An Excursion in the Realm of the
world of waters dark and deep,
won from the void and formless
Milton, Paradise Lost.
In 1900 Freud first
described the 'unconscious' and its peculiar logical rules. At the
time of his correspondence with Jung however, anxious to confer
scientific status to psychoanalysis, he partly disavows the
consequences of this discovery.
Matte Blanco, resuming
Freud's ideas about unconscious thinking, first opposed two forms of
logic. Gradually his emphasis will shift to two antagonising
modes of being: the dividing one (the splitting and
polarising logic of our discriminating consciousness) and the
Indivisible one (Reality as it is, prior to any dividing
intervention of discriminating consciousness).
analytical psychology are considered with regard to their
attitude towards Indivisible Reality and discriminating
consciousness. Both claim to be 'analytic' - and therefore dividing.
But in the debate between Freud and Jung a polarisation occurred in
which Freud clearly claimed the discriminating position, whereas
Jung appointed himself defender of Indivisible Reality. This
polarisation marked both psychoanalysis and analytical psychology,
and gave rise to pretty unilateral and extreme positions. Both
movements have developed, and one could witness some curious
enantiodromies: today some Jungians are quite discriminating, while
some Freudians come very close to Indivisible Reality. The present
Jungian world itself appears to be divided by the very same
Indivisible Reality plays
an important role in psychic development. I will introduce it
as a 'position' which precedes Klein's paranoid-schizoid and
This will lead to some
considerations about psychopathology: I will argue that
discriminating consciousness is always 'pathogenic', in that it
radically cuts us from direct contact with being; it destroys our
primordial unity with nature. Premature and/or excessive
introduction of discriminating attitudes - in the child and/or in
the caretaker - will of course result in grosser pathological
These considerations have
consequences for the psychotherapeutic situation. In my
opinion too much emphasis has been laid on discriminating,
'analysing' attitudes, techniques and theoretical premises,
especially by Freudian analysts. On the other hand, since we are
human beings and therefore cursed with our inevitable discriminating
consciousness, we have to maintain a setting that is ruled by
rigorous laws: chaotic or 'wild' analysis has little to do with
The first title of this
paper, 'The Infinite in Depth Psychology', posed a problem: the
concept 'infinite' implies its antithesis, 'finite', and this pair
of opposites is a typical result of the splitting attitude of
classical logical thinking. This 'Aristotelian' logic is governed by
the contradiction principle: a statement is true, or it is not, and
there is no third possibility. Descartes went as far as to consider
our thinking activity, which is based on this bivalent logic, as the
very foundation of our being: 'Cogito, ergo sum'.
My intention however was to
introduce the reader to another dimension of our being. Many names
have been proposed to designate it, implicitly or explicitly, but
since these appellations all make an appeal on language, they are
bound to fail: language is a set of interdependent signifiers,
organised around polarised oppositions and therefore tributary to
bivalent logic. Freud was close to that dimension when he first
described the 'unconscious', and its very peculiar logical rules, in
1900: "It is essential to abandon the overvaluation of the property
of being conscious before it becomes possible to form any correct
view of the origin of what is mental. In Lipps's words [1897, 146
f.], the unconscious must be assumed to be the general basis of
psychical life. The unconscious is the larger sphere, which includes
within it the smaller sphere of the conscious. Everything conscious
has an unconscious preliminary stage; whereas what is unconscious
may remain at that stage and nevertheless claim to be regarded as
having the full value of a psychical process. The unconscious is the
true psychical reality; "in its innermost nature it is as much
unknown to us as the reality of the external world, and it is as
incompletely presented by the data of consciousness as is the
external world by the communications of our sense organs."
(Freud 1900, p. 613).
discovery turned the foundations of Western thinking upside down.
Copernicus and Galilei had robbed mankind of the illusion that the
earth is the centre of the universe. Freud adds a little extra: he
calls into question the autonomy and the inviolability of the human
Ego. Another blow for the hubris of homo sapiens! Freud
excited Jung's interest, as soon as 1900, with his Interpretation
of Dreams: a frontal attack on the supremacy of human
consciousness and a search for the crazy laws that govern
unconscious thinking. Unfortunately, Freud will abandon this
promising position: at the time of his friendship with Jung he hopes
that psychoanalysis will succeed in mastering the unconscious. Later
he will state that where the Id used to be, the Ego shall become:
the victory of the forces of discriminating light on the darkness of
Indivisible Reality! In his last books however he will admit that
psychoanalysis did not keep its promises: more often than not it is
Freud thus repudiated his
main discovery; consequently his debate with Jung will be governed
by a huge misunderstanding: both approach the unconscious from
radically different perspectives. Freud - at least at the time of
their correspondence - looked at the unconscious from the outside,
as it comes into being by repression. In those years the
Freudian unconscious is exclusively composed of repressed contents.
