Sunday, November 28, 2010

Going Beyond Fragmentation 6 - Towards Integration through History

Sky, Phoenix Park, 2008

I have stated many times in these posts that we can use the creative arts, which are essentially the fruits of imagination at its most powerful, to help heal the wounded soul.  This I have called the healing power of the imagination.  Every subject has its history, and anyone who qualifies in any area of knowledge will have studied the history of his/her own subject.  There are histories of Mathematics, English, Philosophy, Religiopius Studies, Science, Geography, Psychology and so forth.  Likewise, there is a history of pschoanalysis and its uses and indeed abuses.  There is a history of the techniques used to heal clients over the short history of the various psychotrherapies, too.

A Brief History

We have already mentioned the fact that many distinct movements grew out of the fundamentals of psycho-analysis as defined by Sigmund Freud as its founder and creator.  Firstly, lets look at "The Object-Relations" school of psychoanalysis.

The Object-Relations Theory and Practice of Psychoanalysis:

This school may also be termed Bristish Psychoanalysis, as it is based on the work of Melanie Kline.  What is most important for us here is the fact that in the object-relations theory there is an emphasis on the early fantasy life of the child.  Let us here quote the words of Professor Levine which are clear and succinct:

The term "object-relations" itself is profoundly misleading.  No matter how much we remind ourselves of the strict definition of "object" as that to which a drive (sexual or aggressive) is attached, we are constantly tempted to think of a real object or person and a real relation.  Object-relations then turns into an interpersonal theory. 
What is missing in this interpretation of  object-relations theory is the role of fantasy.  The "object" is not the other; it is an internal representation of the other to which my psychic energy is attached or "cathected," that is to say, , the object is an image of what I am attched to.  In a strict Kleinian formulation, I never have a relationship to the real other (primarily the mother), rather I dwell in an internal fantasy world of mental representations.  The other is there for me only as represented within this internal sphere. (Poiesis, p. 30)
Maintaining the Cartesian Dualism

René Descartes (1596 – 1650), Frans hals, 1548
The central claim of what is often called Cartesian dualism, in honour of Descartes, is that the immaterial mind and the material body, while being ontologically distinct substances, causally interact. This is an idea which continues to feature prominently in many non-European philosophies. Mental events cause physical events, and vice-versa. But this leads to a substantial problem for Cartesian dualism: How can an immaterial mind cause anything in a material body, and vice-versa? This has often been called the "problem of interactionism".  Essentially, René Descartes separated the mind from the body, pointing out that the former is made of thoughts or mental events and is somehow contained in the body as a type of vehicle which can express its wants and desires.  By what means the two might interact Derscartes never clearly explained.  Let us return once agfain to Professor Levine:

What is interesting is that for Freud, in contrast to Descartes, the founder of modern thought, the internal world is not a world of thoughts but of images.  Mental life is imaginal not rational.  Klein was able to take to take this insight and use it in her development of play therapy with children... He [Winnicott] follows Klein in acknowledging the importance of children's play and fantasy life; but hec situates this discovery in a radically new framework through his notion of transitional space.  (Ibid., p. 31)
Levine is fully correct when he states that this notion of transitional space is hugely important.  We have all heard quoted many times the fact that the blanket as one of the first transitional objects in the life of a young child.  After that it may become a dolly or a teddy and some favourite toy or piece of material.  Once again, Levine is extremely clear here:

The transitional object is both me and not-me; it is neither internal nor external, but serves as a bridge or connector between the two realms.... Transitional phenomena are not just interesting occurrences in a sequence of developmental steps.  Rather they express the central characteristic of mental life: the psyche is not inside nor is it outside; it is in-between.  Psychological life is transitional.  That is to say, healthy psychological experience takes place in transitional space; it is only in illness that we wall ourselves up in an interior world.  And similarly, it is only in the flight from illness that we deny the very existence of interiority and takr refuge in a "real" world outside us.  (Ibid., pp. 31-32)

To be continued.

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