內視,同理心,及精神健康的半圓 08

Introspection, Empathy, and the Semi-Circle of Mental Health. (1982)
Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 63:395-407 (IJP)
Introspection, Empathy, and the Semi-Circle of Mental Health
Heinz Kohut



What instruments does a critic have at his disposal to counteract Freud’s magic? Two, I believe: one weaker and one stronger. The weaker one is the attempt to undermine the power of the myth that has supported Freud’s concept by analysing it in order to demonstrate not only that it does not support the original theory but that in fact, it supports the new one that is now advanced to supplant the old. This is the rational approach. The stronger one must drive out the Devil with Beelzebub, as the saying goes,to present a dose of counter-magic in order to neutralize and overcome that which supports established rule. I will for the moment postpone the first task, the re-interpretation of the myth, and will turn directly to the second one, which, I will add, has provided me with the undoubtedly puzzling final part of the title of my paper. I will, in other words, now turn to the ‘semi-circle of mental health’.

一位批評者擁有什麼工具可供使用,來對抗佛洛伊德的魔力?我相信有兩個; 一個較弱,一個較強。較弱的工具企圖以分析支持佛洛伊德的觀念的神話的力量,來逐漸損壞它,為了不但要證明,這個力量並沒有支持原先的理論,而是事實上,它支持現在正在被提出的新的理論,用來代替舊的。這是理性的方法。較強的工具必須以惡魔驅除惡魔,如同諺語所說,為了呈現一劑對抗魔力,才能中立並克服支援既有規則的魔力。目前我將暫時拖延第一件工作,神話的重新解釋,然後直接轉向第二個工作。容我補充一下,第二個工作曾經供應我無可置疑的我的論文標題的最後一項。換句話說,我現在將轉向「精神健康的半圓」。

My counter-magic is derived from a story told by Homer. It is not a tragic story in the sense of tragos, the sacrificial he-goat of the Dionysian cult, from which tragedy, as represented by Sophocles, evolved and got its name, but tragic in a human sense, as represented by Euripides striving, resourceful man, attempting to unfold his innermost self, battling against external and internal obstacles to its unfolding; and warmly committed to the next generation, to the son in whose unfolding and growth he joyfully participates thus experiencing man’s deepest and most central joy, that of being a link in the chain of generations.


Have you guessed by now who the embodiment of my counter magic may be? And have you hit on the solution of the riddle that I posed for you when, in the title that I gave to this paper, I spoke of the ‘semi-circle of mental health’? If not, I will no longer keep you in suspense and will tell you the story that will relieve you of uncertainty.


It is, I like to think, the first story concerned with an individual who, although still surrounded by demi-god heroes, is a modern man. And we can thus, I think, identify with him more easily than with the ritually destroyed victim of Sophocles’ tragedy, and can understand him and his human trials and tribulations more easily and reliably than we can King Oedipus, who is propelled toward his doom. It is the story of the first would-be draft evader in literature, the story of Odysseus.


When, as told by Homer, the Greeks began to organize themselves for their Trojan expedition, they drafted all the chieftains to join them with their men, ships and supplies. But Odysseus, ruler of Ithaca, in the prime of young adulthood, with a young wife and a baby son, was anything but enthusiastic about going to war. When the delegates of the Greek states arrived to assess the situation and to compel Odysseus’ compliance, he malingered, faking insanity.


The emissaries Agamemnon, Menelaus, and Palamedes found him ploughing with an ox and an ass yoked together, and flinging salt over his shoulders into the furrows; on his head was a silly, conically shaped hat, as usually worn by Orientals. He pretended not to know his visitors and gave every sign that he had taken leave of his senses. But Palamedes suspected him of trickery. He seized Telemachus, Odysseus’ infant son, and flung him in front of Odysseus’ advancing plough. Odysseus immediately made a semi-circle with his plough to avoid injuring his son. The movement demonstrated his mental health and made him confess that he had only feigned madness in order to escape going to Troy.


Here then is the solution to the puzzle. It is the semi-circle of Odysseus which, as the semi-circle of mental health, I am holding up against the father murder of Oedipus non-scientific, perhaps, and emotional in its appeal (and appealing in its simple humanness); but then, so is the appeal of King Oedipus and his complex.


The semi-circle of Odysseus’ plough proves nothing, of course, but it is a fitting symbol of that joyful awareness of the human self of being temporal, of having an unrolling destiny: a preparatory beginning, a flourishing middle, and a retrospective end; a fitting symbol of the fact that healthy man experiences, and with deepest joy, the next generation as an extension of his own self.


It is the primacy of the support for the succeeding generation, therefore, which is normal and human, and not intergenerational strife and mutual wishes to kill and to destroy however frequently and perhaps even ubiquitously, we may be able to find traces of those pathological disintegration products of which traditional analysis has made us think as a normal developmental phase, a normal experience of the child.


It is only when the self of the parent is not a normal, healthy self, cohesive, vigorous, and harmonious, that it will react with competitiveness and seductiveness rather than with pride and affection when the child, at the age of 5, is making an exhilarating move toward a heretofore not achieved degree of assertiveness, generosity, and affection. And it is in response to such a flawed parental self which cannot resonate with the child’s experience in empathic identification that the newly constituted assertive-affectionate self of the child disintegrates and that the break-up products of hostility and lust of the Oedipus complex make their appearance.



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