Regression to the Father Clinical Narratives and Theoretical Reflections
Notions of a phallic, “primal” father have curiously not received much attention in psychoanalysis in comparison to the figure of the phallic mother. The figure of the father who withholds himself condescendingly from his son's plea for closeness, or of the father who looms threateningly over his intimidated son, has been invariably displaced onto explanations that put the onus on a seductive, invasive, engulfing, phallic-narcissistic mother—never on the father himself. Could it be that the notion of fatherfusion as the desire to merge with the archaic father imago arouses too deep a dread to contemplate? The tendency to equate any regressive phenomenon, in fact the equation of regression tout court, with a “return” to the mother, but never a “return” to the maternal father, speaks to this possibility. The fact that there is hardly a vocabulary for this father-son constellation likewise indicates the existence of a gap in thinking about it. It seems that Freud remained unanswered to in his singular obsession with a primal, archaic father; and this theme has not been adequately picked up by later thinkers, so that it gradually faded into the margins. Is it possible that the avoidance of thinking this figure is linked with where this line of thinking would lead us, namely that male aggression is at bottom masochistic?
Many and diverse psychic phenomena cohere around father-son relations. Important work has been done by analysts such as Abelin, Burlingham, Bloss, Herzog, and Pruett concerning the role and the importance of the father in the child's development.1 Most psychoanalytic thinking about the father focuses on the importance of the father's presence and on the his provision of developmental needs for the child, as well as the