Later, to a large extent due to Jung's pertinent questions, Freud
will introduce the Id: in this 'seething cauldron'
non-repressed unconscious contents actually retrieve a space. Jung
on the contrary considered the unconscious from the inside: the
coming into being of the subject out of the unconscious is of
central importance to him.
Roustang (1976) noticed the
different styles of Freud and Jung's thinking: Freud was rather
'paranoid' in his search of scientific certainty. Jung's thinking is
qualified by him as 'schizophrenic': "For the paranoid knowledge
which dominates our civilisation, Jung's oeuvre is a soup, an
attractive syncretism, a fish-rearing pond in which all fishes are
given a chance." (Roustang 1976, p. 65) At first sight this
statement is not very kind to Jung, but we may also take it as a
compliment: at least the fish are not killed by discriminating
This opposition between
Freud and Jung dominated their debate on some important issues
Freud wants to reserve the term
'libido' to the sole sexual pulsion. Jung insists on
enlarging it to comprise all the vital drives, sexuality being
only one of its components.
Freud offers a very precise,
rather mechanistic description of some psychotic
mechanisms. Jung stresses the weakness of the Ego, that
collapses, flooded by other complexes. Moreover, as soon as 1907,
he shows how collective unconscious contents manifest themselves
Freud's approach of
religion is reductive : it is 'nothing but' a disguised
expression of sexual tendencies. For Jung religious manifestations
are universal experiences expressing age-old and universal
contents of the human soul.
Both distinguish two modes of
thinking : conscious, rational thinking, and fantasy. Freud
considers the latter as inferior, and relegates it to the status
of a natural reserve. Jung, resuming Freud's original position,
regards fantasy as the creative matrix of all conscious thinking
(see Dehing 1984).
With regard to the attitude of
the analyst, Freud advocates aloofness and discrimination ;
his strict, unequivocal technique draws sharp limits between
doctor and patient. Jung emphasises humanity and reciprocity, and
adamantly refuses the medical model staging a healthy doctor and a
In this brief summary, I
deliberately accentuated the oppositions. Actually both Freud and
Jung exhibit important fluctuations with regard to the described
attitudes (see Dehing 1982). But the sketched antithesis corresponds
fairly well to the positions on which the two men - and
psychoanalysis and analytical psychology - parted.
Matte-Blanco's work (1975,
1988) may throw some light on this opposition.
This author too highly
valued the 'unconscious' introduced in The Interpretation of
Dreams : Freud's 'true psychic reality' comes pretty close to
what Matte-Blanco would describe as our 'second mode of being' :
Unconscious thought operates with a
systematic logical structure of its own; unconscious processes obey
different laws from those of the (pre)conscious. The ordinary
concepts of cause and effect, time and space are turned on their
head: we are confronted with a disconcerting absence of mutual
contradiction and negation, with displacement, condensation,
timelessness and the replacement of external by internal reality;
the structure of thinking is profoundly disorganised.
Matte-Blanco was firmly
convinced of the fact that neither Freud himself, nor his followers
truly and fully made use of this revolutionary find. In their
debates, psychoanalysts have tended to focus on various detail
aspects of Freud's work (sexuality, Oedipus complex, castration
anxiety, death instinct, etc), while disregarding the fundamental
and disturbing implications of the idea that the mind works within a
framework of timelessness and spacelessness. Theoreticians - more
often than not - moved psychoanalysis away from the unconscious ;
they did so either in their efforts to gain psychoanalysis a more
respectable place in scientific psychology, or in their attempts to
systematise the theories of the great pioneers. This rationalising
process is encountered very frequently in psychoanalytical
literature : psychoanalysis - according to Matte-Blanco - has
wandered away from itself.
Conscious, logical and
scientific thought make use of bivalent logic, which is
characterised in the first place by discrimination: by it reality is
split into opposite elements that are mutually incompatible: the
'contradiction principle'. Unconscious thinking on the contrary
unites or unifies things which for ordinary thinking are distinct
and separated. "[…] one might say that, while thinking usually works
within a framework of distinguishing things, the unconscious that
Freud investigates tends to unite and fuse everything. Herein lies
the radical nature of this different mode, […]." (Rayner &
Tuckett 1988, p. 16).
Matte-Blanco views the mind
not only as a dynamic, but also as a discriminator or a classifier:
"the human mind is, every second, carrying out classificatory
activity; it forms, using mathematical terms, sets. This must go on
for recognition, a vital activity, to occur." (Rayner &
Tuckett 1988, p. 18) The ordinary 'logical' thinking activity is
constantly dealing with combinations of triads: it recognises and
makes propositions to itself about one thing, another thing, and the
relation between those two things. Most of these relations
are asymmetrical, for instance: 'John is the father of
Peter', or 'A is part of B'; the converse of such relations is not
identical to it. Some relations however are symmetrical, for
instance: 'John is different from Peter', or 'A is identical to B';
they remain true when they are inverted.
