The Paranoid-Schizoid and Depressive Positions
in the Psychogenesis of the Self:
A Phenomenological Investigation into the Ontological Foundations of Object Relations Theory
by Brent Dean Robbins and Jessie Goicoechea
Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA
It is a basic assumption of this paper that Object Relations Theory -- as represented by scholar-practitioners such as Klein, Bion, and others -- can both inform and be informed by phenomenology. Object Relations Theory offers an articulation of psychoanalytic theory, as inherited from the legacy of Freud, which has become increasingly 'experience near,' descriptive, and even poetic, while, further, it has contributed to a radical reconceptualization of the nature of intersubjectivity. On the other hand, Object Relations Theory remains predominately rooted in metaphysical assumptions which force theorists to engage in convoluted theoretical acrobatics in order to account for phenomena, such as splitting and projective identification, which are described as if they are unaccountable, quasi-mystical phenomena. Phenomenological psychology can offer Object Relations Theory the rich legacy of its research into articulating the foundations of a human anthropology, grounded in the path laid by phenomenological philosophers such as Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty. By retrieving this heritage of phenomenological research, Object Relations Theory can be grounded in the human life-world, and, thus, shed its naive ontological assumptions, largely rooted in the natural sciences and traditional medicine. In return for such a gift, phenomenology may be enriched by the clinical brilliance offered by the community of scholar-practitioners who comprise the past, present and future of the Kleinian legacy, Object Relations Theory.
While this paper opens such a dialogue between phenomenology and Object Relations Theory, it can only be considered a preliminary investigation as such. More specifically, we endeavor to shed light on two fundamental aspects of Objects Relations Theory, the emergence of various psychological positions in development (e.g., the paranoid-schizoid position and the depressive position) and the psychological defenses which arise from these psychological positions (e.g., splitting, projective identification). Drawing from the research on human development by phenomenologists such as Merleau-Ponty (1964), Dillon (1978), Simms (1993, 1994, 1998), and Robbins (1998), it becomes possible to ground the emergence of the depressive position (from the paranoid-schizoid position) in the life-world of the infant. Also, with the assistance of Boss' (1979) Daseinsanalysis as influenced by Heidegger (1926/1962), the nature of psychological defenses, such as splitting and projective identification, can be shown to be only possible because the human being exists in a fundamentally different way than posited by the theoretical and ontological framework of Kleinian psychoanalysis. Further, taking Ogden's (1989, 1992) work into consideration, it will be shown that the emergence of the depression position is fundamentally a human project which is never fully complete. Thus, the two extreme poles of experience, the paranoid-schizoid and depressive positions, co-exist in a dialectical relationship. Finally, it will be argued that the tension between the paranoid-schizoid and depressive positions is, in part, constituted by the Western conception of the self as an 'encapsulated' individual rather than as interdependent on others.
Klein's conception of the paranoid-schizoid and depressive positions
Klein (1955/1994) writes:
observations that in the infant's mind the mother primarily appears as
bad breast split off from each other, and that within a few months, with growing
ego integration the contrasting aspects are beginning to be synthesized, helped me
to understand the importance of the process of splitting and keeping apart good and
bad figures (Klein, 1929), as well as the effect of such processes on ego development.
Klein arrived at this theory through her work with children in play therapy, wherein she attempted both to understand the mind of the child and interpret what is going on there for the child, while, at the same time, avoiding the pull to educate or give moral influence. Klein became particularly attuned to the child's changes from a disposition of "happiness and satisfaction on one hand [to] persecutory anxiety and depression on the other" (Klein, 1955/1994, p. 118). Thus, Klein's predominate focus in all of her work with children was a focus on the child's fluctuations between love and hate, particularly for the mother. Grounded in Freudian meta-psychology, Klein understood the child's love and hate as derived, respectively, from the life instinct (eros) and death instinct (thanatos). Klein's clinical focus, eventually, would lead her to argue that the 'superego,' which Freud saw as forming with the Oedipal complex, arises at a much earlier stage in development than Freud had originally presumed (Klein, 1955/1994, p. 122).
Essentially, Klein traced the origins of the Oedipal complex back to pregenital stages, where she describes children as experiencing destructive impulses and phantasies which are oral-sadistic in nature (Klein, 1955/1994, p. 123). The child, in Klein's argument, engages in omnipotent phantasies wherein the mother's 'good' breast is idealized and loved, while the mother's 'bad' breast is attacked and devoured (Klein, 1945/1975). Yet, for the child, the good and bad breasts are not seen as belonging to a whole mother. Instead, in the fragmented world of the infant, they are experienced as separate objects. Klein accounts for this by her understanding that the child relates to part-objects rather than whole objects (Klein, 1955/1994). Thus, for Klein, the origins of the super-ego hearken back to the child's introjection of the 'bad' breast, which the infant fears will retaliate against her/him, creating for the child an 'internal,' 'persecutory object.' (Klein, 1928/1975, 1930/1975). In summary, the split between the satisfactory or 'good' breast and the frustrating or 'bad breast' is the child's first rudimentary object relationship, and, through a cyclical process of projection and introjection, "participate in the building up of the ego and the superego and prepare the ground for the onset of the Oedipal complex in the second half of the first year." (Klein, 1946/1994, p. 138)
These early, primitive experiences of the infant are characteristic of what Klein (1946) originally termed the "paranoid position," though she later changed the term to the "paranoid-schizoid position" in honor of Fairbairn's (1941, 1944, 1946) contributions to the role of primitive experience in schizoid and schizophrenic disorders. The paranoid schizoid position, for Klein, is characterized by splitting, projective identification, idealization, and omnipotence. Klein argues that the young infant possesses a rudimentary ego which "largely lacks cohesion" and "has a tendency towards integration alternating with a tendency towards disintegration, a falling into bits" (Klein, 1946/1994, p. 140). This early ego's primary function, like the later, more fully developed ego, is to manage anxiety. However, in this primitive mode of experience, Klein imagines the infant as suffering severe destructive impulses which are directed at the breast, as mentioned earlier, which fragments the breast into "bits." This hated breast is split-off from the loved breast, which Klein associated with wholeness (Klein, 1946, p. 142). In this sense, Klein's notion of "splitting" is largely understood as a spatial phenomenon, in which the breast is spatially fragmented. However, she later acknowledged that this phenomenon may also involve breaks in temporal continuity (Klein, 1946, p. 142, footnote). This defense of "splitting" enables the infant to ward off anxiety by experiencing the loving breast as wholly other than the hated, persecutory breast. Further, Klein argues that such a split in the external object is impossible without a subsequent split in the infant's ego, which also becomes defensively severed into "good" and "bad" aspects. While the "bad" breasts give rise to persecutory fear, the "good" breasts are idealized and introjected to protect the infant from persecution.
Eventually, says Klein, the infant's oral-sadistic attacks on the mother's breast become generalized to other part-objects of the mother's body, before the mother comes to be perceived as a whole person. Further, these attacks take on both an oral and anal/urethral character. The oral impulse attacks the mother in phantasies of sucking dry, biting up, scooping out, and robbing the mother's body of its good content, while the anal and urethral impulses aim to expel "dangerous substances (excrements) out of the self and into the mother." (Klein, 1946/1994, p. 144) It is from out of this conception of anal and urethral impulses that Klein first developed the concept of "projective identification":
with these harmful excrements, expelled in hatred, split-off parts of the
are also projected on to the mother or, as I would rather call it, into the mother.
These excrements and bad parts of the self are meant not only to injure but also to
control and to take possession of the object. Insofar as the mother comes to contain
the bad parts of the self, she is not felt to be a separate individual but is felt to be
the bad self. (Klein, 1946/1994, p. 144)
In a footnote, Klein (1946/1994) apologizes for her use of the words "into the mother" by arguing that it is "the only way of conveying the unconscious process (she) is trying to describe." The infant, she says, "has not yet begun to think in words," yet she endeavors nonetheless to describe what is essentially the unspeakable. (p. 144) This is one of many instances in which one can find Klein struggling to grasp the phenomenon before her, but yet cannot since she is trapped within metaphysical assumptions which handicap her ability to give it appropriate language. In this same paper, Klein will go on to argue that "it is in phantasy that the infant splits the object and the self, but the effect is a very real one..." (p. 142) In the end, Klein opts for accounting for these descriptions of primitive experience by given them the character of "phantasy," which exists purely in the mind of the infant and has no effect on the mother herself. Here, of course, Klein implies that the infant has some experience of a real, whole breast (which she would likely call the "good" breast/self) separate from the fragmented, "bad" breast/self, yet this contradicts her theory of the movement into the depressive position, as we shall see. It is this very quandary, as we will soon explore, that continues to give rise to intense debate among object relations theorists -- and which, we hope to show, phenomenology can be particularly helpful in articulating how such a phenomenon is possible.
