This book aims at providing further contributions inspired by Bion’s paper Attacks on Linking () by a distinguinshed group of scholars who have focused on. Editor’s Note: This paper was originally published in the International Journal of Psychoanalysis, Vol. 40 (), pp. – The body of the text begins with Bion’s papers, Attacks on Linking, and Commentary on ‘Attacks on Linking’, on which the original chapters to.
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He provides various clinical illustrations of these phenomena. A kind of mental coupling analogous to sexual intercourse leading to biological conception is viewed as central to creative thought. Out of the intercourse of two comes a third. Out of the creative mating of aattacks and contained comes psychological growth and ln such coupling can be tolerated. In so doing, they block productive thinking, obstruct the analytic process, and undermine their capacity to learn from experience.
The refusal to see similarities, to appreciate metaphors and analogies, and to make connections among phenomena that belong together, striving instead to keep them separated or isolated from one another, is a common form of resistance to mental growth.
But so is the refusal to make distinctions, to recognize important differences, attempting instead to keep merged or linked phenomena that should be separated out from one another.
This is because valid knowledge and proper mental functioning requires us to attend to both similarities and differences, to appreciate oh links and distinctions or boundaries. If psychopathology entails attacks on links it also entails attacks on boundaries. If it strives to prevent coupling by keeping objects apart, it also prevents om coupling by undermining the fundamental separation that generates the two objects necessary for linking to occur in the first place.
If there is only one, no linking is possible.
Without implying that in focusing upon attacks on linking Bion intended to deny or was oblivious to attacks on separating, I feel attcaks is worth emphasizing that it is a mistake to identify psychopathology exclusively with the former, that is, with the totalization of difference de-linking that results in the antitheses that constitute splitting, for lniking equally results from attacks on separating, the totalization of similarity links that result in the absolute identifications that constitute various states of psychological merger.
However creative and life-enhancing transference may be at times, it is, after all, a form of linking that often involves distortion of neurotic and psychotic proportions. Primary process mentation is characterised as much by absolute identity as by absolute difference or antithesis. In contrast, secondary process mentation limking characterized by relative similarity and relative difference.
In marked contrast to linkin Bionian stress on the role of linking in human mentation, Laing envisions the mind as a process of de-linking or differentiating: The dialectical process moves toward integration, but integration is never complete. Although the formula thesis-antithesis-synthesis can be traced to Kant, Fichte and Schelling, Hegel himself rarely employing it, I believe it nonetheless captures the essential idea: Sigmund Freud lived in a culture permeated by Hegelian ideas.
We know he studied philosophy with Brentano and was, initially at least, enthused about both the man and his work Brook, It is therefore no surprise that Freudian theory is thoroughly dialectical. It would be false to suggest that Bion conceived learning from experience exclusively in terms of a preconception mating with a positive realization leading to a conception. An unfulfilled expectation is not quite the same thing as an active negation.
An absence is not the same thing as a conflicting or contradictory presence. Nowhere in Bion is the theme of development through conflict and compromise-formation given anything like the emphasis it receives in Freudian thought. I first addressed the respective biases toward linking and separating In “The Analyst’s Metaphors: A Deconstructionist Perspective” Carveth, I pointed out that although any two objects are inevitably similar in some respects while being different in others, some people, the linkersare inclined to repress difference, while others, the splitters, are inclined to repress similarity.
And, of course, a single person may do either at different times or on different levels of consciousness.
People are motivated to repress difference or similarity in order to defend against painful feelings of anxiety and depression having to do with separation or abandonment on the one hand and intrusion or engulfment on the other. Faced with a threat of abandonment one may seek to link; faced with a threat of impingement or engulfment one may seek to de-link, differentiate, separate and individuate.
Without lapsing into any biological or even psychological essentialism, Gilligan pointed to a general tendency for women to be linkers and for men to be separators, while acknowledging there sttacks many bjon to this rule. Hence, a view of analysis as separating or differentiating what has been fused may reflect a “masculine” bias in favour of difference, which may in turn be motivated by unconscious fears of symbiotic merger, impingement, annihilation, undifferentiation of self and object, loss of self-cohesion, castration, or the fear of “femininity.