The principle of
Ordinary thinking only
deals with things which are in some way distinguishable from one
another, and with the relations existing between such things. Some
of this thinking is retained in unconscious processes, but it is
accompanied there by a different type of thinking, that is governed
by the principle of symmetry: asymmetrical relations are
treated as if they were symmetrical. This 'symmetrical' form of
logic provides a set of unifying principles: probably the most
important of these principles is the equation between the part and
the whole. Equivalence, sameness, and similarity are all symmetrical
relations, which occur in ordinary bivalent logic. In the
unconscious, symmetrisation 'breaks the bounds' of asymmetrical
bivalent logic. What, in bivalent logic, would appear as a mere
analogy, becomes utter identity when the symmetry principle is
In symmetric logic the part
and the whole become interchangeable, classes are dissolved into
increasingly larger wholes, until we arrive at 'Indivisible
Reality': here the infinity of things is in a mysterious way reduced
to one single thing.
We can only speak about
this logic of the unconscious - or should we say: this 'non-logic'?
- from the standpoint of classical logic, which, shocked by the
devastating action of symmetrical logic, tries to map its
In the unconscious we find
a mixture of ordinary, bivalent logic, and symmetric logic.
Matte-Blanco called this mixture of two logical principles
'bi-logic'. He distinguished different 'strata' in the mind: the
'deeper' the unconscious, the higher the degree of symmetrisation.
So a spectrum may be described. At one extremity - the 'upper' side
- we find the most pure bivalent logic. Maybe pure mathematics
approximate to this ideal ; so do electronic computations, provided
that they are not disturbed by some symmetrising virus! The most
rational elements of our consciousness come close to it, although
they are never exempt from symmetrical infiltration. A discourse
free from symmetrical elements is felt to be arid and deathly; it is
'inhuman', since all emotional resonances are repressed in it :
emotions always contain a certain amount of symmetry.
At the other end of the
spectrum we end up at the already mentioned Indivisible Reality,
about which we actually cannot say anything, since any bivalent
splitting up is missing here, and since our language is entirely
based on bivalent logic.
Human psyche is caught in
this fundamental antinomy between bivalent and symmetric logic.
Between both poles all possible gradations may be found. The
'unconscious' is characterised by an increasing prevalence of
symmetry : the 'deeper' the unconscious, the more
Personally I wonder whether
this symmetric logic actually exists as such: its 'laws' can only be
formulated in terms of bivalent principles. I would rather situate
the antinomy between on the one hand 'being', the Indivisible
Reality before human interference, and on the other hand
consciousness is a typical human phenomenon. I do not know how and
why it came into being. But I am convinced that it deeply influences
our being-in-the-world. The senses by which we observe the things
that surround us are extremely limited indeed, and the processing of
these impressions by our brain is extremely selective, even if we do
not notice these restrictions. But our discriminating consciousness
automatically compels us to discriminate and classify these
perceptions. " Friend or foe ? ", this is the crucial question to
which our discriminating consciousness unremittingly tries to find
an answer. Therefore it is very difficult to abandon this
'schizo-paranoid' disposition, however mild it may be. How readily,
when we try to listen to a piece of music, to contemplate a
landscape or a work of art, some 'discriminating' question pops up
and disturbs our general impression! Human beings need a special
'grace' - or a psychotic decompensation - in order to retrieve some
form of direct contact with the Indivisible Reality, beyond the
dividing categories of discriminating consciousness.
Thus our asymmetric
discriminating consciousness divides Indivisible Reality. This
fundamental antinomy confronts the depth psychologist with a
methodological problem : how can he speak in a meaningful way about
the unconscious, without falling into a paranoid or schizophrenic
pitfall ? I already alluded to the paranoid pitfall: the
psychoanalytical attempts aiming at scientific respectability
deprived Freud's brilliant discoveries of their inspiration: they
become too clean, too rational, and Freud's unconscious gets lost.
Matte-Blanco also gave examples of the schizophrenic pitfall
(although he does not use that name): in Melanie Klein's
formulations for instance the unconscious shows up very well, but
her bivalent, 'scientific' abstractions leave much to be desired:
analogy is often treated as equivalence; this symmetrisation is
consistent with the unconscious experience, but it surprises in a
theoretical deduction. Many of Jung's writings too are characterized
by extreme symmetrisation: they do right to Indivisible Reality, but
transgress the laws of analytical thinking.
