July 24, 2003

Revisions to PS<->D

This is the dragon which devours its own tail.

Music from 'Atalanta fugiens' emblem 14

In Alpha Function we mentioned revising the conception of the classical paranoid-schizoid and depressive positions using the more sophisticated model of human experience provided by the Cube of Psychological Space.

In the classical formulation of Melanie Klein, these concepts describe both developmental states in infancy and a metapsychology of of early mental processess and instinctual development. The paranoid-schizoid position is the initial psycho-physical state of the baby, characterized by mechanisms of splitting and projection, omnipotent and destructive phantasies and part-object relationships (good breast/bad breast). The paranoid-schizoid is gradually phased out and replaced with the depressive position, as the baby learns to tolerate frustration and, depending on the amount of death instinct he or she has inherited in the form of excessive greed and envy, moves toward a realm of whole objects through the depressing realization that the world isn't all it was cracked up to be.

Further disappointments lie ahead in the Oedipal stage as whole object relationships are developed and explored, and the ego (and sexual identity) is formed out of renounced object-cathexes (Freud).

Gedo states that previous hypotheses about early childhood have been excessively adultomorphic and pathomorphic—that preverbal children are not comparable to maladaptive adults.   The Evolution of Psychoanalysis: Contemporary Theory and Practice. John Gedo Review by Ian Steinberg

Bion (projective identification) and Winnicott (transitional space) extended these concepts into the intersubjective realm and both recognized "healthy" forms of projective identification, i.e. the persistence of paranoid-schizoid processes as the basis for normal development and creativity.

Psychoanalytic theory, which is the history of its resistance to intersubjectivity, seems to have reached the dead end of an over-extended and out-moded metapsychology of intra-subjective experience. It cannot assimilate its own insights into the therapeutic framework and counter-transference, and has no metapsychological framework for integrating its observations about inter-subjective phenomena.

PS<->D to P<->D<->S.

Here we explore just one axis of the Cube of Space, the vertical or existential axis. The Cube is a diagram or model of the multi-dimensional totality of human psychological experience. The vertical axis, analyzed by George Lakoff in Metaphors We Live By (Orientational Metaphors) and Jacques Chevalier in The Corpus and the Cortex, qualifies our experience of existence as up and down, good and bad, right and wrong, life and death, conscious and unconscious, more and less, rational and emotional (Lakoff) and right and wrong, pleasure and pain, lawful and lawless, levels of attention, judgments and emotions (Chevalier).

We suggest that the root metaphor of up-down is our ex-is-tence as spirit and matter, our standing and place in the world, characterized by the polarities of self and body/other. This metaphor is clearly behind intersubjective psychoanalytic thinking, with its superegos and ids, projectition and splitting, infra and infer alter-egos, mirroring and idealizing transferences.

The problem is that the components of the vertical axis are not clearly distinguished and identified. Klein lumps paranoia and schizoid phenomena together and sees depression as a later development.

P: Paranoia and projection obviously have to do with the other (hysteria is a projection onto the body as other).
S: Schizoid processes are based on splitting aspects of the self.
D: Depression, rather than a development stage or mode of thinking, is the psyche or ego itself, which can only bind (depressively) or free (joyfully) the impersonal energies of the three axes which pass through it.

The psyche/ego mediates between the energies of superinfraalteregoother and
idinferalteregoself, as in the classical and extended one-dimensional models. In other words, between self-energies and representations, and other-energies and representation. As with Freud (genious that he was), the ego has no energy of its own, and can only erect and dissolve defenses against the life of the id/self and the demands of the superego-other.

Now that we can see that P and S are opposite poles of existence united by the D of psyche/ego, PS->D or PS<->D can be differentiated into P<->D<->S. Notice we also differentiate self and object representations from the central ego or psyche and say nothing of consciousness or unconsciousness. Freud's Id is a narrow definition of the material basis of the self and its developmental (instinctual) goals. It is no more unconscious than any of the other unconscious energies that inform our experience of life in existence. Its direct descendents are seen in the development of the concepts self-objects, mirroring and idealizing transferences and self-psychology.

PS or P<->S is the basic self-object polarity of existence. Pathologies of self relations (splitting, schizoid phenomena) and pathologies of object (why not say "other"?) relations (paranoia, positive and negative idealization) reflect imbalance or damage to either or both sides of the unit.

D aka the psyche or experiencing ego is a position only in its centrality. Its integrative and dissociative functions are operative from birth. Its pathologies are mania and depression, as the central psyche tries to deal with damage to the self-object unit.

P<->D<->S or object-representations <-> psyche <-> self-representations describes both the structure and dynamic of existence, present from birth. Healthy development would minimize trauma and pathology in all three positions. The depressive "position," supposedly occuring in later infancy and marking the beginning of whole-object relations, would seem to point toward a structuring of the central ego or psyche.

The words themselves, Paranoid, Schizoid and Depressive, are pathological forms and decriptions of normal states of existence, and obscure their true functions in constituting human identity.

For deeper analysis of: Self | Other | Axes.

Kleinian thinking evolved in three stages. As in the above quotation, Klein saw schizoid mechanisms and the paranoid-schizoid position as fixation points, respectively, for schizophrenia and manic-depressive psychosis. Then the paranoid-schizoid and depressive positions became developmental stages. Her terminology included 'psychotic phases, 'psychotic positions' and then 'positions' (Klein, 1975, vol. 1, pp. 275n-276n, 279). Thirdly, in the work of Bion and other post-Kleinians, these became economic principles and part of the moment-to-moment vicissitudes of everyday life. The notations 'ps' and 'd' were connected with a double-headed arrow to indicate how easily and frequently our inner states oscillate from the one to the other and back again (Meltzer, 1978, part 3, p. 22). In Bion's writings on schizophrenia an ambiguity remained as to whether or not the psychotic part of the personality is ubiquitous or only present in schizophrenics, but Meltzer concludes his exposition of Bion's schizophrenia papers by referring to the existence of these phenomena in patients of every degree of disturbance, even 'healthy' candidates (p.28).
Robert Young: Psychotic Anxieties are Normal

The Melanie Klein Trust
Stephen A. Mitchell: The Origin and Nature of the "Object" in the Theories of Klein and Fairbairn (Return to Memory)
R. D. Hinshelwood: Countertransference and the Therapeutic Relationship: Recent Kleinian Developments in Technique
Robert Oelsner: Review: Belief and Imagination
Laurence J Gould: Correspondences Between Bion's Basic Assumption Theory and Klein's Developmental Positions
Projective Identification (Klein quotes)
Klein, Sullivan & Erikson
Kleinian Studies: Useful Links

Posted by psyche at July 24, 2003 08:57 PM