Learning about/from psychoanalysis


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Prerna Srigyan's picture
November 29, 2021
In response to:

So what is intersubjectivity and how is it related to domination and recognition? And, what are those terms?

“There is something more than internal object relations—and this is important in relation to some of Butler’s criticisms as well. If we take the tension between recognition and omnipotence to be the inner conflict that shapes the interpersonal world, then I think we are taking the intersubjective to be an axis that cuts across intrapsychic and interpersonal.” (Benjamin, 2000, p. 297)

“The necessity of struggling to survive destruction, overcome omnipotence, and reestablish recognition after breakdown is ongoing and essentially defining of recognition” (Benjamin, 2000, p. 298)

“As I think might be evident to clinicians, I am trying to show why “empathy is not enough,” how, even with a steady provision of recognition, the traumatic, destructive experiences have to present themselves in full force in the microcosm of therapy. If such full-force destructiveness is met, then recognition is not an idealized, protected experience but one sturdy enough to face trauma. Reading “survival becomes possible” as equivalent to “destruction is overcome once and for all” might be a manifestation of how the critical theory perspective diverges from the clinical” (Benjamin, 2000, p. 298)

 Thirdness & gender

“..acceptance of the parents’ (of whatever sex) independent relation means that the child, instead of being located in two discrete dyads, can move from being observed by a third in the relation with the other to acting as a third, observing the other’s relation to a second other. This notion of the third can be detached from any given gender or sexual constellation.” (Benjamin, 2000, p. 306)

“As Aron and I (Aron and Benjamin, 1999) have articulated the oedipal development of thirdness, this higher level of recognition is necessarily based on the earlier development of the nascent third in the preoedipal dyad. As I said, this dyadic third is what enables the parental third, real or symbolic, to constitute an occasion for intersubjective observation (e.g., observing two important others relating independent of me) rather than merely a persecutory threat (e.g., a danger to the maternal tie, or a terrifying, excluding otherness)” (Benjamin, 2000, p. 306)

“While the observing function has classically been associated with the paternal third, it becomes schizoid, split from the experiencing self, if it is not grounded in an earlier maternal or dyadic form of thirdness. Only this prior and continuing dyadic form of thirdness allows the evolution of such symbolic functions. Thus we see the relation between dyadic and triadic structures” (Benjamin, 2000, p. 306)

“I believe that this idea of the third also has value in thinking about gender. Reaching the dyadic place of thirdness, in which symbolic relations are possible, is a prerequisite for transcending rigid gender binaries in triadic relations. Moving from the defensive use of repudiation to tolerance of overinclusiveness allows the postoedipal use of symbols to bridge multiple and contradictory identifications (Bassin, 1998) in configuations of desire. Dyadic experiences of subject–subject relatedness form another level alongside the split binary relations of subject–object, active–passive, doer–done to that characterized traditional gender relations” (Benjamin, 2000, p. 306)



November 29, 2021
In response to:

""fear of breakdown"... the kind of agony that can lead to serious regression for individuals and, as I will argue here, for collectivities too. The fear is of something to come that is really an agony over what has already transpired" (209)

"political practices will not be improved with better forms of reasoning alone; getting on a better course calls for working through, affectively and not just cognitively, the demons that make democracy seem like a fool's errand" (209-210)

"While it is true that we are social creatures raised in webs of kith and kin, it is not at all obvious that we are born recognizing our own sociality. At the start of our lives, this view claims, there is no differentiation between ourselves and others and hence no way to appreciate or even cognize a self-other relationship. The passage to reflexive sociality is contingent and fraught, easily derailed. Some people don't make it, and such failures can lead to political catastrophe" (210)

"Is early infantile experience (1) undifferentiated plenum and omnipotence or (2) early ego sense of self and relationality? The first view hews to a version of Freud's notion of primary narcissism - though I will use the word plenum - and the second follows the new relational theorists' claim that babies have proto-egos from the start and so are unproblematically disposed to see others as distinct beings and value recognition" (210-211) I have no clue what a plenum is so I google'd it. It looks like there are two meanings, which McAfee is no doubt playing on: (1) a space completely filled with matter; (2) an assembly of all members of a group. It's a filling of space such that the whole is regarded or experienced.

"Since then, as Joel Whitebook notes, the relational view that there is no such thing as primary narcissism as well as no such thing as an early symbolic state, has become dogma. I will return to this" (211)

"In other words, it needs something like a cocoon, where all needs are met in order for its sense of self to develop. This plenum is made possible by what normally befalls the mother at the every end of pregnancy and the first few week's of the infant's life: "maternal preoccupation." Gradually the plenum is impinged by reality and lack, and the infant develops the ability to live without needs always being constantly met. But as Green and Kristeva (and also Fairbarn) argue, this transition involves an originary breakdown of plenum that can later lead to a fear of breakdown, which, as Winnicott argues, is a fear of what has already happened" (212)

"Winnicott's position can be clarified by reading backward through the prism of his final essay, "Fear of Breakdown"" (212) [I love it when writers describe how they read. It helps clarify the process of coming to ideas and defeats the canonical image of one person sitting and writing from nothing but a single mind.]

"While psychotic patients are particularly susceptible to this anxiety, anyone should be able to recognize it, Winnicott writes, for it taps into universal agony over the possible loss of all ego organization, which, after all, was at one time in the history of every individual utterly absent and only contingently created" (213)

"At its best, the process of development from absolute dependence to independence (and, I'd add, interdependence) keeps pace with the neurobiological capacity of the infant's mental apparatus" (214) [I found this line curious because of the shift in conversation from "the process of development" to "the neurobiological capacity of the infant's mental apparatus".]

"(This is the very phenomenon that Freud attempted to unpack in his essay, "Remembering, Repeating, and Working Through," that is, the difficulty in working through something that is repeatedly enacted but not remembered.)" (216-217)

"Recall Winnicott's point that the breakdown "is a fact that is carried round hidden away in the unconscious." Some past breakdown in fact may have inaugurated the unconscious. The conscious ego arises in the wake of the mother's "not-me." The cost of becoming an I is repression of what had been before and the ability to split off, thereafter, whatever does not accord with the new (fictively constructed) sense of a boundaried self" (217)

"It is easier to recall trauma than it is to recall emptiness, for how is one to know that nothing is happening when one does not know yet to expect anything to happen?" (217)

"For Kristeva, narcissism is a means of exorcising this emptiness. The best way over the abyss of emptiness is identification with a Third Party (the father, the law...). For Freud, "identification with the father in [one's] own personal prehistory" is a "direct and immediate identification and takes place earlier than any object-cathexis"" (217)

"Absent from Winnicott's tale is how the unconscious repositories of the holding environment shape the emerging self, including how collective losses become incorporated rather than introjected (to use Abraham and Torok's distinction between unmourned incorporations versus metabolized introjections). The facilitating environment is hardly neutral; it is laden with myriad deposits of previous and collective secrets, crypts, and stories. In a previous book I referred to this as the political unconscious, "an effect of processes: failures to sublimate well, desires unarticulated, voices kept silent, repressions reenacted without acknowledgment of their origins... a contingent effect of power relations and harms that have not been tended to." I also argued there that the individual is "always born in a social context, constituted through that context's prescriptions, shaped in the to and fro of human connection"" (220-221)

"Whatever one thinks of one's own desires, they can never really be only one's own. They are shaped by holding environments, which have in turn been shaped by previous forces.The mother may hold the infant, but she too has been held and shaped by larger environs. The facilitating environment is already thoroughly social and historical. History makes us, deposits in us, unconscious desires, stories, and purposes" (221-222)

"If democracy means ruling ourselves, we surely need to know ourselves... Freud showed more than anything else that a great majority of our own psyche is inaccessible, remote, and often a trickster, leading us to think one thing of ourselves when something entirely otherwise is the case. Moreover, political environs often shape ourselves; so we are already confabulated in political situations where what we are to decide has already been decided in advance of our own willing" (222)

""Peoples" are always imaginary extensions of individuals' social identifications. There is no separate social psyche: we are always in the social and the social is in us. Not only are we all born into social networks (even if we are not first aware of this), we are also born of them" (222)

"Collective identities are extensions of individual ones, in fact there is hardly such a thing as an individual identity, for "identification," whether external or internal, is always a social relation, a relation with another. Moreover, failures to integrate social identities lead to their own maladies of the soul" (223-224)

