involved in the idea of amae, precisely in what is “hidden” in everyday life and amae´s relation to the origins of love.
The concept of amae cannot be discussed without referring to Takeo Doi, the Japanese psychoanalyst who, with incomparable acuity and sagacity, was able to transpose the meaning of amae in the emotional life of the Japanese people and relate this to some basic concepts in psychoanalysis; thus, he has attempted to universalize the ideas contained in the word amae.
T. Doi tells us that it derives from the verb amaeru, which means “to depend upon and to take advantage of the other’s love, or to enjoy the other’s indulgence.”
On the basis of this definition, I would briefly point out the following:
1. it relates to early infancy, to the early mother-baby relationship, but once the child has already recognized the mother as another;
2. amae refers to feelings revealed by behavior, which may be repeated throughout life (e.g., in the transference);
3. the person who practices amaeru also depends on the other, no matter what that person’s social position may be;
4. amae is experienced more intensely as a wish in a state of frustration than when it is attained;
5. there are two types of amae: the primitive one (secure of the receiver) and the withdrawn type (not sure that such a receiver of the demand exists);
6. presumes the receiver’s “passive position” -needing more specification- from the receiver;
7. amae must be expressed and evidenced non-verbally;
8. generally, as T. Doi describes it, amae is related to narcissism, identification and ambivalence;
On the basis of this review, some key points are clear:
I. Need of the other, as Eros, a carrier of the gaze and of recognition (R.Z. Goldstein, 1994, “The mirror stage and the constitution of the subject”);
II. Amae would offer the possibility of continued circulation of wishing, in frustration, which in turn guarantees the mixture of the drives and inhibited aim libido, pillars of this type of object cathectization and the foundations for the sublimatory activity of the drives;
III. Amae offers healing rest in everyday life. There is some overlap with the “healing phenomena” described by Winnicott, which aims to avoid succumbing to “realism” as the death of the wish, what O. Mannoni describes in our epigraph as “trying to go through life as a false self”.
IV. Amae legitimizes and authorizes a type of dependence that is paradoxically liberating, since by preserving the psyche from excess anxiety, it makes both “The Capacity to be Alone” (D.W. Winnicott) and a personal existence possible. We note the scope and complexity of the differences in the Oriental concept of the individual, in which, for example, the meaning of transgenerational pertinence from time immemorial, more closely linked to the transcendent and the spiritual, to a history... seems to be particularly strengthening. This leads us to wonder whether the idea of individualism is different or not, in Orient. In any case, I believe that insufficiency of being as evidenced in the discovery of the unconscious, which shows us divided forever... is universal, and promotes the demand for love. By exposing its effect -called structuring, symbolic castration-, the being is shown on the edge of uncertainty and helplessness, faced with its finiteness, and is forced to search for love, to produce culture and relationships with fellow persons.
V. Therefore, amae stabilizes pre-trauma anxiety, ...anxiety with respect to separation, absence, incompleteness...in order to avoid reaching that edge where the being would be incapable of living, if not "in endless free fall", at least in a position that some well-known schools of psychoanalysis sometimes seem to promote. Amae acts as anti-trauma, because it situates a certain someone for someone else, which permits the functioning of this complex intersubjective phenomenon that consists of mutual support (one being the giver and the other the receiver). In it, someone, the receiver of amae, - the person who is able to ask for it, who says, “I need love, to be loved and to be taken into account (“I need love...”) - sustains his or her discontent in civilization and a possible individual being, with necessary autonomy;
VI. The phenomena of amae include a certain level of playing, as defined by Winnicott in Playing and Reality, in the sense of transitional objects and phenomena, which like the squiggles, make symbolization possible;
VII. Amae, viewed today by a psychoanalysis permeated by different cultures and schemes of reference, is a universal fact of everyday life which, once revealed, enables us progressively to “unmask”, in clinical work and in the theory, the hidden, complex dynamics contributing to support "our unstable identificatory consistency".
**We are aware of some of the debates and critiques that have developed since Doi introduced amae to psychoanalysis. We know that authors like Dr. Y. Taketomo emphasize, for example, the interactive essence and mutual agreement associated with the development of amae, as well as the need to preserve the original meaning of the term; he also aspires, as we all do in this presentation, to enrich it both in clinical practice and in theory, with the various psychoanalytic theories centering on the early psyche, such as those of Balint, Bion and D.W. Winnicott.
**This is evidenced by the clinical case, Nobuko, presented by Dr. Y Taketomo, which applies Winnicott’s concept of the true and the false self, and permits us to use other concepts created by the latter author, such as transitional objects and phenomena, and the function of the third space or rest area, playing, the origins of “the capacity to be alone”, development that presumes the presence of another, who functions as what Winnicott called a good enough mother, which is astonishingly akin to the function temporarily accepted by the person capable of offering amae to the person who asks for it.


