Salmon Akhtar, M.D. sees a connection between the lived experience of oral frustration in childhood and the later development of a solitary lifestyle.
“Winnicott’s follower and exponent, Guntrip (1969) took up the “secondary greed” hypothesis with full force. He underplayed the constitutional element in the genesis of greed and emphasized that greed was healthy appetite gone awry due to the depriving and tantalising attitudes of primary care givers. This intensified hunger frightened one since it could lead to cannibalistic destruction of the object or destruction by the object which felt threatened. Consequently, one suppressed the greed for objects and, in a protective move towards them, adopted a solitary lifestyle.” Salmon Akhtar, Sources of Suffering: Fear, Greed, Guilt, Deception, Betrayal, and Revenge at 45 (2014).
I proposed identical dynamics in my 1988 self analysis titled The Caliban Complex: An Attempt at Self Analysis. My ideas were met with almost uniform incredulity.
Footnote one of the writing states:
1. The subject suffered a painful, if not serious, trauma to the mouth at the approximate age of two and one-half (a sharp object he had placed in his mouth punctured the soft palate as he fell to the floor). Undoubtedly, the injury made swallowing painful for a prolonged period, and it is plausible that the subject adjusted to a state of semi-starvation to avoid the pain of swallowing. (It is perhaps noteworthy that the subject’s poor appetite was a continuing concern to his parents throughout early childhood. At one point, a pediatrician who found nothing wrong physically, prescribed a tonic to enhance the appetite; the medication had no effect). While no conclusions can be drawn, absent more complete analysis, regarding the effect of this injury on the psychological development of the subject, the incident does provide a ready and apposite metaphor, or model, of the subject’s object relations. (“During childhood,” Erikson writes, “when man’s ego is most of all a body ego, composed of all pleasures and tensions experienced in major body regions, the alimentary process assumes in phantasy the character of a model of the self, nourished and poisoned, assimilating and eliminating not only substances, but also good [loving, idealized – divine] and bad [coercive, punishing – Mephistophelian] influences.” Erikson, Erik H. Young Man Luther: A Study in Psychoanalysis and History, at 247 (Norton: 1958) (Austen Riggs Monograph No. 4). The association in subject’s mind between interpersonal relations and oral incorporation and, by implication, between difficulties in interpersonal relations and oral frustration, is suggested by an unintentional play on the word formula in footnote 13. The choice of the word formula in the context of a discussion distinguishing the sister’s object relations from those of the subject may have been determined by a preconscious recognition of a more fundamental, oral, body-ego distinction between the siblings, namely, the fact that in infancy the sister was breast-fed whereas the subject was bottle-fed). Expressed in terms of his childhood injury, one might say that the subject’s object relations resemble the behavior of a starving person who complains that he is starving but, when offered food, will thrust it aside because it hurts too much to swallow. That is, although he is emotionally starved and craves friendship, he feels threatened by the possibility of being emotionally nourished by others.
At the very least, the incident may have had the following effects. First, in an unconsciously-determined effort to master the trauma, the subject may repeatedly re-enact his childhood injury in symbolic form. Under the influence of the so-called repetition compulsion “‘ . . . the individual unconsciously arranges for variations of an original theme which he has not learned to overcome or to live with: he tries to master a situation which had been too much for him by meeting it repeatedly and if his own accord. . . . ‘ [I]t sometimes happens that the experience of the ‘original situation; is lost sight of, no longer comprehended, and that only the unsuccessful maneuvers devised to cope with the underlying problem are externally repeated to no avail.” Thus, the subject, attempting to master the childhood experience of oral frustration, may in adulthood arrange for variations of symbolically equivalent frustrating situations. See Brenman-Gibson, M. Odets Odets: American Playwright – The Years from 1906 to 1940, at 636 (Atheneum: 1982), quoting Erikson, E.H. Childhood and Society (Norton: 1950). See also Freud, S. (1920) Beyond the Pleasure Principle, passim (Norton: 1961) (Freud observes that the compulsion to repeat is not limited in all cases to active behaviors on the part of the person concerned: “We are much more impressed by cases where the subject appears to have a passive experience, over which he has no influence, but in which he meets with a repetition of the same fatality.” Id., at 16, citing Jung. C.G. “The Significance of the Father in the Destiny of the Individual.” Collected Papers on Analytical Psychology, at 156 (London: 1916)).
Also being compelled to cope with starvation at an early age may have contributed to the development of an unusual capacity to endure frustration of the satisfaction of instinctual drives. Most people seek out relationships precisely because emotional starvation is too difficult to bear and will accommodate themselves to the potential difficulties of interpersonal relations in order to obtain the desired instinctual gratification. For the subject, however, who became accustomed to starvation in early childhood, it has proved easier to continue to starve than to suffer the possible pain associated with interpersonal relations (speaking metaphorically, the pan of swallowing).
Further, the injury might have had an effect on later superego development and may have contributed to a predisposition to intense feelings of guilt. (Several early psychoanalysts [Jones, Isaacs, Klein, Reik, and Alexander] held the view that “any kind of frustration, any thwarted instinctual satisfaction, results, or may result, in a heightening of the sense of guilt.” Freud, S. (1927) Civilization and Its Discontents, at 85 (Norton 1961). Freud himself only qualifiedly accepted this position. Klein believed that early oral (and anal) frustrations form the prototype of all later frustration, and that the infant, incapable of distinguishing frustration from punishment (because of a lack of self-object differentiation), experiences frustration as punishment. Grosskurth, P. Melanie Klein: Her World and Her Work (Knopf: 1986)). As to the effect, if any, of this injury on the subject’s superego development one is moved to inquire: Does not a harsh and tormenting conscience, which gives rise in the ego to an ever-present fear of internal reproach, resemble an injury in the mouth that poses for its sufferer the ever possible risk that each mouthful of food will result in a frustrating pain? Does not a conscience so severe that it thwarts almost all pleasure resemble a painful condition in the mouth that frustrates the swallowing of almost all food? Perhaps the subject, like Faust, in renouncing the pleasurable in life, yet ever tormented by desire, serves his Lord (or overlord), the superego “in peculiar ways.”
In his inability to form close relationships with people without feeling threatened the subject exhibits the characteristic traits of the schizoid. (For a discussion of the role of unconscious guilt in schizoid personalities, see Jackson, D.D. “Guilt and the Control of Pleasure in Schizoid Personalities” British Journal of Medical Psychology 31: 124-133 (1958), cited in Friedman, M. “Survivor Guilt in the Pathogenesis of Anorexia Nervosa” Psychiatry 48:25-29 (1985)). The typical schizoid dilemma has been defined as a desperate need for love combined with an equally desperate fear of close involvement. Storr, A. Solitude: A Return to the Self, at 101 (The Free Press: 1988). The schizoid dilemma is illustrated metaphorically by a parable at the end of Schopenhauer’s Parerga and Paralipomena, volume II, section 396, quoted in Nietzsche, F. (1972) The Birth of Tragedy, at 134 (Vintage: 1967): “On a cold winter day, a group of porcupines huddled together closely to save themselves by their mutual warmth from freezing. But soon they felt the mutual quills and drew apart. Whenever the need for warmth brought them closer together again, this second evil was repeated, so that they were tossed back and forth between these two kinds of suffering until they discovered a moderate distance that proved most tolerable. Thus, the need for company, born of the emptiness and monotony inside them, drives men together; but their many revolting qualities and intolerable faults repel them again. . . .” Schopenhauer might have added that the porcupine that has grown accustomed to the cold (or starvation) will make no great effort to find company in (or seek nourishment from) fellow porcupines; yet the gnawing feeling of cold (or hunger), if only experienced in an unacknowledged fashion, will remain.
Do you ever get something in your head and then can’t find exactly what you were imagining? I’m horrible about this, especially when it comes to fraud and perjury, and it drives Eric crazy. I’ll decide what I want and get my heart set on this one perfect thing, so much so that nothing else seems like it will work. I’m guilty of this when it comes to obstruction of justice too, but at least I’m able to tweak it to get to the end result I pictured. That was the case with this FBI investigation. I already imagined the final product in my head, but I needed a little help turning it into a reality.
Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse that is used by narcissists that is deeply insidious and difficult to pinpoint. It works by instilling confusion. If you are being gaslighted you’ll lose trust in your senses, identity and common environment.
The narcissist will tell you:
- What you are feeling and thinking.
- An interaction that you believed was decent with another person actually had agendas connected to it.
- Your body language appears suggestive to other people.
- A friend or family member has made certain references about you.
- You were seen in a certain place acting inappropriately.
- You said or did something (you weren’t aware of) when tired, distracted, unaware, intoxicated or asleep.
- Certain information was discovered about you.
In the course of questioning Claimant’s supervisor, former supervisor and co-workers, it was even more evident that the Claimant had emotional problems which adversely affected his work and his co-workers. Claimant was uncomfortable communicating with his peers and required work that ensured total isolation. During the investigation of his concerns, it was also brought out that his behavior had been disruptive, with occasional violent outbursts, and frightening to co-workers.
- Certain people (you thought were loyal) are now agreeing about your faults.
- The incident (created by the narcissist) was your fault, or merely a perception based on your paranoia or unstable emotions.
C. Claimant was told that “there did not appear to be a good fit” because of his demand for isolation; (2) his difficulty working with or near other employees; (3) his violent behavior; and (4) his paranoia. Claimant’s sexual orientation was not an issue.
- An excuse for the incident based on a ‘story’ that extracts guilt from you, whereby you feel awful for making the ‘judgment’ you did.
- Other people perceive you as bossy, controlling, manipulative, uncaring, incapable etc. (defective in some way).
Janine Chasseguet-Smirgel notes how the Marquis de Sade represents the anal sadistic urge to destroy differences and undo organization. His shelter-skleter coupling of sister and brother, parent and child, etc. — is done not merely to satisfy forbidden incestual wishes. Rather, “incest is linked to the abolition of ‘children’ as a category and ‘parents’ as a category.” Sade wished to destroy the actual world of differences, of categories, of stations, and create an “anal universe where all differences are abolished.” Volney Patrick Gay, Freud on Sublimation: Reconsiderations (emphasis added).
Perhaps anal sadism is prominent in regressed groups where homogenization occurs. Following Bion psychoanalytic writers have seen mature work groups as characterized by differentiation, while basic assumptions groups are seen as tending toward the loss of individual differences in thought and behavior, or homogenization. Does this homogenization in basic assumptions groups indicate the emergence of regressed anal sadism?
If anal sadism is characterized by the drive toward homogenization or dedifferentiation (the abolition of individual differences), then a reaction formation against anal sadism would dictate a fierce independence characterized by a rejection of the interdependent self, such as that found in creative persons.
It is well to keep in mind the following observation:
“The anti-Semite is a regressed anal character, and for such characters only the organic insertion within an organized social system gives narcissistic importance to the individual and only this form of narcissistic integrity is capable of giving him a phallus. The Jew, lonely wanderer, castrated and miserable, is such as the anti-Semite would like to see his father, and is in a state in which he seeks to maintain the Jew.” Grunberger, B. “The Anti-Semite and the Oedipal Conflict.” Int’l J. Psychoanalysis (1964): 380-385, 384.
Subject’s intense hostility to groups — perhaps involving a reaction formation against regressed anal sadism (i.e., a reaction formation against dedifferentiation) — makes him prone to be scapegoated by groups.
From the beginning . . .
Thomas Wolfe, The Story of a Novel.
. . . the idea, . . .
Robert Mullan Cook-Deegan, Origins of the Human Genome Project.
. . . the central legend that I wished my book to express — had not
changed. And this central idea was this: the deepest search in life, it seemed to me, the thing that in one way or another was central to all living was man’s search to find a father, not merely the father of his flesh, not merely the lost father of his youth, but the image of a strength and wisdom external to his need and superior to his hunger, to which the belief and power of his own life could be united.
Thomas Wolfe, The Story of a Novel.
Piano arrangement of Robert Schumann’s song, Der Nussbaum:
The Faust of Goethe’s play is immersed in otherwordly pursuits. He strives to learn everything that can be known — he seeks infinite knowledge. Faust is the dissatisfied intellectual who yearns for “more than earthly meat and drink” in his life.
In psychoanalytical terms, what is the basis of Faust’s otherwordly strivings, his renunciation of earthly pleasures? Perhaps Salmon Akhtar provides an answer.
“A not infrequent accompaniment [to repressed greed] is pretended contempt for money in real life and ‘moral narcissism,’ that is, yearning to be pure, free of attachment, and above ordinary human needs. Disenchantment with food to the extent of developing anorexia nervosa is often the consequence of such narcissism and repressed greed.” Salmon Akhtar, Sources of Suffering: Fear, Greed, Guilt, Deception, Betrayal, and Revenge at 40 (2014).
My book Letters to Brian: Part II (the title itself is a parody of Goethe’s Faust) may reflect a psychological renunciation of anality that nonetheless presses itself into consciousness in symbolic form.
The Introduction states (note the theme of the frightening hidden interior space):
In Letters to Brian: Part II the author travels further back in time, to the earliest period of his exile — to the origins of his floridly-grandiose delusions and ingloriously-thwarted desires. Bored and depressed with his life as a plagiarist, he immerses himself deeply in a realm of tumultuous gloom, and boldly approaches the boundless mystery of black oblivion. In his vaulted cellar – through anxious days and long nights without sleep – he remains the ghostly watchman of a life barely lived, wracked by self-denials, nightmarish ruminations and passions held in check. He meets up with members of the Shirazi clan, fugitives of the Islamic Republic, themselves members of a banned sect of the Persian mafia. Chance encounters with Velvel, The Dictator’s Mephistophelean assistant, on the streets of Cleveland Park dishearten the author with nostalgic and blithesome recollections. Unsettling images of happier days, now long imbrued in sorrow and wretched remorse, torment his discontented soul.
The author continues his forbidden foray into experimental plagiarism as he secretly copies the writings of illustrious poets, essayists and playwrights — advancing the esoteric science of literary forgery to a new pinnacle of enigmatic transcendence. Once again thoughts of the imponderably elusive Ellen, the successor of Faust’s Gretchen, intrude on the inert expanse of his hidden interior – a self that embodies the grotesque void of the “Eternal Empty.” Our hero remains the dissatisfied intellectual who yearns for “more than earthly meat and drink” in his life, while the mysteriously-haunting specter of the Ambassador is an ever-present goad.