"fear of breakdown can lead to maladied nostalgia for an imagined plenum and a paranoid schizoid insistence that perfection can be had. This phenomenon can easily lead to nativism and the lure of authoritarian regimes' promise to solve all problems" (224)

"Primitive agonies affect collectivities, but instead of showing up as a fear of loss of the unit self, there is a fear of loss of the unit collective" (225)

"As Claude Lefort writes, attempts to maintain order by invoking "Property, Family, the State, Authority, the Nation, Culture" testify "to a certain vertigo in the face of the void created by an indeterminate society"" (225)

"The names of the defenses that arise against these collective primitive agonies are familiar: anarchism, authoritarianism, totalitarianism, nationalism, nativism, fundamentalism, even neoliberalism, along with sexism, ableism, and racism. I suggest that these are all in one way or another levied against collective primitive agonies of a fear of breakdown that already occurred but was not experienced. These defenses operate to suture a body politic together, to create a "we" out of people who are not really integrated as a we but born into a hallucinatory oneness that is quickly sundered and emptied when reality intrudes upon our omnipotent fantasies of plenty" (225)

"peoples are at risk of breakdown when they adamantly deny any contingency to their own collectivity, when they insist that their group really is singular and unique rather than a happenstance of history. The feared breakdown of unity is a fear of what has already occurred: that early move from unintegration into an integrated we was a making of meaning without foundations" (225-226)

"A defense against loss and disintegration can be an extreme "self-holding" that reifies what are really contingent social identifications. It is crucial to understand the temporality of teh fear of breakdown: a fear experienced here and now about something to come, but at the same time a fear of what has already happened but was not experienced. In the context of ethnic conflicts, Volkan refers to this as a time collapse, when here and now some archaic dread wells up that threatens an established unity and creates an urgency to react and settle ancient scores. To try to unpack this, let me posit these four moments:

  1. an archaic past, like the holding environment of early infancy, the sense of plenum, prior to any differentiation between self and other, which comes to an end with something that triggers loss of plenum;
  2. a constructed past, constructed in immediate response to the loss of plenum, the experience of differentiation and the need to create identifications to suture the self together as one self and to suture it to a common community of identifications;
  3. the here and now, which might be haunted by a fear of breakdown (perhaps triggered by a current event), the residue of the splitting apart of the archaic past and entrance into a very contingent and unstable constructed identity; the here and now is oriented toward
  4. a future, which might loop back by reifying the constructed past to ward off breakdown or, alternatively, might become open to making new and more open constructions and identifications" (227)

"The "backward glance" in the construction of nationness is ambivalent and anxious. A psychoanalytic genealogy of anxiety, Bhabha writes, shows that amor patriae is a "'sign' of a danger implicit in/on the threshold of identity, in between its claims to coherence and its fear of dissolution." Anxiety's indeterminancy signals a trauma at the core of "the cathexes that stabilize the I"; in fact, fear of breakdown is an anxiety of the antecedent" (227)

"This is where contemporary critical theory could step in - not to identify normative footholds for doing critique at all but identifying how to recognize the ghosts in the forum and then how to proceed. This may well include returning to insights of the first generation of critical theorists, for example in trying to understand the roots of the authoritarian personality" (229)

"Cultural theory has been bent more on diagnosis than remedy. Critical theory has been attuned more toward finding transcendent criteria, namely rational ones for critique. It is time we start learning from each other and move toward thinking about how communities can actually get past, that is, work through, their fears of breakdown. A critical social theory that is informed by psychoanalysis, including the negativity that Freud identified, can focus "on the dynamic reworking of affect," as Allen suggests, which could make "social transformation possible"" (229)

Prerna Srigyan's picture
November 28, 2021
In response to:

Why ambivalence and not "happiness"?

“This way [Benjamin's third where negation can produce joy] of approaching the triadic relation is a happy one, but I confess that I am not sure it is finally credible or, indeed, desirable. It is indisputably impressive, though, as an act of faith in relationships and, specifically, in the therapeutic relationship itself. But as an act of faith, it is difficult to “argue” against. What I hope to do in what follows is less to counter this exemplar of happiness than to offer a few rejoinders from the ranks of ambivalence, where some of us continue to dwell.” (Butler, 2000, p. 275)

“To claim, as Benjamin does, that the third comes in as the intersubjective process itself, as the “surviving” of destruction as a more livable and creative “negation,” is already to make the scene definitionally happier than it can be.” (Butler, 2000, p. 279)

“To be itself, it must pass through self-loss, but when it passes through, it will never be “returned” to what it was. To be reflected in or as another has a double significance for consciousness, however, since consciousness will, through the reflection, regain itself in some way. But it will, by virtue of the external status of the reflection, regain itself as external to itself and hence continue to lose itself. Thus, the relationship to the Other will be, invariably, ambivalent.” (Butler, 2000, p. 286)

“The price of self-knowledge will be self-loss, and the Other poses the possibility of both securing and undermining self-knowledge. What becomes clear, though, is that the self never returns to itself free of the Other, that its “relationality” becomes constitutive of who the self is.” (Butler, 2000, p. 286)

“But I do wonder whether an untenable hopefulness has entered into her most recent descriptions of what is possible under the rubric of recognition.” (Butler, 2000, p. 283)


“Benjamin’s use of the notion of “overinclusiveness” implies that there can be, and ought to be, a postoedipal recuperation of overinclusive identifications characteristic of the preoedipal phase, where identifications with one gender do not entail repudiations of another (pp. 54–59)” (Butler, 2000, p. 276)

“the model of overinclusiveness cannot quite become the condition for recognizing difference, as Benjamin maintains, because it resists the notion of a self that is ek-statically1 involved in the other, decentered through its identifications, which neither exclude nor include the Other in question.” (Butler, 2000, p. 277)

On Gender

“But what were those questions, and were they really posed in the right way? Were we right to presume the binary of man and woman when so many gendered lives cannot assume that binary? Were we right to see the relation as a binary when the reference to the tertiary is what permitted us to see the homosexual aims that run through heterosexual relationality? Should we have asked these questions of gender instead? At what psychic price does normative gender become established? How is it that presuming complementarity presumes a self-referential heterosexuality that is not definitionally crossed by homosexual aims? If we could not ask these questions in the past, do they not now form part of the theoretical challenge for a psychoanalysis concerned with the politics of gender and sexuality, at once feminist and queer?” (Butler, 2000, p. 283)

“But it seems fair to assume that a certain crossing of homosexual and heterosexual passions takes place such that these are not two distinct strands of a braid, but simultaneous vehicles for one another.” (Butler, 2000, p. 281)

November 28, 2021
In response to:

"[Mannie Ghent's] expression of his personal vision in the form of a Credo (Ghent, 1989) became an invitation for others to write their Credos - a task he literally set for analytic candidates in his seminar" (186)

"The subtitle of this paper, "Containing of Multitudes," I chose from Whitman (1855), who, of course, was the great exemplar of this tradition of uniquely personal, subjective expression in American letters and whose lines I choose as an epigraph for this dedication: "Do I contradict myself?/Very well then I contradict myself,/(I am large, I contain multitudes.)"" (186)

"What is the Big Energy? I explained, it's what people used to mean by God, or Truth, but you can think of it differently or call it something else - I said that I thought "The Big Energy" is not a bad term for it. The Little Energy, the charge you get from money, status, fame, and the like can't be gainsaid, but it isn't the same" (187)

"The assignment to present a paper about "Why I Write" faced me with the task of putting these kinds of thoughts on paper" (187)

"To talk about what really underlies the act of writing for me, that is, about my own relation to creativity and the Big Energy, seemed far too personal. As a result, the process of writing the paper itself became my subject matter, I began attending to how I write as well as what I write. In effect, I began to focus on the equivalent of what we consider the implicit, procedural dimension in the psychoanalytic process, the moment-to-moment "how" of it all. I realized once again that doing something and thinking about doing it are quite different - even when the thing being done is thinking. Writing for me is not unlike speaking, just a more refined and corrigible version of thinking aloud" (187)

"And, it occurs to me now, I used to argue this point with Mannie at times, impatience with the Little Energy can be a disturbance in the analytic field. It becomes itself an observing judgment that discourages really allowing all the parts of self, including the hooked parts, to emerge and reveal their meanings. In short, it can promote splitting" (188)