Some considerations on the idea of dependence

We were surprised to note how few psychoanalytic papers have been written specifically on the subject of dependence, a central topic in amae. And this is unusual, since Freud himself assigned infantile dependence fundamental importance from the outset, through his concept of Hilflösigkeit or the experience and "state of helplessness”, which he indicated as pertaining to the state of absolute dependence in which the mind is structured, on its way to the constitution of a subject. Without specific outside aid, given by an other, there can be no psychic constitution, nor survival. This is the core concept for those authors who continue to investigate archaic levels of the psyche, and it was particularly so for Winnicott as well as for Lacan, as we shall see.
We know that mental functioning begins with the experience of satisfaction, “in virtue of” and bordering this “state of helplessness”, and it is there that we move forever more: “between” an experience of fragmentation and sinking associated with Hilflösigkeit, and identificatory joyfulness (R.Z. de Goldstein, 1992, Montevideo, FEPAL) which, according to J. Lacan goes with the exclamation uttered by infants when they first recognize their own image, in the mirror and in their mother’s face, when they seek verification of their integrating discovery in her gaze, in the mother’s gaze.
**That is: at the beginning, it also depends absolutely on the psychic characteristics and skills of the mother as a “good enough mother” and on the characteristics of the triangle that they form with the father in order to sustain the efficacy of this “state of encounter”, according to P. Aulagnier, in which what is in the balance is the child’s future capacity for “mourning or melancholy” to deal with the necessary separation from previous fusionality, which is essential in turn for the child’s capacity, or lack of it, to seek that particular dependence, which is loving, regressive and reparatory, on the plane of “narcissism of life”, (A. Green) ; that is, in trophic relationships where Eros predominates.
The mother -in her position as an assistant, and only if she has previously been capacitated by her own early experiencing- will offer her rêverie (Bion) to reproduce, for a brief time of “normal” madness (A. Green), this, brief as well, time of absolute foundational dependence.
I believe that this state of things permits, sustained by the predominance of Eros, the passage from hallucinatory gratification and its corresponding attitude of omnipotent thought and from the real primary ego, to the pleasure-ego, and to the definite reality-ego; passages in which access to the use and manipulation of objects and the reality principle are reached, in the times of emergence from narcissism and auto-erotism.
Consequently, one of my aims is to emphasize that: 1.- the structure of the subject is a forever unstable constitution, dependent on recognition by the other; 2.- this structure, based on the ego image, can become more or less stabilized, but never completely autonomous or independent of the need for a certain constance of recognition, whose consolidating effect is provided by the mirror role of the other’s gaze, that is: by the dynamics of the mirror stage; 3.- initial dependence is only perceived as such by the observer, precisely because in that period of the real primary ego, there is practically no “someone” to say I, nor is there a category of not-I; in this situation, I is everything perceived. For perceived dependence to exist as such for the infant, a certain degree of otherness, together with the reality principle and the parallel identification, must be established previously; 4.- in today’s theorizations, we find striking relations between the pathologies of initial dependence and the severe pathologies, neurotic autism, false selves and psychosomatics; this evidence also promotes analysts’ “other gaze” on the dynamic field of the cure in psychoanalysis, which is nourishing debate and very recent progress; 5.- in reference to the cure, we find that a certain degree of autonomy and possible human dependence can be attained by way of disidentification from those primitive objects that may be pathogenic because of the absolute power deriving from their indispensable position as outside assistance, which places them in the position of master (S. Freud, “Project for a Scientific Psychology”, “Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego”: “Being in love and hypnosis”); 6.- only on the basis of this progressive relativization of dependence, through work on disidentification, can that degree of stabilization and flexibility be reached which will enable the person to seek and enjoy amae and construct a dimension of subjectivity, which facilitates sexuality, and pleasure, in relative autonomy and the production of a personal identificatory project, rejecting pure adaptation and its tragic and “successful” varied types of false self, the hub of pragmatic “realism” that certain cultural trends propose...whose latent failure predisposes to psychic or somatic breakdown.

