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MELANIE KLEIN AND DONALD WINNICOTT

Autor: Alexandru Trifan
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ABSTRACT: 

In a review of the conceptual psychonalitic contributions of Melanie Klein and Donald Winnicott, the author emphasizes the psychodynamic vectors acting in a young child, which penetrate and directing the behavoiur pattern of conduct seen in adults.

 


 

The principal object as “big bang ”

The doctrine promoted by Melanie Klein is closer to the instinctually orientated constitutional pole; at the opposite pole there is the approach of the psychosocial determinations of the intra-psychic conflicts, while the psychoanalysis of the Self promoted by Anna Freud occupies an intermediary position.

The essential contribution of Melanie Klein, accepting the existence of the two instincts, of life and of death, lays the stress on the latter as an expression of an inborn aggressiveness. Its first manifestation is the oral sadism which constitutes the primordial source of the diffuse anxiety. The outside projection, under the form of persecutory anxieties, is made on the principal object, meaning the breast of the mother.

For the kleinian psychoanalysts Tanatos, as well as Eros, exist under the form of some unconscious fantasies, even from the beginning of life, as precursors of hate and love, facilitating the capacity of symbol building. The envy comes from the fear that the given breast would be voluntarily taken away, which determines the individual to hate it and to make it the target of of his aggressiveness, in a desire to destroy it.

The envy gives birth and reinforces the greed. The jealousy represents an effect, which appeared later, together with the installation of the Oedipal period of the triangle relationships.

Melanie Klein postulates the existence of a functional Self, even from the birth, and the persecutory fantasy refers to its annihilation. All the sensations of obtaining a principle of purified pleasure in the inner side of the Self are expulsed and projected over the persecutory objects.

The instinct of life, the Eros or the libido, is primary objectualized in the image of the good breast. Everything that is associated with it is invested with libido and introjected as good objects infused with pleasure, building the patrimony of trust, of the wish to explore the reality, to learn and to know. The emotion predominantly connected with the Eros is the recognition, as an expression of the libido directed towards good objects. The gratitude diminishes the greed, in contrast with the envy which amplifies it, being at the origin of the authentic generosity, and different from the reactive generosity, which is a defence against the envy which eventually can end in the sensation of affective robbery. The guilt, as predominant emotion in the ulterior stage, fortifies the recognition but does not find itself at its origin. Conceptualizing a primary Self with a part dived in the unconsciousness, Melanie Klein describes its four fundamental functions, all present from the beginning of life:

  1. the appearance of some defences against the anxiety;
  2. the promotion of introjection and projection processes;
  3. the object relation;
  4. the unroll of the integration and synthesis functions.
  1. The content of anxiety is represented initially by the fear of the persecutory objects. After this, the re-introjection of aggressiveness under the form of persecutory objects, transforms itself into the fear of the external and internal persecutors. The latter stays at the origin of the primary Super-ego anxiety.
  2. The neutralization of the lethal instinct is made through projection, the internal tensions lying at the origin of the paranoid fears, while the projection of the states of pleasure lies at the basis of the feeling of trust.
  3. Concerning the objectual relations, the originality of the kleinian theory is of the first rank importance. The psychoanalyst describes the partial object, understood as being of two types: the breast of the mother as an independent part of the total body; so that the real whole object is split in two halves: a good one and a bad one, with their split and their separate valorisation. This state is called splitting. A person can be perceived only as a good half or as a bad half, but each one substituting the whole. So that the object is perceived ideal or persecutory. Then, an incomplete synthesis rebuilds a type of unity which is ambivalent.
  4. The integration is based on the internalization of good objects and the extern projection of the bad objects maintains the purity of the pleasure principle in the Self, which makes the synthesis of the partial good and bad objects, making them total objects. The excessive development of idealization follows the protection of the good internal and external whole objects from the Self. The excessive aggressiveness determines an exaggerated functioning of the splitting mechanism, having as aim the protection of the internal objects proper for the contamination with the bad.

 

Funda mental positions

The fact that in early developmental stages (the first months of life) the whole aggressiveness is projected outside, while the only objective relation is that with the partial objects and that, in the following months, the projection of aggressiveness returns projected retrograde to the Self, so that the bad external objects change into internal persecutors, has allowed Melanie Klein to construct two fundamental psychic structures: the paranoid-schizoid position, in which only partial objects exist and the depressive position, in which the whole object appears. The first position is characteristic for the first half of the first year of life and the other builds the organization of the primitive Self in the second half of the year.