"I am always trying to pull everything back toward a center. I write in order to know myself. I go "outside" to the manifold to bring what I find "inside," to connect with and recognize myself in others I read and know. Thinking about the formal process of writing, I realized that I am always trying to straddle and bridge opposition, to find an underlying thread that ties together disparate things, to turn the many into one without reducing or dedifferentiating" (188)

"the problem with thinking centripetally is that there might be any number of spokes that meet in the center, and you have to decide at which point on the wheel, with which spoke, you begin" (188)

"What I was about to talk about was the distinction between two states of consciousness: the one in which we immerse or float or allow ourselves to be carried by association of ideas and one in which we have a definite intention" (188-189)

"In particular I had an association between the state of subjective awareness and a kind of "tarrying with teh negative" (Hegel, 1807), which Keats called "Negative Capability - that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after face and unreason." By way of illustration, Keats continuities, "Coleridge, for instance, would let go by a fine isolated versimilitude caught from the Pentralium of mystery, from being incapable of remaining content with half-knowledge" (cited in DiPrima, 1978). Now, for obvious reasons, psychoanalysts in recent years have become fond of talking about negative capability; a term that elevates tolerating uncertainty and mystery should be dear to our hearts. But after many years, as the idea of negative capability has become more commonplace, what caught my attention is what he went on to say about Coleridge. What do we lose when we lose specificity, detail, or image in favor of abstraction?" (189)

"As Schachtel (1959) described with the notion of the allocentric vision, investing full attention in the object allows the self to become one with it. To find the object in this way is to release the true self, to separate from the false self that is attacked or clinging, which Eastern tradition calls ego - to surrender. Mannie emphasized, however, that surrender is precisely not to the object or other, that the relinquishing of ego works to discover on'es sense of self. Again, the sense of one's own wholeness is enhanced, not diminished, by the sense of unity with other living beings (Ghent, 1990). This paradoxical relation of losing and finding the self is parallel to the central paradox in the tradition of Buddhist thought, wherein liberation comes through acceptance" (189)

"Evelyn Keller (1983), in her critique of a science predicated on the radical dichotomy of subject and object, supports an alternative vision of knowledge as communion with the object by referring to the biologist Barbara McClintock" (189-190)

"And while my efforts to think ahead of time about what I want to say feel ineffectual, experience tells me that this paper will write itself, since writing itself IS a kind of thinking, and not merely a conveyance, a translation of the already thought. Forgetting myself, I can become myself" (190)

"Her intention was to suggest that, by writing poetry one tries to receive, to become a receiving tube. DiPrima suggested that before writing you start with an imprecise idea,

"a feel of something about to happen there... and at that point, that's all you have... when you enter into the act of composing, at that point you have nothing - everything drops away and you have only what you're receiving. Your whole purpose ... is to make yourself a fine enough organism to most precisely receive, and most precisely transmit [p. 19]" (190-191)

"the idea of receptivity... "You dream of negative capability, but you love resolution"" (191)

"Citing Schiller, Freud says (in a letter unearthed by Rank), that the difficulty in writing proceeds from

"the constraint imposed by your reason upon you imagination... It seems a bad thing and detrimental to the creative work of the mind if Reason makes too close an examination of the ideas as they come pouring in - at the very gateway, as it were. Looked at in isolation, a thought may seem very trivial or very fantastic; but i may be made important by another thought that comes after it, and, in conjunction with other thoughts that may seem equally absurd, it may turn our to form a most effective link... [w]here there is a creative mind, Reason - so it seems to me - relaxes its watch upon the gates, and the ideas rush in pell-mell, and only then does it look them through and examine them in a mass. You critics... are ashamed or frightened of the momentary and transient extravagances which are to be found in all truly creative minds [Freud, 1900, p. 103]" (191-192)

"As for us latecomers, when it comes to writing, we know that without Freud to reassure us that all our thoughts, however trivial or fantastic, are interesting, we are often quite unable to counter the voice of critical scrutiny. As Schiller says, if you let that in too soon, it closes the gates. Then you have only the uninspired voice of the gatekeeper, the servant of the Little Energy, the slave of appearances, who can roll off citations or literature reviews, or tell you why everything you have written is banal and has been said better by someone else. Then at best you can chop up sentences into manageable parts or write (expand or cut) in the margins. The gatekeeper closes, but the light comes through only when the gates are open" (192)

"We are multiple selves, but we are also one" (192)

"Furthermore, I find the voice that adds, subtracts, edits, and regulates the opening and closing of gates to be no mere slave of convention, but a concerned friend, a rigorous thinker, if not always inspired, and sometimes difficult to distinguish from the enthusiast, the dreamer. In any dialectical vision, in any version of complexity. Opening requires its friendly opposite, Closing. The anxiety of authorship lies not only with the critic as gatekeeper, with the fear of judgment or exposure, though that fear can be quite powerful. The idea of fearing the inner critic is a simplification. That the gatekeeper also serves as organizer, that she is needed, suggests that the issue is how we relate to self-consciousness, whether we enlist it to avoid anxiety or help contain it" (193)

"The possible danger in trying to order the whole is that it introduces the perspective of the outside, objective self-awareness and so may interrupt the connection to the object" (193)

"These ruminations, which may seem to be "insight," serve in the moment to rescue her from the fantasy of immersion and, indeed, immersion on the couch in the experience she has too hastily named: "oblivion." Her intellectual observation is not false, but neither is it connected to an experience of what she fears: loss in the process of surrender. (Mannie would perhaps see here a fine illustration of the struggle between false-self protectiveness and true-self desire)" (194)

"Letting go into open space, the space of pleasure and the anxiety of immersion and creation, of awe and openness to the new, brings her to close to ... what? Some fearful state she names the void, oblivion - yet the difficulty is to be really in contact with that fear, to surrender to it rather than simply shut the gates in its name" (195)

"Reason, as Schiller (cited in Freud, 1900) called it, or reality in Freud's schema, is actually a metaphor for a container that offers security at the price of constricting the satisfaction of the little energy at the price of enervating, which requires performance but denies power" (195)

"Thus I might arrive at yet another argument for my case that the truest form of concentrated attention to the object is actually subjective, that objective consciousness is fantastical" (196)

"Because the process of writing has something to do with faith in desire, in the process of following a thread, swimming along with the current. This process has everything to do with "the area of faith" as Eigen (1981) called it, and faith in this process is essential to all psychoanalytic work, of whatever orientation. Without surrendering to a process of often discovery, to acceptance of the unknown, how can we not be doomed to mere repetition?" (196)

"Resolution, I am thinking, ought to be able to take the form of accepting the presence, the necessity, of countervailing forces, living with, not eliminating contradiction. Resolution and receptivity, openness and closure - I want them to function like dissonance and harmony, to be mutually enhancing rather than crudely opposite. Union and dispersal, the one and the many - the voice I would like to find would weave between them. It would come from the place of the third. Contradictions, I think, can be like storms that sweep over the waters. They can be frightening if you are at sea, but heady and fully of wild energy to watch from the beach. I am talking about a place of thirdness, inside, below, in between, from which to experience contradictions (another way of thinking about Winnicott's (1971) transitional experience) that gives us a different relationship to opposites" (196-197)

"My image of thirdness is based on a musical metaphor, an image of two or more people following a score, not one they have already read but one that reveals itself only as they go along. Indeed, as they play their notes, the score is being written, becoming what it is, realizing itself. This image is meant to capture the intersubjective process by which two people cocreate or follow a pattern, an interaction in which neither person leads and neither simply reacts. In the space of thirdness, as Winnicott (1971) said of the transitional experience, it is unclear whether truth is invented or discovered" (197)

"Thus, surrender, or the place of thirdness, can be seen as transcending the split between immersion and self-consciousness. That is, thirdness can allow self-consciousness in without having it impinge, or wreck, the attention to the subject. That is where the Big Energy enters, in the open space of the third. If we think in terms of the opposition between oneness- union and twoness-difference, then in thirdness these two states come together and these dissonant elements are momentarily resolved" (197-198)

"The thing we recognize as the beginning, the One we return to, is different because of that exploration" (198)

"He referred me to Octavio Paz's (1988) biography of Sister Juana Ines de la Cruz, an analysis of the neo-Platonist hermeticism of that 17th-century Latin American poet. Paz cites Plotinus, who said, "The One is perfect.. and being perfect, it overflows, and thus its superabundance produces an Other... Whenever anything reaches its own perfection, we can see that it cannot endure to remain in itself, but generates and produces some other thing"" (199)

