Sunday, June 8, 2014

Finding a Third

Coming to terms with being left out can sometimes predominate in an analysis. As children, we do not simply internalize objects (mother, father) but also relationships or patterns of relationships (systems) – including the perceived relationships of our parents, observed or imagined— and exclusion from it can be a narcissistic injury. Aron writes, “The child’s wish to be included represents both a wish for relationship…and an attempt to maintain self esteem.” In finding ourselves excluded from the parental relationship and parental interaction (the primal scene as exclusion of the child from the parental dyad), this exclusion, with its blow to a child’s grandiosity, becomes an organizer which links narcissism and object relations.

Trauma can disrupt the capacity to pretend, play, and move freely between identity and multiplicity, between discontinuity and integration. One cannot enjoy being the object of desire without also having established one’s own subjectivity and agency. When unable to experience self as subject with agency, the analysand or the child operating in the paranoid-schizoid position, in psychic equivalence, fears loss of self and identity.

The up side of recognition of this exclusion is the opportunity to experience the self as both subject and an object, which leads to the possibility of developing the capacity to hold two contrasting ideas simultaneously – that of being both a subject and object—and, ala Winnicott, the ability to allow for paradox to be sustained without the need to push for its resolution.  Aron says this capacity for toleration of contradiction becomes another nidus for regulation of self and object relations, for creativity, mentalization, symbolization, and even multiplicity of gender. The capacity to be both subject and object, participant and observer, allows one to be both subject who desires and object who is desired.

Moreover, experiencing oneself as both subject and object allows for intersubjectivity and, in the treatment situation, the creation of an analytic third. Aron writes that the child first lives in a dyadic world, relating to only one parent a time, until it discovers (in the Oedipal stage) that parents have a relationship of their own from which the child is excluded. In utilizing Britton’s ‘triangular space,’ Aron notes it “allows for the possibility of being a participant in a [dyadic] relationship and observed by a third person and of being an observer of a relationship between two other people.” The child is able to identify with self as object and self as subject, and to identify with other as both subject and object, that is the development of intersubjectivity.  Aron asserts that the experience with this alternating between participation and observation is what allows for becoming an analysand.


Aron, L. (1995). The Internalized Primal Scene. Psychoanal. Dial., 5:195-237.

1 comment:

William Goodman said...

I've always liked Bob Dylan's "I'll let you be in my dream if you let me be in yours." Given that we don't really have a clue about our own consciousness other than its undeniability, I like to remember the Delphic oracle: Always BE TRYING to know yourself. When such a mutual effort is made, as in analysis, the effects are transforming.