The paranoid-schizoid position stays under the dominance of the relations with the partial objects and of the conservation and survival fear of the Self (Ego) (the persecution anxiety).The defence mechanisms of the latter are: the splitting, the idealization, the negation of the inner and outer reality, the rigi/ dity and artificiality of the emotions and the projective identification. All these are met, aside from the psychopathology, in the deviant mental organization of the fanatics.

About the splitting we could add the fact that when the aggressiveness is excessive and exclusively bound to the bad object, this could “explode” in fragments as a consequence of a secondary and tertiary splitting. Every “bad” fragment can be projected on another external object, resulting through these multiple persecutors.

The idealization as an exaggeration of all the qualities of the good internal or external object, satisfies the fantasies of an unlimited gratification from an untouchable breast. This offers a protection against the persecutory objects and the intolerable externality, at the price of losing the capacity of correctly testing the reality. The depressive idealization is provoking the hyper-dependence. The prototype of negating the internal and external reality is the hallucinatory satisfaction of the wishes, determining the defection of testing the reality.

The rigidity and artificiality of emotions result from the dispersion of these as a consequence of the excessive splitting and protect the ego from being conscious about the own aggressiveness and the persecutory fear.

The projective identification represents the outside projection of some split parts of the Ego. The Ego (Self) remains outside but keeps relations with them.

The aim of the projective identification process is for some external objects to enter forcefully inside and to control them through parts of the Self. In this way, an unaccepted part of an internal object of the Self takes the external figures into possession, obliging them to wear unacceptable characteristics, becoming persecutory and necessitating to be controlled. All the forces are perceived as coming from outside and the Self is perceived as poor and weak.

Melanie Klein sustained that, at six months old, the splitting process begins to decline. The infant begins to realize that the two objects, the good one and the bad one are, in reality a whole one and the same thing, and that the mother, as a whole has good parts as well as bad parts. The whole projection of the aggression outside from the period of the paranoid-schizoid position, which allows the infant to believe in the inexistence of the inner hostility and in the absence of the guilt for this feeling, becomes inoperative. As the time is passing by, while the projection obtains only a partial success, the infant becomes conscious that his attacks against the whole object, with its good and bad parts puts his inner bad part into evidence. The predominant fear in the depressive position is no longer that of an external attack but that of not destroying, through aggressiveness, the good external and internal objects. The profound anxious preoccupation, concerning the survival of the good internal and external objects, becomes now more important than the protection of the Self, representing the substance of the depressive anxiety and of guilt. The bad internal objects, which are not projected outside, become the embryo of the Upper-Self; but in its inside, the good internal objects can be contaminated by the bad ones, incubating cruel perfection exigencies.

The depressive position is surpassed through handling mechanisms: the reparation, the exacerbation of the reality testing, the ambivalence and the gratitude

The reparation, as an effort to reduce the guilt of the attack of the good object, through the trial to repair the damage, expresses the attachment and the gratitude for the object, protecting its inner and outer place and staying at the origin of sublimation.

The emphasis on testing the reality is done in order to obtain the conviction that the object good in totality (in the beginning the mother) is still viable, in spite of the greed and of the destructive fantasies, calming like this the fear of lost, which dominates this period. Melanie Klein considers that the process of regret and mourning for the one’s own aggressiveness and for the fictitious prejudices brought to the good objects, as being crucial in this phase.

The ambivalence. The integration of love with hate conducts to a deepening of emotions, reflected through the appearance of the empathic capacity for the internal happenings of the others.

The gratitude. The regret and the gratitude activate the attachment for the object and fortifies the reparatory habits. These, associated with gratitude, promote the tolerance, the creativity, the understanding (in the way of explaining), the trust in others and the capacity to give and receive love.

At the border between normality and pathology, psychodynamic groups are exacerbated such as: exaggerated omnipotence, the identification of the Super – ego, the compulsive introjections, the triumphalism and the extreme hippomaniac idealization.