Of the movement into the depressive position, Klein (1946/1994) writes:
the introjection of the complete object in about the second quarter of
year marked steps in integration are made. This implies important changes in the
relation to objects. The loved and hated aspects of the mother are no longer felt to be
so widely separated, and the result is an increased fear of loss, states akin to
mourning and a feeling of guilt, because the aggressive impulses are felt to be
directed against the loved object. (Klein, 1946/1994, p. 149)
Here is one of Klein's most beautifully descriptive and powerful concepts, clearly one of her greatest contributions to psychoanalytic research. Within the first year of life, the infant comes to see her/his mother as a whole object, and, with this perceptual ability, s/he comes to the horrifying recognition that the "good" and "bad" breast co-exist with the whole mother. The infant is grief-stricken by the recognition that, all along, s/he had been attacking the "good" breast along with the "bad" breast.
Ironically, it is with melancholy that the child is given psychological birth. As the child integrates the whole mother, s/he simultaneously "introjects" this whole in order to become a more wholly, synthesized self. And, like Oedipus with his terrible recognition of bedding his mother and murdering his father, the infant suffers extreme feelings of grief, guilt and fear of loss, and, as a result, seeks to make reparation for her/his damages to what once was the idealized, good breast. In exchange for this bitter realization, the infant's "anxieties lose in strength; objects become both less idealized and less terrifying, and the ego becomes more unified. All this is interconnected with the growing perception of reality and adaptation to it." (Klein, 1946/1994, p. 150) And the reference to Oedipus is no accident, for the implication is that the depressive position is what makes the Oedipal complex possible. With the emergence of a dyadic relationship between self and mother as whole objects, it only then becomes possible for the Oedipal triad -- of infant, mother, and father -- to give rise to the Oedipal conflict in the genital stage. Thus, as theorists such as Britton (1992) and Caper (1997) have emphasized, the Oedipal situation depends on the infant's emergence into the depressive position.
With her theory of the paranoid-schizoid and depressive positions, Klein offers a creative, innovative, and compelling understanding of the psychological birth of the infant, which is based on sound clinical observations and given life by her valiant efforts to speak the unspeakable, thus giving language to preverbal experience. Like Freud before her, Klein's innovations have opened a path to exploring what, before her, had remained unexplored and seemingly unreachable by any stretch of the imagination. She bears with her a penchant for the phenomenological, a talent for describing the experience of the infant on her/his own terms. Yet, as we've seen, she remains held down by naive ontological assumptions which do not allow her to do justice to the phenomenon before her, despite all her efforts. It can be our gift to her to help her give language to what she could not, and, in this sense, a phenomenological critique of her work is in the spirit of honoring her legacy rather than merely criticizing it, which would simply damage her "good" breast.
Rooted in a natural science paradigm, Klein's subject remains largely solopsistic. The world of the Kleinian subject is a world of projections and introjections in which there is no contact with a genuine other, but, rather, the other becomes a mere vehicle for intrapsychic projections and introjections. Despite laying the foundation for a radical reconceptualization of intersubjectivity in subsequent Object Relations Theory, her subject is strangely cut off from the influence of the other. The source of the infant's relation to the mother in Kleinian theory are primarily the life and death instincts, such that the mother/other herself is left with no substance and with little influence. However, this first constructive criticism of Kleinian theory has largely been addressed by the likes of Bion and Winnicott, who, following in Klein's footsteps, have increasingly demonstrated how the role of the (m)other is fundamental to the psychological development of the child.
Following from this first criticism, Klein's pre-depressive position infant lives primarily in a world of "phantasy," both good and bad, which are eventually integrated with the depressive position with the introjection of the whole (m)other. This notion of psychic "phantasy" gives Klein the license to describe the world of the infant so that she can give language to the strange psychotic processes that seem alien to adult consciousness. While Klein implies that the process of the emerging depressive position is a never ending project, she also gives primacy to the depressive position as the 'real.' It follows that the 'psychotic' fantasies of the infant are 'unreal.' Ogden's (1989, 1992) reconsideration of the paranoid-schizoid and depressive position, however, suggests that these psychological poles of experience are dialectically related, and, thus, does not give primacy to either position as having access to the 'real.' Taking up Ogden's perspective from a phenomenological perspective, it will become possible to understand how the so-called 'primitive' experience of the infant is, in many ways, just as 'real' as the experience of whole-objects with the onset of the depressive position.
It can be demonstrated that Klein's struggle with a way to understand the experience of the infant is partly due to her 20th century, Western conception of the self as an 'encapsulated' individual. While already implying that the construction of the infant's self is dependent on the (m)other's presence, she relies on the life and death instincts to provide the impetus for this movement out into the world. Yet, from an existential-phenomenological perspective, we can understand the human being, including the infant, as always already being-in-the-world with others and alongside things (Heidegger, 1926, 1962; Boss, 1979). As always already being-in-the-world, the infant is already a "being there" (Dasein), and, thus, does not have to break through to the world from an encapsulated, solopsistic self. And, further, as always already being-with, the human being is a social being from the very beginning. It is in this respect, in particular, that phenomenology and object relations theory can both inform one another in powerfully constructive ways, as we will explore.
A phenomenological perspective can be especially informative regarding an understanding of psychological defenses such as projective identification and splitting. Klein, as we've seen, can see no other way to talk about projective identification, for example, other than as a putting of one's emotions and/or thoughts into the (m)other. Klein's naive ontological assumptions here include a misrepresentation of emotions and thoughts as 'things' which can be 'put into' another person. This naive meta-psychology depends on the notion of a self-contained, 'encapsulated' individual who, in turn, can take 'thoughts' and 'emotions' which are 'in' her/him and place them 'into' the (m)other who is 'over there' as a similar self-contained, encapsulated individual. When Klein's theory is examined from a phenomenological perspective, it can be seen that these types of theoretical acrobatics are unnecessarily confusing and do an injustice to the lived experience she is describing. Yet, phenomenology can also gain from Klein's theory (and those who have followed in her footsteps) by utilizing her brilliant observations of infant experience in order to further phenomenology's understanding of the psychogenesis of the self. Before elaborating on how phenomenology can inform Klein's theory, however, it is necessary to further explore recent developments in Object Relations Theory, especially the contributions of Bion and Ogden.
Bion's contribution toward an understanding of projective identification
One of Bion's greatest contributions to Object Relations Theory is his extension of Klein's concept of projective identification, by which he describes the (m)other as a potential 'container' for the anxiety-aroused projections of the infant. Bion's (1952, 1962a, 1963) conception of projective identification and 'containment' have profoundly impacted the method of psychoanalytic practice, particularly since he implies that the therapist is in the role of the (m)other who must 'contain' the 'primitive' anxieties of the patient. With this interpersonal move, Bion manages to give the (m)other a genuine presence which appears to be lacking in Klein's original theory.
