How To Reconcile The Negative View of “Avoidance” (Attachment Insecurity) in Attachment Theory with the Positive View of “Individualism” in Psychoanalysis?

Like collectivism, individualism can be traced to the dissolution of the Oedipus Complex and the institution of the super-ego. Both collectivism and individualism are attempts to placate the super-ego, the former through submission to the social order, the latter through distinction, excellence and achievement. Conformity alone cannot satisfy the super-ego — after all, it is not by being one of the crowd that the boy will win the ultimate prize, the woman of his dreams; nor does being part of the crowd win for the girl the ‘happy ever after’ life of her dreams. One looks in vain for fairy-tales of lemmings, working together to accomplish collective tasks. Achievement, distinction and excellence are what grip the child’s imagination, which idealizes the heroes and heroines of fairy-tales and casts him/herself in the starring role. (Bettelheim 1976: 111) It is by slaying dragons, answering riddles and accomplishing the impossible that the child achieves the fulfilment of the promise which concluded his/her Oedipal drama.

The super-ego, it will be recalled, is not merely society’s fifth column within the individual. It is also the product of identification with the parents, who “at the time at which the Oedipus complex gives place to the super-ego … are something quite magnificent.” (1933a: 64) Later identifications with role models bring fresh idealized elements within the individual’s personality. Hence, the punitive, conformist function does not exhaust the super-ego’s character:

“One more important function remains to be mentioned which we attribute to this super-ego. It also carries the ego ideal by which the ego measures itself, which it emulates, and whose demand for ever greater perfection it strives to fulfil. There is no doubt that this ego ideal is the precipitate of the old picture of the parents, the expression of admiration for the perfection which the child then attributed to them.” (1933a: 64-5)

This then is the ambiguity of the super-ego; it is the mental agency which dictates at once conformity and distinction. It decrees both sameness and difference. It is both conservative and progressive. In its very ambiguity, the super-ego lies behind the higher cultural achievements, individual and collective. Achievement is what promises to raise the child once again above the anonymity of a largely indifferent world, restoring him/her at the center of loving attention like that once experienced in the arms of the mother. Achievement is one of the processes whereby the gap between ego and its ideal, the ego-ideal, is bridged, thereby silencing the super-ego.

The stage of development revolving around individualism, with its emphasis on respect, status and reputation, is marked off from the conformist stage in that the function of conformity may be taken for granted. The person is now a socialized individual, in whom concern for others is built into the very structure of the personality. What now emerges is the need to have a special place within the social order. Individualism, then, takes on two distinct forms, depending on whether the emphasis is placed on standing out, or on the social connections within which one stands out. The first form is what we will call heroic individualism, in which the ego, under the urge of the super-ego, strives towards an ego-ideal which contains relatively simple epic qualities. It is a form that acknowledges neither pain nor suffering, neither compromise nor cost — it revolves entirely around victory and defeat, noble deeds and villainy. The other is a more complex form, civic individualism, in which the ego-ideal becomes fragmented and composite, and the ego’s repertoire of dealing with the demands of id, super-ego and external reality becomes more varied. The ego-ideal continues to exercise an influence on mental functioning, within a broader picture of social functioning, a picture that entails relations of mutuality, responsibility and obligation.

For the heroic individualist, narcissistic rewards, such as status, fame, recognition and power are all of prime importance. He or she views the world as an arena for noble and heroic deeds, drawing admiration and appreciation. This narcissism of the heroic individualist can easily be confused with the narcissism of the narcissistic character. They both have a deep need to be admired and loved. They both need an audience and rely on external affirmation. They are both possessed of an extreme sense of their own importance, which exercises a powerful influence on their mental life. Finally, they may both attain leadership positions in groups or organizations, attracting mass following and loyalty. Yet, in spite of these similarities, as psychological characters they are far apart. The narcissist, whose mental development is highly influenced by the oral stage, is generally passive, temperamental and moody. He/she does not wish to relate with others (other than as an admiring audience), let alone dominate them. By contrast, the heroic individualist, whose development is highly influenced by the phallic stage, is outward-looking, active and domineering. The narcissistic character wishes to be admired for who he/she is, the heroic individualist wishes to be admired for what he/she has achieved. The ego-ideal is a source of endless frustration to the narcissistic individual, who, in contemplating his/her own image, invariably finds him/herself inadequate, seeking to lay the blame for such inadequacy on others or collapsing into catastrophic depression. The ego-ideal is a cause of frustration for the heroic individualist as well, but in this case it is a spur towards achievement.

Organizations, from concepts to constructs: Psychoanalytic theories of character and the meaning of organization (The International Society for the Psychoanalytic Study of Organizations 1998 Symposium).

Yiannis Gabriel and Howard S. Schwartz
University of Bath and Oakland University

http://www.sba.oakland.edu/faculty/schwartz/

 

The Apparent Relation Between Schizoid Fears and Intense Twinship Needs — and the Relation to Mr. U

For schizoids, the process of separating with underlying connectedness and connecting while maintaining autonomy is foreign. Their lives are marked by the profoundly frightening and disturbing fact of separating without maintaining a sense of emotional connectedness and without a developed ability to connect again. They do not connect to others with much hope of being met and lovingly received. Schizoids do not believe they can be loved, and they fear that even if a relationship is established, the intimate connection means losing autonomy of self and other. Even feeling the need to connect would, in either case, be painful and/or frightening. It is dangerous to move into intimate connection if you cannot separate when needed.