This bias is likely motivated by unconscious fears of object loss, loss of love, castration, and superego condemnation, each of which in turn may threaten loss of self-cohesion. If they succeed in sublimating this bias toward Erosthey become the creative unifiers or integrators. The “separators” have a “masculine” bias toward attxcks If they succeed in sublimating this bias toward Thanatosthey become the creative discriminators or likning.
But, ultimately, neither bias, to the extent that it entails a defensive repression of one or the other component lihking what Freud regarded as our inherent bisexuality, can alone result in the achievement of optimal psychic functioning because this requires attention to reality in its entirety, both similarities and differences.
Hence, agtacks more adequate conception of analysis is as both metaphor-analysis and contrast-analysis: For just as different things can never be absolutely the same and yet remain different, so different things can never be absolutely different, without being similar in at least some respects. Hillman’s conclusion that “Analysis cannot constitute this cure until it, too, is no longer masculine in psychology” p.
We are cured when we are no longer only either “masculine” or “feminine” in psyche—that is, when we manage to stop “essentialising” or privileging one element of our “bisexual” nature at the expense of the other.
Needless to say, the reason the terms “masculine” and “feminine” are placed in inverted commas is to indicate that the equations in which they figure belong to the Imaginary and Symbolic orders Lacan, In other words, they refer to image and symbol rather attacos to anything biological, to what is imagined to be masculine or feminine in the order of human linknig and not to what an “essentializing” perspective might regard as being literally, as opposed to metaphorically, the case.
In what Burke called a “contextualising” perspective that restricts itself to the realm of psychic reality as the proper domain of psychoanalytical concern, the human subject is seen to be inevitably only figuratively masculine or feminine and never literally so.
In bringing to light the repressed “bisexuality” upon which the fictions or tropes that constitute our gender identities are founded, psychoanalysis reveals the constructed, dramatic and imaginal quality of human identity the “ego” or “self” as such. However, inclined we may be to take ourselves seriously in our roles as masculine and feminine actors, we are wise linkin remember that, as in all of our performances, in our sexual dramas we are never a man attackw a woman “as this table is a table” Sartre,p.
We forget or repress this awareness only at the attacms of falling into what Sartre described as “bad faith” or the “spirit of solemnity,” a phenomenon that I have discussed as a defensive regression involving the literalisation of metaphor and contrast Carveth,and that Lacan explained as the narcissistic alienation of the “ego” maintained by the primal and ongoing repression of the otherness within me the unconscious that would decentre my cherished identity and that, fortunately, periodically leads me to forget or mistake my lines.
The tendency for one or another image of absolute similarity or difference to hold us captive arises either from genuine ignorance of other possibilities or from a defence against the affects of anxiety and depression associated with the full range of infantile danger situations. We can only speculate about the factors contributing to a person’s bias toward similarity, Erosand “femininity,” or toward difference, Thanatosand “masculinity,” and the resulting personality orientations toward saying “Yes” agreeing, linking, and merging on the one hand, and saying “No” disagreeing, breaking links, separating and individuating on the other.
Factors llinking as, for example, the role of a depressed and withdrawn mother in the early development of the “linkers” and the corresponding role of an impinging, intrusive, and dominating mother, or a more general need to “dis-identify from mother” Greenson,in the early formation of the “separators” might be important. However, such pure types are nonexistent because Eros and Thanatos, integrating and disintegrating tendencies, gion and “masculinity,” inevitably coexist in a greater or lesser atttacks of fusion; because both types of danger situation may motivate oj personality orientations; and because both orientations may coexist on different levels of the personality structure and even serve to defend against each other.
These biases are reflected in psychoanalytic theory itself: But despite its patriarchalism in other respects, it seems apparent that the bias of the “linkers,” those predisposed to privilege similarity liinking difference, finds expression in the classical theory of the infantile danger situations, a theory that in focusing upon loss of the object, its love, the phallus, superego approval implicitly athacks those dangers having more to do with the object’s overwhelming or malevolent presence than with its absence.
The Freudian myth of artacks eternal longing to “refind” Freud,the lost object of primary identification and re-establish the oceanic bliss or Nirvana of primary narcissism Freud,; Grunberger, is qttacks half the story: And despite their matriarchalism in other respects, in the work of theorists such as Klein, Winnicott and Mahler, the Freudian bias toward Eros a reflection of Freud’s idealised image of the mother-infant relation is balanced to some extent by insight into wishes to destroy links, resist impingement, separate, individuate and guard autonomy, wishes associated with Thanatos understood as the psychic desire to separate in the service of independence or self-cohesion, whether this aim leads in the direction of literal life or death.