Hinshelwood (1991) has laid out the many possible motivations for the infant's use of projective identification as a defense, which include 1) "evacuation of intolerable experiences"; 2) "disposal of unwanted, intolerable functions of the mind, especially those presenting reality"; 3) "a defence against separation from an object -- or against acknowledging a difference from it -- so that the object is invaded and occupied instead"; 4) "retaining the experience of omnipotence through sustaining the control over others' minds"; 5) "the projection of good parts of the self into an object where they may be kept safer," and 6) " a form of projective identification as communication which gives the experience of being 'contained.'" (p. 120)
It is the fifth possible motivation which can be exclusively attributed to Bion. Projective identification can become a form of communication to the (m)other that the infant is experiencing the intense anxiety over the possibility annihilation, and, thus, it is in the mother's capacity, in a sense, to respond or not to respond to this communication which can shape the infant's experience of her/his world. Like with Klein's theory of a continuous feedback loop of projection and introjection between mother and infant, Bion's infant-subject is shaped by the intersubjective play of emotion between self and other. However, in Bion's conception, the mother is not simply a 'phantom' of the infant's projections, but rather a genuine mother who holds the possibility of making the infant's anxiety more tolerable. If the mother has secure ego boundaries, she will be able to 'contain' the emotions which the infant gives to her, and, consequently, she can give these emotions back to the infant in a more tolerable form. The mother's ability to make the infant's feelings tolerable by 'containment' leads the infant to the experience of "reverie" (Bion, 1962a). However, the failure of the (m)other to properly 'contain' the intolerable feelings of the infant leads to "a destruction of the link between infant and breast" (Bion, 1959, p. 314). The infant, unable to build a 'containor' of her/himself through the introjection of the mother's containing function, is terrorized by a "nameless dread," a formless, nameless anxiety which lacks the symbolic shape otherwise provided by the (m)other. (Bion, 1962b) For Bion (1959), the destruction of this vital link between the infant and breast leads "to a severe disorder of the impulse to be curious on which all learning depends." (p. 314)
Bion's conception of the mother's function as 'container' is a move toward breaking with the metaphysical assumption of a self-contained, 'encapsulated' individual, such as in Klein's theory. Neither the infant/projector nor the (m)other/recipient is a discrete individual. (Ogden, 1992) Both the infant and mother are intersubjectively constituted in relation to one another. Nevertheless, Bion's word choice of 'containor' as a metaphor of this experience can be taken up from a perspective in which the (m)other is understood as self-contained. This is evident, for example, in subsequent theory in object relations which continues to view patient and therapist as separate individuals, such that emotions and thoughts must bridge the intersubjective gap between self and other in order for projective identification to take place (e.g., Caper, 1997; Finell, 1986; Whipple, 1986).
The implication of Bion's theory for therapy is that the therapist can serve as a 'containor' for the anxiety of the patient. For Bion, projective identification involves the patient's unconscious pressure on the therapist to take up a role in the client's 'phantasy.' "The analyst feels he is being manipulated," writes Bion (1952, p. 149), "so as to be playing a part, no matter how difficult to recognize, in somebody else's phantasy." By the therapist's 'containing' and tolerating of this uncomfortable experience without acting out, Bion's theory implies that the genuine 'subjectivity' of the client can emerge from the dialectic of self and other -- or, as Ogden (1992, p. 619) writes, "the subject of psychoanalysis takes shape in the interpretive space between analyst and analysand." It is this radical reconceptualization of intersubjectivity in Bion's work -- and its impact on the conception of the therapeutic relationship, especially on the use of the transference -- which has given rise to many controversies surrounding, as well as innovative attempts to rectify, theoretical inconsistencies in the conception of projective identification.
Further research into the phenomenon of projective identification
Finell (1986) writes:
concept [of projective identification] describes the mysterious interplay
two psyches around projection and introjection, merger, and telepathy, and
has quasimagical overtones. It describes an enactment in which split-off self and
object parts and related affects are induced in the other. It operates as both a defense
and a type of communication. (p. 104)
Finell's description of the phenomenon of projective identification paints a picture which is not likely to convince skeptics of the merits of Object Relations Theory. Beginning with the assumption of a human being whose 'subjectivity' ends at the skin -- that is, a representation of the psyche which is contained 'in' the person against an 'objective' world which is mere extension in space -- leads to quite an epistemological mess. The only way Finell is able to grasp the concept of projective identification is to explain it away as a telepathic, "quasimagical" phenomenon. Though Finell sees the benefits of the concept of projective identification for clinical practice, she can find no concrete explanation for its occurrence. This leaves her position open for criticism by, for example, Whipple (1986) who correctly states that:
identification is a metaphor. Psychic contents are abstractions and
cannot literally be put into someone else. We are also not literally 'containors' for
this evacuated product....[N]one of the writers on projective identification
satisfactorily explain how psychic contents are put into another person" (p. 123).
Thus, Whipple can claim that the concept of projective identification is merely a rationalization on the part of the analyst to "avoid the real issue of counter-transference" (p. 121). From our position, Whipple fails to grasp that Finell and other theorists are not to be criticized for failing to effectively use the concept of projective identification in therapy for the benefit of the client. Rather, their inability to explain how projective identification is possible is due to faulty metaphysical assumptions.
What is at stake? At stake is the contribution of Object Relations Theory, since Bion, that it is possible for the therapist to use projective identification and other transferential phenomena as a means to empathize and understand the client, as well as to assist the client in developing a more fully differentiated self. If those such as Whipple succeed in damaging the credibility of Object Relations Theory by claiming that they resort to theories which cannot be accounted for from a natural science perspective, this makes it all the more difficult to argue for the therapist's use of her/his own feelings as a vital part of the therapeutic process.
According to Spillius (1992), there are at least three, general clinical 'models' of projective identification: 1) Klein's conception, which is exclusively based on the patient's use of projective identification as wish-fulfillment, 2) Bion's formulation, according to the concept of 'containment,' and 3) Joseph's more recent usage, "in which the analyst will constantly bring pressure to bear on the analyst, sometimes very subtly, sometimes with great force, to get the analyst to act out in a manner consistent with the patient's projection" (p. 63). This latter concept -- that the patient's projective identifications provoke the therapist to act out a particular role according to the client's object-relations -- has been widely discussed in the literature (e.g., Rosenfeld, 1971; Segal, 1973; Sandler, 1976a, 1976b, 1987b; Sandler & Sandler, 1978; Joseph, 1989; Spillius (ed.) 1988, 1992). The implication is that the therapist can use her/his own feelings as a source of information in order to understand the patient's dynamics (Spillius, 1992).
The idea that the therapist can be drawn into a role in relation to the client was anticipated by Deutsch's (1926) and Racker's (1957) concept of "complementary identification." That is, the therapist unconsciously takes on a role which is complementary to the client's conscious, thus feeling and/or enacting the client's unconscious. Incidently, van den Berg (1971) addresses a similar phenomena when he argues that "the therapist and the unconscious of the patient are one and the same thing. The therapist is the patient's unconscious" (p. 339). However, van den Berg, from his existential-phenomenological perspective, views the patient's unconscious as the therapist's awareness of the patient's possibilities which are not yet realized. However, "complementary identification" implies that the therapist is, at least at first, unaware that s/he has been provoked by the patient to play a role in her/his own personal drama. As Sandler and Sandler (1976, 1978) describe, such "role actualizations" in the therapist can be used as a defense by the client against remembering and for repeating early relationships and fantasies (Finell, 1986, p. 105).
In general, the literature in support of projective identification tends to agree that, in one way or another, the therapist takes on an unconscious role in relation to the client. The most successful way for the analyst to deal with this situation, however, is less clear and still heatedly debated. The failure to contain such countertransference has been termed "projective counteridentification" (Grinberg, 1962; Grotsein, 1981; Malin & Grotstein, 1966). Object relations theorists have not yet reached an agreement as to whether such a phenomenon as "projective counteridentification" can ever be truly distinguished from projective identification (e.g., Finell, 1986). A similar controversy revolves around whether projection and projective identification are the same or different processes (e.g., Grotstein, 1981; Malin & Grotstein, 1966; Meissner, 1980; Ogden, 1979, 1982; Finell, 1986). Further, these theorists tend to agree that, as Finell (1986) states, there is a potential danger with the concept of projective identification of taking on an "omnipotent quality...if the analyst is portrayed in one-to-one correspondence with patient feelings" (p. 105). It is generally agreed that the therapist must be highly self-reflective in order to assure that s/he does not unwittingly act out in the therapy, either failing to contain the projective identification or in using projective identification as a defense against coming to terms with how her/his own countertransferential dynamics are being triggered by the patient. And, finally, some clinicians argue that it is preferable to hold back from interpreting projective identification (e.g., Caper, 1997), whereas others go so far to insist that the therapist's acting out, when followed by an interpretation, is the best approach to handling projective identification (e.g., Maroda, 1995). For example, Maroda (1995) argues that it is only when the patient witnesses his/her own split-off feelings in the analyst that s/he truly feels understood. (For in depth literature reviews tracking these controversies, see Feldman, 1997; Finell, 1986; Gabbard, 1995; and Hamilton, 1990).
