Thursday, March 23, 2017

Survival, Destruction, Attachment and Going on Being, and Sexuality

Winnicott wrote of the importance of the mother’s survival (neither retaliating nor withdrawing) [see post of 2-28-12] of the the infant’s aggression, but, lest we forget that the mother does not survive unscathed, Harris [see post of 3-21-17] referred us to Ogden’s Destruction Reconceived (1) in which Ogden states that the destruction must succeed in part, that is, the infant must know he has an impact. Referring to Winnicott’s ‘The Use of an Object and Relating through Identifications’ Ogden writes:

.... In my reading/writing of the paper, the mother becomes real for the infant in the process of his actually destroying her as an external object (destroying her sense of herself as an adequate mother), and his perceiving that destruction. She also becomes a real external object for the infant in the process of his experiencing the psychological work involved in surviving destruction, a form of work that does not occur in the world of fantasied objects. The analyst or mother may not be able to survive destruction. It is essential that the analyst be able to acknowledge to himself his inability to survive and, if necessary, to end the analysis because of the very damaging effects for both patient and analyst of prolonged experience of this sort.

In discussing Winnicott on bisexuality (2), Harris considered - for Winnicott’s patient-  the conditions for going on being, to feel continuous in time. She considered that Winnicott’s patient’s mother’s “madness,” intergenerationally transmitted to the patient, might include a break in her going on being-ness. Then I had what I thought to be an exciting thought about attachment. Schore writes that attachment is affect regulation (or, conversely, that affect regulation engenders attachment) but what if attachment is also the capacity to be sufficiently present (hold in mind the infant) such that the infant experience a continuous going on being? Failure of the mother to go on being vitiates, maybe momentarily annihilates, her ability to facilitate her infant’s going on being, leading to disorganized attachment.

Another exciting thought of the day came from Peter Rudnytsky. Harris was discussing the “excess” of sexuality which Ruth Stein wrote was “essentially traumatic” for the infant and Peter mused: shouldn’t a ‘good enough’ mother be able to help the infant regulate this ‘excess’? [just as she does for other excesses, such as hunger. That is, what makes sexuality so unique that it cannot be contained and managed within a good enough relationship? Have we really returned to essentialism to give sex such a boogeyman status?]

2. Winnicott, D.W. (1971). Playing and Reality. London: Tavistock Publications. The Split-Off Male and Female Elements to be Found in Men and Women p.72

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