 

The Genesis of the Super -ego

Other important contributions of Melanie Klein are referring to the theory of the Super-ego and to the early stages of the Oedipus’s complex. According to Klein, the Super-ego would appear even from the first year of life, as a part of the depressive position, its excessive pressure blocking the overriding of this phase.

It would derive, in the vision of Melanie Klein, from the bad re-introjected objects with the complete figure after having been fragmented and expulsed before. So that the guilt comes through their reintroduction, this time, wearing a sadist tail grown during the anterior phase. The neutral objects are internalized in the Ego, while those characterized by prohibitive and exigent aspects are received in the Super-ego. Even in ideal conditions, under which this succeeds to neutralize the influence of the bad objects, a bad-good internal contamination takes place. In order to avoid this, the Super-ego trains its persecutory and exigent qualities constraining the good objects to the acquisition of perfection. With the existence of a bigger number of good objects internalized in the Super-ego, its perfectionist exigencies are more intense. The sadism results from the hate of the Super-ego for the Id (Se).

For the maintenance of the good objects and the interior of the Ego, the Super-ego idealizes and regulates the functionality of the former, training it to restoration and sublimation or monitoring it through depressive anxieties figured out by the guilt or desperation in front of the dangers which threaten the good internal objects.

Finally, a last thesis of Melanie Klein is that, the Oedipic organization has its roots in the early childhood under the impulse of the conflicts and the oral drive, so that the orality and geniality are superposed.

While the Super-ego develops during the oral phase, specifically in the depressive position, the guilt derives originally from the culpability for the oral conflicts. Even though we are speaking about the relation of the type two persons, we cannot believe in the total exclusion of the father. His closing inside an early three person relation appears logical, even though the instinctual place occupied by him is not well defined.

It is possible that the baby perceives his indirect role in the protection of gratifications and the jealousy to appear in the case in which his protective role is distracted by the mother or by other close figures.

 

What we do have and what we do not have in ourselves

One of the most efficient psychodynamic vectors is the feeling of guilt.

Its importance lies in the possibility to act as a manipulation instrument of the Ego, so that the isolated individuals, as well as the more or less numerous human groups, can be blamed. There exists the possibility of inducing culpability, its distortion, the deviation of the direction or target, the exacerbation or projection aiming to obtain an advantage. The self-manipulation analysis, which is realized by the interior culpability in the frame of depression and obsessive nervousness, made by D.W. Winnicott, is very important, too. He is referring to: the guilt feeling of these individuals who developed the capacity to feel it again, the origin of culpability, the absence of the possibility to feel guilty.

In terms Ego-Id (Se) the guilt, as a feeling, is an anxiety of a particular type, felt as a consequence of the conflict between hate and love, implying the ambivalence. Freud puts him relatively late, in the oedipal phase, when the boy, as a result of the castration anxiety, feels a grade of fantastic hate for his father, but with another segment of affectivity, he loves him; this conflict induces a feeling of guilt. By contrast, Donald Winnicott confers him to an early phase, as a prototype of the bounce between love and hate, specific for the period in which the baby makes the first steps.

Introducing, in 1923, the concept of Super-ego, Freud indicated the fact that the Self in its battle with the Id (Se) begins to utilize it in the quality of an allied force which deserves a name. This time too, Winnicott distances himself from Freud, who puts his contemporary Super-ego with the Oedipal complex, then, when the guilt resides in the intention, discovering that we can find it in each baby or child in part, as he is developing starting from the brute fear to the relationship with a venerable person who can understand and forgive.

In order to study the guilt at its origin, the paediatric psychoanalyst is utilizing the theory of Melanie Klein, positioning it in the “depressive position” phase, which follows the “paranoid position” at 6 months old, when the baby perceives the concerning.

The latter is referring to the possibly destroying results of the aggressiveness on the mother’s breast, she is being at the same time lover because she provides care. The maternal figure has to accomplish an important function: that of sustaining the situation of care a sufficiently long period of time- at least some hours after the breast-feeding – in order for the baby to have the comforting certitude of the survival of the object breast-mother and to have enough time to develop the tendency to offer or split.

