The I is a way of relating. To be sure, we often think of a Dr. Vincent or a Sigmund Freud standing alone, as it were, against a photographer's white backdrop. Yet, really, they are always in a world of people and things--and time.
Part II dealt with the ways we form an I out of momentary acts of seeing and hearing and knowing and remembering, an individual and psychological I. Part III explores the ways we make an I and a life out of the biology and culture we inherit, a historical I, an I in years, an I in a world of other people.
The geneticist C. H. Waddington describes plants and animals as involved in three time scales. The smallest time scale measures in seconds and hours, the middle scale in years, and the largest in decades, centuries, even eras and eons. The largest is evolution. A horse comes from a long line of ancestors and gives rise to a long line of descendant horses, all of them implicit in this one horse's history. In the shortest time scale, a horse lives in gallops and heartbeats and the munching of oats, immediate transformations of chemical energies. On the medium scale, writes Waddington, when we see a horse pulling a cart past the window, "the picture must also include the minute fertilised egg, the embryo in its mother's womb, and the broken-down old nag it will eventually become" (1957, p. 6).
With seeing, hearing, speaking, remembering, and knowing, we have been thinking mostly in the short scale. These particular, momentary DEFTings, however, happen in a social, linguistic, and even evolutionary world that long outlasts any one of us. We also have the middle scale, our gestation, infancy, adult life, and aging in a long arc of uncertain beginning but all too definite end.
What Freud and later psychoanalysts added to these three scales was a method--free association--for tracing systematically the way traits established in early childhood can steer an adult life. Hence Freud was offering a way of relating the middle scale, a lifetime, to the shortest scale, our second by second living. Similarly Freud's insistence on grounding psychology in biology gave a way of relating the single life to the evolutionary scale. Psychoanalysis thus gave rise to--and inherited--systematic ways of thinking about human character but also created some radically new ways of tracing the history of a self, an I in time, starting at birth or even before, new
We all recognize that humans go through a life cycle from womb to tomb. We pass through certain obvious stages, infancy, adolescence, young adulthood, maturity, middle age, old age, and death. Yet within that trajectory, a person smiles or walks in a certain "characteristic" way; falls in love only with certain kinds of people; works in a particular style; engages his society in some ways but not others. As children, we develop a style that one can trace through all the later biological and social stages. The problem of human "character" is to account for both that persistence and the changes in our lifelong parabola of recurring traits and patterns.
A characterology offers a system for understanding these persistences, usually by interrelating them. In its eighty-odd years of existence, psychoanalysis has used four characterologies. Each constitutes a way of grouping details of behavior into a total personality. Each seeks a unity in the personality but in different ways.
The first predates psychoanalysis and serves still: diagnostic categories. We can speak of a paranoid personality, an obsessional neurotic, or an autistic child, applying any of the scores of categories offered by the handbooks of psychiatry. The American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, for example (the 1968 edition), provides 168 possible diagnoses, and the DSM III offers even more. Such categories do not in themselves suggest how the paranoia or the obsession came about, but they do fit the medical model: diagnosis, treatment, prognosis. They lend themselves nicely to the prescribing of drugs, for example.
Psychoanalysis, however, quickly went beyond the categorizing of mental illness, however, to engage the dynamic causes behind symptoms, and in doing so Freud made one of his discoveries that never fails to awe me. Not only do we go through stages like youth and old age in adult life, we go through a series of stages in childhood: oral, anal, urethral, phallic, oedipal. Children are much concerned with the processes and products and persons associated with key parts of the body: giving and getting through the mouth, the actions and results of defecation and urination, being "big," standing erect, walking, having genital sensations, loving and hating male and female parents, or wanting to be a grown-up, that is, a parent oneself.