"It is not possible (even for God) to simply contain multitudes (or, differently put, excitement, arousal) without creating something other than itself" (199)

"For me, what is interesting in writing, finally, like composing, is taking a theme that involves contradiction and raising it to a higher level, in order to experience this stretch, this tension. The point is to see how much dissonance you can create and still resolve the harmony, because the greater the dissonance, the more intense the resolution" (199-200)

"the multitudes are contained, but still free to move around" (200)

November 28, 2021
In response to:

"My argument is that Winnicott's theory lacks the resources to explain the degree of organized hate and aggression we have seen in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Melanie Klein provides a more useful way to think about hate and aggression. Honneth integrates Winnicott to his account of mutual recognition. Klein resists integration. In many respects, this resistance is good" (51)

"For Winnicott, on the other hand, the mother hates the baby before the baby hates the mother (1958). There is no need for reparation, as Klein calls it, for there is no place for sadism, primary envy, and the evil that takes pleasure in destruction for its own sake. For Winnicott, aggression is an expression of creativity and a way of acknowledging the reality of the external world" (53)

"For Freud, the otherness of reality is infuriating. Otherness comes first. For Winnicott, it is the destructive impulse that creates the quality of externality or otherness, and it is this externality that makes the object available for satisfaction. With the term creates, Winnicott means something like Kant's synthetic a priori: destructiveness allows us to discover in nature what our minds allow to be there, the real separateness of the object" (54)

"Not the act of reparation, by which we attempt to make amends for our destructiveness, but the mother's continued survival in the face of her child's attacks, is what makes her not just a separate reality but a valued one (Klein 1975a: 283-289)" (54-55)

"People want to be used. It is a deep source of satisfaction. "For most people the ultimate compliment is to be found and used" (Winnicott 1987: 103). Using and being used by other people is one of the ways people get close to each other, almost as though one could reach out and take what one needs from inside the other person" (55)

"For Horkheimer and Adorno, intellectual appropriation is an act of destruction by which the object is reduced to its concept. With concepts, we appropriate the world, what the Frankfurt School called instrumental reason. The result is to deform the object, subjecting it to human needs. There is no "ruthless use of the object" that does not result in its appropriation" (55)

"Destructiveness runs so rampant because its victims are not quite real. Victims derealize themselves by virtue of their own destruction. Winnicott is not usually read in this way: as a theorist who helps explain the way in which victims derealize themselves by being victims. Not in reality, of course, but in the eyes of their victimizers, who only become more vicious" (56)

"For Honneth, object relations theory is well suited to the phenomenology of recognition, because it renders the bonds established early in childhood the medium through which a balance is struck between symbiosis and self-assertion (1996: 98)" (57)

"In "Postmodern Identity and Object Relations Theory," Honneth makes a similar claim, arguing that the "primordial experience of symbiosis" is an "anthropological and ontological condition that the subject is continually compelled to replicate and re-experience throughout her life" (Honneth 1999: 240; Petherbridge 2015: 158)" (57)

"The pattern of care with which Winnicott is concerned is called attunement, in which the parent mirrors the child, generally in another dimension. The child smiles, and mother laughs and wiggles her shoulders in response. This is what Winnicott calls holding, and if it works the child is unaware that he or she is being held. The child is free to be. What looks like symbiosis from the outside is actually an interaction between two people" (58)

"If the child is held securely, she does not have to think about being herself. She just is, free to experience life, free to be. In failed holding, the child must hold herself, containing her overpowering feelings. The result is the development of what Winnicott calls a "false self," always responding to others" (58)

"Particularly important is the caregiver's ability to help the child regulate its emotions, as when the child is overexcited, and mother holds her or him calmly. Eventually, the child will internalize these experiences, learning to contain her or his own emotional state" (59)

"Stern (1985: 163) is rightly ambivalent about the achievement of language, recognizing that for all the gains language allows, a certain immediacy of experience is lost. Without words, all experience is something like the experience of the sublime. Rilke calls it the terror we are still just able to bear (Duino Elegies, first elegy). Without words, experience threatens to overwhelm us" (59-60)

"For the first generation of the Frankfurt School, utopia was represented by the ganz anders, the entirely different. It is this built-in moment of negation in all of us that is the source of protest against the given" (60)

"In this act of not naming, as Dialectic of Enlightenment argued, lay the subversive power of the Jews and critical theory as well (Rabinbach 2014: 272)" (61)

"For Klein, the infant is possessed by the death drive, expressed as envy of the giving mother so powerful that the infant would destroy the source of life itself (Klein 1975a). In order to protect its mother, and so the source of life, the infant and young child splits the mother into the good mother and the bad mother" (62)

"Klein also writes about what she calls the depressive position, in which the infant and young child desperately desires to make reparation to his mother for all the harm he has caused her, at least in phantasy. Eventually, reparation comes to include genuine love and concern for the other. Originally, reparation too is a selfish impulse, as the infant is motivated by fear that he has destroyed the source of life itself (Klein 1975b)" (64)

"[quoted speech] "When an infant has an intolerable anxiety, he deals with it by projecting it into the mother. The mother's response is to acknowledge the anxiety and do whatever is necessary to relieve the infant's distress. The infant's perception is that he has projected something intolerable into his [mother], but the [mother] was capable of containing it and dealing with it. He can then reintroject not only his original anxiety but an anxiety modified by having been contained" (65)

"For Klein, creativity is how we make reparation for all the harm we have done in phantasy, and that comes later, when the self is not so split. For many, reparation never comes at all, as adults project their destructive hatred into others, finding and attacking it there, as though it were not originally our own. To be sure, the world is filled with real enemies, but there is nothing people desire more than to find worthy objects of their own hatred and destructiveness. This, though, only alienates us further from our own selves" (66)

"Honneth's use of Winnicott is helpful, but only if we see symbiosis as more complex than fusion. Symbiosis is attunement. Such an account is compatible with Stern's objection, for it takes an infant or young child able to distinguish self from other to participate in games of attunement, as they might be called. If I cannot feel the difference between myself and another, attunement is no different than being alone" (68)

"If Klein is right, and I believe that the state of the world supports her vision, we live in a world in which love is always at risk of being overwhelmed by hate" (69)

"Love, we learn early, may be translated into patriotism and loyalty, fear into obedience and the corruption of national spirit in diverse ways, from militarism to appeasement. But what of hatred? Hatred infiltrates and corrupts all the political virtues, such as patriotism, community, loyalty, tolerance, and citizenship. What is needed is the analysis of the way in which each of these virtues has its dark side, itse correlate rooted in hatred, as when loyalty to one's own nation depends on hatred of others. There is little that is utopian this exercise, but it is necessary. Any serious account of politics must keep it firmly in mind" (70)

This is all well-and-good realism, but isn’t this “splitting” accounted for by Benjamin? I’m having a difficult time seeing what this adds to Benjamin’s arguments besides a possible critique of why we should think more with Klein than Winnicott.

November 28, 2021
In response to:

"What concerns us, then, is not only the ascendance of a right-wing demagogue but also the failure of the institutionalized liberal forces in the media and politics to properly acknowledge and resist attacks on our democracy, to name and call out the "wolf"" (472)

"combining contradictory appeals to the working-class resentment toward the elite and its shame-induced submission to austerity and deprivation of social security. We need to grasp why the more progressive side of mainstream politics utterly failed in challenging this appeal. I will suggest it was based on an inability to acknowledge harming, to admit that such destructive anti-democratic forces are and have always have been part of our legitimated political structure. That is, we can think about how this inability to fully face and work through the history of slavery and genocide is related to the inability to admit the economic exploitation - the use of others to make a profit - involves harming, especially when unchecked... in America, the class struggle to meet basic needs has been delegitimated and therefore economic democracy and social safety net are so tenuous" (472)

"In the words of Lincoln (1864) cited above, the struggle then was joined between those who viewed liberty as the right to dispose over the bodies and labor of others, and those who believed in the liberty of all to dispose over their own bodies and labor. Viewed in this way, the struggle against slavery and the struggle against the oppression and exploitation of all labor as well as the right to control our own bodies could all be seen - although the conceptualization is loose and unwieldy - as part of one war" (473)

"I find it interesting that, when we consider the leadership of Lincoln and Roosevelt, the willingness to identify and call out enemies was a crucial action that contemporary neoliberals seem unable to engage" (473)