Given what we know about the importance of flexible movement between connecting and separating for the growth and well-being of the individual, it is easy to understand how the typical childhood experiences of the schizoid leave him or her with deep-seated, often unconscious feelings of merger-hunger, on the one hand, and simultaneous fear of entrapment and suffocation on the other. These lead to universal twin fears that are fundamental to the schizoid process: the panic or terror of contact engulfment/entrapment and the panic or terror of isolation. These are particularly intense and compelling for the schizoid, who experiences them at the existential level of survival or death. Because the schizoid splits connecting and disconnecting, thus losing easy movement between them, he or she is faced with the threat of becoming stuck at one pole or the other.

Of course, the danger of entrapment comes in large part from their own hunger for oneness and fear of abandonment, and the connection between their own merger-hunger and the fear of entrapment is mostly not in their conscious awareness. Many schizoid patients start treatment with the expectation that they will be devoured or abandoned in therapy. Although they may be conscious of this fear early in the process, the extent of the dual fears and the connection to their merger-hunger is usually not in awareness until much later. Until then the denial of both attachment and the need for intimacy predominates. Their own merger-hunger is projected onto others as a way of avoiding the awareness by attributing it to someone else. Sometimes these anticipations or perceptions are a projection, although they can also be accurate.

The schizoid is impelled into relationship by need and driven out by fear. When faced with someone with whom they might be intimate, they find it both exciting and frightening. They are afraid that they will devour their lovers with their need or that the lover will be devouring, deserting, or intrusive. They might lose their individuality by overdependence and merger-hunger or lose the relationship by being too much, too toxic, or too needy. The solution to these dilemmas is Guntrip’s schizoid compromise—-to remain half in and half out of the relationship, whether in the form of marriage without intimacy, serial monogamy, or two lovers at the same time. Needs and fears will often be either denied or acknowledged in an intellectualized manner. Frequently such individuals will oscillate between longing for the intimate other and rejecting him or her, or they may stay in a stable halfway position not able to commit to being fully in the relationship or discontinuing it.

For children who later become schizoid adults, one way of coping with a world that is too big, menacing, intrusive, unresponsive, and/or abandoning is to deny any need, weakness, and dependency and to promote the illusion of self-sufficiency. They learn to survive by living without feeling dependence, desire, need, or fear. The schizoid is especially trying to avoid burdening and killing parents with his or her needs. Schizoids avoid awareness of attachment in various ways. The most common is splitting off or disassociating from needs and feelings that are overwhelming. Conformity can also be a means of avoiding awareness of need and fear as can obsessive-compulsive self-mastery, addiction to duty, or service to others.

The schizoid experiences loneliness, futility, despair, and depression, although the latter is somewhat different from neurotic, guilt-based depression. Both are comprised of dysphoric affects and an avoidance of primary emotions and full awareness. However, neurotic depression has been described as “love made angry.” That is, the depressed person feels angry at a loss followed by sadness and broods darkly against the “hateful denier.” This aggressive emotional energy then gets turned against the self. In contrast, schizoid despair has been described as “love made hungry.” The person experiences a painful craving along with fear that his or her own love is so destructive that his or her need will devour the other.

An important part of how the child copes with this situation is by splitting the self. Survival is achieved by relating to the world with a partial self or “false self,” one that is devoid of most significant affect and relates on the basis of conforming to others’ requirements rather than on the basis of organismic experience. Guntrip (1969) used the phrase “the living heart fled” (p. 90) to describe the situation in which the vital energies, emotions, and vitality affects are held inside, leaving an empty shell to interact with others and to direct human relations. This schizoid pattern creates external relations that are not marked by warm, live, pulsing feelings. Instead, when interpersonal nurturance is available, schizoid individuals fear a loss of self from being smothered, trapped, or devoured. When strong desire or need is aroused, they tend to break off the relationship.

The inner schizoid world is characterized by a constant fear of desertion and feelings of being unwanted and unlovable, all of which may remain out of awareness until they emerge well into the therapy. The fear of abandonment relates to the patient’s attitude toward his or her own intense hunger, and even if the hunger itself is not in awareness, it colors the schizoid patient’s adult functioning. The schizoid patient wants to ensure the therapist’s or lover’s presence, to “possess” the other.

