內視,同理心,及精神健康的半圓 09

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

內視,同理心,及精神健康的半圓 09


And now a few words about the re-interpretation of the Oedipus myth that I promised you before. It is a remarkable fact that nobody, as far as I know, has pointed out, at least not in an effective way, a feature of the Oedipus myth which refers to the intergenerational relationship in aspect of the story which is truly remarkable, especially by comparison with the parallel aspect of the intergenerational story about Odysseus and Telemachus as told us by Homer. It is as if analysts had reversed their usual stance as regards King Oedipus by taking the manifest content father murder, incest as the essence, while disregarding clues, in particular genetic clues, that may allow us to see the relationship between parents and son in a different light.


Is it not the most significant dynamic-genetic feature of the Oedipus story that Oedipus was a rejected child? Never mind the all-explanatory oracle that served as a convenient vehicle for rationalizing a human failure as obedience to the gods. The fact is that Oedipus was not wanted by his parents and that he was put out into the cold by them. He was abandoned in the wilderness to die. While his appealing-assertive baby self found substitute parents’ own deep the sense of his original rejection must have remained. Does our attention to this part of the story not allow us to see King Oedipus’ ‘Oedipus complex’ in a different light?


And does it not, by stark contrast, illuminate even further, how Odysseus’ normal intergenerational response, the semi-circle of his plough, led to a relationship between father and son ,remind you of their shoulder-to-shoulder fight against outside disturbers, thus re-establishing the interrupted intra-familial bond which, I submit is the true and nuclear essence of humanness. This nuclear essence of man is not a surface phenomenon, not part of a precariously maintained civilized crust of the personality or of a reaction formation. It constitutes the essential nucleus of the self and the access to it in our patients is often attained only with the greatest difficulty. But now I will stop.


My main message today is the same that I gave twenty-five years ago when I was jarred into action because I saw that the operational mismatch that led to the psychobiological framework of analytic theory, had brought about severe distortions of our perception of man’s psychological essence without yet achieving a true integration of analysis with biology and medicine.


It was, in particular, Freud’s positing of the primacy of the drives that had provided the basis for a specific, incomplete concept of psychological man,guilty Man, told to be civilized, and unwilling to comply. On the other hand, I felt that the two universes accessible to science are defined operationally via the basic stance of the observer. The sciences which explore the fields that are accessible via extrospection: the physical and biological sciences. And the sciences which explore the fields that are accessible via introspection: psychoanalysis par excellence.


The first part of my paper repeated what I said twenty-five years ago. And I hope that I have now stated my message regarding the basic experience-distant theory of psychoanalysis clearly and intelligibly.


In the second part I re-interpreted the position and significance of an experience-near theory, the theory of the Oedipus complex, in the light of the shift that I advocate from psycho-biology to psychology, from homo natura to homo psychologicus. And I advanced the claim that the force that impels us to carry out the semi-circle of Odysseus’ plough lies at the most central core of our self, while the forces that motivate us towards the deeds of King Oedipus constitute a more superficial layer of the self that covers the core.


Is this conclusion motivated by the falsifying need for an optimistic outlook on man? It is not. Science must be neither optimistic nor pessimistic that observes and explains. As a depth psychologist I observe regularly that behind the oedipal disturbance lie flawed selfobject responses. And that behind them the primary hope for a normal, self-growth-promoting milieu is still alive. Should, in the future, data become available that demonstrate still deeper layers, we will verify the evidence and change our theory.


What I cannot see changing, however, is the psychological outlook. If such a change were to come about, it would indeed mean that analysis, that depth-psychology has been superseded and a thing of the past. But this possibility need not concern us now. Analysis is in its childhood. Hampered by such misleading medical analogies as the removal of disease instead of the reestablishment of psychological health by the interpretive, empathic responsiveness to its claims, psychoanalysis has hardly yet scratched the surface of the fascinating mystery of man.


And how can analysis return to its nuclear self, move on to fulfil its destiny by realizing its essential programme of action? It can do so only if it can make the decisive developmental step of the full transmuting internalization of the great parental selfobject of its past. If it succeeds in this task, it will be able to do what it must in order to stay alive, to reach its peak before it declines: it must turn from the study of Freud to the study of man.



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