Dra. Raquel Z. De Goldstein.
London, February 1999.
...if we are concerned by the orientations of
our age, which lays emphasis, much more than Freud's, on realistic values and
tends to give children a training that gets them ready for the "realities
of daily life". A naive realism would lead to give wish itself the satisfaction
of needs as goal...This is the way in which the mother of the psychotic behaves.
We do not feel happy at the idea that this may favour adaptation, that is, that
tomorrow's man would be achieved as false self, perhaps analyzed by another
false self ( a "specialist" in psychoanalysis) and well adapted to
a society of false selves. There is no guarantee that we shall know how to avoid
such a future.
Octave Mannoni, "La part du jeu" ["La parte del juego"]
in "Donald W. Winnicott", [edit. Trieb], published by Revue L'ARC, Ed. Stéphane Cordier, Aix-en-Provence.
Indeed analysis does not set out to prevent pathological
But should give the patient's ego freedom to decide one way or another.
It is both striking and peculiar that there
are few psychoanalytic papers specifically devoted to the subject of dependence
such as it is understood by Winnicott, and it is peculiar because, even from
the beginning, Freud himself gave fundamental importance to child dependence
when considering hilflosigkeit: the state of helplessness, underlined as inherent
to the state of absolute dependence in which the subject is structured. This
concept is central for those authors who go on doing research into early psychic
development and, as we shall see, it was an essential basis for their theories
on psychic building up both for Winnicott and Lacan.
We know that psychic structuring begins by being"at the mercy of" and bordering on this "state of helplessness", and we shall pass through that area forever, "between" the experience of fragmentation and that sinking feeling that accompany Hilflosigkeit and the "jubilant identification" (R.Z.de Golstein, FEPAL, 1992) which goes with the infant's first recognition of its image in the mother's gaze, in her face and in the mirror. That is to say, at first the individual depends absolutely -to hold the developing psychic structure- on the psychic characteristics and capacities of the "good enough mother" as considered by Winnicott. This mother, in an assistant role and only if she has been previously qualified by her own early experience, such that it permits a new edition of a short period of "normal" madness (A. Green), will protect, with the offer of her "reverie", that short period of absolute dependence which strengthens the decisive phenomenon that Winnicott calls illusion. According to my view, this is the state that paves the way for and supports the passage from hallucinatory satisfaction and the corresponding omnipotence of thought to the deployment of transitional phenomena and paradoxical thinking (R. Z. de Goldstein, Río de Janeiro,1997), inherent to the passage from the original reality-ego to the pleasure-ego and the definitive reality-ego, thus having access to the use and handling of objects and the reality principle, on leaving auto-erotism.
Examples on the ego’s (moi) mirror character and its relation with the other’s response.
The mirror experience, taken by Lacan from
Wallon, refers to a point in time between the ages of 6 and 18 months at which
specularity can be observed in that way. Likewise Freud describes the Fort!-Da!
as an observable at a certain time of child playing (R. Z. de Goldstein, Lisboa,
1998). But the laws that govern these phenomena govern all the subject’s
life as well; that is, they are not only intrinsic ego qualities, but also qualities
of that which structures and supports the subject. Therefore, it can be shown
that in every human situation there are phenomena which exhibit both the ego’s
and the subject’s way of functioning; thus any human activity may be chosen
to study how the mirror character of the ego is sorted out. Following this line
of approach, we may consider the case of simply travelling in a lift, likewise
we could could choose a dentist’s waiting-room, or any type of getting
in touch in which the imaginary mode of functioning becomes evident before the
symbolic sets up when dialogue begins. The “old” Kleinian interviews
with their extreme silence and the analyst’s abstinence are another very
interesting example, even given the fact that some analysts, to “worsen”
the situation, took notes or recorded the poor individual who sat facing them.
Let's remember that the "Mirror stage" thesis (R.Z.G., New York, 1994) is the following: the ego is organized in a fictional direction, as a coagulated imago; one believes that the conquest of oneself has been carried out when one thinks that one's totality is seen in a reflection, in the other's place. The "that's me" is located there, when in fact it's the other who is there. From that imaginary conquest onwards, a concern to keep what has has been conquered begins; any initiative taken by the other is experienced as fragmentation and as an attempt "to undo completion". As the other's change is unavoidable, the expectant, paranoiac, dependent position is unavoidable as well. When temporary stability emerges, there appear relief and "love"; when the other "undoes my completion", there appear restlessness and "aggressivity”. If this makes progress to more radical forms of carelessness [abandonment], then "hate" arises. But, it is important to differentiate imaginary aggressivity from hate, which is the expression of the instinctual drive.