By its splitting action,
discriminating consciousness fragmentates Reality. This crumbling
goes on - in a never-ending process. Consequently the subject is
left with an ever-growing number of things: what was originally one
and indivisible falls apart into a quantity of elements that tends
towards the infinite.
By thinking, that is, by
establishing relations between different elements, we try to mend
the countless cracks that we brought about. This pathetic endeavour
cannot possibly succeed, the more since at the same time
discriminating consciousness continues its devastating work.
Infinity only exists for consciousness, that is too small to contain
One could object that the
classifying activity of our consciousness does not necessarily have
to pound Reality to pieces: if one succeeds in reducing its
discriminating aspects to a minimum, boundaries may eventually turn
out to be more binding than dividing. But it takes a soundly
established depressive position to realise this exploit. And didn't
Meltzer tell us that attaining the threshold of the depressive
position is the most we may expect - every now and then?
The fact that the symmetric
mode of being allows us to have an undivided experience of reality
does not mean that this reality is undivided. Maybe it is,
maybe it is not: that is a metaphysical question. Is the world
divided into facts, as Wittgenstein claimed, or is it one and
What appears to be pretty
sure though is that we, as human beings, continually introduce
divisions, classifications and discriminations into our experience;
sometimes we succeed in finding back the primordial unified
experiential mode. But the fact that we experience unity or
division does not allow us to infer final statements about the state
of the Reality that is the object of our experience.
According to Matte-Blanco,
relations do exist in the Indivisible Reality, but these 'relations'
are different from the asymmetric relations we are familiar with. We
cannot represent them: in order to do so we would have to
asymmetrise them, to make them fit into our well-known
discriminating - and reducing - schemes.
Our consciousness is - at
its best - strictly three-dimensional in its spatial
constructions, and its temporal organisation is linear. Anything -
or almost everything - we 'win from the void and formless infinite'
has to be caught in this reductive structure. These limitations
affect our (ap)perception to a very high degree, although we tend to
equate Reality with what we perceive: we are so much acquainted with
the three-dimensional make-up of our perceptions that we naively
believe that Reality itself is three-dimensional.
The assumption that Reality
is infinite and multidimensional forces us to a radical revision of
the alleged superiority of consciousness; this is extraordinarily
difficult since we do not dispose of an Archimedean point that would
allow us to consider our restricted viewpoint from a broader
On the other hand,
three-dimensionality is a necessary condition for psychic health:
important functions such as 'holding' and 'containing' presuppose
the establishment of an 'inner psychic space'; all these spatial
metaphors are soundly grounded in three-dimensionality, which a
great majority of patients in analysis have the greatest difficulty
to attain; as a consequence we too easily tend to believe that this
achievement is the final point of human development, whereas it is
merely a starting basis for a full human experience.
Limitations are very
difficult to accept indeed. As human beings we are limited in many
respects; the restrictions of our personal psychic system are but
one example of these limitations: our 'collective' psyche may be
multi-dimensional and infinite - in accordance with Reality in
general - but in our dealings with it we are necessarily restricted
by the limitations of our consciousness.
The split between
psychoanalysis and analytical psychology
Let us return now to the
dramatic split between Freud and Jung.
Freud stressed the
differences: in his model conflict occupied a central place,
and his clinical experience addressed mainly the 'neurotic'
dimension of his analysands, the human, all-too-human vicissitudes
occasioned by external circumstances. Jung on the contrary
emphasised sameness: his obvious interest in the 'psychotic'
aspects of his patients led him straight on to the germinative
psychic core common to whole mankind; he considered its features as
basically identical in all human beings.
Freud endeavoured to set up
his psychoanalytical constructions according to the strictly
discriminating laws of the prevailing western 'scientific' attitude.
In his theoretical assumptions he tended to be dogmatic and
inflexible. Jung on the other hand systematically refused to
privilege any theoretical standpoint and rejected the classical
'scientific' attitude which claimed that something either was true
or was not. Jung has always been averse to this principle of the
'excluded third'; he was fond of paradox, not so much on account of
its inherent conflict, but because of its tolerance of the
coexistence of two opposite poles.
Freud, in spite of his
visionary discoveries (did he not intend to move the Acheron?), once
hoped to 'master' the unconscious, to drain it by a final analysis
of all its contents and symbols (he would later abandon these
sweeping pretences). It turned out that an exaggerated reduction is
precisely one of the main factors in the development of neurotic
disorders. Jung reacted to this excess by an equal exaggeration: his
'amplification' ran counter Freud's reduction, but sometimes tended
to forget the human-all-too-human limitations of our psychic
apparatus. This attitude does more right to Reality as such, but,
unless it is firmly anchored in the limited human psychic qualities,
it opens the door to omnipotence and omniscience, if not to utter
insanity: some psychotic people can be said to remain in contact
with the Infinite - and they will adamantly refuse to abandon their
'direct' connection with it - but they are unable to experience it
as human subjects.