It is unlikely that a phenomenological approach, at first, will assist in fully answering any of these important clinical questions related to projective identification. However, it seems that a phenomenological investigation of the basic, ontological assumptions of object relations theory can at least provide clarification regarding these issues. This is especially the case when these controversies revolve around the possibility of therapist neutrality, and when distinguishing processes such as projection, projective identification, and projective counteridentification. The phenomenological interpretation of the paranoid-schizoid and depressive position, as well as their complementary defenses, will comprise the rest of this investigation. However, before embarking on this path, a brief exploration of Ogden's conception of the Kleinian psychological positions will greatly assist further exploration into a phenomenological conception of the psychogenesis of the self -- and, consequently, prepare for an opening into a more ontologically sophisticated ground upon which to return to an examination of projective identification in the countertransference.
Ogden's contribution toward a dialectical understanding of a Klein's psychological positions
Ogden (1992) writes that Klein's three most important theoretical contributions:
development of an analytic formulation of subjectivity are (1) the
dialectical conception of psychic structure and psychological development underlying
her concept of 'positions', (2) the dialectical decentering of the subject in psychic
space, and (3) the notion of the dialectic of intersubjectivity that is implicit in the
concept of projective identification. (p. 613)
According to Ogden, Klein's use of the term 'position' to describe the paranoid-schizoid and depressive experiences suggests that these 'positions' are not merely development stages which occur in the infant's first year of life. Rather, even in non-psychotic adults, there is a constant dialectical tension between these two experiential poles. Thus, one must not make the mistake of assuming that the infant leaves behind the primitive, psychotic level of experience of the first few months of life. For Ogden, each pole "creates, negates and preserves the other" (Ogden, 1992, p. 613). With this dialectical conception of these psychological positions, Ogden takes up each pole as two extreme organizations of experience which can be plotted along a continuum.
Following Klein, Ogden (1992) characterizes the paranoid-schizoid position as:
relatively devoid of the experience of an interpreting subject
mediating between the sense of I-ness and one's lived sensory experience,
part-object related, and heavily reliant on splitting, idealization, denial,
projective identification and omnipotent thinking as modes of defence and
ways of organizing experience. This paranoid-schizoid mode contributes to
the sense of immediacy and intensity of experience. (p. 614)
In compliance with Freud's (1911, 1915) conception of the timelessness of the unconscious, the primitive layer of experience of the paranoid-schizoid position is lived as temporally discontinuous. Such a temporal discontinuity makes possible the experience of a fragmented world without continuity, where the same breast, for example, can be experienced as two separate objects, "good" and "bad." Since the world of the schizoid-position is temporally fragmented, it follows that others and things are also experienced as fragmented part-objects, and, further, this creates a collapse between a self and other, such that they two are no longer differentiated. Since things and others are not experienced as continuous, autonomous beings, they are, instead, organized according to the quality of experience -- that is, according to the feeling states associated with these phenomena (e.g., "good" or "bad"). The world of the paranoid-schizoid is therefore "split" according to feeling states such that others and things become extensions of one's self and, vice versa, the feeling-states of others are taken as one's own. There is a decided lack of ego-boundaries or "I"-ness.
While Ogden (1992), like Klein, does not provide a solution to the puzzle of exactly how the depressive position emerges developmentally, he quite emphatically argues that the emergence of the depressive position is a project which is never fully completed, nor should it be completed. In contrast to the paranoid-schizoid pole, Ogden (1992) describes the depressive pole of experience as:
by (1) an experience of interpreting 'I-ness' mediating between oneself
and one's lived sensory experiences, (2) the presence of an historically rooted sense
of self that is consistent over time and over shifts in affective states, (3) relatedness
to other people who are experienced as whole and separate objects with an internal
life similar to one's own; moreover, one is able to feel concern for the Other, guilt,
and the wish to make non-magical reparation for the real and imagined damage that
one has done to others, and (4) forms of defense (e.g., repression and mature
identification) that allow the individual to sustain psychological strain over time...
In sum, the depressive mode generates a quality of experience endowed with a
richness of layered symbolic meanings. (p. 614)
With the depressive pole, the "split" of the paranoid-schizoid pole is mended, and the fragmented self and other are mended into whole objects. This is made possible through the emergence of temporal continuity, which provides for the spatial continuity of a self and other which are no longer organized along feeling-states. Instead, both "good" and "bad" feeling-states regarding self and other are ambivalently held together by a bounded "ego" or 'I-ness.' Thus, others are no longer experienced simply as "loved, hated, or feared forces or things that impinge on oneself," but, rather, separate beings for which one can have concern -- which, in turn, creates the possibility for empathy (Ogden, 1989, p. 23). All of this is made possible, Ogden already implies, by the symbolic function, which, in children, gives rise to the possibility of the child's use of the word "I " and engagement in imaginative play (see, e.g., Goodson, 1998).
Ogden (1992) argues that the paranoid-schizoid and depressive position are always in a dialectical relationship, and, thus, not merely developmental phases. Yet, he also recognizes that "it would be absurd to adopt an exclusively synchronic perspective that fails to recognize the progression of states of maturity that take place in the course of the life of the individual" (p. 614). On the other hand, when exploring these poles of experience in terms of their emergence in development, one always runs the risk of ignoring the primitive layer of experience of all experience, "including those forms of experience considered to be the most mature and fully evolved" (p. 614). Ogden wishes to preserve the notion that the depressive position is, in fact, needful of the paranoid-schizoid position. Influenced by Bion (1959, 1967), Ogden (1992) realizes that, without the "de-integrative pressure of the paranoid-schizoid pole," the depressive pole of experience "would reach closure, stagnation and 'arrogance'." Thus, the continuous tension between the de-integrative tendencies of the paranoid-schizoid pole and the integrative tendencies of the depressive pole allow for the creative emergence of new psychological possibilities without total fragmentation, on the one hand, or severe psychological rigidity, on the other. (p. 616)
Ogden's conception of these dialectical poles of experience is interesting in light of Roland's (1981) observations that therapists with an artistic orientation tend to be much more comfortable working with patients who are involved with very primitive and regressed modes of experience. This implies that more creative therapists tend to feel more comfortable with the ebb and flow of merging and fusing while maintaining ego control, which allows them to work with deeply regressed experiences of projective identification. On the other hand, analysts with more rigid ego boundaries, such as an obsessive-compulsive characters, might find these experiences to be too disturbing. Observations such as this support Ogden's (1989) argument that traditional Object Relations Theory has too often "villainized" the paranoid-schizoid position. Even diagnostically, it is not the presence of paranoid-schizoid defenses which indicate psychosis, but rather the absence of higher-level defenses, such as repression and intellectualization (McWilliams, 1994).
Ogden's conception of the paranoid-schizoid and depressive positions is both theoretically and ontologically sophisticated, and, most importantly, he brings to the foreground Klein's contribution, particularly with her description of projective identification, to a radical reconceptualization of intersubjectivity. In Ogden's hands, Klein's subject is no longer an 'encapsulated,' solopsistic individual, but, instead, is dialectically constituted in the 'between' of self and other. With Ogden's sophisticated theoretical sensibilities, the road is well-paved for a generous and mutually-beneficial dialogue between Object Relations Theory and phenomenology.