The experience of travelling in a lift.
When we go up in a lift with someone unknown, it is necessary to stay for some time in an enclosed space, with nothing special to be done but to be there, and the other imposes his presence on us owing to closeness and to a common temporary aim: to travel in that lift up to a certain point at which the relationship will break, when we get to the floor that is to separate us. All this apparently brings about great similarity: both of us are there, in the same place, very close to each other, doing the same thing, but...we are absolutely unknown to each other and the previous relational conventions have not been settled; it is possible to say nothing, or to say something, and the other one is not compelled by any previous rules either to reply or to look at us... Very tense imaginary situations may thus take place: if he gives us a nice or a nasty look, or with what aim. In general, we appeal to conventional patterns of behaviour such as greeting, and later, when the travel takes longer, there appear the commonplaces: "What a cold day!" "How slow this lift is!", or any other remark that may undo the silence that is forcing the ego. If words, dialogue, may be introduced, the Other replaces the other, and subjectivity arises, consequently what is only in itself specular is veiled and remains rather as an imaginary correlation; but the subject that has emerged stabilizes the ego.
In the example concerning the psychoanalytic interview, held with an attitude of extreme abstinence, the interviewer's intentional lack of answer forces the ego in such a way that in the reports on that type of interview, we used to see what were called persecutory anxieties, that is , "the interviews discovered what they were producing". Many times, in the course of them, anxieties shifted to those of a depressive type, owing to ego restoration phenomena.
On account of the above considerations, I felt
specially interested in going deep into the metapsychology of the subject of
It is my aim in this paper to underline that:
-The individual's structure is a constitution that will be unstable forever, dependent on the other's recognition.
-It may become more or less stabilized, but it will never be thoroughly autonomous and independent from the recognition coming from the mirror role of the other's gaze, namely from the mirror stage dynamics.
-Initial dependence exists just for the observer. Precisely, in the period of the original reality-ego, there is almost no one who may say I. In that case, I is what is perceived.
-If the existence of dependence is to be perceived by the infant, the quality of otherness must be established. Without the other person's recogniton, made explicit by him/her, there is no experience of dependence.
-It has become clear in current theorizing that there are relationships between initial dependence pathology, serious pathology and psychosomatics; besides, this evidence promotes "another view" of the dynamic field of the cure in psychoanalysis, which feeds present day advances.
-It is possible to have access to the stage of possible human independence through de-identification from the submitting pathogenic objects. Only if dependence is relativized, can increased stabilization and plasticity be achieved, therefore it becomes feasible through choice to build up subjectivity according to a personal identificatory project.
We acknowledge in today's psychoanalysis the continued and multiplied effects of
Two Main Paths.
Among the paths opened in the field of psychoanalysis
little before Freud’s death and after it, two of them seem to be of special
relevance: on the one hand, the streamlines of thought originated in Melanie
Klein, and precisely taking over her theoretic and clinical impass -as it happens
with Winnicott; and on the other, that originating in Lacan. Their common trait
is to have given rise to very heated controversies and accusations of “deviationism”
-as it is even today the case with Winnicott-; moreover, their permanence at
the institution which is heir to Freud (the I.P.A.) has been questioned, as
it happened with Lacan- and, at the same time, they have awaken enthusiastic
support and a feeling of renewal. They have developed along divergent lines,
increasingly contradicting each other for a long time, but each of these lines
of thought did not fail to lead to discoveries, both at theoretic and at clinical
level. Naturally, in both cases, it is easy to show which of Freud’s discoveries
have been given up and forgotten in this evolution; it is as if a step forward
in psychoanalysis had to be at the cost of going backwards or of being curtailed.
Shall we mention, among many other examples, that the concept of narcissism
fell into disuse, that there was a tendency to neglect the subject’s individual
history, that castration was forgotten and that the father figure vanished in
Melanie Klein’s descriptions? Shall we mention that the second topography
was given up, that there was a rejection to take into account regression and
affects, that the inner world was abolished and that certain basic parameters
of technique were distorted in Lacan’s views?