"Thus, I will argue that real conviction about the real conviction about the Third does not take the form of shunning conflict and refusing to face dangerous opponents of liberty and equality" (473)

"Although there are many differences between historical fascism (Germany, Italy, Spain) and the current union of oligarchic ruling class interests and white supremacist movement that supports Trump, there are also important similarities... In my view, Trump and much of the Republican Party make use of this movement, which is properly named as fascist, even though America as a nation has not succumbed to fascism. And Trump himself employs many of the techniques and ideas of fascist leaders, who we admires" (473-474)

"It is frightening to consider identifying with those who do fight against the wolves - who might look a bit ragged and battle-scarred, or associated with the powerless and nonelite. In this way, one might be no longer dissociated from those who are discarded, deprived of dignity, and yes even spat upon when they try to stand up for their rights (as John Lewis and other black officials were spat upon by members of the Tea Party). To admit that the South has been winning the Civil War for the last nearly 50 years because a legitimated political party has used racism to defend the unchecked expansion of profit and concentration of wealth and power would require both uncomfortable struggle and identification with the downtrodden Other" (474)

"I believe it has to do with projections of badness, and teh threat of being cast out of the "Us." As deployed by the right, we have seen an invocation of nationalism, austerity, and self-reliance, the expulsion of the contaminating and parasitic "Other," and the glorification of images of whiteness and power, all with a fervor that has been hard for the liberal left to counter. Against this splitting in the service of power, we observe how ineffectual were Obama's nostrums of bipartisan cooperation, conciliation, and reasonable compromise, or Hillary Clinton's insistence that America is great because it is good" (474)

"Liberal ideology could not combat this splitting of our society by insisting we are all one people since in fact we are fractured - with two mutually exclusive "definitions" of democracy and freedom. It is paradoxical that defending democracy requires an understanding of its boundaries, of what it cannot include" (475)

"this psychological inability to "fight" and call their opponents to account for depriving the very people they claim to support seems, more than any other factor, to have led to the victory of Trump" (475)

"My own psychoanalytic perspective has been shaped in considering the intersubjective meaning of creating third spaces - the Third - that contain and transform the complementary oppositions between self and other: especially oppositions then manifest socially as "Us versus the Other." Such oppositions assume the form of doer and done to, mimicking the basic structure of oppositions like perpetrator and victim, powerful and subjugated, oppressor and oppressed, violator and violated (Benjamin 2004; Benjamin 2017). One lesson we've learned over time is that this relationship is reversible; that in doer-done-to relationships both sides may come to feel blamed and accused by, and thus symmetrically mirror, each other. Insofar as an Us-Them opposition has been become part of political discourse, it is important not to be shaped defensively by those who attack or accuse us, launching us into the ping pong match, the back and forth of blame" (476)

"What would it take to deconstruct this opposition? How can we reopen a space for democratic, civil conflict we believe has been foreclosed by our opponents who, as we see it, break the rule of law at every step? It is not only that those who have currently gained power in our government actually believe that winning is everything and must be achieved at all costs; it is important for us to create awareness of how they use their power and their ideological efforts explicitly to deny and cover over the harm they inflict by winning. The problem we are exposing is the lack of a social orientation to reparation. Lacking the depressive position or a notion of a socially mediated Third that allows for repair, they also, thus far, lack a conception of taking responsibility and trying to repair that harm" (477) responsibility without blame

"The truth, speaking psychoanalytically, is that the fearful, self-protective position that drives the wolf's need to dominate - i.e., the idea that if I do not overpower you, you will overpower me - is one held by most people some of the time, even those who modulate it with a more generous, less fearful position. I call this position "Only one can live"... The "One" could be us, our tribe or nation, or simply the self, but the point is that when we are organized by this fantasy, we are living in a kill-or-be-killed world" (477)

"For some human beings - a Trump or a Bannon - this fantasy is reality. There is no other world. For others, this is a feeling state that is activated in moments of threat and fear of annihilation, rather than accepted as obvious truth. If one sees the world as a place where only one group - some - can live, the fundamental division is not only between those with power and those who are helpless, but also between those whose suffering matters and those whose suffering doesn't, or between those who matter and those who don't: the dignified and the discarded" (477)

"The fantasy that only one can live is embedded in the economic and nation system. For many people who would not operate this way in personal relations, this fantasy is projected into the social realm: for instance, the nation, which is seen to be threatened by the outside world" (478)

"The fear of being among the socially discarded instead of the deserving, visibly diminished and left to perish, leads to feelings of helplessness and anger. And, as long as people accept the system as legitimately being what it is, they tend to blame themselves for bieng among the discarded" (478)

"A classic move to deal with contradiction through projection informs their strategy. Republicans have successfully created a narrative that affirms that the weak and vulnerable deserve no help, yet reassures the white working class that they are not rightfully among the discarded: "forgotten white men" are not shameful and weak; they are not to blame for their condition, hence still deserving. The blame is projected onto the Other who cheats and takes from them: that is blacks, immigrants, women, and the liberal elite who pretend to champion them" (478)

"The turning of tables, the reversal, the certainty that the done to only want to become the doers, is a powerful psychological structure... The dilemma for those who choose to identify upward with the powerful to avoid shame is now the risk of absorbing the powerful's guilt" (480)

"So, to truly step out of the doer-done-to complementarity with our opponents means that this battle needs to go beyond the political correctness in which we deny the fear of retailiation and further punishment associated with having harmed. That is, in defending victims' claims, we cannot simply assign all rightness and goodness to ourselves: rather, we need to hold a position that realizes the one group feels endangered by the others' protest. How do we - in order to purify ourselves - avoid projection of that form of badness into the right wing that triggers an unconscious fear of becoming the bad, undeserving other? Our actions should not proceed from or restimulate the fear that we don't deserve to live if we have been complicit in a social order that harms, an attitude I saw in far too many of my comrades back in the 1960s" (481)

"Association manliness with aggressive power is an important part of our psychology, i.e. associating white purity with subjugating and segregating people of color" (482)

"According to George Lakoff (2016), whose conclusions parallel the earlier Frankfurt critical theorists, the decisive difference between adherents of liberal and right-wing world views is family style and child-rearing, i.e., right-wing parents may be more authoritarian in demanding that their children not challenge parental authority... continuing to be organized around punishment (not necessarily corporal but withdrawal of approval), obedience, and good behavior, rather than self-reflection, responsibility, and empathy. In many cases, the paternal figure must be idealized as powerful and seen as good by the child, no matter how erratic, frightening, or painful the behavior: it is dangerous to accuse the powerful one. However, internally, as Fairbairn (1952) showed, it is more frightening to live in a chaotic world ruled by the devil than to be judged as a sinner in an orderly world ruled by God. This jibes with the idea that children are afraid to face that they live in an unsafe world where a dangerously selfish, narcissistic primal father is in control" (483)

"In this family style, disobedience or failure to live up to the norm is met with shame and possibly punishment rather than understanding... Showing weakness and vulnerability in response to painful experience often leads to further shame or rejection, especially for boys. Trump's success is based on his identification with his paternal figure who shames and repels all vulnerability. But crucially, at the same time, he displays, with impunity, the defiance of moral norms and good behavior that resentful rebellious boys long to express" (482)

"In the United States, for instance, whites who have been manipulated as part of the Southern strategy have had great difficulty admitting the harm that blacks suffered, and continued to suffer, without imagining they will be blamed and thus deserving retaliatory deprivation or even annihilation (deprivation for the smug deniers, annihilation for the traumatized supremacists)... The recognition that all suffering matters is thus perversely turned back into part of a competitive struggle around who is denying recognition to whom - one of the most powerful strategies of the right" (483)

"Our aim cannot be simply holding onto the moral edge of being the true victims. That is a trap. If we have a moral edge, it is to end victimization by demonstrating the agency involved in making reparation and in embracing the position of the Third. On the other hand, this position requires acknowledgment of harm and, on the other, requires transformation of the struggle for recognition of the need to live into a form of legitimate political conflict. Our actions should not proceed from or restimulate the fear that we don't deserve to live if we have been complicit in a social order that harms, an attitude I saw in far too many of my comrades back in the 1960s" (484)

"The link between the two lies in rejecting the compulsion to dissociate our own harming and complicity, or rather to use such admission of complicity to place ourselves in the imaginary position of always representing the good, always on the side of the victims. We - however, we define ourselves as "We" - simply are not and cannot be all good, at least, no in terms that are set up as a power struggle, where the good side wins and takes all" (484)