Psychoanalysis has long
been considered - especially by Jungians - as being to
'reductionist'; Jung's analytical psychology on the other hand had
the reputation of being obscurantist, and 'mystical' in the most
pejorative sense. It is more than time to transcend these
caricatural oppositions, and indeed they have been transcended by
many authors, both Jungian and Freudian.
After his rift with Jung,
Freud will gradually resume some of Jung's views; his 'phylogenetic
inheritance', with the concomitant 'primal fantasies', comes pretty
close to Jung's archetypes. But he will not recognise this analogy,
and his followers will chastely keep these aberrances under
Klein inaugurated a current
that broke away from the orthodox psychoanalytic mainstream. As
early as 1950, Glover accused her of inaugurating a heresy
comparable to Jung's. He was right, although it would take twenty
years for the Kleinians to discover it. Bion, when introducing 'O',
the infinite, the 'ultimate truth', comes still closer to Jung; his
repeated exhortation to eschew memory, desire and understanding
clearly indicates a reversion from discriminating consciousness to
Indivisible Reality. Finally Grotstein will openly advocate a return
Winnicott - in his
uncomfortable marginal position with regard to the Kleinian movement
- unambiguously denounces the discriminating excrescences of
psychoanalysis: he stresses the importance of the continuity of
being, and with his transitional area he clearly bridges the gaps
brought about by excessive splitting; playing in the potential space
amounts to finding back some contact with a lost Indivisible
Matte-Blanco occupies a
place of his own in the Freudian world. In 1962 already he commented
on Jung's synchronicity as a principle of non-causal relations. In
it he saw another manifestation of Indivisible Reality.
More recently, Ogden and
other psychoanalytic authors stressed the importance of
intersubjectivity in the analytical relationship: they threw
overboard Freud's recommendations about analytic neutrality and
asepsis. The myth of the analyst as an opaque mirror has finally
been explicitly unmasked. The subtitle of Ogden's book Reverie
and Interpretation (1997) is somewhat disconcerting: 'Sensing
Something Human'! As if humanity had been officially banished
from the psychoanalytic dialogue until then. Anyway, a return to
Indivisible Reality is clearly present in these new
Jungians have been quicker
in exploring Freudian - especially Kleinian - literature. Fordham
played an important part in this evolution: he assigned a Self to
the infant, and described its psychological development in terms of
an interaction between archetypal structures and the environment. In
his clinical approach transference and counter-transference are of
overriding importance. But Fordham and his London Group have been
severely criticised by other Jungians. Conversely 'clinical'
Jungians will often feel uneasy and bewildered when confronted with
their 'symbolic' colleagues, and every now and then they will mock
This controversy between
clinical and symbolical currents in analytical psychology is far
from being resolved. In my opinion it is extremely difficult to find
the golden mean between excessive discrimination on the one hand,
and unrealistic dissolving in Indivisible Reality on the other
The genetic code is
certainly most asymmetric (some of its sequences are ordered in a
symmetric way though, apparently in order to avoid reading errors in
certain crucial developmental steps), and so is the - absolutely
astonishing - embryological development: starting from the
fecundated germ-cell, which contains all the genetic information, an
unremitting differentiation will unfold itself. It will probably
take an enormous deal of research to find out how the genetic code
gets 'translated' into the different steps of foetal development.
The archetypal structures or 'pre-conceptions' (Bion) too must be
recorded in this code. Their progressive realisation takes place in
a constant interaction with the environment. Fordham, Winnicott and
Bion described some of the ways in which this fascinating
developmental process unfolds itself.
During the first months of
postnatal life the adaptation of the environment to the infant's
needs is of paramount importance. In order to respect the baby's
'continuity of being', the caretaker, the 'self-regulating other'
(Stern), usually the mother, will avoid to be different from
the infant's inborn expectations. Winnicott's 'primary maternal
preoccupation' facilitates this delicate adjustment.
Both psychoanalysis and
analytical psychology have tended to equate the origins of psychic
life with the appearance of differences. I see two main
reasons for this confusion: (1) theoretical analytical statements
are mostly inferred from pathological phenomena, in which a
precocious introduction of difference often plays a decisive role;
(2) psychic life is confused - even by analytical psychologists! -
with consciousness and language; Indivisible Reality, since it
cannot be caught in the discriminating devices, slips through their
nets and falls into oblivion.
Freud (and later on Lacan
and Bion) considered frustration to be the starting point of a
healthy evolution; Castoriadis-Aulagnier (1975, p. 46) even spoke of
'the major scandal of psychic functioning', the first psychic
activity being a denial: the hallucination of the (absent) breast!
For Jung, psychic energy originates from opposition: the libido (and
the underlying archetypal activity) can only manifest itself in
terms of pairs of opposites, conflicting attitudes.
In my opinion, psychic life
begins long before birth; during these first months it is solidly
anchored in Indivisible Reality, with the support of a good enough
environment. This period is decisive for psychic
Many psychoanalytic authors
have argued that Klein's paranoid-schizoid and depressive positions
were preceded by another, earlier position. Ogden called it the
'autistic-contiguous' position; Meltzer suggested an initial
depressive position. Following Jung (and his considerations about
participation mystique), I proposed the term 'primordial
identity' (Dehing 2000), but on second thoughts I prefer
'Indivisible Reality'. 'Identity' belongs too much to the realm of
discriminating consciousness (with its opposite 'otherness') and
moreover the term is ambiguous: it denotes both sameness and
oneness (what I intended) and unity and persistence of
personality (which is confusing in this context).
The absence of
discriminating consciousness at this stage does not mean that the
infant has no awareness whatsoever of reality, of itself and of the
environment. Non-discriminating awareness constitutes the
ordinary condition of the infant, especially when he is at rest,
neither sleeping nor excited. This stage is characterised by a
beginning 'sense of emergent self', coupled with a sense of
'emergent relatedness' (Stern 1985). This would mean that the little
baby is aware of his 'self' in a relatedness, without
oppositions though, to the other; clearly the accent is on
sameness; the other takes the place of the 'subjective
object' (Winnicott), distinct without being different, or - at least
- not insisting on the differences.
The dominating function
here is sensation: this function provides information about
how things are, how they feel for the various senses, without any
value judgment. Skin-to-skin contact is very important at this
stage; a sense of 'depth' seems to accompany this cutaneous contact;
the infant, if adequately touched, will gradually discover that his
skin encompasses the totality of his body, and of his
The archetypal structures
(pre-conceptions) contain a virtual knowledge. When activated they
urge the infant to search for an appropriate object in the external
world, that is, an object that belongs to the class intended by the
pre-conception (for instance the breast). If a successful mating
takes place with a given element of that class, a particularised
experience ensues, giving rise to an 'imprinting': the archetypally
steered experience will henceforth be coloured by the particular
features of that particular element.
If this experience is
repeated, it will be gradually generalised. Stern introduced the
concept of 'RIGs' (Representations of Interactions that have been
Generalised); according to him, they "constitute a basic unit for
the representation of the core self" (Stern 1985, p. 98)
A precocious, obtrusive
introduction of difference by the environment at this stage
may well provoke 'defences of the self' (Fordham) that manifest
themselves as autistic features; if these impingements are very
traumatic, or if the infant is constitutionally very sensitive to
such intrusions, an autistic condition may ensue. Schizoid phenomena
constitute a lesser degree of defensive reaction at this
The anxiety is 'psychotic':
disintegration, falling into pieces, falling endlessly,
derealisation and depersonalisation (Winnicott),
liquefaction/petrification (Affeld-Niemeyer), the 'black hole'
experience (Grotstein). Winnicott's disruption of the 'sense of
continuity of being' (equated by him to a psychotic breakdown) by
environmental failures, Balint's 'basic fault', and Bion's 'nameless
dread' are probably connected particularly to this first stage, as
well as Bleger's concept of 'ambiguity'.
'Schizoid' anxiety, as
described by Schols (1994), would also belong to this stage, rather
than to the 'schizoid-paranoid position'. This 'schizoid' anxiety
does not have a persecutory character; one could say that the
persecutor is not yet clearly distinguished. Severe traumatic
experiences may touch this 'deep' layer: the couple predator/prey
then appears to be constellated as a whole, the subject
'identifying' himself with the two poles simultaneously, without
(discriminating) consciousness (as opposed to
non-discriminating awareness) appear from the very moment that
oppositions arise; Melanie Klein's splitting probably
corresponds to the first conscious activity. This splitting, usually
considered as a defence mechanism, probably has a structuring
function in the first place: by it human experience becomes 'split',
divided into opposite poles. This opposition (which is by no means
present in the observed 'thing-in-itself', but super-imposed on it
by consciousness) has been taken as the starting point for both
Freudian (especially Kleinian) and Jungian analytical
'Good' and 'bad' thus come
into the picture. It is very likely that 'bad' comes first in this
conscious perception, pretty much like otherness is perceived before
sameness can be acknowledged. This does not mean that up to now the
baby was not aware of the presence of (good) things;
psychoanalysis, in putting too much emphasis on consciousness (and
the correlated unconscious), lost sight of the importance of
awareness, especially of 'good' experiences. For the adult mind it
is generally very difficult to suspend the discriminating activity
of consciousness, and to be just aware; meditation may provide a
condition in which this pre-conscious awareness can be recovered:
here we are not 'beyond' good and evil, rather previous to their
But in this second stage
consciousness comes into prominence; its splitting characteristics
correspond to Klein's paranoid-schizoid position. The term
'schizoid' indicates this splitting activity; this does not mean
that clinical schizoid phenomena are mainly linked to this
stage: in my opinion they rather belong to the previous stage (see
The development of language
will highly strengthen and perpetuate the gap that separates the
human being from Indivisible Reality. Language is a system based on
asymmetric distinctions; as a consequence it is alienating with
regard to Indivisible Reality. Moreover, it is imposed by the
environment. Even if the child disposes of an inborn capacity to
receive this language, the imposition of it by the external world
always contains the risk of extending this alienation: the violence
of interpretation (Castoriadis-Aulagnier 1975)!
Splitting probably precedes
the acquisition of language. It would be interesting to study the
mutual influence of both phenomena in those early stages.
I refer the reader who
would be interested in the subsequent stages to an earlier paper on
the subject (Dehing 2000).
I argued that
discriminating consciousness is always pathogenic: the best human
being can hope for is to become a 'healthy neurotic'; he will always
remain torn by the ravage created by asymmetry. 'Psychic health'
would be a contradictio in terminis, an utter impossibility.
The strange thing is that, since man has eaten from the Tree of
Knowledge of good and Evil, he cannot do without these defensive
"Asymmetry, according to
Matte-Blanco, is always a form of exercising aggression since it
implies a differentiation, a cut, a separation, a discontinuity
within symmetry. In short, it is a necessary and indispensable
transgression in order to live and to survive the experience of the
symmetrical mode of being." (Casaula & al. 1997, p. 572-573)
Asymmetrisation is implicitly violent. On the other hand however, a
direct contact with Indivisible Reality, without the protection of
asymmetry, would plunge us into "heaven and damnation, which flesh
cannot endure" (Eliot 1935, p. 192).
Otherness does not
necessarily have to be traumatic though. In the otherness
experienced by the infant, without sharp discriminations, a sense of
wholeness is maintained. Part of this type of otherness may be
preserved after the onset of discriminating consciousness (and of
the paranoid-schizoid position), thanks to Winnicott's transitional
area: parts of the external world continue to be experienced as
corresponding to the inner needs.
consciousness on the contrary produces sharp-edged distinctions, in
which splitting keeps the opposites apart, in total antagonism. The
introduction of these oppositions will always be traumatic, and, as
we have said, this asymmetrisation is necessary. The harm may be
limited, 'normal' for the human beings we are, if it does not appear
untimely. But a premature imposition of splitting and polarisation,
in the first position, in which the link with Indivisible Reality is
still prevailing, will most probably cause deeper
The causes for such
traumatic appearance of splitting may be various. It is important to
keep in mind that we always have to do with an interaction between
the immature baby and its environment: a maladjustment, a mismatch
between the self-regulating other and the infant's self with its
inborn motivational needs.
In some infants these needs
are probably constitutionally 'abnormal'; they may be either
too strong or too weak, or qualitatively deviant. Some mothers are
less competent in regulating the infant's needs, for various
reasons, going from accidental occurrences to severe
This conception of course
reduces the conceitedness of people who consider themselves 'sane'.
It may also account for the fascination exerted on healthy neurotics
by their less fortunate fellow men: their often dramatic condition
confronts us at the same time with two contradictory phenomena: on
the one hand the 'basic fault' may be very obvious in highly
pathological cases, painfully reminding us of the hidden split
within ourselves, on the other hand the 'solutions' devised by these
'pathological' developments may sometimes give us the illusion that
they succeeded in overcoming the split (by paying the price of
This vision may also exhort
the psychotherapist, especially the psychoanalyst, to lower his
therapeutic ambitions: the goal of analytic psychotherapy is not to
achieve some illusory psychic 'normality' (as Freud hoped). We
should be very satisfied when the patient reaches the 'threshold of
the depressive position' (Meltzer), and, resisting the temptation of
the furor sanandi, we should nevertheless keep in touch with
the suffering of our fellow human beings: if we cannot cure them, we
still can care, as both Jung and Winnicott noticed.
medicine is in progress nowadays: its influence is rapidly
extending to psychotherapy: the therapist has to provide 'evidence'
for his theories and techniques, and outcome studies have to provide
'proof' for the efficiency of his interventions. It is of course
worthwhile to ask oneself which is the best approach for a given
patient, even if this question is immediately associated with more
economical considerations about cost-benefit analysis. But the
providing of evidence is entirely dependent on asymmetrical data,
statistical comparisons and double bind trials. As far as analytical
psychotherapy is concerned, these tools can only be applied - to a
certain extent - to its peripheral, measurable aspects; its essence,
the encounter of two subjects, both with their unconscious, and the
unspeakable phenomena arising within the analytical container, must
necessarily escape any 'objective' assessment: evidence can only be
established in 'asymmetrical' zones, not in the areas where
Indivisible Reality prevails.