Freud's analyses of adults showed these themes persisting all through life but transformed into adult activities: anal pedantry or miserliness, oral smoking, phallic flying, or oedipal jealousy. It was possible by listening to adults' free associations in analysis to trace roots for the grown-up's actions in the child's development. The method also brings traits together, quite strikingly, by means of a body model: the withholding of an "anal character" or the intrusiveness of a "phallic character" or the dependency of an "oral personality." The holistic evidence Freud and his early colleagues obtained from adults for these connections was quite overwhelming, and now experimenters have "objectively" confirmed these traits (Masling and Schwartz, 1979).
The stages are quite visible--once they are pointed out. Analysts or just simple nursemaids, as Freud said, were able to see them. Further, although different cultures may stress different phases differently, the sequence remains the same. No one suggests, for example, that children go through an oedipal phase before an oral one. Hence, the whole sequence of stages may represent a biological program we inherit.
A second characterology, then, classifies adults by the childhood stage that colors their adult life, the stage at which (we might say) considerable psychic energy became fixated: an "oral" personality, a "phallic" character. More psychoanalytic than psychiatric, such descriptions assume that normal development is progressive (or "epigenetic," developing according to some complex blueprint, not just "getting bigger"). Conversely, pathology is fixation or regression, getting stuck at one stage or retreating to it.
This method of understanding character became one of the five fundamental principles of psychoanalysis, those large "metapsychological" generalizations that a full clinical interpretation or theory should admit. The genetic point of view says that a psychoanalytic explanation of any phenomenon should "include propositions concerning its psychological origin and development" (Rapaport and Gill, 1959, p. 158; Rapaport, 1960b). The genetic point of view thus states Freud's determinism in a stern and vigorous way: "At each point of psychological history the totality of potentially active earlier forms co-determines all subsequent psychological phenomena." "All psychological phenomena," say Rapaport and Gill, "originate in innate givens which mature according to an epigenetic groundplan," that is, a step by step process of elaborating structures built into the organism.
Falling in love comes from earlier experiences of love, with mother, say, or father, which in turn involve other events in childhood that are enmeshed in these apparently biological oral, anal, phallic stages. Further, a child's need to be erect, to be big, to be capable, to be like mother or father, persists into adulthood. Hence the child's style will likely persist in the adult's life even if the content of that adult life becomes very different from the parents' life. "The earlier forms of a psychological phenomenon, though superseded by later forms, remain potentially active" (ibid).
On the evidence, I find this genetic hypothesis sound when stated generally this way. It does, however, point always toward childhood and toward biology, saying little about adult achievements. It has no way of showing how some traits, even if they look pathological, can be adaptive, particularly in an artistic context. It was an "id-characterology" or, as Erikson was to criticize it many years later, an "originology" (1958a, p. 18).
A third type of characterology would define personality more by the actions of the grown-up. It focuses on the adult's preferred defenses and adaptations. Many analysts, starting in the thirties, have suggested this approach. A recent example is George Vaillant's book describing the "Grant Study," which traced thirty-year histories of Harvard graduates of the class of 1939. Each individual's style (and prospects of success) the researchers define by the kind of defenses he uses. Samuel Lovelace, for example, Vaillant described as a "lonely, gentle, loyal liberal with an unhappy marriage and few social supports," a "man who used intellectualization as a dominant defense." Thus Vaillant combines his cramming before exams in college--useless but it gave him "reassurance"--with his statement that in the army he engaged in a "sociological study of my fellow soldier." His marriage was painful, but "abstractly, I feel the same fascination I did before marriage." "Through my wife's illness, I learned what a complicated thing the human personality can be." "You can even rationalize Adolf Hitler" (1977, p. 135).
Vaillant traces the life history of such an individual by the way one defense (or adaptation) evolves into or takes the place of another, more mature or more successful. Lovelace's isolation of his loving emotions led to loneliness, but another man, a college dean, by isolating his anger, became a highly successful mediator in the turbulent universities of the 1960s (pp. 132-35).
One could achieve a still closer description of the individual by combining characteristic defense with libidinal phase, the third characterology with the second. It is true, for example, that "oral" characters, concerned with taking into themselves, often use identification as a defense and adaptation. "Anal" characters, preoccupied with the backsides of things, often reverse or overcompensate their impulses. Such a combination would live up to Fenichel's classic definition of character: "The ego's habitual modes of adjustment to the external world, the id, and the superego, and the characteristic types of combining these modes with one another, constitute character." Character is "the habitual mode of bringing into harmony the tasks presented by internal demands and by the external world" (1945, p. 467).
This is an "ego-psychological" idea of character, and, by including the "external world," it ends the idea of character as wholly internal to the individual. Fenichel's definition sets character in relation both to other characters and to the physical world exterior to the self, building on Heinz Hartmann's classic Ego Psychology and the Problem of Adaptation (1939).
Hartmann uses "adaptation" in analogy to evolution or ecology, not in the reactionary sense that one should "adjust" to the way society is. Humans fit into the world of people and things around them the way butterflies or giraffes evolve so as to camouflage themselves and then live in environments where they are camouflaged. So people work their way into the social world around them, sometimes altering that world to make it suit, sometimes changing themselves, but always making the two "fit together" (zusammenpassen).
Hartmann was introducing a new metapsychological principle. As Rapaport and Gill state it, "The adaptive point of view demands that the psychoanalytic explanation of any psychological phenomenon include propositions concerning its relationship to the environment" (1959, p. 159).
Hartmann emphasized adaptation to the physical world. Erikson (in his masterwork, Childhood and Society [1950, 1963]) emphasized adaptation to the social environment. Thus it was natural for him to extend the original sequence of childhood phases (oral, anal, and so on) into the whole human life span. He added a midlife period of creative work and reproduction and the end of life with its accumulation of wisdom. Society meets all such stages with characteristic institutions. Mothers mother infants, parents train toddlers, the community allows adolescents a time to find themselves, and society acknowledges (sometimes) the wisdom of its elders. Each stage was therefore not just psychological but psychosocial. I read Erikson as both enlarging and particularizing the idea of adaptation as Hartmann had left it.
In effect, Erikson, Hartmann, and others (the English object-relations theorists and Lacan) were all following through the opening Freud created in the first chapter of Civilization and its Discontents (1930). By suggesting that the infant's, the lunatic's, the lover's, or the mystic's ego might extend beyond itself to include some part of the external world, he radically opened psychoanalysis from a psychology of one individual bounded by his skin to a psychology of the individual in and including a social context.
Earlier, in Group Psychology, he had written: "The contrast between individual psychology and social or group psychology . . . loses a great deal of its sharpness when it is examined more closely." "In the individual's mental life someone else is invariably involved, as a model, as an object, as a helper, as an opponent; and so from the very first individual psychology . . . is at the same time social psychology as well" (1921c, 18:69). Freud could almost have been echoing Marx: "It is above all necessary to avoid . . . establishing 'society' as an abstraction over against the individual. The individual is the social being" (1844).
Lichtenstein's theme and variations concept of identity offers what seems to me a fourth and still more powerful way of relating the interpersonal and the intrapersonal in stating the unity of a personality. We can use a theme and variations to put into words a consistency between, say, Scott Fitzgerald's way of falling in love and his use of un- and in-in his writing, between his interpersonal and his personal traits. Just as the third characterology of defense, adaptation, and drive included and enlarged upon the second characterology of drive alone, so this fourth mode includes and enlarges upon the third.
In the first three characterologies (diagnostic, childhood phase, ego strategies) the two that are psychoanalytic point to a historical I, an I in time. Earlier psychological events cause later ones, and the adult is to the child as effect is to cause. The fourth characterology, identity, makes it possible for me to open that determinism up. How much are we determined by our history and our biology? Just what is the process of this determinism? Does the evident continuity in my life-style leave a space for my creativity and freedom?
For the process by which an animal's biological qualities fit into its environment, the geneticist C. H. Waddington introduced an intriguing metaphor, the "epigenetic landscape." He drew a picture of development as a surface like that of a sloping landscape with hills and valleys. He imagined the organism with its biological properties as a large round boulder rolling down these slopes. The boulder would go to the left or right as a certain hill would force it to roll into this or that valley on either side. Having gone to the left, the boulder would encounter the next hill on the left which would again force a choice of left or right, and so on down the whole geological pattern.
The landscape represented the environment as the animal might or might not fit into it. Rolling down a valley would represent a forced line of development: to survive, the animal has to develop along these lines. Not being able to roll up a hill would image an impossible line of development. Settling into a hollow would represent a successful ecological balance between animal and environment, an ecological niche.
Erikson may have had a similar figure in mind when he used the word "groundplan." For both Erikson and Waddington "epigenetic" implies a schedule. Certain developments must take place at certain stages, just as a certain hill in the landscape requires a boulder to roll to left or right. That outcome determines the next hill to be encountered, which will in turn require new outcomes.
Waddington's figure of something rolling down a geometric surface like a ball going through a pinball machine accents the evolutionary and biological time scale in which the individual plays a relatively passive role. If we consider the individual life span rather than the evolution of the species, the individual or his culture has much more say as to what hills he will encounter. To be sure, the early moves favor some futures over others, but the individual chooses those moves, or his culture (rather than his biology) prescribes them. To model this shorter time scale, we might think of someone playing through a golf course. Perhaps an even better figure would be that of an explorer hiking his way through what life must be to each of us, a new territory.
We begin our hike abruptly, landing like parachutists on an alien terrain of physical and social surroundings already formed. In the first stages of the trek we carry only the materials we started with, our heredity. After the very earliest stages, however, our trek begins to have a history. We come to the next hill having marched down a number of the valleys that represent experiences we have had. We have fed, slept, known contentment, and felt nurtured. These experiences have changed us and our feelings about the hike. As a result of those experiences and of our growing equipment of memories and skills, we will choose this way or that as we search out the paths around some new hill. If our parents send us to a nursery school, that choice forecloses some futures and favors others. We will learn differently thereafter, perhaps better, perhaps worse--that depends on the individual and the school. Nursery school will have provided new sights and sounds to add to this continuously developing combination of self and landscape which is our trek. Kindergarten, then first grade, new friends and games, crushes and quarrels, they all both require and permit new relations to the human and nonhuman realities around us. So with marriage and career, parenthood and grandparenthood. It is an ever-new self in this continuously developing trek that will choose at the next hill, and so on down the sloping landscape to the cliff of death, whose pull is relentless.
In general, all characterologies allow us to account for events that have taken place, often quite completely, but they do not give us a way to predict how Lanzer would react when Freud gave him food or recommended a novel or when he came upon a stone in his lady's road. One can look backwards and see how he became blocked, but it is harder, perhaps impossible, to look ahead and see how he might free himself. Both Waddington's landscape and Erikson's groundplan are retrodictive, not predictive.
Partly, we can imagine human development as each of us facing a biological and cultural environment forced on us, like death or my height or the economic and technological forces of our culture, which none of us seems to be able to change. Partly, however, we choose our environment from alternatives that are given us, as when I chose to be a college professor as that profession existed in America in the 1950s. Partly we choose even more freely from alternatives we make up ourselves, as when I write this paragraph. All these fates and choices in their varying degrees and kinds of freedom cumulate to become a history of my "I" which is the "I" that actively chooses the next word or passively enjoys a sunny December in Florida.
The landscape we hike through has certain large features that are the same for all of us. We are born, grow, ripen, and die. We pass through the oral, anal, and other childhood stages that Freud and the psychoanalysts discovered. Some features of the landscape are normal, but not everyone shares them. Some of us mate. Some of us find satisfying work. Some of us grow beards, and some shave them off.
Still other features of the landscape depend wholly on early choices, hence are largely individual. Having decided to be a college professor, I found myself marching up the ritual stages of assistant, associate, and full professor. Someone who had chosen advertising, acting, or acupuncture would never have hiked those particular hills and valleys. Having decided to be an unconventional college professor, I have always taught in unconventional departments, and that implied still other rises and falls in my professorial trek. Others are unconventional, too, but only I have written this particular book, and nobody else will feel the consequences down the trail as I will.
Freud and the first generation of psychoanalysts stressed the biological features of the landscape we I's are exploring. They are indeed the most fixed, and a landscape represents them well. Erikson, with his groundplan, stressed the social and communal aspects of development, making it the same biologically for all of us (infancy, generativity, old age) but a somewhat different epigenetic groundplan for each culture. In effect, an Indian baby walks toward adulthood over one terrain and a Canadian baby another. Again, the metaphor of a hike through a landscape represents a culturally "epigenetic" growth fairly well.
Erikson emphasized the social and communal aspects of the terrain. Part of Jacques Lacan's importance is that he demands we see that landscape as a cultural and verbal one. Lacan, despite his claims to the contrary, is writing in the tradition of the late Freud, Hartmann and Erikson, and the English object relations theorists. Lacan begins, as they do, with the relation of mother to infant. He thinks, as they do, that in the first six months of life the infant feels merged with the person who nurtures it. Then, during what Lacan calls the mirror stage, from six to eighteen months, the infant perceives that nurturing Other as simply an extension of itself. As the child is forced to recognize that the Other is not and cannot be a part of itself, it accepts le non du père or le nom du père, the cultural world of language which both represents its frustrated desire and provides the means to overcome it. Hence, where Hartmann spoke of "average expectable environment" and Erikson of society and community, Lacan speaks of language, but in the largest sense, as a network of signifiers and signifieds by which we can describe our culture. The child must enter that network and let that network enter him (1979, see also Muller and Richardson, 1982, Wollheim, 1979).
In a remarkable anthropological film called Four Families, which features the commentary of Margaret Mead, we can see culture flowing before our very eyes through the mother and the family into the baby (MacNeill, 1959). The film compares families in four different societies: Indian, French, Japanese, and Western Canadian. Each of the four families is rural and farms, and each has a one year old boy baby, but the differences in their physical and cultural worlds are immense.
The Canadian family is surrounded by noisy machines like the vacuum cleaner and the washer-dryer with their cold, hard surfaces of metal and porcelain. The other families are machineless, while the Indian family has scarcely a wall to its house. The Canadian family, by contrast, has to have a special transitional space between indoors and outdoors for taking off overcoats and snowsuits. The Indian family in its tropical hut has no boundary at all between indoors and outdoors. The Indian mother gives her baby's body religious markings, but it is the French father who makes the sign of the cross over the bread before the evening meal. The Japanese mother prays before the ancestors' shrine, but in the Canadian family the youngest child says grace. The Canadian baby goes to sleep in a room by himself, while the other three share the common living space of the family. The Indian father spends his evening in the village, the other three at home. The French and Canadian mothers bathe their babies vigorously, handling them dispassionately, almost like packages. The Indian mother bathes her baby caressingly, sensuously. The Japanese baby gets his bath when his grandmother takes him into the bathtub with her. All of these variations provide the baby with a sense of the way his world is and shall be.
This is how we learn what nurture is and love, what closeness means, how valuable religion is, what the relation is between indoors and out, between animate and inanimate nature, what is important--virtually every basic thing we know. The message is culture, but the medium is body, the bodies of all the family, but especially the mother's and the baby's. Culture sets limits, to be sure: one cannot live in a tropical hut in Alberta in March, nor can the Alberta family shed its need for achievement. Culture provides a style for living and mothering, and it would be rare, if not impossible, for a mother to change it deep down. Yet each baby knows that style of mothering only as each mother translates it to the baby through her own identity. Further, the mother is herself the result of a style of mothering achieved through culture as embodied in her mother.
One can see such a style not only in the baby's physical relationships, but also more abstractly, in its perception of the world, its sense of time, space, objects, its basic conceptions of the universe. As Jules Henry says:
When one is imbued in this way--as if sun, water and time were filtered to one through the body of another person--it becomes difficult to change one's perceptions, for change would be a kind of death--a detachment from the person through whom the universe was absorbed. Thus consciousness itself is learned and acquired through another person. From the time we are born we are taught how to be conscious. Consciousness is a sociocultural phenomenon, and the consciousness of a Pilaga Indian baby is therefore very different from that of an American one (1972, p. 60).Mother and the family surround the baby, permeating its very being. In the same way society surrounds and permeates the family.
Unfortunately, our metaphors for this internalizing of culture, this making it a part of each of our personalities, are not very cogent. As Henry points out, "teach" and "learn" hardly convey the idea of contacting one's universe through another person. If we say, "nature and nurture combine" or if we speak of "social factors," we sound as though culture was simply added or multiplied into some preexisting personality. At other times we refer to our "cultural heritage," as though it were a possession that could be bequeathed. Still other metaphors introduce the idea of social "pressure" or "impact" or "forces" as though we could model the process by images from freshman physics.
Social values cannot become a part of the baby's world so simply or directly. My own metaphors for the infant's developing into a social being--culture flows, culture permeates and pervades, culture sets limits, culture is the message--may be somewhat, but only somewhat, better. More telling would be metaphors that imply a complex transformation in which culture determines a social style of biological mothering which each mother translates through her own individual personality to a baby who combines it with its own unique heredity.
Waddington's evolutionary landscape is suggestive, but gives too fixed a picture. The landscape does have certain fixed features (like the childhood stages), but also we each have our own landscape, which (in the triad of Kluckhohn and Murray) may share features with everybody else's, somebody else's, or nobody else's. The developmental landscape is simultaneously deterministic and undeterministic, "objective" and "subjective," and universal, cultural, and individual. That's asking a lot of a landscape. How can one imagine a terrain that has certain features for all humanity, others for Americans, other features for college professors, and still others for just me?
I think the two levels of feedback developed in part II provide a better metaphor. An identity using certain cultural codes which in turn use the body will image what happens between the mothers and children of Four Families. The baby's needs draw out of his mother a culture that becomes part of the baby. In fulfilling the baby's needs, she endows the baby with cultural loops as her identity uses those loops. Thus the baby internalizes the culture but specifically its mother's version of that culture. It is like learning The Star-Spangled Banner by hearing only Charles Ives's version or Puccini's.
With such a feedback model in mind, consider Anni Bergman's description of an American baby boy and the effect of his mother's state of mind:
Jason was a boy who could not outgrow the elated state accompanying the feeling that he could conquer the world. He was a motor-minded little boy who started to walk freely at the early age of nine months. His mother was a depressed woman with a rather poor image of herself. It was most important that her son be precocious, a narcissistic completion of herself. . . . Jason's mother, in awe of her fledgling, . . . seemed to impart to her son the idea that he could manage no matter what. She did not temper his age-appropriate feeling of omnipotence with her own ability to be a rational judge of danger. She allowed him total freedom, and Jason never seemed to learn to be a judge of danger himself. Recklessly he would throw himself into space. He was forever falling but, interestingly, he hardly ever cried. It as was if the sense of omnipotence and of his own invulnerability dwarfed his physical pain (Bergman, 1978, pp. 156-57).Jason's mother's identity used not only Jason but the American fondness for throwing people and things into space as a way of fulfilling herself. Jason, possibly building on his own innate temperament, fulfilled her needs by his fearlessness. In effect, she set standards for cultural behavior which in turn set standards for bodily behavior. She and Jason were each using the other and the American style to create a network of positive feedbacks.
I think the double feedback picture is useful, but I also think Lacan and Lichtenstein are right when they suggest using language as a model for this individualizing of the general human fate to form an I. The interrelation of baby and mother is a cultural and verbal one. Jason's mother is, as it were, feeding back his behavior to him in the language of the American kitchen, bedroom, or television set. Further, a society that itself likes to hurl things into space may applaud both her and Jason for his bodily recklessness, giving them a reinforcing positive feedback. English society, less committed to change, speed, and the taking of risks, might make Jason and his mother uncomfortable with their lack of restraint.
Lacan accents the linguistic aspect of human development, and since we can only think about these questions of nature and nurture in language, I think we can improve the feedback model by recasting it in linguistic terms. Erikson spoke of the biological and social landscape or groundplan as posing "tasks" we all face. We might introduce into his metaphor a Sphinx that poses us riddles at crucial junctures. Questions and answers, moreover, embody a feedback process. Oedipus had to solve the Sphinx's riddle before he could enter the gates of Thebes. So with each of us. We each must solve the childhood riddles of how to postpone gratification or how to control impulses or how to turn passive experiences into active ones before we can go on to the next stage. We must choose a career before we can progress in it. We must acquire a child before we can become a parent.
We could say that development asks us questions. Some of these questions all humans face. Some occur only in certain cultures. Others are unique to one person. All of them, however, we hear first in the individual body language of one particular mother and one particular baby, then later in the style of one particular I.
The answers an I gives to one particular question, for example, how to reverse passive into active, will "determine" the way the individual hears the next question. One answer by an I "determines" (in the loose way that the two sides of a dialogue "determine" each other) the question from the environment in response, which in turn determines (in that same loose way) the next answer by the I. The answers we give affect the next questions, making some more likely and foreclosing others. We find our way through a conversation in much the same way that we take this path or that through a landscape.
The Canadian family in Four Families was speaking to its baby not only in English, but in a language of vacuum cleaners and washing machines. The infant Shaw made loud noises. Iiro drew ducks and shoes and table lamps. We in turn try to understand these transactions in our own languages. We can talk about all these different individual versions of what is generically the same through a language which is both a function of our individual identities and a resource that we hold in common. I think then we can best model
For example, we could look at Winnicott's interview with Iiro as a dialogue whose focus we could phrase as the boy's wish to be loved as he was, deformity unchanged. After that interview, Winnicott went on to talk to Iiro's mother (again through an interpreter "whose translation quickly became forgotten by both of us"). Confessing for the first time her feelings about Iiro, she said,
I know that everyone has guilt feelings about sex. For me it has been different. All my life I have felt free sexually and in marriage sexual experience has been a fulfillment. Instead of feeling guilty about sex what I have always felt is that my condition of fingers and toes will be handed down to one of my children. In this way I would be punished. Since marriage, with each pregnancy I have become increasingly anxious about the baby that was to be born, anxious in terms of the inherited disability. I knew I must not have babies because of this disability. Each time when the baby is born and the baby is normal I feel immense relief. With Iiro, however, I had no relief because there he was with fingers and toes like mine and I had been punished. When I saw him I hated him. I completely repudiated him, and for a length of time (perhaps only twenty minutes or perhaps longer) I knew that I could never see him again. He had to be taken away from me. Then it came over me that I might get his fingers and toes mended by persistently using the orthop;aedic surgeon. I immediately decided to persist in getting Iiro's fingers and toes mended although this seemed impossible, and from that moment I found my love of him returning and I think I have loved him more than the others. From his point of view, therefore, it could be said that he gained something. Nevertheless I have been obsessed with this drive to use the orthop;aedic surgeon.Winnicott recognized that what she was saying dovetailed with what Iiro had told him. "He may have gained something from this mother's special love of him, but he had to pay for it by being caught up in an obsessive drive which indeed the orthop;aedic surgeon had noticed, and the staff of the hospital . . . " (1971b, pp. 25-27).
The dialogue of Iiro's development began with his unfortunate heredity and his mother's guilt. She translated a common adult guilt about sex into a more literal fear of consequences. At his birth, when the feared punishment seemed actually to happen, she managed to love Iiro by resolving to mend his fingers and toes through surgery. "You must change in order for me not to feel guilty but to love you"--this was the message she sent Iiro from his birth, and he responded in the way that a baby does. It would overimplify to say that the message "pressured" him or "shaped" him; those metaphors are too crudely deterministic. I think of the dyad this way: Iiro became the baby who could receive the message his mother was sending. He fit.
