Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

Stupidity in the Analytic Field: Vicissitudes of the Detachment Process in Adolescence

Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

Stupidity in the Analytic Field: Vicissitudes of the Detachment Process in Adolescence

Article excerpt

Over the course of adolescence the young person feels assailed by drives, which reactivate unconscious fantasies and primitive anxieties. The adolescent experiences the rupture of the rigidity of the latency phase, followed by identity confusion resulting from the re-emergence of aspects split off from the self which pertain to the pregenital and preoedipal phases. The enhancement of sadistic aspects in all areas, associated with confusion arising from the concomitance of various fantasies, induces waves of genital desire in all its infantile, polymorphic and perverse forms (Meltzer, 1973, 1992; Grinberg, 1976). The need for immediate gratification produces violent and intrusive projective identifications. Threats of self-dissolution merge with attempts to restructure the self. Primitive and more highly evolved mechanisms also merge, with as much potential to constitute a basis for pathologies as to accommodate elements for redevelopment.

Intrapsychic turbulence is manifested in the stimulation of the PS <-> D oscillation (Bion, 1962) or in that of dual relationships <-> triangular relationships, with the resulting catastrophic changes, yet in a dynamic form, with dissolutions that may confuse the inattentive observer who could interpret a movement which is in fact an intense, yet normal, prefigurement to restructuring to be a pathology. A lack of adequate oscillation will put the analyst on his guard. But it is only once the adolescent turbulence ceases that we will be able to ascertain whether the rigidity was temporary or permanent.

At the same time, the externalization and internalization processes intensify to produce conflicts of identification, resulting in an increased vulnerability to the introjection of objects which can reinforce or alter more archaic identifications. The young person is eager for objects to identify with, so as to construct a more cohesive adult identity. The projection-introjection interplay is intense; it is precisely the acquisition of an adult identity by means of this interplay of identifications that is considered to be the primary function of adolescence.

The outcome of these configurations leads to movements of detachment and departure from the symbiosis of the family unit (Blos, 1962; Bleger, 1967; Mahler, 1968; Paz, 1980). At the same time, the adolescent experiences mourning: for childhood, parents, the infantile body, and bisexuality (Aberastury, 1980). If contact with the triangular reality is experienced as traumatic, narcissistic defences are readopted to constitute normal symbioses (Cassorla, 1985, 1991a) until they are overpowered by conflicting drives and attraction for the object. This is part of the process of detachment.

During this period of development links are formed with substitutive objects such as ideals, friends, boy/girlfriends, and idealized parents. This idealization diminishes as the adult identity is established. Yet certain adolescents can settle into a kind of symbiosis or pathological parasitism with these objects. In the clinic, this sense of being held captive by the object can manifest itself through addictive behaviours involving people, groups, drugs, ideologies, and religious sects, through suicidal acts (when the patient has fantasies of an idealized life in another world), and through teenage pregnancy (when the young woman becomes symbiotic with her baby). The capacity for symbolization is blocked. In other cases, the young person may become prematurely independent (Cassorla, 1985, 1991a) in a manic reaction against the desire for symbiosis. Those who prolong their adolescence into later years, referred to as "adultescents" (Ungar, 2013), also belong in this category.

The analytic experience with these young patients can bring the analyst into contact with challenging situations, due to defensive organizations which prove difficult to access (Cassorla, 1997a, 2001, 2004, 2005). These organizations can draw in people close to the patient's family, which may also include the analyst. …

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