Of course we must question
our theories and techniques, and psychoanalysis and analytical
psychology did so since their origins. Psychoanalysis for instance
has been trying - for nearly a century now - to define the healing
factors that are at work in the cure. Many hypotheses have been
advanced, some in a rather dogmatic way (the removal of infantile
amnesia for instance), but none has been satisfactory up to now.
With regard to technique, which has developed concomitantly, we
notice a remarkable fact: psychoanalytic writers (Freud in the first
place) appear to be much more rigorous in their writings about
technique than in their actual practice. This may seem comical, but
I am afraid that it contributed to the creation of a pretty severe
psychoanalytic Super-Ego, transmitted from one generation to the
A theory is
necessarily an asymmetrical construction. We saw how analytic
theories run the risk of being either too rational or too
'symmetrical'. We probably need both types of theories, in a
dialectical interplay. Moreover, we should use all the theoretical
information we can gather and digest, always remaining conscious of
the fact that "theories in psychology are the very devil. It is true
that we need certain points of view for their orienting and
heuristic value; but they should always be regarded as mere
auxiliary concepts that can be laid aside at any time. We still know
so very little about the psyche that it is positively grotesque to
think we are far enough advanced to frame general theories. […] No
doubt theory is the best cloak for lack of experience and ignorance,
but the consequences are depressing: bigotry, superficiality, and
scientific sectarianism. " (Jung 1938, p. 7)
technique? Some of its aspects are 'discriminating', the
setting (time and place of the sessions, frequency, fees,
etc.) being the most obvious expression of an 'asymmetrical'
organisation. Psychoanalysts, starting with Freud, have much
insisted on the asymmetry of the analytical relationship,
thus coming close to a medical model; from the very beginning Jung
protested vehemently against Freud's alleged distant and unmoved
attitude. We know how his too enthusiastic commitment led him to
some uncomfortable impasses, in which Indivisible Reality was too
invading while asymmetrical landmarks were painfully missing. In my
opinion, this asymmetry between therapist and analysand certainly
does not mean that the former is sane and the latter sick, nor that
the doctor knows while the patient is ignorant; it should be
strictly limited to the fact that the analytic situation is set up
in function of the patient's needs: it should provide him with a
space in which he can display his inner world, while sharing it with
the analyst, who must avoid to create confusion by introducing his
personal problems, preferences or life events.
The setting, however humane
we try to establish it, may hurt certain patients by its
asymmetrical aspects: it may repeat their traumatic experience with
a not good enough mother who asked them to comply with her timetable
and expectations. This may create extremely difficult technical
problems: the analyst is not unlimited, and certain restrictions are
inevitable, and 'interpretations' will not suffice to help the
patient. Much creativity is required from the therapist, and it will
not always be possible to overcome such problems.
The use of language is
another asymmetrical aspect of the analytical situation; some
patients feel painfully distressed by this limitation. I will never
forget the sad reply of a schizophrenic patient when I urged him to
tell me what was going on in his mind: "And what if I am not ready
for words?" Anyway, we must always bear in mind that any verbal
expression will fail when it comes to express something of the
Indivisible Reality; this consideration may help us to avoid all too
cerebral or final interventions.
So far for the asymmetrical
aspects of analysis. Anchored to these structuring elements we can
now 'let things happen' ('Geschehenlassen'), as Jung advised:
pieces of Indivisible Reality may make their appearance, neither in
the patient nor in the therapist, but rather in the intersubjective
field that encompasses both. We will try to consider them
attentively ('Betrachten'), and to catch them in our
asymmetrical devices, proceeding from emotion to thinking, without
choking them in a surplus of rationality. Only in the end will we
arrive at the confrontation ('Auseindersetzung'): as the
German term indicates this asks for a differentiation and an
opposition of mutually discriminated elements. This ethical - and
very asymmetrical - step is important, but it should not precede the
unfolding of the more symmetrical aspects of the living
'The rest is
This brings us to the end
of the excursion. Words, words, words, only to paraphrase an ancient
piece of wisdom: there are more things in heaven and earth, than are
dreamt of in our analytical theories!
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Belgian School for Jungian Psycho-Analysis
maintains a full-time practice in psychoanalysis, analytic
psychotherapy and supervision. He is a founding member and training
analyst of the Belgian School for Jungian Psychoanalysis He has
published widely, mainly on analytic subjects, in Dutch, French,
English, Italian and German.
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