It is perhaps at least partly in this bias of the Freudian tradition toward Eros only partially corrected in with the introduction of the final dual drive theory that the explanation lies for its relative failure to recognise the importance of i.
That is why the critique of idols remains the condition of the conquest of symbols” p. When relative similarities are totalized into identities—and to cite but a few examples, women literally equated with castrated men, human motives with animal instincts, human selves with ceramic artifacts, or psychological dysfunctions with medical illnesses—the consequence is a psychic regression from the differentiated experience characteristic of the secondary process and the depressive position to the undifferentiation or fusion that characterises the primary process and the paranoid-schizoid position.
It is important, however, to recognise that in addition to involving defusion or splitting, regressive mental functioning also entails varying degrees of fusion or undifferentiation. Conversely, it is linkin simply that in the primary process metaphors are literalised such that analogies are reduced to identities, but also that contrasts based on recognition of relative differences are totalized into antitheses, attackks oppositions, or splits: The one-sided conception of psychopathology as “forbidden mixture” developed by Chasseguet-Smirgel in “Perversion and the Universal Law” needs to be complemented by recognition of the pathologies of “forbidden separation.
In my view, regressive splitting and fusion function as defences against core anxieties of absolute bio or engulfment on the one hand and absolute separation or abandonment on the other. But while the fundamental anxieties motivate the various concretized associations, fixed ideas and black and white thinking—the psychic rigidification or mental totalitarianism—that serve to liinking against them, they do not merely give rise to defensive reification boon are themselves manifestations of it.
For such anxieties embody the myths attackw totalized identity complete loss of boundaries or de-differentiation and totalized difference complete loss of connection or links that always already lin,ing regressive fusion and defusion.
In other words, there is a linkiing of psychopathological reactions of undifferentiation and disintegration ranging from the mild neuroticto the moderate borderline and narcissistic to the severe psychotic. Emancipation from psychic enslavement by the myths no oneness and separateness in their varying degrees and manifestations requires a therapeutic process of demythologization or deliteralization in which “dead” or “dying” metaphors and contrasts are “resurrected” or “revived.
Linking, Attacks on |
In returning to “life” they at the same time liberate us from the “deadly” serious, primary process world of psychotic incorporation and polarization, fusion and defusion. In this way, therapeutic deconstruction permits a degree of transcendence of the splitting and fusion characteristic of the paranoid-schizoid position and advance to the more differentiated and integrated secondary process order of reality and relatively mature secondary identifications characteristic of the depressive position.
Just as it is necessary to overcome the splitting entailed in a conception of the paranoid-schizoid position as all-bad and the depressive position as all-good by recognizing the good in PS and the bad in D and the dialectical interdependence of the two positions or mental levels Carveth,so the merits of the primary process e. Loewald, among others, emphasized the creative potential of primary process thought and the adaptive potential of regression, especially when secondary process functioning has becomes too distant from its vital roots in the unconscious.
At the same time, it seems important to recognise PS and D, primary and secondary processes, as the terminal poles respectively on a continuum, the “intermediate area” of which may be viewed, following Winnicottas attacls “transitional process.
Both vital experience of the arts and transitional faith in and worship of the sacred exist between the poles of dogmatic literalistic belief and an entirely rationalist scepticism that, having been achieved, is temporarily suspended on entry into the transitional area and resumed again on exit. Although, as Winnicott understood, it remains important to accomplish the transition from the merely subjective to the merely objective, it is in the transitional area that vitality and meaning may be found.
Lnking of the Psychotic from the In Personalities. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis The Psycho-Analytic Study of Thinking. Freud and the analysis of poetry pp. A Collection Critical Essays. Psychoanalysis and Contemporary Thought 7: The Still Small Voice: Psychoanalytic Reflections on Guilt and Conscience.
Attacks on Linking Revisited: A New Look at Bion’s Classic Work
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Cornell University Press, Notes on some schizoid mechanisms. The Restoration of the Self. Jacques Lacan and the Ecole Freudienne.
Some considerations on repetition and repetition compulsion pp. Yale University Press, The Psychological Birth of the Human Infant: