July 20, 2003

Slouching Towards Bethlehem

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The Falcon cannot hear the Falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.

(The Second Coming - W. B. Yeats)

This paper, therefore, offers and explicates the following hypotheses linking leadership capacity to depressive position resolutions on the one hand, and its role in maintaining the moral order by working to hold the center, on the other.

Hypothesis: The achievement of enlightened values, and hence enlightened leadership, depends on the depth and stability of depressive position resolutions, and the capacity to maintain them under conditions of emotional duress (see, for example, Adorno, et. al. "The Authoritarian Personality" which make a powerful case for the essential lack of values that characterize a personality configuration dominated by splitting and the preponderance of a paranoid/schizoid mental states).

Subsidiary Hypothesis 1.: With respect to leadership, the greater the regression from depressive position states of mind, the greater the departure from moral behavior. This means that splitting and denial represent greater lapses than sublimation or intellectualization (note that repression, suppression and displacement occupy the middle range). Put another way, primitive defenses associated with paranoid/schizoid states of mind are not only anti-task, they are "anti-moral", as well, with all of the obvious implications for the nature of society and its institutions."

Subsidiary Hypothesis 2.: All primitive defenses are lapses from the moral order, but in their sophisticated, adaptive form (in Bion's view), necessary for individual and group survival. Therefore, the inherent nature of individual and collective psychology is a constraint on the continuous maintenance of an ideal moral state.
Laurence J. Gould: Holding the Center: Leadership, Depressive Position Values, and the Moral Order

Hinshelwood (1991) has laid out the many possible motivations for the infant's use of projective identification as a defense, which include 1) "evacuation of intolerable experiences"; 2) "disposal of unwanted, intolerable functions of the mind, especially those presenting reality"; 3) "a defence against separation from an object -- or against acknowledging a difference from it -- so that the object is invaded and occupied instead"; 4) "retaining the experience of omnipotence through sustaining the control over others' minds"; 5) "the projection of good parts of the self into an object where they may be kept safer," and 6) " a form of projective identification as communication which gives the experience of being 'contained.'" (p. 120)
Brent Dean Robbins: The Paranoid-Schizoid and Depressive Positions in the Psychogenesis of the Self emphasis added

Projective Identification and Containment

"According to Bion projective identification has not one, but two functions.
A first function is defensive. The little baby tries by means of projective identification to get rid of the evil inside, to evacuate it. In this Bion follows Melanie Klein. But in healthy development there is a second function, a communicative one. The mothering parent, receiver of the projection of the infant's unbearable experience, should experience her-/himself what the baby feels.

According to Bion this is not only unconscious phantasy (Melanie Klein), but also behaviour.

In projective identification as a phantasy the mothering parent is made `bad. It is as if the infant is telling himself: it is not me being `bad', but `mother' is.

But in projective identification as behaviour the infant makes the empathizing mothering parent feel the unbearable experience. By that the infant initiates in the parent an act of caretaking. Often the parent takes the infant from the cradle, and holds it firmly. A good enough parent feels the distress of the infant, but does not come into distress her-/himself. A good-enough parent is able to handle the baby's intense feelings. By means of a bodily holding the parent gives the baby warmth and a hold. The experience `mother is a bad one' changes by that into a good experience: mother becomes a good object, and the baby feels good again. Bion says: the mothering parent functions by that as a container of the infants projective identification. In the way of such experiences of containment the infant learns bit by bit that intense distressing experiences are not deadly, but bearable. By that the infant learns gradually not to evacuate bad experiences at once, but to keep them inside and to experience them as emotions. The infant learns to experience emotionally.(5) Experiences, previously perceived as unbearable bodily experiences become bearable and can be handled. At first they can be experienced as emotions, and in later development the child learns to communicate them in words.

As a consequence of containment by the mothering parents good and bad experiences get a certain meaning that can be kept in memory and later used during times of `feeling bad'. The infant learns `to learn from experience', `transformation of the experience through the process of containment'.(6)"
PE Jongsma-Tielman: Splitting and projective identification: a primitive discrimination between good and evil

"God is customizable. God force-fits into whatever narrow little channel of bilious self-righteousness the world's fanatics and their medicated perspective want Him to. This is the nature of God. He is supremely convenient. He can be used to back up almost any claim. He is rubber and you are glue and whatever you say bounces off him and sticks to you."
Read the rest: SFGate: Mark Morford

Godwin (1999): Pseudo-morality of the Paranoid-Schizoid Position

19th Annual Conference on the Psychology of the Self: Reconceptualizing the Clinical Experience
Klein, Sullivan & Erikson

Posted by psyche at July 20, 2003 03:31 PM