"The wolf also lies within, and the inability to confront that one's own self-interest feeds that wolf. I believe this inability has to do with the culturally sanctioned dissociation of the fact that in capitalism there really is harming, and that only a struggle can prevent Capital (as in the class that owns the means of finance and production) from generating an impossibly unequal society. In other words, there has been a dissociation, rather than a conflict between self-interest and social solidarity, where the "good guys" dissociate their own complicity in harm and self-aggrandizement" (484-485)

"I believe an obstacle to contesting "only one can live" with all can live is the way that powerful forces deny the destructive aspects of the American project by exalting individual self-interest. Especially since Vietnam, we have foundered on the problem that white America must never be seen as the one responsible for harming the Other to advance its own self-interest. Radicals will not and have not solved this impasse merely be asserting that the destructiveness of our government's service to the interest of the capitalist oligarchy and the elevation of white America are destructive, without offering a vision of repair and of legitimate conflict. Lacking this vision, the critique arouses tremendous annihilation fear that we then do not deserve to live. However, lacking the critique, the vision becomes not one of reparation, but of denial that our claim to goodness is at least problematic. This is the impasse that developed through splitting the acknowledgment of harming and the need for an ideal" (485-486)

"Regarding repair I will add that in recent years, my political imagination has been seized by the ideas of reconciliation in postconflict societies. These are societies that have looked for ways out of the dilemma of protecting the people without creating more violence, by reversing the violence against the oppressors or perpetrators. In many of these intergroup struggles in societies riven by violent conflict, both sides were liable to see themselves as the being "done to," victims, the injured parties. The problem is how to go beyond having the struggle for recognition of one's own injuries (one's own group, nationality, or race) go beyond the competition of one against the other, to create a path for acknowledging harm without forfeiting one's own needs" (486)

"In our case, perhaps, we might think how to begin a national conversation to find new ways to frankly acknowledge the history of harming and oppression while envisioning repair. I believe we must oppose inequality and injustice even as we simultaneously - radically and insistently - maintain the Third, the principle that everyone has a right to live, but not by exploiting, oppressing, or harming others... we need to develop a moral Third, a position in which it becomes possible to acknowledge our history of harming without attaching this to blame and retribution" (487)

November 28, 2021
In response to:

"Having studied Hegel in Frankfurt, in turn, I had felt a shock when reading Winnicott's (1971) "Use of an Object": when I asked my friend who had studied there with me to read it, she too spontaneously remarked, "It's just like Hegel"" (3)

"if we are lucky enough to be exposed to genuinely different disciplines and traditions, we can recognize the homologue in two entirely unlike forms, sameness despite difference. Such bridging of difference, in my view, was exemplary of the way to not only deconstruct but also radically reconfigure oppositions that might otherwise lead to impasse" (3)

"Manny taught me about (and later gave me an early draft of) his version of the difference between submission and surrender (Ghent, 1990), ideas that suffused what I wrote about the alienation of recognition" (3)

"Their perspective included always seeing things through the double lens of what is and what potentially could be as well as the continual negotiation of reality in our alternative culture and the reality outside" (3)

"My use of the idea of intersubjectivity, prior to the encounter with infancy research, was rooted in Habermas, whose book (Erkenninis und Interesse [Knowledge and Human Interests]) was eagerly awaited in Frankfurt in 1968. The book explicated the movie that took critical social theory from the Marxian idea of human beings as producers of their world to that of communicators. It was here I heard the term "the intersubjectivity of mutual understanding" for the first time and sat in seminars on socialization, communication theory, and George Herbert Mead" (5)

"All of the work I encountered was done from the standpoint of the infant, as though the mother were simply the answer, the interlocking gear, in relation to the infant's endogenous structure and needs. Her existence as a separate person was somehow subtly ignored, as if the conflict with her own needs and subjectivity were a nonissue if she was good and devoted enough" (6)

"Yet the issue of whether recognition was mutual did become somewhat thorny in relation to self psychology insofar as it charted empathy as a largely one-way process. Kohut's ideas of mirroring and empathy bore some resemblance to the idea of recognition, Stern and other psychoanalytic infancy researchers embraced self psychology, yet there were important differences between the two approaches" (7)

"The ideas of state sharing as well as rupture and repair seem to be the place where the study of infancy and relational analysis have met. Focusing on the role of shared states, affect regulation, and joint dissociation allowed a perspective on how to use enactments and to flesh out the insight that at some level mutual knowing is both unavoidable and desirable. The view that recognition is based in the sharing of affect states, which is in turn crucial to mutual regulation, has essentially transformed the field" (9)

"I came up with the not so euphonious term "identificatory love," a homoerotic love, meaning love of what is seen as or wished to be "like." This relation of mirroring, twinning, subject-to-subject desire for recognition and love of the "like subject" would differ from the oedipal love of the other (whoever it might be, same or opposite sex, whatever felt like that otherness)" (10)

"Identificatory love, I think, still gives powerful meaning to the idea that being recognized in one's loving desire to be like the other is as crucial as being safely attached to the source of goodness. Rejection of that need for recognition can be withering and crippling" (11)

"and so we must also sadly note that in popular culture, the heterosexual trope of male activity, female passivity is still untouched by queer theory's hits to the reigning discourse of anatomical destiny... In actuality, we psychoanalytic feminists are armed to the teeth with dangerous theory and outfitted to the nines with our explanations - we just can't get a date with mainstream media" (12)

"Whereas the focus on regulation and prohibition offers insight into shame, the focus on gender as shaping powerful versions of "this is me" or "is this me?" opens up the contents of desire and longing - contents that are in some sense historically transmitted and perhaps partially alien to the self that embodies them" (12)

"The language psychoanalysis invented to open up those contents originally was so organized by the oedipal binary as to be punitive, but the postoedipal world of play can still make great use of psychoanalytic language to break free of the punitive, to unlock desire produced in a world of subjects who are at least partially knowable to each other" (12)

"In closing, I can only celebrate the cunning of history in bringing these more disparate and unlikely metaphorical systems into collision and conjunction at one time: Hegelian Marxism, critical social theory, psychoanalysis, feminism, infancy research, relational analysis, and yes the fiction of sadomasochism" (13)

November 28, 2021
In response to:

"I felt that the focus on the analyst's knowing "what's going on here now" implied a subtle form of objectivism, enhanced by disregard of the patient's subjectivity and deep unconscious motives" (292)

"These contradictions have bequeathed to us a clinical tension that we continue to debate strenuously (as Mitchell, 1997, makes clear discussing Slochower) between the need to submerge ourselves in the patient's experience and the importance of providing an experience of otherness. As with many clinical issues, I find it necessary to hold this tension" (293)

"My idea of intersubjectivity, based on a dialectic of recognition and destruction, thus grew out of this unlikely resonance between Hegel and Winnicott" (293)

"There is an important distinction in my mind between the interpersonal and the intersubjective. As Mitchell says, there is no necessary contradiction between the interpersonal and the intrapsychic, they can be seen as two dimensions of the same process by which mind interacts with the outside. But I used the intersubjective perspective to add something different" (293)

"The tension between recognizing the other and wanting the self to be absolute (omnipotence) is, to my mind, an internal conflict inherent in the psyche; it exists independent of any given interaction - even in the most favorable conditions. It is not interpersonally generated but is, rather, a psychic structure that conditions the interpersonal" (294)

"I appreciate Mitchell's recognition of my efforts to "save" a notion of developmental phases not as a linear sequence but as layering of organizational patterns, each of which can remain available at different moments, thus allowing for multiplicity without a necessary synthetic unity... from the beginning, I have argued that the basic positions of gender polarity, femininity and masculinity as we know them, are constituted through a process of splitting" (294-295)

"As he (with his customary ability to restate things more clearly than they were originally), concisely sums it up, my point is that "precisely tensions that cannot be sustained intersubjectively become intrapsychic, experienced as 'other' within the self, pervaded by aggression." Yes! The point is that what appeared to Freud as instinct is what Marx called a "real appearance": something that looks natural or intrinsic but is actually the outcome of a complicated social process" (295-296)

"So my aim is not precisely to conserve Freud, but rather to psychoanalyze his categories, to see what intuition he might have been struggling to realize in a language not adequate to do so, what social and psychic origins were occluded by his search for a natural, instinctual origin. If his intuition could be translated into categories that make sense to us - if the loss of energetic tension really equals the loss of intersubjective tension - we would be like mathematicians solving a problem passed down to us, not "saving" Freud" (296)

"I use the method of critique rather than the Angloempirical tradition of sorting: accept this part, reject that. Perhaps I place more wieght than Mitchell on the intrapsychic, if not on the drives (although I am no so sure we can dispense with a notion of energy)" (297) I want to stay with this for a moment: what is the difference between the method of critique and the Angloempirical tradition of sorting? What is Benjamin saying about her reading/writing method here?

