Sunday, September 14, 2008

Peggy Hutson on "Unconscious Gender Messages in Adult Men and Women and their Effects on Self, Feelings, and Actions"

On Saturday, September 13, 2008 the Tampa Bay Psychoanalytic Society hosted their friend and colleague from Miami's Florida Psychoanalytic Institute and Society, Peggy Hutson, M.D. who has written extensively on Shame.

It is the discrepancy between one's self representations [who one thinks one is] and one's ego ideals [what one hopes to be] that leads to shame, she notes, deeply influencing self esteem and one's ability to have needs met. When self esteem diminishes, so does one's capacity for empathy. Ego ideals, housed in the superego, but separate from the "superego proper" (concerned with prohibition of drives), exercises a "need satisfying agency" (Freud) for good feelings about the self. One set of ego ideals is about gender. Some of these ideals are conscious, many are early introjections. Some are helpful, some hurtful, some considered the norm even when they are limiting.

Shame (as) Conflict was described. One difficulty that may arise, from a history of success leading to rejection by the envious, narcissistic primary object, is for one to feel shame when they do not succeed, but threatened with loss of safety and security (attachment) when they do. Also, when one envies an other: there may first be experienced a diminution of one's self esteem, with the signal affect of shame, followed by one coveting for oneself what the other has. One may then become adaptively ambitious. Or, without such an adaptation, envy may lead to aggression.

Dr Hutson notes that shame can be manifest in a variety of ways: as haughtiness or arrogance, snobbery, or over achieving, as denigration or envy. When the need for safety and security is threatened, one can react with rage. She distinguishes this threat from the threat to the cohesion of self. Early losses of safety and security, hearkening back to early separation difficulties, may, when present day experience threatens to repeat such a loss, lead to panic attacks. Severe anxiety can then lead to loss of cohesiveness.

When working with shame, Dr. Hutson employs analysis of the superego and of defense, such as projection, by using close process monitoring ( ala Paul Gray, based on Freud's psychic determinism). An example might be when a patient's criticism of and anger at another is immediately swept away by complaints of guilt (as a defense against the anger). Dr. Hutson also works with reruns/templates (transference) with the goal of achieving "transmuting internalizations."

While Dr. Hutson's talk on shame was appreciated, and she did note that gender ideals are "man-made," I personally was hoping to hear more about gender. Gender itself is a construct. Muriel Dimen (In Psychoanalytic Dialogues 1(3): 335-352) writes that gender has at its core "difference, not essence, the relationship between masculinity and femininity as culturally conceived, interpersonally negotiated, and intrapsychically experienced." A dialogue about gender would be welcomed by me at the Tampa Bay Psychoanalytic Society.

Key words: shame, shame conflict, gender, Peggy Hutson, Muriel Dimen

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There will be another opportunity to hear about gender and psychoanalysis when Lew Aron speaks to the Society in October.
-John Hartman