Especially in this phase, the baby is not capable to tolerate the change of those who are his caregivers or the absence of the mother. The need for occasions in which he makes reparations and restorations, in order for the oral sadism to be accepted by the immature Self is deduced from Melanie Klein’s contributions in this field. Through observing the origins of concern, Donald Winnicott shows that the baby, discovering that the mother survives and accepts the restorative gestures, becomes capable to accept the responsibility for the phantasm of the cruel instinctive impulse, opening the way of pity and concern. Carelessness makes place for the feeling of guilt, the capacity of the individual to tolerate the aggressive elements develops gradually from the primitive tendency towards love. The perception of the difference between fantasy and reality is concomitant with the recognition of the mother’s capacity to survive the pulsing moment and so to be present to receive and understand the real separator gesture.

The revisions establish a benign circle: pulsing experience – Acceptance of the responsibility on which the culpability is based – the elaboration – authentic restorative gesture. If something does not work well, the capacity to feel the guilt is annulled and it is replacement with one of the primitive defensive forms, like the splitting of the objects into good and bad, does not inhibit the pulsing. At the question which is the age at which the culpability appears, the psychoanalyst gives as clue the first year of life, meaning the period in which the baby has a relation of two-bodies with his mother.

At this period of depressive position, in the centre lies the doubt about the result of the battle between the good and the bad or, in psychiatric terms, between the benign and the persecutory elements. The construction of the good and bad in the first year of life depends on the satisfactory or frustrating quality of the functional elements. But the good becomes protected from the bad and a complex model is adopted as a defence system against the chaos from inside and outside. Through these, the psychoanalytical theory offers the possibility of identification of the individual value ideas.

Another concept analyzed by Donald Winnicott is the capacity to be concerned. A dynamic positioning finds it situated between fear and guilt.

When it appears, it contains positive connotations, in contrast to the negative ones of guilt, which is an anxiety connected to the ambivalence, implying a degree of integration of the Self which should permit the retention of the image of the good object simultaneously with the idea of its destruction.

The concern, in its positive sense, appears in a period before the Oedipal complex, meaning the relation between three persons. Then, we have to search it in the two bodies period, but not before the mother is being perceived as a whole person, when she is the surface on which the baby stays in a poor balance because of the fact that it is not taken in her arms anymore.

Another condition is that of an independent Self Should have developed from the auxiliary Self of the mother; the first contains a body scheme and a psychosomatic life. With this personal wealth, ambivalence tones, can be bough, which make the appearance of concern possible. Those refinements sculpt two statues, that of the mother-object and of the mothercare.

The concern means the protection of the motherobject of the fantasy associated with the bloody pulsing of the Id (Se) containing attack and destruction. The concern aims at keeping the mother-care, scattering away if sufficient occasions occur to convince that mother will survive.

If not, the concern becomes guilt and the anguish appears.

The mother’s presence makes the child more comfortable in his pulsions, making the pulsing life free.

The guilt exists only in a potential stage, appearing as depression in the conditions under which the restoration does not take place. From the potential phase, the guilt can come back to what we call concern, a feeling with positive connotations, in which the baby is able to assume the responsibility for his own emotional impulses and for the their resulting acts.

 

Transitional Objects

Once the autonomy of mother’s body is gained, the baby starts the scission between external and internal world. The appearance of the latter represents a “lunar” step towards humanization, constituting an oven where the external impact is ripped in answers.

At the beginning, external objects are represented by Me: the thumb, the little blanket. Then the forms around become The other. In that way external and internal relational spaces are formed, separated by a boundary which is passed by means of transactional objects. The fact that the attachment to a woollen tuft, to a blanket or to a pillow corner takes place with a four to twelve month old infant has convinced Donald Winnicott that the transactional object is oral. The things go forward with the autonomy that affects the omnipotent libido of the clumsy child.

Now, the tendency of handling objects develops in the external space and evolves into the internal space. Actually, the manipulation takes place here, the toys are phantasmagorically invested with the characteristics of real scenarios. The illusion of handling in his imagination saves the child from the disillusion of not being omnipotent.

The transactional phenomenon is the result of a “primary creativity”. Once appeared for the first time, it is submitted to a reality test in a second time. Between those two moments the relation with the transactional object is placed, being situated at the midpoint between the “subjective” and the “objective”. The objective is a part of the exterior, but the child does not situate it there; it does not come from the interior either, because it is not a hallucination.