"destruction does essentially constitute recognition" (298)

"As I think might be evident to clinicians, I am trying to show why "empathy is not enough," how, even with a steady provision of recognition, the traumatic, destructive experiences have to present themselves in full force in the microcosm of therapy. If such full-force destructiveness is met, then recognition is not an idealized, protected experience but one sturdy enough to face trauma. Reading "survival becomes possible" as equivalent to "destruction is overcome once and for all" might be a manifestation of how the critical theory perspective diverges from the clinical" (298)

"While I agree with Butler that "destructiveness poses itself continually as a risk... perennial and irresolvable," I cannot agree that "any therapeutic norm that seeks to overcome [it] is basing itself on an impossible premise." But - and here's the issue - I myself would not use the word overcome. I think the words counter and ameliorate would suffice" (299)

"The idea is not to posit an ideal space that is free of something bad (destruction), a kind of idealized "authenticity," but rather to conceptualize a movement between expansion and collapse of mental space, as part of the movement between recognition and breakdown. Intersubjective space may be thought of practically as mental activity occurring in or between persons that, like our well-loved metaphor, the container, expands and collapses, depending on the quality of the destruction and of our practice in sustaining our capacities in the face of it" (300)

"Butler begins with our shared Hegelian notion that "the self never returns to itself free of the Other," that "it is transformed through its encounter with alterity, not in order to return to itself, but to become a self it never was." So far, so good: this is Hegel's notion of nonidentity, a cornerstone of critical theory. In effect, every encounter with the other negates the identity of the self" (300)

"Paradoxically the logic of owning and disowning can be transcended only by owning our unwanted parts" (301)

"Should we say that the notion of self as defined by "ek-stasis" is inherently paradoxical, since there never was an intact self divided from what is ostensibly outside itself?" (301)

"I thought I was agreeing with Cornell from the beginning, as I understood her, like Derrida, to be taking the position that the Other is not merely beyond or unknowable: "as an "I" the Other is the same as "me." Without this moment of universality, the otherness of the Other can be only too easily reduced to mythical projection" (Cornell, 1992, p. 57)" (301)

"I would prefer to speak pragmatically of the psychic action of splitting - without trying to solve the quandary of how we can be split if we were never whole to begin with. Butler takes the words out of my mouth when she says, "It is possible and necessary to say that the subject splits, but it does not follow from that formulation that the subject was a single whole or autonomous"" (302)

"However, even as there is always a potential third (triadic structure) in the dyad, there is always a dyadic infrastructure in all triadic relations. The interesting tack Butler takes is to suggest that such dyadic structures might be related to the use of a binary model with regard to gender. She implies that, in order to get beyond binary gender oppositions, we might need to go beyond the dyadic structure. This idea seems worth considering, insofar as a dyad with no third is essentially a collapsed power relation (imaginary in Lacan's terms, paranoid-schizoid in Klein's)" (302)

"Is the oedipal structure of complementarity - based on splitting - ever fully surmountable?" (302-303)

"Thus, while the principle of heterosexuality persists, it is not seamless, since it is continually destabilized by multiplicity and gender ambiguity. As Harris (1991) and Dimen (1991) have shown, the complementarity constantly breaks down: gender is at once reified and evanescent, substantial and insubstantial, and this is "a sign of what gender is" (Dimen, 1991)" (303)

"That he cannot be a man and have a man underlies his sacrifice - the split between being and having, identification and object love, which I see as central to heterosexual complementarity. This split constitutes masculine desire (being a man), as the repudiation of identification with the woman's desire (having a man)" (303)

"Butler's views on desire rely on a Lacanian perspective, mediated by Sedgwick, in which desire is not simply for the Other or, more ambiguously, "of the other," but also for the others contained in the Other. Desire moves through identification with the others who desire the Other, as in the homosocial desire between men that circulates through the woman they exchange. The point, she says, is that desire is simultaneously circulating as homosexual and heterosexual, "thus confounding the identificatory positions for every actor in the scene."" (304)

"I do not see the third as someone (a child, a former lover) who interrupts or even as some otherness that unravels, but as a mental function or capacity" (304) [It’s a matter of uptake — a Peircean triangle!]

"I proposed that it is the symbolic space in the dyad that gives the father his symbolic function, that makes a child able to use symbols and tolerate otherness. I suggested that, rather than seeing a figure as the third, we should look for the origins of the mental function of thirdness in the dyadic development of dialogue" (304)

"The third is thus not simply constituted through harmony, nor is it "an ideal of transcendence... a reference point for reciprocal desire that exceeds representation, and so its meaning, in Butler's phrase, both exceeds and constitutes the relation of desire. Ultimately, for this thirdness to develop, it must sustain the challenge of difference and opposition, so that one can decenter from the identification with only one position (only I am right; or, if you are right, I must be wrong)" (305)

"We see thirdness as a mutually achieved state that affords a position from which it is possible to recognize the position of the other. It is a position from which to step outside or think beyond the complementarity dyadic relation in which the other is simply a projection or the self feels coerced by the projections of the other" (305)

"Reaching the dyadic place of thirdness, in which symbolic relations are possible, is a prerequisite for transcending rigid gender binaries in triadic relations. Moving from the defensive use of repudiation to tolerance of overinclusiveness allows the postoedipal use of symbols to bridge multiple and contradictory identifications (Bassin, 1998) in configurations of desire" (306)

"In a sense, all my work has been an effort to think about the link between the splitting of gender polarity and the breakdown of recognition, to grasp the overcoming of complementarity in terms of both gender and intersubjectivity" (306)

November 28, 2021
In response to:

"In some ways, Benjamin's work relies on the presumption and argues for the proposition that recognition is possible and that it is the condition under which the human subject achieves psychic self-understanding and acceptance" (272)

"a process that is engaged when subject and Other understand themselves to be reflected in one another, but where this reflection does not result in a collapse of the one into the Other (through an incorporative identification, for instance) or a projection that annihilates the alterity of the Other. In Benjamin's appropriation of the Hegelian notion of recognition, "recognition" is a normative ideal, an aspiration that guides clinical practice. Recognition implies that we see the Other as separate, but as structured psychically in ways that are shared" (272)

"Whereas Hegel (1807) referred to "negation" as the risk that recognition always runs, Benjamin (1988b) retains this term to describe the differentiated aspect of relationality: the Other is not me, and from this distinction certain psychic consequences follow" (273)

"Recognition is at once the norm toward which we invariably strive - the norm that ought to govern therapeutic practice - and the ideal form that communication takes when it becomes a transformative process" (273)

"In her view, we must be prepared to overcome modes of splitting that entail disavowal, where we either disparage the object to shore ourselves up or project our own aggression onto the object to avoid the psychically unlivable consequences that follow when that aggression is recognized as our own" (274)

"For if it is the case that destructiveness can turn into recognition, then it follows that recognition can leave destructiveness behind" (274)

"It is not that the dyad is tacitly and finally structured in relation to a third, understood as the tabooed parental object of love. The third emerges, however, in a different way for Benjamin (1998b), indeed, in a way that focuses not on prohibition and its consequences but on "both partners [in a] pattern of excitement." This pattern is the third, and it is "cocreated... outside the mental control of either partner we find a site of mediation, the music of the third to which both attune" (p. 28)" (275)

"I believe that Benjamin is working toward a nonheterosexist psychoanalysis" (276)

"desire redoubles itself; it seeks its own renewal. But in order to achieve its own renewal, it must reduplicate itself and so become something other than what it has been. It does not stay in place as a single desire, but becomes other to itself, taking a form that is outside itself. Moreover, what desire wants is the Other, where the Other is understood as its generalized object. Desire also wants the Other's desire, where the Other is conceived as a subject of desire" (277)