Merger Hunger and Twinship Needs (From a Conflict Model Perspective)

In the schizoid, fear of engulfment exists alongside profound merger hunger. This merger hunger, or intense object need, can help explain the intense needs for twinship, idealization, and mirroring I experience in a complex wish for a twinlike relationship with another. All twin fantasies subserve multiple functions, particularly gratification and defense against the dangers of intense object need. In this formulation, the twinlike representation of the object provides the illusion of influence or control over the object by the pretense of being able to impersonate or transform oneself into the object and the object into the self. Intense object need, or merger hunger persists together with a partial narcissistic defense against full acknowledgment of the object by representing the sought-after object as combining aspects of self and other. In analysis, attention needs to be directed to the specific representation of the needed object in certain primitive transference paradigms instead of exclusive emphasis on the functions required of the object. Intense early needs of an object are best understood analytically within a conflict model in which they are modified by multiple wishes, drives, fears, dangers, and needs for defense. Coen, S.J. and Bradlow, P.A. “Twin transference as a compromise formation.”
J Am Psychoanal Assoc. 30(3):599-620 (1982).

The Case of Mr. U (The Same Issues from a Self Psychology Model)

Kohut’s case of Mr. U experienced fears of engulfment by his unempathic mother.  He defended against his fear of being swallowed up by his mother by idealizing his distant father.  Again, we see the dynamic in which fear of engulfment is integrally related to idealization of an external object.

 

Child Abuse and Avoidant Disorder

Empirical findings suggest an environmental contribution to Avoidant Personality Disorder (AvPD). Researchers have highlighted early negative experiences with parents (e.g., maltreatment, separation) or peers (e.g., rejection) as a potential root of AvPD (see Sperry, 2003). For example, self-reported parental neglect has been associated with increased risk of AvPD in adult outpatients with depression (Joyce et al., 2003). Battle et al. (2004) examined retrospective self-reports from treatment-seeking adults with personality disorder(s) (PD; e.g., AvPD, borderline PD). The majority of participants indicated being the victim of some form of childhood abuse (73%; e.g., emotional, verbal, physical, sexual) or childhood neglect (82%). Moreover, Nakash-Eisikovits, Dutra, and Westen (2002) found that secure attachment negatively, and disorganized/unresolved attachment positively, related to AvPD in a 14- to 18-year-old clinical sample, whereas avoidant and anxious/ambivalent attachments were not significantly related to AvPD. Although these findings could partly reflect evocative genetic characteristics of the child, they suggest that environmental factors also play a role.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2774890/

email Message to Alex Burns at the New York Times

Mr. Burns:

I understand your were a history and literature major at Harvard. I always read your stories in the Times. May I interest you to take a look at an unusual work of fiction I wrote — a kind of novel in verse — that takes place in New York City?

The text is at the following link:

https://dailstrug.files.wordpress.com/2016/08/final-emerald-archive.pdf

Gary Freedman
Washington, DC

Attachment Theory: Do I Even Know What I am Talking About?

Perhaps we may offer the following generalizations about group behavior: specifically about attachment (which will necessarily involve some degree of homogenization) versus individualized thinking in groups. May we say that individualized thinking and attachment behavior (i.e., group members bonding with the group-as-a-whole) are antagonistic opponents? Individuals can only maintain their individualized thinking when their attachment system is deactivated to some degree. Vice versa, individualized thinking is deactivated when attachment behavior is activated, that is, when the person actively seeks a symbiosis with the group-as-a-whole. These antagonistic behavior systems are dialectically mediated: a group member can only maintain his thinking, his individuality and rationality and thus overcome the symbiosis with the group-as-whole, when at the same time he feels he can look to himself as the ultimate source of identity and security. Cf. Kim, S. “Outside Advantage: Can Social Rejection Fuel Creative Thought” (individuals with an independent self-concept will become more creative in the face of social rejection unlike persons with an interdependent self); cf. also, Damian, R. “Creativity and Nonattachment: A Relationship Moderated by Pride” (a sense of pride mediates creativity in nonattached persons).

RRRRRRR-therapy-session-november13-2017-1-11 (1)

FINAL VERSION OF THERAPY SESSION: NOVEMBER 13, 2017

She actually said, “pulling away.”  Whoa!  Can you freaking believe that?

Score one for Melanie Klein!!  Read this and you’ll see what I mean!!

KLEIN = 1

BOWLBY = 0

RRRRRRR-therapy-session-november13-2017-1-11 (1)

Perhaps we may offer the following generalizations about group behavior: specifically about attachment (which will necessarily involve some degree of homogenization) versus  individualized thinking in groups.  May we say that individualized thinking and attachment behavior (i.e., group members bonding with the group-as-a-whole) are antagonistic opponents? Individuals can only maintain their individualized thinking when their attachment system is deactivated to some degree. Vice versa, individualized thinking is deactivated when attachment behavior is activated, that is, when the person actively seeks a symbiosis with the group-as-a-whole.  These antagonistic behavior systems are dialectically mediated: a group member can only maintain his thinking, his individuality and rationality and thus overcome the symbiosis with the group-as-whole, when at the same time he feels he can look to himself as the ultimate source of identity and security.  Cf. Kim, S. “Outside Advantage: Can Social Rejection Fuel Creative Thought” (individuals with an independent self-concept will become more creative in the face of social rejection unlike persons with an interdependent self); cf. also, Damian, R. “Creativity and Nonattachment: A Relationship Moderated by Pride” (a sense of pride mediates creativity in nonattached persons).