However, unlike other movements that have become bone-dry and remain in history solely in terms of their failure to surpass Freud’s ideas (Jung, Adler, Reich, etc.), Melanie Klein’s and that of her followers', such as D.W.Winnicott, and Lacan’s, each of them in its own way, seem to be a continuation of some specially lively and genuine aspects of Freud’s thought. Is it necessary to remember at this point the conquest of new fields for psychoanalysis carried out by the British School and by Winnicott’s thought, such as the analysis of small children, the psychoanalytic psychotherapy of psychotic and borderline patients, [the exploration of the unconscious phantasy world and of internal objects, the description of the various types of cleavage, the discovery of the “early Oedipus” complex, and of the archaic forms of the superego?] the field of psychosomatic disturbances...and specifically the wide clinical effects and the theoretic consequences produced by the discovery of initial dependence and of the function of transitional phenomena and objects? Could we avoid Lacan’s taking over the steer in 1953, in giving back to Freud’s discovery its true scope as regards the revolutionary conception of the human subject, in revitalizing the function of language as a basic instrument for psychoanalysis, in restoring to human sexuality the authentic dimension discovered by Freud, in locating the mirror stage as the stable axis in the subject's constitution? Could we forget that both of them, Melanie Klein and Lacan have vigorously contributed with their discoveries to rescue analytical thought from shallowness and decay, when psychoanalysis was being transformed into a part of psychology, when need and wish were confused, when the stable existence of dependence, together with prematuration, and initial helplessness(hilflosigkeit) was erased, -even though they pave the way, as a result of misfits and traumas, for the "alteration of the ego" and "the work of the negative", as the expression of repetition and of what is the death instinct for Freud-; when the therapeutic ambitions of psychoanalysis were reduced to adaptive goals so that it could be consumed by a society more concerned with efficacy than with truth?
Our initial quotation helps us to remember this and to work again, with D. W. Winnicott, on our theories, continuously reframing them.
Identity, Alienation and Dependence.
Identification is structuring and alienating
at the same time. It is this characteristic of identification that puts the
seal on human dependence. Let's remember that Freud defined identification as
the form adopted by the earliest emotional tie.
Hence the deep significance of the features of the other as assistant in the earliest emotional tie (good enough mother), and of the individual conditions in which the mirror stage takes place (according to J. Lacan).
The infant experiences itself as a fragmented body, it does not make any difference between its own and its mother's body, between itself and the outer world. "Held " by his/her mother, the child is going to assume his/her specular image, anticipating in an imaginary way the total form of his/her body. But at first, the child experiences and places himself/herself as another one, as the other in the mirror, in an inverted way. For example, when referring to himself, he usually speaks in the third person: "John wants to go to bed"; thus, every human being's failure to recognize (méconnaissance) his/her "true being" sets up, as well as his/her deep alienation from himself/herself in the image of himself/herself that he/she is going to have.
This time of recognition of his/her body image is remarkable on account of the child's expression of jubilant identification, he/she turns to his/her mother and looks at her demanding that she confirms his/her discovery with her own gaze. Owing to this mother, whose look is fixed on him/her and recognizes him/her as an other, and names him/her, the child achieves a rank in his/her family and in society; living in the symbolic order that ensures certain stability.
If the psychoanalytic cure has an aim, it cannot be but disarming alienation by way of a process of de-identification from certain archaic identifications, inasmuch as this is possible, but avoiding disruption.
This leads us to differentiate three types of identifications: structuring identifications, inadequate [not good enough] identifications and definitely alienating identifications, that is, pathogenic identifications, which stem from "maddening links" (J. G. Badaracco has described these nuclei as "maddening objects"). The evidence we have got from this kind of pathogenic identifications lies in their outcome: we know that much of the "alteration of the ego", that Freud located as one of the three aetiological dimensions that give ground to neurosis, and sometimes constitute an unavoidable obstacle in the recovery, come from noxious identifications. These are the traumatic products of that absolute dependence and helplessness period, which fosters schizoid states; by the way, one of the main themes in Winnicott's developments. The possibility of de-identifying from these archaic identifications constitutes an essential moment in psychoanalytic treatment. But how are we to understand this de-identification?