"Indeed, other readings of this formulation, including the oedipal one: I desire what hte Other desires (a third object), but that object belongs to the Other and not to me; this lack, instituted through prohibition, is the foundation of my desire" (277)

"Lacan's way of formulating this position is, of course, derived in part from Levi-Strauss's theory of the exchange of women. Male clan members exchange women in order to establish symbolic relation with other male clan members. The women are "wanted" precisely because they are wanted by the Other... Queer theorist Eve Sedgwick (1985) asked who is, in fact, desiring whom in such a scene. Her point was to show that what first appears to be a relation of a man who desires a woman turns out to be implicitly a homosocial bond between two men" (278)

"For the point is not that the phallus is had by one and not by another, but that it is circulated along a heterosexual and homosexual circuit at once, thus confounding the identificatory positions for every "actor" int he scene" (278)

"For instance, to what extent is heterosexual jealousy often compounded by an inability to avow same-sex desire (Freud, 1922). A man's woman lover wants another man, and even "has" him, and this is experienced by the first man to be at his own expense" (278)

"If it is his receptivity that he finds relocated there at the heart of his own jealous fantasy, then perhaps it is more appropriate to claim that he imagines her in a position of passive male homosexual. Is it, finally, really possible to distinguish in such a case between a heterosexual and a homosexual passion? After all, he has lost her, and that enrages him; and she has enacted the aim he cannot or will not act, and that enrages him" (279)

"It becomes difficult to say whether the sexuality of the transgendered person is homosexual or heterosexual. The term queer gained currency a decade ago precisely to address such moments of productive indecision, but we have not yet seen a psychoanalytic attempt to take account of these cultural formations of which certain vacillating notions of sexual orientation are constitutive" (281)

"This is not a simple denial of anatomy, but the erotic deployment of the body; its covering, its prosthetic extension for the purposes of a reciprocal erotic fantasy" (282)

"Gender, however, has its own pleasures for Brandon and serves its own purposes. These pleasures of identification exceed those of desire, and, in that sense, Brandon is not only or easily a lesbian" (282)

"As I hope is clear, I do not have a problem with the norm of recognition as its functions in Benjamin's work. I think that it is, in fact, an appropriate norm for psychoanalysis. But I do wonder whether an untenable hopefulness has entered into her most recent descriptions of what is possible under the rubric of recognition. Moreover, as I have indicated, I question specifically whether overinclusiveness as she describes it can become the condition for the recognition of a separate Other, neither repudiated nor incorporated" (283)

"If the third is redefined as the music or harmony of dialogic encounter, what happens to the other thirds - the child who interrupts the encounter, the former lover at the door or on the phone, the past that cannot be reversed, the future that cannot be contained, teh unconscious itself as it rides the emergence of unanticipated circumstance? Surely, these are all negativities, even sources of destruction that cannot be fully overcome, sublated, resolved in the harmonious music of dialogue. What discord does that music drown out? What does it disavow in order to be?" (284)

"The dyad is an achievement, not a presupposition. Part of the difficulty of making it work is precisely that it is achieved within a psychic horizon that is fundamentally indifferent to it. And if negation is destruction that is survived, of what does survival consist?" (285)

"We do not need to accept a drive theory that claims that aggression is there for all time, and is constitutive of who we are, in order to accept that destructiveness poses itself continually as a risk. And that the risk is a perennial and irresolvable aspect of human psychic life" (285)

"He is suggesting that whatever consciousness is, whatever the self is, it will find itself only through a reflection of itself in another. To be itself, it must pass through self-loss, but when it passes through, it will never be "returned" to what it was. To be reflected in or as another has a double significance for consciousness, however, since consciousness will, through the reflection, regain itself in some way. but it will, by virtue of the external status of the reflection, regain itself as external to itself and hence continue to lose itself. Thus, the relationship to the Other will be, invariably, ambivalent. The price of self-knowledge will be self-loss, and the Other poses the possibility of both securing and undermining self-knowledge" (286)

"The moment in "Lordship and Bondage" when the two self-consciousnesses come to recognize one another is, accordingly, in the "life and death struggle," the moment in which they each see the shared power they have to annihilate the Other and, thereby, to destroy the condition of their own self-reflection. Thus, it is at a moment of fundamental vulnerability that recognition becomes possible and need becomes self-conscious" (287)

"the self as I am outlining it here is beyond itself from the start and is defined by this ontological ek-stasis, this fundamental relation to the Other in which it finds itself ambiguously installed outside itself" (288)

"For, yes, it make good sense to talk about a self, but are we sure it is intact prior to the act of splitting, and what does it mean to insist on a subject who "performs" its splitting? Is there nothing from which a subject is spit off at the outset that occasions the formation of the subject itself?" (288)

"For if the subject is both split and splitting, it is necessary to know what kind of split was inaugurative, what kind is undergone as a contingent psychic event, and, moreover, how those different levels of splitting relate to one another, if at all" (288-289)

"It simply avows that "we" who are relational do not stand apart form those relations and that we cannot think of ourselves as outside the decentering effects that the relationality entails. Moreover, when we consider that the rlations by which we are defined are not dyadic, but always refer to a historical legacy and futural horizon that is not contained by the Other but constitutes something like the OTher of the Other, then it seems to follow that who we "are" fundamentally is a subject in a temporal chain of desire that only occassionally and provisionally assumes the form of the dyad. Again, displacing the binary model for thinking about relationality will also help us appreciate the triangulating echoes in heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual desire, and complicate our understanding of the relation between sexuality and gender" (289)

"Let us now begin to think again on what it might mean to recognize one another when it is a question of so much more than the two of us" (289)

Prerna Srigyan's picture
November 28, 2021
In response to:

Ways to subvert oedipal binaries (or how do you become a "good enough" caregiver)

“But then again imagine an entirely different outcome: an analyst who survives destruction of the object? It seems to me one of those moments that, if we are lucky enough to be exposed to genuinely different disciplines and traditions, we can recognize the homologue in two entirely unlike forms, sameness despite difference. Such bridging of difference, in my view, was exemplary of the way to not only deconstruct but also radically reconfigure oppositions that might otherwise lead to impasse.” (Benjamin, 2013, p. 3)

“By embedding this tension between mother and baby within psychoanalytic theory and an understanding of complementary dynamics the effort was to make mutual recognition into a container for something much more complex, indeed the origin of so many later dilemmas of intersubjectivity: negotiating the sticky compromises and paradoxes of a dyad in which there is mutuality but asymmetry, identity of needs but conflict of needs, deep attunement but also difference” (Benjamin, 2013, p. 6)

“I was determined to have mother and baby ‘‘live’’ in the same theory and so bring together feminism and the psychology of infancy.” (Benjamin, 2013, p. 6)

“when the other survives destruction, this means more broadly that the other takes care of oneself and that the patient is released from enmeshment in the other’s needs; the safety of nonretaliatory survival means that the uncontrollability and unpredictability of the other can become a source of joy. In my assessment the lacuna in appreciating the importance of a capacity to recognize and thus fully engage (and enjoy!) a different other subject reflected a gap in realizing how our sense of agency and power come from giving and not merely from receiving” (Benjamin, 2013, p. 7)

“The ensuing exaggeration of the oedipal split between being and having is a marker of the fault line of gender, which it does more than merely regulate; it produces perverse and destructive forms of desire in the futile effort to escape its shameful clutche” (Benjamin, 2013, p. 11)

 Identificatory love

“I came up with the not so euphonious term ‘‘identificatory love,’’ a homoerotic love, meaning love of what is seen as or wished to be ‘‘like.’” (Benjamin, 2013, p. 10)

“how does this notion of identificatory love of the father remain relevant for understanding masculinity once we affirm (or rather once I restate what I am often rebuked for—not emphasizing the obvious explicitly enough) that the figure of attachment and separation excitement need not be so split; that mothers can be exciting as well as safe; that fathers can nurture; and that—at a social cost to be sure—boys can be girly, girls boyish, moms dads, dads moms, and everybody everything (or nothing) while anatomy and destiny too can be reversed?” (Benjamin, 2013, p. 10)

“Resisting the split between identificatory love and object love, reconfiguring the meaning of subjects and objects, is part of resisting normativity and regulation in the name of producing something other. That something might be called overinclusiveness, multiplicity, or queerness, but what matters to me is its preservation of emotional aliveness and recognition in the face of pain and shame” (Benjamin, 2013, p. 13)