Monday, May 23, 2011

"In your eyes", infatuation, or the spark of maternal love?

I get so lost sometimes
Days pass
And this emptiness fills my heart
When I want to run away
I drive off in my car
But whichever way I go
I come back to the place you are
All my instincts
They return
The grand fa├žade
So soon will burn
Without a noise
Without my pride
I reach out from the inside
In your eyes
The light, the heat
In your eyes
I am complete
In your eyes
I see the doorway
To a thousand churches
In your eyes
The resolution
In your eyes
Of all the fruitless searches
Oh, I see the light and the heat
In your eyes
Oh, I want to be that complete
I want to touch the light
The heat I see in your eyes"
-- Peter Gabriel, "In Your Eyes"

Is this song not just infatuation run amok? Seeing everything we've ever wanted to see in another woman's eyes? Don't we someday realize these are the eyes of a fallible human? What woman could possibly live up to such a standard?

But let's think about this from a more primal point of view:
Does not the infant get so excited to see the "light and the heat" in his mother's eyes? Is this not what he seeks? The attention he adores, the loving gaze of his mother’s eyes? Does he not often go hungry wondering if the universe will ever answer his calls? To the infant, the mother is the universe, the mother is his universe. And what could be more amazing than to gaze into the eyes of that universe staring right back at you? Especially after a long night of hunger you have no way of knowing will ever end?

As adults, I think many of us go out in the world looking for this gaze, as it was lost or withheld from us somewhere along the way. We seek the magical maternal gaze in the eyes of a significant other. The gaze that meant all was good; hunger would end; warmth would come. The adult seeks the infant’s "catch" of what for it is permanent bliss. Some of us are searching more badly than others, because that maternal gaze was not so forthcoming, the universe not so friendly.

By Tim LaDuca

Lycia Alexander-Guerra adds:

This post is very timely for the TBIPS Relational Study Group which this week reads: You Are Requested to Close the Eyes (2004) Psa Dial, 14:349-371, in which Bruce Reis critiques the Freudian, Lacanian, and Kohutian concepts of mirroring as unidirectional and failing to take into account the intersubjective experience in which “to see is to see oneself being seen by an other.” Reis contrasts these to Winnicott’s concept of mirroring which moves beyond subject-object complementarity to “communion with otherness,” ‘a two-way process in which self-enrichment alternates with the discovery of meaning in the world of seen things.’

Freud saw the visual as psychopathology (e.g. scopophilia, exhibitionism, the over excitation of the child who views the primal scene, even the blind Oedipus). Freud’s own discomfort in being looked at may have contributed to advocating the anonymous, blank screen (opaque mirror) in addition to use of the couch. Lacan proposed that the infant was alienated from its self when first recognizing itself in totality in a mirror, and doomed to “confuse the external image of herself with the images of other subjects” (Reis). Antipodal to Lacan, is Kohut’s theory that through the visual, mirroring by the mother for an infant “seeking witness for its experienced grandeur and perfection” (Reis), the infant develops its cohesive, nuclear self. Still, the mother is experienced as an object, need fulfilling though she may be.

Reis addresses “the difference between object and other,” a salient component of relational psychoanalysis. As Benjamin notes, development is facilitated by the inclusion of the not-me inherent in intersubjectivity. Reis writes of “a relationally embedded self that recognizes itself as another for another and is obliged to acknowledge that there are other perspectives.”

From infant research, Reis tells us that interpersonal matching parses (quoting Meltzoff and Moore) ‘interactions in terms of relationships rather than particular behaviors.’ Mirror neurons not only help with imitation of actions, but understanding of them. Infant research (Stern; Beebe) also reveals “that split-second responsivity occurs in facial-visual interactions between mothers and infants. Each partner influences the other moment to moment…” and, also, “there remains an irreducible otherness to the other, a strangeness that is there from the first look….” For Winnicott and Reis, this difference in the form of the other contributes to and is constitutive of selfhood. “Seeing and being seen are inextricably bound together because, for an infant to see, it must be visible for an other.”

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