Working with these identifications, that could be called "hard", implies one of the major clinical challenges, because as we know, it is typical that the more submitted and dependent people are, even those suffering from borderline pathology, the more they run away frightened by a transference situation that, though temporarily, invites to give oneself up to a regression to dependence, as it is the case with the analytic situation (D. W. Winnicott, Metapsychological and Clinical Aspects of Regression within the Psychoanalytical Set-Up").
We may only mention some essential forms of de-identification, such as those which take place spontaneously in the course of life, the de-identification due to "the reversal of a mourning process" (desduelo), and that due to "narcissistic autonomy". Anyhow, we are particularly interested in the de-identification from the "maddening object", being the unpredictable mother as maddening object a paradigmatic example. In my view, this is a key situation in the various types of pathological dependence that are more frequently met with in the origin of serious disturbances and modes of false self, according to D. W. Winnicott.
Historicizing and De-identification.
At first, identifications have no history.
We become aware of their outcome in ourselves as character traits, as types
of behaviour or repeated situations which gradually mould our fate. We spontaneously
attribute many of them to genetic familiar antecedents, such as the colour of
our eyes or the shape of our nose. Both types of traits seem to us to be natural
and incorporated into our substance. The times, periods or situations of identification
as well as the leading motives for them have sunk into oblivion.
This muteness of the identificatory sources resembles traumatic situations, and, in fact, many identifications are produced as an attempt to reach a denouement of such situations: it has to do with the most archaic and “hardest” identifications, while others have settled little by little, because the subject has either lived together with the real person who served as model, because he was merged with certain human groups, or because of his participation in multiple ideological discourses.
The de-identificatory work will be very different in both cases, but the former give shelter to many more pathological virtualities than the latter. In what follows, description of the work on identifications will be limited to those grounded on traumatic situations, granting to this word the wide sense Freud gives it in Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety and in further works.
Access to these situations cannot be attained without working on historicizing the trauma which paved the way to such identifications. We have at our disposal varied elements which permit a deferred (Nachträglich) reconstruction. We make use of the available memories in the analysand´s anamnesis, memories that can be reached by the rising of repression, the analysis of dreams and screen memories. But there is always a limit to these memories, which varies according to each one, so it is with difficulty that they may lead us to the pathogenic traumatic situations. The analysis of the stories told to the patient by his relatives concerning the family myths and romances may be complementary. The most archaic traumatic identifications are surrounded by a historical vacuum, by an absence of representation that would condemn our historicizing efforts to the uncertainty of phantasy, if we could not rely on transference repetition and countertransference perception of those situations stemming from traumatic identifications.
These are overwhelming situations in which helplessness makes the subject experience a feeling of threatening disintegration and he has to appeal to any means to avoid catastrophe. The identification with the involved object and with the confused link between subject and object seems to be perhaps the most primitive means to avoid collapsing. This tends to appear again in the analytic situation, giving rise to a field we have described somewhere else (1) as characterized by parasitism: the analyst finds himself momentarily overwhelmed, inhabited, “maddened” by a foreign body, until he is able to verbalize the analysand´s situation, restore it to its historical context and analyze minutely the mechanisms at play. These archaic situations may then be linked to other more recent and less severe ones, in which the initial trauma and its identificatory outcome appeared once more in different contexts, accessible to the subject´s memory. If this linkage is quite distinct, he may then attain the appropriate conviction as regards the original situations in his life history which remain without access to memory in the form of ideas.
It may be remarked that among these traumatic situations capable of generating identifications, those further lived with the same people, and the resulting identificatory acquisition of their ways to cope with anxiety, become specially relevant.
The transference repetition of the initial link that takes place within the analytic one, progressive historicizing, acknowledgement of the mechanisms at play, discrimination of its pathogenic consequences, all these permit that the traumatic situation be “worn out” and the pathogenic identification given up. This will eventually happen at the very best.
Who Needs Whom?
In those "archaic ages" in which
the percipient matter, so-called by Freud, is "thought and spoken"
by "that other person", the absolute master who offers the indispensable
extraneous help -the same other person who has been called by P. Aulagnier the
spoken shadow and has been examined by Ch. Bollas in the unthought known-, in
those archaic ages, a foundation ground or context ("encounter state",
according to P. Aulagnier) is generated in which both the infant and the other
person need and depend on each other, even if in different ways, to create the
necessary conditions for a new subject to arise.
It is precisely now, when we are speaking about new pathologies and new technical approaches that the relevance of the theoretic and clinical advances, that these two lines of thought have brought about, strongly emerges.
Without discussing the validity of these pathologies and approaches, I'm attempting to emphasize in this presentation the significance of the type of understanding that arises from the not at all naive direct observation of that encounter made by Winnicott, the psychoanalyst, and from his metapsychological interpretation, which goes on promoting deep revisions and which contributes [for many analysts] to the grasping of the "clinical aspects of de-identification", "the work of the negative" and the "alteration of the ego".
Psychoanalysts and the Archaic Age.
Psychoanalysts have always been fascinated
by the archaic period of human life and they attempt to "observe"
psychoanalytically the preverbal stage so as "to show" the contents
involved in the assumed exchanges that give rise to intersubjectivity and the
It is essential to consider both the structuring and the pathogenic power of the mother's activity as extraneous help, as real presence, that will depend on the quality of her conscious and unconscious wish, as well as what we see as imaginative elaboration.
For instance: the timely reappearance of Freud's grandson's mother allows that playing with the wooden reel may hold the anxiety due to her departure, thus avoiding splitting and pathological withdrawal which would be necessary to put an end to an annihilating experience of dependence that would have arised in case her absence had been traumatically prolonged (H. Searles, Dependency processes in the psychotherapy of schizofrenia").
Observation, Deferred Revision (Nachträglichkeit) and Interpretation.
Winnicott's "observation" of intersubjective aspects is based on deferred revision (Nachträglichkeit) and psychoanalytic interpretation, as it comes from his own and very personal frame of reference, which does not allow for either cuts or pseudo- cientific "objectivity". He expounds his conclusions as from a renewed "look", because he "sees" the intra-psychic field building a framework dynamically both with the unique features of newly born intersubjectivity and with what is transgenerational in the family role, activating the psychical foundation context.
Varieties of Dependence.
We think that in order to speak today about
the cure, about identification and de-identification processes, we must determine
the role of dependence in psychic structuring, in health and in pathology, consequently
we must set up certain differences:
1)- The level of dependence needed for survival.
Starting from need, the infant appeals to his resources against anxiety, holding itself on the transitional object, in the presence of the adequate other person, the assistant that supplies the extraneous help. This qualified presence supports the gradual stabilization of the dimension of otherness, that is the heir to the agency that Freud named "the prehistoric, unforgettable other person", who is our first love, our mother.
2)-The area of dependence on the scoptophilic, which links looking with the mother's gaze, and constitutes the mirror stage essential dynamics.
The developments introduced by J. Lacan in his psychoanalytic study based on the ethological observation of the mirror stage, written in 1949, are successfully and unavoidably connected -this even being acknowledged by Winnicott himself- with the contents he works through in his 1967 paper called "Mirror-role of Mother and Family in Child development". There appears there what Freud called the "new psychical action" that brings about narcissism. This conceptual set allows us to take over again what we earlier pointed out with regard to identity and alienation, where identification and initial dependence are tied together.This is what Lacan defines as a "knot of imaginary bondage", which, even if it allows us to play alone, it also forces on us the eternal social negotiations with the others in brotherhood, in living together, in institutions.
3)-Dependence on the intersubjective dimension, which includes the metapsychology of the challenging dialectics inherent to intra-psychic constitution, situated halfway between phantasy creation (Freud, Draft M) and the effects of the real unique person present at the initial stages of emotional development in the field of the foundation context, taking into account the complex psychoanalytic notions of real and reality. This approach sets up the hard current discussion "drive/ object", that leads to the false "instinct /environment" polarity, often involving criticism against Winnicott.
To get out of this predicament, it is useful to consider again the notion of trauma and Freud's description of the master in "Being in Love and Hypnosis", as well as the theory of inaugural seduction, thus it will become evident the extent and vulnerability of the initial psychic dependence.