Identity, alienation and dependence

“Identification both structures and alienates” , as we said in “On disidentification” (W. Baranger, N. Goldstein, R.Z. Goldstein, Psychoanalytic Crafts, Kargieman edit, 1994). It is this feature of the origins of identification that marks the specific mode of human dependence we are discussing. We recall that Freud defined identification as the shape taken by the first emotional bond. Thus, we speak of primitive love as Eros´ typical bond. The characteristics of behavior and the wishes of the other who functions as assistant, the person who sustains this first emotional bond, in that particular primary foundational family context, acquire enormous significance.
**The infant experiences itself at the beginning as being broken into pieces, fragmented; there is not yet any visual motor coordination to give the child unity. Supported orthopedically by the mirror image, the child, as I said in “The mirror stage...”, recognizes itself there, thus anticipating, imaginarily, the total form of his or her body. But the child also experiences itself there as an other, the other in the mirror, in reverse. For example, the child tends to refer to himself by saying, at that beginning, “Johnny wants to go to sleep.”; that is, he refers to himself in the third person, as “he”. Thus, on a parallel, the root of ignorance of every human being is established, in the sense of the truth of his or her being, the origin of identity, profound alienation in the self-image, which the infant obtains by this procedure, in a deeply dependent relationship with the other in the mirror and with the gaze of the mother as a significant other.
That exultant and joyful expression, the “aha, erlebnis!”, with which children turn to their mother, seeking that loving gaze which, though narcissistic in the sense of “His Majesty the Baby”, also libidinizes and cathects, inaugurating liberating passages from the somatic body to the erotogenic body, and from auto-erotism to transitionalness, in order to demand that she with her gaze ratify that eternal integrating scopic mirror relationship.
**It is through this maternal response, which with its gaze “sees him or her” and recognizes the child as an other with a name, that the child initially finds a place in the family and in society, and is thus able to inhabit the symbolic register that guarantees him or her, in correlation to the image. He or she is someone being consolidated by this path and is forever conquering, through these intrapsychic and intersubjective processes, a certain indispensable stability.
If the psychoanalytic cure has an aim, it could be no other, precisely, than gradual disalienation through disidentification in relation to certain dominant archaic identifications, to the extent that this is possible...but...not by destructuring,...nor by means of an idealized and “impossible” independence, the outcome of a presumable maturity that we realize is deceptive and invalidating adaptation, since it declares its being able to dispense with dependence entirely. In this process of growing disalienation, the reparatory and indispensable demand for love found in amae is activated, enabling ”loving in order to keep from falling ill”. The need for love and to offer love becomes indispensable, in the face of lack, with recognition and love for someone “who is not” that prehistoric other, the unforgettable love as Freud said, but today’s someone who is able to “actualize” the other one. This is the essence of the issue specified in Lacan’s formulation.
Therefore, we wonder...

Who needs whom?: amae is interdependence

In those archaic times we are exploring, when what Freud called perceiving matter is “thought and spoken” by that other absolute master - the other that P. Aulagnier called the spoken shadow, which C. Bollas investigates in “what is known, not thought”, a foundational context or field, a “locus amae” we could say, is generated, as a mode of primitive, reciprocal love in which both need each other and depend on each other,- diversely and asymmetrically- in order to create the conditions of possibility that will originate and stabilize a new subject, the field put to use in the state of amae.

Allegation in favor of a certain dependence (in honour of J. Mc. Dougall.)
The psychology of amae, in its non-pathological form, shows us - I believe - one of its capital functions: the support [attachment] of that specific recognition underlying and forming the basis of identity, its foundations defined as being sexual and generational differences, established in that specific encounter both carnal and specular which instils image, the attribution of sex, erotism, language and the prohibition of incest in the child. And this would be effect of daydreaming-playing provided by the state of amae for both, since the giver with her gaze and presence co-operates libidinally, as Eros, toward the mixture of drives and the saving presence of the symbolic register and of triangulation, by being positioned as an other.
Now, I will outline some points of convergence between the specific mode of aspiration to a brief experience of the gratification of reassuring infantile dependence, conceptualized in Japan as amae, and the “unnoticed” presence of some everyday behavior that reflects the experience of amae in Occidental culture, because...
...We are always seeking the other, the delegate of that prehistoric other of unforgettable love, to guarantee the indispensable permanence of the primitive one typical of the mirror stage. What we find is an other of that other, which is prehistoric and impossible to find because of its condition as a fellow person. And so on, in a succession of persons able to give amae, while also enjoying it. The series of this sequence of others stretches out nearly infinitely, as the following poem by J.L. Borges expresses...

In their grave corner,
the players rule the lingering pieces. ...
After the players have left,
after time has consumed them, certainly,
the ritual will not cease.
The whole Earth is now a stage
for this war that flared up in Orient
Like the Other, this is an infinite game, ...
The player too is prisoner,
of another chess-board of black nights and white days.
God moves the player, and he the piece.
What god behind God begins the weaving,
of dust and time and dream and agonies?