Not only do the transactional objects and phenomena serve to the gradual internalization of the exterior world but they also bring to the child a precious gift, namely, a neutral experience field where the scenarios can be proved and played without the fear of punishment or the danger of being contested. Being a part of the illusion field, the transactional space will later become art, religion, imaginative life, scientific creation field.

Donald Winnicott makes a connection between his theory of self division in a true one and a false one and Freud’s self division in a central part which contains the pulse ball (pregenital and genital sexuality) and another one turned to exterior and being in relation to the world.

The baby’s ego goes forward to a state where the Id’s demands will be felt like a Self part. The satisfaction becomes an Ego fortifier forming the pre-requisites to a reflection of the Self. Through this phenomenon one may understand the need of the child to be positively reflected by his parents.

The false Self systematization can be classified as follows:

  1. The false Self, pretends to be true and will be the one that the observers tend to perceive as the real person. The true Self is maintained hidden and is looked for if the false Self systematization fails.
  2. The true Self is potentially recognized and has the permission to live a secret life. At this point, the false Self protects the real one from abnormal environment conditions. This is an extension of the psychoanalytical concept that has a symptom value for a sick person.
  3. The false Self main preoccupation is to look for the conditions which make it possible for the true Self ’s to appear. If those conditions are not accomplished, a new protection system against the true Self must be reorganized, and if a solution can not be found suicidal ideation appears.
  4. The false Self is built up based on the identification of the surrounding persons.
  5. The health status is established when the false Self is built by the systematization of a polite and well-mannered social attitude In other words, the frequency, the alliance between the intellectual approach and the false Self contains a dangerous potential.

Donald Winnicott believes that when a high intellectually powerful person organizes in a false Self there is a strong tendency for the mind to become its residence Thus, the intellectual activity will be dissociated from the psychosomatic existence and will create a Faustian situation of the academician’s unhappiness because feels apocryphal.

The aetiology of False Self must be looked for in the first stages of object relation. While the mother held her baby in her arms it manifests by gestures that express spontaneous impulses periodically. The source of those gestures is the true Self. The mother can interfere or not with infantile omnipotence which is revealed through gesture or through a sensory-motor group. The true Self is strongly bound by the spontaneous gesture and the mother is good enough to favour the child, reinforcing the baby’s weak Self. In other words, the true Self becomes a reality only if the mother manages to meet with the baby’s spontaneous gesture or with the sensory hallucination. Then, he begins to believe in an exterior reality that doe not contradict his omnipotence.

If the mother’s adjusting ability to hallucination and to the a spontaneous gestures of her baby is not good enough, he grows up but he lives a false life. His protest against the fact that he is forced to live false a life is manifested by irritability, sucking trouble, sleep trouble and more. In order to be obedient, he gets, a false Self which starts working and he builds himself a set of false relations. With the help introspection he makes scenarios that seem real; the true ego hides, the spontaneity disappears. Up to a point the false Self has a defending the true Self role, but if a profound dissociation takes place, the true self not only can be exploited and hidden but also annihilated as an expression of mother’s behaviour who has been both good and bad in a tormenting and irregular way; not even the imitation is capable to dissipate such an emphasized confusion.

In the earliest phase, the true Self is the one that generates individual option and spontaneous gesture.

The latter is the true self in action and it is the only one that can confer the feeling of being real. It has its origin in bodily tissues and corporal functions, and is a primary phenomenon that does not depend on the exterior. The external reality tribute is paid off by all of the pieces of false self formation and subsidized by that. Conditions are created of forming what Freud called the living bladder, with a cortical receptive layer or of a membrane that separates the interior from the exterior. The true Self appears like a virtual space as soon as that the most primitive psychic organization form of the individual comes into e xistence, meaning the totality of living qualities from a sensory-motor point of view. When a strong dissociation between the authentic and false Self is produced a dim capacity to create and use symbols can be observed; this situation has important implications in object theory and transactional phenomenon.

Better said, the false Self develops when the own Id child pulses are disqualified leading, in a first, phase to irresolute confusion. For the example: the child is hungry; the mother is busy and she does not want to feed it. She acts as if she denied the baby’s appetite or if the child is older she tells him abruptly: no, you are not hungry. The child becomes perplexed in front of the reality of his instinctual drive and ends up renouncing to his authentic options and becoming compliant to the others impulses.

This example is illustrative for understanding the deviated inconsequent direction of the behaviour development.

 

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