Phenomenological contributions toward understanding the psychogenesis of the self
While Ogden (1992) cautions against over-valuing a developmental orientation toward understanding the paranoid-schizoid and depressive positions, we believe a phenomenological approach to human development, which attempts to understand the world of the infant on her/his own terms, is essential for understanding the phenomenology of these two poles of experience. Moreover, we feel that phenomenological investigation into the psychogenesis of the self actually supports Ogden's claims. Drawing on the phenomenological research of, for example, Merleau-Ponty (1964), Dillon (1978), and Simms (1993, 1994, 1998), it can be argued that what has been termed the paranoid-schizoid position is synonymous with the "synergetic sociability" of the infant prior to the emergence of the "specular I" with the symbolic function (i.e., the emergence into language). In other words, the paranoid-schizoid position can be understood as belonging to the lived perspective of the child -- the bed rock of all adult experience -- which "grasps and represents the meaning of a situation rather than the content" (Simms, 1993, p. 35). This research can give Ogden's sophisticated conception of Klein's psychological positions a clarity which, with all its precision, it still lacks.
Traditionally, the 'mind' of the child has been understood primarily as being a lack of adult consciousness. With Klein's conception of the emergence of the depressive position, she already implies that the child of the paranoid-schizoid position is a lack which requires differentiation from self and other in order to achieve the capacity for empathy with the experience of whole-objects. Yet, as Simms (1993) points out, Merleau-Ponty (1964) would agree "that perceived unity (the felt and seen breast) precedes intellectual constancy in the development of the child's consciousness" (p. 34). This radical perspective is made possible by Merleau-Ponty's (1964) conception of the psyche as a "consciousness" which is "turned primarily toward the world, turned toward things; it is above all a relation to the world" (p. 116-117). As Simms (1993) explains:
implies that the child's perception of the world is primarily
an experience of meaning, rather than a perception of dissolute stimuli, and that
the perception of form (Gestalt) and significance precedes the perception of content.
The shift in perspective which Merleau-Ponty introduces is a radical challenge to
our habitual way of conceptualizing the self as intra-psychic and subjective. He opens
up the possibility for a self that is rooted in the interpersonal and social experience of
the infant. (p. 35)
Merleau-Ponty's conception of the world of the child anticipates Ogden's reconceptualization of the Kleinian subject as predominately intersubjective and, thus, always already being-with. Like Ogden's subject, Merleau-Ponty's understanding of the infant-self is understood as dialectically constituted between "a flowing exchange of meaningful gestures and situations" between a self-pole and other-pole (Simms, 1993, p. 37). And, further, like Ogden's description of the pre-symbolic paranoid-schizoid position, Merleau-Ponty's infant-subject is a precommunicative subject which is primarily a 'communal self.' As Merleau-Ponty writes (1964):
the development has somewhat the following character: there is a first
which we call precommunication, in which there is not one individual against another
but rather an anonymous collectivity, an undifferentiated group life (vie a plusiers).
Next, on the basis of this initial community, both by the objectification of one's own
body and the constitution of the other in his difference, there occurs a segregation,
a distinction of individuals -- a process which, moreoever, as we shall see, is
never completely finished (p. 119)
If these two phases seem curiously familiar, it is due to the remarkable similarity between Merleau-Ponty's description of the developmental phases of the child and Klein's description of the paranoid-schizoid and depressive positions. Yet, while Klein gives preference to the depressive position as a developmental milestone, Merleau-Ponty also "sees the emergence of the symbolic capacity of the self...as a rift that alienated the lived experience from the symbolic experience" (Simms, 1993, p. 39). This implies that Ogden's description of the dialectic between the paranoid-schizoid and depressive poles is, in actuality, the dialectic between lived and symbolic experience.
Merleau-Ponty (1964) draws many of his insights from Guillaume, Wallon, and Lacan. From Guillaume, he draws the idea that, in the first phase of life, the child's me is 'virtual or latent.' Therefore, the term "egocentrism," which characterizes the child's apparent self-preoccupation in this phase, is misleading. The child's apparent preoccupation with her/himself does not stem from an 'encapsulated ego,' but, rather, from the child's undifferentiation from the other. From this notion, Merleau-Ponty introduces Wallon's concept of "synergetic sociability." He shows how the phenomenon of "syncretism," as an indistinction between self and other, better characterizes this first phase of life. Later, Merleau-Ponty demonstrates how Lacan's "mirror phase" marks the period in which, through the emergence of the "specular I," the child begins to draw a distinction between self and other -- which, even into adulthood, is never fully complete.
During the first six months of life, similar to Klein's description, the child's experience of her/his body is "fragmentary." The child's experience of self is a bleeding together of bodily experience and other in the world. For example, if a child cries when her/his caregiver leaves the room, the child is not crying for the loss of an other separate from her/himself. She is crying because she has an "impression of incompleteness" -- that is, a loss of the other as a part of her/his undifferentiated self. At the heart of this "synergetic sociability" is the phenomenon of "transitivism." The child, who experiences her body as fragmented, has no visual awareness of her body. In turn, as Merleau-Ponty (1964) writes, "he cannot separate what he lives from what others live as well as what he sees them living" (p. 135). Thus, Merleau-Ponty has already shown how, in the world of the child, a phenomenon such as projective identification is possible. The child does not put her/his feeling 'into' the (m)other, but, rather, the (m)other already is the self for the child, as Klein already implies.
Between the fourth and sixth months of life, the child gradually begins to develop a more integrated "corporeal schema." For example, s/he begins to explore and attend to parts of her/his body. In turn, her impressions of others becomes more unified. This is the inauguration of the period which Wallon understood as "incontinent sociability." Yet, the (m)other continues to remain a part of a system of 'me-and-other.' The child, as Merleau-Ponty states, "is apt to recognize himself in everything" (p. 150). Merleau-Ponty sees in this the foundation for jealousy, cruelty and sympathy, which will continue into adulthood as a "regression" to this "synergetic sociability." Here, we most clearly see how Merleau-Ponty would understand the persecutory quality of the paranoid-schizoid position in Klein's theory. The child, not yet differentiated enough from the (m)other, lives a "split" world such that the "bad" breast/mother can be separated off from the "good" breast/mother. The "bad" breast is, thus, felt as potentially destructive to the child while the "good" breast is idealized.
Merleau-Ponty, again drawing on Wallon and Lacan's theories, sees the emergence of the "specular I," during the "mirror stage," as the transition of the child from "synergetic sociality" into a more fully differentiated self and other. He points out that the child's experience of a distinction between another person's specular image and body precedes the child's ability to distinguish her body from her own specular image. The other's body in the mirror, explains Merleau-Ponty, is experienced as a 'double or phantom' which has a secondary existence from the other's 'real' body. Yet, the child confronts her/his own image in the mirror with surprise. How is this so? Essentially, the latter is a much more complex process than the former.
The child is able to see both the other and the specular image of the other as two, separate visual experiences. The child's own experience of her/his body, on the other hand, does not include a full visual representation of her whole body, as others would see her/his body, except as the specular image. The child feels her/his body 'here' and sees her/his body in the mirror 'there.' Therefore, the child's task involves the problem of recognizing that the image in the mirror 'there' is not, in fact, the 'here' where s/he feels herself. Moreover, the child must also recognize that the image 'there' is the very same image that others see of her/him when they look at her/him "at the very same place he feels himself to be" (p. 129). Prior to the age of six months, therefore, the child begins with the impression that the image 'there' in the mirror is "a sort of double of the real body" (p. 129).
Between the ages of six months and one year, the child passes through the "mirror stage" in which the child realizes that the image in the mirror is not the "real" body. Interestingly, however, this process is never fully completed and the "phantom" body in the mirror as a "quasi-presence" remains, on some level, throughout adulthood. This speaks to the fact that this process is not a mere "all-or-nothing" cognitive process. Rather, it is a process which "bears not only on our relations of understanding but also our relations of being with the world and with others" (p. 137). It is here where Lacan's conception of the "mirror stage" sheds light on Wallon's theory.
At first, the child identifies with the image of her/himself in the mirror. The image of the specular image creates the opportunity for the child to be a spectator of her/himself. This is the birth of the "specular I" -- which involves an entire personality shift for the child. The child shifts from a lived body or "me," merged syncretically with the environment and others, to a visual 'I.' In psychoanalytic terms, the "me" can be understood as the "ego," "the collection of confusedly felt impulses," whereas the "specular I' brings forth the "super-ego," an ideal representation of oneself. Further, with the birth of the "super-ego"/"specular I," there also emerges "the narcissistic function" (p. 136). The child becomes alienated from her lived body by identifying with the image as an ideal "me above the me" (p. 137). Further, this alienation from one's lived "me" serves as a preparation for the alienation one will subsequently experience from others.
Obviously, this conflicts with Klein's observations that the 'persecutory' breast is the earlier origin of the super-ego. In fact, the emergence of the ideal "me above the me" in Merleau-Ponty's theory coincides much more closely with Freud's origin conception that the 'super-ego' emerges with the genital stage due to the Oedipal complex. Yet, if one takes Merleau-Ponty seriously, there can be no "me above the me" unless there is, of course, a 'me' to be 'above.' While no apparent solution to this problem is thematized by Merleau-Ponty, Dillon's (1978) research, influenced by Merleau-Ponty, may offer a potential solution. Before Dillon's theory can be explored, however, it is necessarily to complete our discussion of Merleau-Ponty's perspective.
The phase in development in which the child becomes alienated both from her lived "me" and others is called by Merleau-Ponty "the crisis at age three." At this age, the period of "incontinent sociality," in which the child experiences a "synergetic" mergence with others, comes to an abrupt end. The child begins to prefer performing activities alone and finds the look of another person to be somewhat aversive. For, it is at this phase that the 'specular image' becomes generalized to others. That is, one now becomes the 'here' which is a spectacle for others. Consequently, the child begins to behave in different ways. S/he feels a sense of ambivalence. S/he both wants attention (even misbehaving in order to get it) and fears the gaze of others. The child also begins to develop a capacity for selfishness. Self and other "cease to be a unity," which brings on the accession for the child to, for example, covet toys as possessions. Further, one begins to hear the child use the pronoun "I" when speaking as opposed to omitting pronouns or saying "me." Of course, this does not entirely bring to end the child's lived "me" with its "synergetic sociability." Throughout adulthood, in limited situations, one continues to experience moments of "syncretism," such as with the experience of love in which one feels immersed in the other.
Merleau-Ponty, in light of Lacan, demonstrates that the "mirror phase," inaugurated by the phenomenon of the "specular image," is no mere cognitive or intellectual process. Rather, it involves "all the individual's relations with others" (p. 138). Merleau-Ponty, therefore, emphasizes "the affective significance of the phenomenon" (p. 137).
With the onset of the "mirror phase" at the "crisis at age three," the child first becomes separated from her lived body and, therefore, from herself as a sentient being. Next, the child becomes alienated through her separating from the other. She becomes an object to be looked at. As a consequence, there arises an "inevitable...conflict between the me as I feel myself and the me as I see myself or as others see me" (p. 137). Through these two forms of alienation, the child is essentially torn from her "immediate reality." Yet, this process, for Merleau-Ponty, is "essential" for childhood. It is part of what makes the human being different from animals.
The human child experiences all this before s/he even has the physiological capacity to live up to the "ideals" which her "specular image" creates. The human child is born into the world as vulnerable and incredibly dependent on others. Yet, this experience of alienation from self and other also forms a "super-ego" by which the child may begin to assimilate into the communicative world of the adult. Therefore, the child, in a sense, experiences a "pre-maturation." S/he is not yet able to assimilate into the communicative adult world, nor live up to the expectations of her/his ideals as a "specular I.' Thus, she experiences an incredible sense of insecurity. The child, almost as if before her time, is "turned away from what he effectively is, in order to orient him toward what he sees and imagines himself to be" (p. 137). The conflict between the "me" which is, the imagined "I", and the gaze of the other creates the possibility for aggression toward others. For, out of frustration, the child may lash out at those who appear to "confiscate" her/him through their gaze. The child lives "beyond his means," aware of what s/he can be as an adult, yet unable to live this out. The other's gaze, in a sense, can seem to mock the child's sensitivity to this dilemma. Yet, at the same time, it is the child's ability to "live beyond his means" which creates the vision of what s/he will one day be as an adult. In her triumphs, through the effort to attain this ideal, she will experience jubilation. In her defeats, she will suffer. Like Klein's description of the infant's emergence into the depressive position, the child's psychological birth into selfhood is tragically bittersweet.
Merleau-Ponty's conception of the psychogenesis of the self also implies a radical reconception of bodihood. Nietzsche's (1954) writes:
you say, and are proud of the word. But greater is that in
which you do not wish to have faith - your body and its great reason:
that does not say "I," but does "I."
What the sense feels, what the spirit knows, never has its end in
itself. But sense and spirit would persuade you that they are the end
of all things: that is how vain they are. Instruments and toys are sense
and spirit: behind them still lies the self. The self also seeks with eyes
of the senses; it also listens with the ears of the spirit. Always the self
listens and seeks: it compares, overpowers, conquers, destroys. It
controls, and it is in control of the ego too.
your thoughts and feelings, my brother, there stands a mighty
ruler, an unknown sage - whose name is self. In your body he dwells;
he is your body. (p. 34).
So, thus spoke Zarathustra. If we were to translate Nietzsche's words "body" to "lived body," which would be entirely appropriate, I think we could say that this quotation truly speaks to Merleau-Ponty's conception of the body. Cognitively, the child is unable to achieve conservation, yet the body knows! How could this be?
Certainly, one needs to be careful here. The "body" which knows is not the anatomical body which ends with the epidermis. It is the lived body, the "me" which becomes alienated from the "I" and others with the "mirror stage." This is the body which feels the 'here,' yet also lives 'there.' It is the sentient self which merges with the world. At this level, there is no separation between self, other, and world. This is the undifferentiated self we were as "pre-communicative" infants. This is the self which emerges from the world and merges with the world because it is the world. Nietzsche knew about this "self" long before Merleau-Ponty. This is the body that knows. It is the "great reason which does not say 'I,' but does 'I'!"
So, what is the relationship between body and language? From Merleau-Ponty's article, it is clear that the alienation from self and other occur in preparation for the child's entry into the communicative world of the adult; that is, into language. In order for the child to communicate verbally with the other, the other must become separate. In order for the child to view the other as separate, s/he must first identify with the "specular I." As Lacan writes: The specular image is the "symbolic matrix..where the I springs up in primordial form before objectifying itself in the dialectic of identification with the other" (cited in Merleau-Ponty, p. 137). It is from out of this "symbolic matrix" that language springs forth for the child. Therefore, language belongs, not to the lived body of the "existential self," but, instead, belongs to the "categorical self" which is the observed self.
This strongly implies that the depressive position most fully emerges when the child enters the "symbolic matrix' of language. As Ogden (1992) explains, in the paranoid-schizoid mode, "there is virtually no space between symbol and symbolized; the two are emotionally equivalent." There is no mediating subject, no 'specular I,' no "categorical self." Returning to Klein, when the infant 'introjects' the 'whole (m)other," s/he is not 'introjecting' the 'real' (m)other, but, rather, a symbolic (m)other. Further, the infant's 'whole' self, from Merleau-Ponty's perspective, is not the 'real' self, but, rather, a "categorical" or 'specular I' or self which covers over the 'existential self' of the lived body. The child gains historicity and a relatedness to the other at the expense of the 'wisdom' of the communal, lived body, which remain the well-spring from which the 'specular I' may arise.
Stern (1985) writes: "the advent of language is a very mixed blessing for the child...The infant gains entrance into a wider cultural membership, but at the risk of losing the force and wholeness of original experience" (p. 177). With language, the child learns the meaning of existence from her cultural-historical world. Yet, the child pays a great cost in losing a large portion of the wisdom of the "lived body" -- the "great reason" which Nietzsche pays homage to. The child identifies with the "specular I" and begins to forget the wisdom of the body, and, instead, takes up the world of the "cogito" with which she understands herself as everybody does. Those experiences which are unspeakable, that language cannot speak for, become lost or 'unconscious' to the child. Yet, the body continues to 'know.' It "does," even while the "cogito" thinks it is the "might ruler" like the emperor with no clothes.
With the emergence of language, the child develops many abilities. The child enters a symbolic world in which she can imagine, fantasize, remember, and develop expectations for the future on a cognitive level. Further, these experiences can be reported to her/himself or to others. Yet, the cost of acquiring these abilities is that the child loses access to the experiential knowledge she had acquired about the world, others and her body before the advent of language. Drawing on Klein, we can also say that the child gains a capacity for empathy and concern for the (m)other. With the emergence into the depressive position, the child 'mourns' for the damage done to the "good" breast. Yet, is this all the child 'mourns'? Merleau-Ponty's conception of the child suggests the child also mourns the loss of the lived body.
People often assume that language has a direct correlation to 'reality.' Yet, language's great benefit, as well as cost, is that it permits one to "transcend lived experience and be generative" (Stern, p. 169). The meaning of words does not have a direct correlation to things in the world, but, instead, arises from "interpersonal negotiations involving what can be agreed upon as shared" (Stern, p. 170). That is, the meanings of words do not merely belong to the person her/himself or simply to the culture in which s/he lives. Instead, meaning emerges from the dialogue between self and other in which words develop "mutually negotiated we meanings" (Stern, p. 170). Therefore, as the child reaches the phase in which she develops the capacity to speak, this also marks the period in which important others will direct the child toward a social order and, in turn, push her away from the spontaneous, although unorganized, order of the "pre-communicative" phase.
As the child continues to grow into the mutually negotiated "we meanings" of her language world, a rift develops between these "we meanings" and the direct, lived experience of the "pre-communicative" phase of infancy. In some cases, the language will match lived experiences wonderfully. In other cases, the global experience will be poorly represented by the language, and, as a result, the experience will become "misnamed and poorly understood" (Stern, p. 175). Finally, there will be those lived experiences which are "unspeakable." Language will not have access to these experiences, and, in turn, these experiences, as unnamed, will continue to exist 'unconsciously.' Recalling Bion, we can understand that the "nameless dread" is all the more terrifying for being un-named, and, thus, not 'contained' by the symbolic order.
The problem of the super-ego and Dillon's "Merleau-Ponty and the Psychogenesis of the Self"
Dillon's (1978) critique of Merleau-Ponty's conception of the psychogenesis of the self can shed light on the apparent conflict between Klein's position that the emergence of the 'super-ego' occurs within the first year of life and Merleau-Ponty's argument that it emerges with the 'specular I.'
Dillon argues that the "mirror phase" is concurrent, not prior "to recognition of oneself in the look of the other" (p. 90). One problem with the dependence on the "mirror phase" for the emergence of a differentiated other is that it relies too heavily on the visual sense, whereas the 'whole' body involves all the senses. More consistent with Kleinian theory, Dillon instead argues that the differentiation of self and other is more primordially dependent on "traumata, or disturbances of an affective kind" (p. 91). Dillon (1978) writes:
sociability breaks down -- not because the infant has developed a capacity
for visual recognition -- but because a significant other, by some set of behavioral
cues (e.g., punishment, failure to respond approvingly to the creation of feces,
etc.), forces the infant to recognize an alien perspective as such" (p. 91)
Dillon's argument becomes a way to reconcile Kleinian theory with Merleau-Ponty's conception of the psychogenesis of the self when Britton's (1992) argument is taken into consideration. For Britton, the depressive position does not precede the Oedipal situation, but rather, they are co-constituted. The Oedipal complex is resolved, according to Britton, "by working through the depressive position and the depressive position by working though the Oedipal complex" (p. 35). The existence of the 'super-ego' predisposes that the infant must be able to experience 'guilt.' While the Kleinian infant-self is "persecuted" by the "breast" 'into' which s/he has projected his death instinct, this cannot be properly called a 'super-ego' until the child enters the depressive position with the recognition that the attacked, persecutory breast is also the "good" breast. As Britton has argued, the capacity for 'guilt' emerges with the depressive position, which is dependent on the Oedipal drama in order to become possible.
Influenced by Britton's perspective, Caper (1997) views the depressive position and Oedipal complex as dialectically co-constituted. More specifically, Caper defines the "depressive awareness" of the depressive position as "the awareness that an object is separate from oneself," and, further, he defines the Oedipal situation as "the awareness that the object has relationships with other objects in which one does not partake" (p. 265). As far as we are concerned, Caper's perspective is essentially equivalent to Dillon's argument that synergetic sociability collapses with the recognition that the (m)other has an "alien perspective." With the recognition that the (m)other has concerns of her own, the child must inevitably be exiled from the garden of Eden, her/his idealized perspective of the (m)other's "good" breast. This concern may, in fact, be the father or it could be other concerns outside the dyadic relationship of the mother and infant. As Severns (1998) writes, "A psychologically healthy woman always has interests of her own that call her away from her child, thus allowing the child to separate" (p. 123).
From Klein's brilliant observations, we can understand that the Oedipal situation pre-dates the genital stage. Taking the work of Dillon, Britton, and Caper into consideration, we can understand the Oedipal situation as first emerging with the depressive position with the recognition that the (m)other is her own person with concerns of her own outside of their dyadic relationship. This is not inconsistent with Klein's claim that the super-ego emerges in the first year of life. Instead, we can understand that the Oedipal triad of infant, mother, and father is only possible because of the infant's realization of the mother's separate existence. And, further, it is impossible for the child to come to this realization unless the (m)other has a 'father function' with which to carry her away from the symbiotic union with her child.
As Dillon (1978) suggests, the differentiation from the (m)other with the depressive position and the Oedipal situation gives rise to a thematization of the body as an object of experience. "In other words, his corporeal schema (the body as lived) must become visibly identified with his body image (the body as thematized)" (p. 95). The "mirror phase" as described by Merleau-Ponty does not so much play a part in this process as much as making this process "apparent to the observor" (p. 95). This process of separating the "body-object" and "body-subject" through symbolization makes "reflective transcendence" a possibility. It is this "reflective transcendence" which provides the possibility of imagining an 'ideal' self, and, thus, constitutes the possibility for a 'super-ego' as the ideal "me above the me."
Re-visiting Ogden in light of the phenomenological reflections on the psychogenesis of the self
As we discussed earlier, Ogden (1989) conceives of the depressive position as the emergence of "symbol formation proper," such that "the symbol re-presents the symbolized and is experienced as different from it" (p. 11). In light of our phenomenological reflection on the dialectical co-constitution of the depressive position and Oedipal situation, we can understand Ogden's 'interpreting subject' as emerging with Merleau-Ponty's "categorical self." As Ogden recognizes, the experience of 'I-ness' emerges with the capacity to mediate between symbol and symbolized. And, with the assistance of Dillon, we can now understand this process as occurring with the emergence of a thematic body in relation to a (m)other with concerns of her own. It appears that this very thematization makes possible the entry into the symbolic language of the adult world which, as Merleau-Ponty and Stern have shown, leads to a covering over of lived experience. Finally, Ogden's conception of the never-ending dialectic between the paranoid-schizoid and depressive positions can be understood as the continuing tension between the symbolic world of language and the lived experience which it has covered over. As Dillon (1978) writes:
crisis of alienation does not constitute a complete eradication of synergetic
sociability...it establishes a tension between alienated isolation and aloneness, on
one side, and group identification and communal solidarity, on the other. Subsequent
to this crisis, the child will dwell within this tension and his experience will
oscillate between the poles of solipsism and being-with for the rest of his life. (p. 94)
Thus, when Ogden defends against the 'villainization' of the paranoid-schizoid position, he can be said to be defending the integrity of the pre-thematic, lived body, without which the symbolic order would not be possible. The lived experience of the "existential self," in a sense, lies beneath and continues to sustain the abstract, symbolic world into which we emerge. Occasionally, in moments of de-integration, we catch glimpses of it, becoming "accessible only under special conditions, such as moments of contemplation, emotional states and certain experiences of works of art that try to evoke the global, preconceptual, lived experience" (Simms, 1993, p. 39).
Further, at least in 20th century, Western culture, we become doubly alienated, for as we enter the symbolic world of our culture, our language creates for us a mistaken belief in a 'self' bounded at the skin, the Cartesian "cogito," within which, too often, we find ourselves rigidly encased, and, thus, cut off from our vital life-source, the lived body. In this light, it is a supreme irony that Western culture celebrates the 'freedom' of the 'individual,' when it is this very conception of the 'encapsulated' individual which most imprisons us. It is, thus, no surprise that Klein, herself a member of this culture, would break the ground for a radical reconceptualize our conception of intersubjectivity while simultaneously mistaking lived experience as 'phantasy' and the symbolic order as the 'real.'
Contributions of Boss' Daseinsanalysis toward a phenomenology of projective identification
Through a phenomenological reflection on the paranoid-schizoid and depressive positions in light of the psychogenesis of the self, it becomes possible to re-examine the nature of 'projective identification' with the assistance of Boss'(1979) Daseinsanalysis. Consistent with Merleau-Ponty's conception of the human being as primarily directed toward the world, Boss' phenomenological psychology is influenced by Heidegger's (1926/1962) ontology of the human being as Dasein or "being there." With Boss, it can be shown that the phenomenon of projective identification is only possible because the human being exists in a fundamentally different way than posited by the theoretical and ontological framework of Kleinian psycholanalysis. That is, with Boss, we can address the question: How is it possible for an analyst to be provoked by an analysand in such a way that s/he 'unconsciously' takes on the role of the analysand's split-off self? As we've already discovered, a theory that began by compartmentalizing the psyche into discrete parts cannot fully speak to the possibility of what Klein and others have described as projective identification.
An existential-phenomenological approach to human existence understands that the human being exists in a fundamentally different way than inanimate objects (Boss, 1979). This difference lies in the human being's structural relatedness to spatiality, temporality, one's own body, and other human beings. The lived experience of a fragmented self, as described by Klein, is only made possible because the human being exists as Dasein, a clearing in which Being as beings can presence. Further, the lived experience of projective identification is made possible only because Dasein is Mit-sein, always already existing with others in a shared world. As we've seen with Merleau-Ponty, the human being emerges into a symbolic matrix from a radically intersubjective and interdependent lived experience. The human being does not exist in a "hollow container" or move along a grid of equidistant points (Boss, 1979, p. 87). The human being is not located merely where he stands. Her/his space does not end where her/his skin does. The human being lives space. "Human existence is itself spatial. It is spatial in the sense that the basic characteristic of its existence is openness and receptivity" (p. 89). The human being is a clearing that is receptive to things and people, not in a way that "furniture is put into an empty room," but in a responsive and engaged way (p. 90). The dialectics of space for a human being concern how things matter. Those things and feelings which appear, come close and recede -- and the ways in which they do so -- depend on their significance. The way a person lives spatially, bodily, and temporally, is expressive of what matters to her/him.
With regard to projective identification, the process does not involve one container emptying part of itself into another. The patient does not come to the session as an encapsulated psyche and 'put into' another encapsulated psyche internal parts of her/himself that s/he wants to split-off and externalize. Likewise, the therapist does not sit like a passive container into which the contents of the patient's psyche will be poured. Furthermore, projective identification is not just a matter of the patient actively doing something and the therapist passively receiving something. Rather, it is the interaction and engagement of two human beings bringing together two worlds to form a uniquely structured experience. Both the patient and the therapist pervade the open space of the therapy room with their own existential, perceptive openness.
According to psychoanalytic theory, the patient comes to the therapy as a self that is not cohesively lived, yet which experiences self, world and other as fragmented and split. The patient is protecting the good breast from the bad breast, "the delicate flowers" from the "shit people" (Mitchell & Black, 1995, p. 89). This fragmentation often manifests itself in profound disturbances in the boundaries between self and other. From an existential-phenomenological perspective, how might one understand such a split, such a disturbance in boundaries? The split is of the world the patient brings to the room, a world into which the therapist can emerge as "bad." Furthermore, in that the patient may not only be aiming to separate her/his good self from her/his bad self, but also aims to communicate with or vicariously experience her/his bad self, the therapist emerges for the patient as her/his bad self. This emergence of the therapist as an aspect of the patient may indeed signify a disturbance in the boundary between self and other, but this disturbance does not take place in the mind or at the skin, but in the clearing of human existence. Furthermore, the patient's oscillation between experiencing the therapist as persecutory (bad self) and as idealized (good self) suggests that the patient's split is not simply lived spatially, but also temporally. As we've seen, Ogden (1992) conceives of the paranoid-schizoid position as both lived ahistorically and lived as spatially fragmented. This already suggests what Klein herself was unable to articulate, even with her understanding of the paranoid-schizoid experience as a 'position': that the profound significance of the paranoid-schizoid way of being is as a structural position with the world and others.
The world the patient brings to therapy can also be explored with a reading of Dreyfus and Wakefield's (1986) phenomenological approach to psychopathology. They suggest that pathology occurs when "some aspect of the epistemological relation of a subject to the other persons and objects, which should take place in the clearing, becomes a dimension of the clearing itself" (p. 276). It is when this dimension of the clearing is not recognized by the person to be his dimension, his/her organization of experience, but is taken to be the reality, that a person becomes pathological. This understanding of psychopathology seems to accurately address the phenomenon of the paranoid-schizoid position, for the bad and good breasts are no longer merely objects that emerge within the clearing; they are the very organization and structure of the clearing itself. Things, people and situations emerge as meaningful with regard to their goodness or malevolence. The good and the bad breast, once two objects that emerged within the clearing, have become the two poles around which all experiences are organized. To the degree that the therapist emerges only insofar as s/he reflects an aspect of the patient her/himself, spatial existence for the patient involves a dialectic of fusion and absence.
The therapist, who is also a clearing for the patient, syncretically merges with the patient's organization of experience. The possibilities which the patient splits off are taken up by the therapist, who unwittingly enacts the role of the patient's not-yet-lived-because-split-off possibilities. These split-off, un-named possibilities of the patient's existence, when symbolically taken up by the therapist, can be symbolically 'contained' and returned to the client in the form of language. What had been pre-thematically lived -- and thus split-off from the 'conscious' experience of the patient -- is thematized by the therapist. The therapist, by tolerating the patient's projective identification and giving a name to the "nameless dread," mends the 'link' between the patient and the 'breast.' In time, the therapist will inevitably fail the patient, being enable to live up to the patient's idealization. The patient will likely lash out at the therapist, who will become, for a time, the 'persecutory' breast. By holding to the boundaries of therapy, the therapist re-creates the Oedipal drama. By not giving into the omnipotent demands of the patient, the therapist demonstrates that he does not exclusively belong to the patient, but, rather, is also 'married' to the rules of psychoanalysis, to which s/he holds allegiance and which serves, in this capacity, as the 'father function.' With the emergence of the Oedipal situation, the patient is simultaneously already engaged in the movement toward the depressive position. Slowly but surely, the patient comes to recognize the therapist as (m)other rather than as an extension of her/himself, and, consequently, is enabled to begin the process of "reflective transcendence" in which s/he alone can thematize her/his own experience, no longer requiring the assistance of the therapist. In the final hours of therapy, as termination looms large, the patient can begin to mourn the damage done to the analyst's 'good breast,' and, hopefully, will leave with an 'ego' flexible enough to draw from the well of the lived experience left behind with the emergence into the symbolic.
It is hoped that this preliminary phenomenological exploration of Object Relations Theory can open a threshold toward a dwelling place where psychoanalytic theory and phenomenology can continue to inform one another, and, in turn, share the gifts which each has to offer from their rich legacies.
Along with Ogden's epistemologically sophisticated reinterpretation of Kleinian theory, it has become possible to disclose how a phenomenological human anthropology can rescue Object Relations Theory from its entrapment in the culturally-based misconception of the human being as an 'encapsulated' individual. In turn, Object Relations Theory, with its brilliant clinical insights, has provided phenomenology with a rich collection of data to further the Kleinian heritage of radically reconceptualizing our understanding of intersubjectivity, which, in turn, can make us both better theoreticians as well as clinicians. Most importantly, we have endeavored to show how Klein's observations of the paranoid-schizoid position can be understood as the pre-thematic, lived ground of human experience which has been covered over by the symbolic order with the emergence into the depressive position. And, as Ogden has graciously assisted us in articulating, it is the dialectic between lived experience and the symbolic order which makes possible our existence as the creative, dynamic, and ever-changing beings that we are.
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