“Chess”, Jorge Luis Borges
(in El Hacedor, Buenos Aires,
Emecé, 1960)


Varieties of dependence: the place of love in the cure


We think that, in conclusion, we can examine amae in today’s cure, its value for a function of healthy dependence, for which a review of some qualities of dependence will be useful.
1. The level of dependence for survival, which refers to the state of need: the infant screams (Freud, “Project of a psychology for neurologists”), practicing with his anxiety, supporting itself gradually with the transitional phenomena and with the transitional objects, in the presence of the adequate other, who as a qualified presence ensures nutrition and protection and provides gradual stabilization as the child’s first love: the mother ("On revient toujours a ces premiers amours", Freud, Three Essays....)
2. The field of dependence on the scopic, which links the infant’s gaze and the mother’s gaze, constituting the basic dynamics of the mirror stage in which what Freud called the “new psychic act” takes place, founding narcissism. This set of concepts helps us to point out the relation between identity and alienation, and the oscillation between alienation and separation. Identification and initial dependence are indelibly tied to the other, and are alienating; from this also comes the terror of depending, of engulfment. This is what Lacan defines as a “knot of imaginary servitude”, a situation which, though it allows the beginning of playing alone, guaranteed by that “presence” which grounds the indispensable capacity for being alone and a certain possible autonomy, it also imposes eternal social arrangements of differentiation and relation with the others, the fellows of the brother/sisterhood, both for institutional life and in the couple and in groups of social pertinence...
3. Dependence in the intersubjective dimension leads us toward the metapsychology of the ineffable, non-verbal dialectics of the constitutive, of what is intrapsychic, which arises once and again halfway between the production of fantasy (Freud, “Manuscript M”) and the effects of the personality of the person who “assists”, creating singular traces in this locus of primitive love, thanks to Eros´s predominace on the foundational context, where the fellow-other initiates the prehistory of amae.

Addenda. Some questions and conclusions

1. In view of the notion of amae, should we endeavor a broad psychoanalytic and socio-cultural review of the idea of the human condition as being “independent”?
2. Could we consider a possible position of the other, also as a beneficent fellow person, open to reparation, in a certain reciprocal relation, because of need of love, in states of amae, as occurs in “healing phenomena”, and not only as a model, an object, a rival or narcissistic intruder?
3. Finally, could we consider amae as a pendular reciprocal offer of trophic narcissism, through a loving “gaze of recognition”, which involves nearly mutual recognition in the other’s need, each consequently enabling the other to “give what he or she does not have”, the phallus, and "to love and demand love in order to keep from falling ill”....due to seclusion?
4. ¿Could we say that the wish expressed in the concept of amae is not only universal but, being founded on that basic dimension of psychic structuring and functioning, it is present throughout the human subject’s entire life, and even more so, though distorted and feared, in states of illness [pathological states], a perspective that affects the analyst’s technique and position in the cure?
5.¿Could we conclude by proposing that certain cultural norms, which prioritize detachment as a sign of maturity and strength, actually seem to stimulate defense mechanisms in the order of the suppression of the affects, the dispersion and fragmentation of experience, as survival syndrome, and schizoid mechanisms, as in neurotic autism, overadaptation, etc., and scarcely manage to keep at bay this constant wish, latent and suppressed, which usually emerges as passion and addiction?
**Our colleague, Dr. D. Freeman, who generously shared his personal experience in his paper, recognized his immediate joyful receptiveness toward the spontaneous manifestations of amae that he received, which enabled him to enjoy, as he said, that incomparable offer of anticipatory connection, support and normogenic projective identification. I would say that he was able to enjoy a brief moment of normal regression to a reparatory dependence characteristic of the specific dependence in amae.
In my view, we can consider that human beings are immersed in triangular and dyadic encounters, which are forever conflictive and infernal, but indispensable, sources of pleasure, in which it is necessary to go through - perhaps we daily go through - brief moments of “illness”, in the sense of a slight collapse of identity cohesion and dis-illusionment. At those times, being able to count on someone to accept our "silent call for amae", if we are willing to show that we need and accept it, serves as “the effects of a cure or scarring” in the manner of the “curative phenomena” Winnicott describes, in a style or kind of amae adequate for that degree of brief collapse. Essence of the dimension of the cure, the acceptance of castration - not as a threat, but rather as a liberating prohibition - enables wishing, which supports this specific form of Eros in the demand for love.
3. Occident re-discovers the origins, the function and dignity of loving, when re-thinking psychoanalytically once again the latent contents in the experience of amae. We are beginning to understand why “loving is giving what you don’t have, to someone who isn’t that one”. Because, if we certainly are lacking and can therefore be wishful seekers of that “something that is missing” in us; through that process we become more free to love and to accomplish... with our fellow men and women.