Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentine's Day Love: Use and Destruction

In his 1991 paper “The Area of faith in Winnicott, Lacan, and Bion,” Michael Eigen discussed love, in combination with good use of destruction (Winnicott), as a sustained reaching out, a hope, a joyous gambit. This love, different from love that controls, love as a defense against hate, or love motivated by guilt, is the freedom of loving for its own sake. Eigen traces Winnicott’s move from seeing concern for others as anxiety-driven to “a non-defensive appreciation of otherness” and a concern that [grows] “to guard this otherness in order to protect the richness in living it offers.” Eigen adds, “In the object usage account, the primacy of love does not rely on any added notion of ego mastery or adaptive control to handle destructive wishes. Within the framework of the primacy of love, hate finds its own limits and adds to, because encompassed by, joyous creativeness.” Eigen explicates, “For Winnicott life requires violence (hatching ) …optimally, this occurs within… a primacy of unity-in-differentiation… . ‘I love you’ spontaneously arises in the wake of ‘I destroy you,’ and this ‘I love you’ makes destructiveness creative. In this instance, the two together lead to a fuller, richer awareness of self and other, a revitalizing sense of otherness…”

As clinicians, and human beings, we frequently encounter individuals who, within their relationships, cannot make use (“simultaneously ‘related to’ in fantasy, but used to establish mutual understanding”) of the object (Winnicott), but instead feel too threatened by or envious of the other. Whether expressed as coldness or clinginess, verbal onslaught or battering, the expression indicates the inability to recognize the liberty one achieves for one’s self as subject when one recognizes and embraces otherness. Eigen explains that the other must appear both as the fantasy object and another subject without threatening one’s own subjectivity. He adds, “From the intersubjective standpoint, all fantasy is the negation of the real other.” For the analytic ‘couple,’ “In the analytic process, the effort to share the productions of fantasy changes the status of the fantasy itself…”

This morning, Otto Kernberg will speak to the Tampa Bay Psychoanalytic Society on “The Subjective Structure of Love.” I expect that this will be a different kind of talk. He has oft writ (incl: “Boundaries and Structure in Love Relations” 1977) that “the capacity to fall in love and to remain in love reflected the successful completion of two developmental stages: …the capacity for sensuous stimulation of erotogenic zones is integrated with the later capacity for establishing a total object relation” [and] “full genital enjoyment incorporates early body-surface eroticism in the context of a total object relation, including a complementary sexual identification.” Kernberg has examined the interplay of love and aggression, with the role played by the superego and by repressed or dissociated object relations in couples and their moves toward twinship and complementarity; and has examined the role of Oedipal conflicts in aggression. He has defined perversity as “the recruitment of love at the service of aggression.”

Perhaps on a subsequent blog we will have a summary of Kernberg’s Valentine talk. Meanwhile,
Wishing you this Valentine’s Day a moment of like minds shared between two subjects.

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