In "Instincts and their Vicissitudes" Freud emphasizes, in a footnote, that the development of the pleasure-ego depends on parental assistance. On the other hand, it is already impossible in psychoanalysis to minimize the pathogenic relevance of the other person's deficits and misfits, as not good enough mother. The assistant role bestows her a determining power on the infant's structuring and fate.
When speaking about the intrapsychic/ intersubjective dialectics, we place ourselves in a complicated and slippery metapsychological dimension that introduces itself as a dynamic field with an ineffable topography where the encounter state takes place. The encounter involves the mother and her unconscious, the environment, which ought to be facilitating, and the personal genealogical tree, in whose psychopathology we can read, in the case of severe pathology, as we said before, the presence of structural failures which make us face in psychoanalytic treatments the challenge of the feared dependence, such as it is focused by Winnicott.
Technique is being refined and the understanding of a certain type of mute grief and masochism extends.
Our clinical practice, makes us realize through countertransference, how regression to dependence becomes unbearable on account of those overwhelming terrors coming from severe failure in physical and psychic holding (Valenti, L., Porto Alegre, 1997).
We can consider that psychic constitution, resulting from an encounter and from a special form of intersubjectivity "through which identification, as the earliest emotional tie, passes”, receives the transgenerational effects of the peculiarities of the parents' wish as regards their offspring. This is the power that marks the subject and is transmitted by the mother during her short period of "normal madness".
This field is intra-[psychic], inter- and trans-subjective.
The analyst's countertransference will be the priviledged "instrument" that is to resound through the processes of registering, deciphering and interpreting -dynamic processes extensively examined by Bion -so as to turn unthinkable primitive anxieties liable to be thought and interpreted, that is, by transforming them into verbal messages capable of being historicized through the analytic dialogue. These primitive anxieties are inherent to the somat-psychic collapse, and they arise from the individual's experiencing in the course of the analytic situation, which we see as a dynamic field.
Frances Tustin achieved significant theoretic and technical advances, in the area of slippery neurotic autism. A. Green, with his developments concerning the dynamics of the death drive as "the work of the negative" describes the notion of the "dead mother". The search started by D. W. Winnicott and other authors.who explore the region "beyond the pleasure principle", as defined by Freud, may be situated in this context.
This is a region or dimension that Green appropriately sees as what is “archaic but subsequently” (Nachträglich), when he writes about the “dead mother state" of the primitive object and its psychic outcome. According to my view, this line of thought parallels that of the dead-alive internal object depicted by W. Baranger. This is a type of object that cannot possibly be assimilated or abandoned.
I think that this is the object that hinders the transformation of dependence and the de-identificatory process, as we mentioned before. The de-identification from the dead-alive and not good enough mother gets stuck because she herself, in order to exist, is extremely dependent on the infant´s look. Is any death at play?
As I see it, dependence needed for survival appears in J. McDougall´s “Theaters of the Body” as early stages of a psyche-soma matrix (R. Z. De Goldstein, Milano, 1997); in her metapsychological study, she considers pathologies in the earliest stages as failures in the extremely delicate interplay of personal pitch going with a body for two, that creates a predisposition to somatosis in the times of absolute dependence.
In the field of the analytic situation, transference and countertransference pave the way for the repetition of the past traumatic experiences and the reactions originated in pathological and pathogenic identifications. The analyst embodies those deficits and misfits Masud Khan speaks about, and he becomes essential as an anti-trauma factor. The characteristics this kind of repetition exhibits also show us that alienating dependence and pathological identifications are shaped on certain objective qualities and structural failures of the participants in the field of the foundation context, which may be historicized.
The sequences that precede and go with these traumatic and structuring events are liable to be dated in the main, almost as an observable situation, as Freud showed in “The Wolf Man” case. Winnicott extends this to such an extent that he has produced a stirring way of “looking” at the psychoanalytic field of the cure.
Inasmuch as the initial drive disadjustment, inherent to life, may be kept in a tolerable and motor dimension, away from trauma and submission, thanks to the efficacy of those participating in the foundation field, the subject will strengthen his capacity to invest and hallucinate the wish that arises from “universal playing”. Not only will survival be thus possible, but life based on a certain extent of freedom as well, which, as Freud says in the initial quotation, allows to build up one´s own identificatory project, when one is supported by the essential and corresponding capacity to dream, both asleep and awaken.