Sunday, April 14, 2019

Remembering Sidney Blatt

Yesterday (April 13, 2019) the Tampa Bay Psychoanalytic Society’s own John Auerbach, PhD gave tribute to the late psychoanalyst Sidney Blatt. Blatt put forth some interesting ideas such as that of two developmental lines, relatedness and self-definition which were linked to two types of depression, anaclitic (Greek for leaning against) and introjective depression, respectively. Those with anaclitic seemed dependent on others to love them while those with introjective were self-critical and riddled with guilt. Rather than seeing these two developmental lines as sequential, one more mature than the other -- as Blatt and other traditional psychoanalysts had originally conceived -- Blatt came to understand that relatedness (once considered infantile and hysterical personalities) and self-definition (paranoid or obsessive personalities) develop in parallel, one co-defining the other, opposites only relative to each other. Auerbach noted that, of Erickson’s eight developmental stages, only two (Trust v. mistrust and Intimacy v. isolation) were about relatedness, while the rest were about self definition (autonomy, initiative, industry, generativity, etc).
The personality develops in is a continuous dialectic between relatedness and self definition. Deficits in or over emphasis of either developmental line leads to psychopathology. These polarities of relatedness and self definition were applied by Blatt et al to attachment theory and separation, respectively, where avoidant attachment presumably correlated with introjective depression, and such patients better utilize the couch, while ambivalent-resistant were tied to anaclitic depression, and may benefit more from face to face treatment. [Consider that one patient may, in different self states, exhibit both polarities. Blatt actually posited impairment was initially greater with mixed type in-patients (they also improved more). Perhaps this is because of greater dissociation at work?]
Blatt et al integrated mental representations with Bowlby’s concept of  internal working models to better explicate insecure attachments and developed a number of research tools. The Object Relations Inventory asks the patient to describe mother, father, significant other, self, and their therapist at different points in time over the treatment. This inventory apparently allowed clinicians to measure therapeutic change in patients in the [Austin]Riggs-Yale Project study by measuring changes in the developmental organization of their mental representations of self and other. Blatt et al also developed the Differentiation-Relatedness Scale to rank where a patient, at any time in the treatment process, stood in her/his capacity to be both separate and attached, based, in part, on reflective capacity.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Clinical Use of Attachment Theory

A gifted therapist whom I supervise serendipitously provided a clinical example illustrating the usefulness of Attachment Theory. The therapist had just begun treatment with a nineteen year old female patient who stated in their very first meeting, ‘I had four previous therapists and they all irritated me by asking questions. Don’t ask me questions, just give me a task and then observe what I do and give me information on what you observe.’ She added, “when people irritate me, I do something to irritate them back.’ For the therapist it felt there was an unmistakable need of the patient to be in control.
Controlling behavior in Attachment Theory brings to mind the observation in six year olds who had a history of disorganized attachment at one year, disorganized, perhaps, because their attachment figures were frightened or frightening. These six year old children exhibit controlling caregiving or controlling punitive behavior. What might have led to the above patient’s need to control the therapy situation? Had her parents been too controlling (frightening) or had they been unable to ‘take control’ [regulate] of the situation (frightened) causing the patient to prematurely need to ‘stepup’ and take things into her own hands?
Both, said the therapist: The parents had frightened the patient as a little girl by beating her, and they had failed to attend to her emotional life. The patient says there is nothing she wants except death, but the patient must kill others before she kills herself. The patient recognizes that either action (suicide or homicide) will serve to indict the parents. Perhaps it is her parents she will kill. The parents confirm that it is their daughter who is now in control for they tip toe around her so as not to set her off. [It has become a life-death struggle for a child to save herself when faced with a dangerous onslaught against her developing self and her developing agency.]
The patent predicts whether her day will turn out poorly or well based on whether the calendar date is odd or even. [I muse that OCD symptoms give a sense of control, control about the future.] The patient cannot sleep before an exam or a doctor’s appointment or a trip. [Perhaps she must remain vigilant to predict what is coming. Predicting a beating or what she needed to do next would be important to a small child whose parents are frightening and frightened.]