Jules Henry describes that process as the baby's sending his mother* messages of contentment by his eyes' following her, by smiling, relaxing in her arms, gurgling or cooing. She in turn sends messages of her contentment: she cuddles him, gurgles and coos in baby talk, and follows him with her eyes. Mother and baby both show they know they are each giving the other something the other needs. Gradually, in the normal course of events, "love" messages replace the "contentment" messages. "Between the baby's inherent tendencies and the mother's requirements, a code is worked out . . . with neither mother nor child knowing that anything is being learned or taught." In effect, mother and baby learn to fit together (Hartmann's zusammenpassen), first in the business of feeding and sleeping and caring, later in their loving responsiveness to each other. The mother gives the baby the love and care he needs. He gives her something of himself in return, and in so doing learns to love (1972, 192-93).
The mother and infant have, of course, a paradoxical dialogue,
since in the nature of things, it must be without words:
infans is Latin for 'unspeaking.' Lichtenstein suggests,
therefore, still a different figure of speech: "The way the
mother is touching, holding, warming the child, the way in
which some senses are stimulated, while others are not, forms a
kind of 'stimulus cast' of the mother's unconscious, just as a
blind and deaf person may, by the sense of touch, 'cast' the
form and the personality of another person in his mind."
Lichtenstein's idea of a "cast" of the relationship of baby
and mother corresponds to the "mirroring experience" described
by Lacan, Greenacre, and many other psychoanalytic authors
without committing us to a primarily visual learning. Rather
such a "cast" would be in its very body-ness the first
"sexuality" in the classical psychoanalytic sense: pleasure
from specific organs, not necessarily related to genitals or
procreating. In this bodily relation, "while the mother
satisfies the infant's needs, in fact creates certain specific
needs, which she delights in satisfying, the infant is
transformed into an organ or an instrument for the satisfaction
of the mother's unconscious needs" (1977, pp. 76-78). Iiro
becomes caught up in his mother's need to expiate her guilt
through surgery, and Jason compensates for his mother's sense
of her own inadequacy. Somehow the infant gains in the
wordless preconscious dialogue between himself and his
No one has observed the bodily, sexual relationship between mother and baby more closely than Daniel Stern. By videotaping the interactions of mother and baby in feeding and diapering and holding, he has been able to analyze such things as "gaze behavior" to the millisecond. (We humans live in a world where a fraction of a second more or less in a "Hi!" is all the difference between "Hey! she likes me!" and "What's eating her?") He describes one such relationship--this one not "the normal course of events."
"I first met Jenny," writes Stern, "when she was almost three months old. Her mother was an animated woman . . . intrusive, controlling, and overstimulating by most standards. She seemed to want, need, and expect a high level of exciting, animated interaction. . . . Furthermore, the mother seemed to want the level she wanted when she wanted it." As a result, she was always pushing the level of Jenny's stimulation about as high as the baby would tolerate.
At that point the mother would stop playing with Jenny and put her to bed. After some weeks of watching this, when Jenny seemed more and more withdrawn, Stern became concerned. Eventually, however, the mother became slightly less intrusive, and Jenny became much more able to handle her mothrer's craving for a response. She gave her mother more of the gurgling, happy feedback the mother needed, so that her mother could relax somewhat--although it was Jenny who did the major part in breaking the vicious circle.
The dance [another metaphor!] they had worked out by the time I met them went something like this. Whenever a moment of mutual gaze occurred, the mother went immediately into high- gear. . . . [That is, in response to Jenny's gaze, she would loudly and eagerly start talking and making faces to her.] Jenny invariably broke gaze rapidly. Her mother never interpreted this temporary face and gaze aversion as a cue to lower her level of behavior, nor would she let Jenny self-control the level by gaining distance. Instead, she would swing her head around following Jenny's to reestablish the full-face position. Once the mother achieved this, she would reinitiate the same level of stimulation with a new arrangement of facial and vocal combinations. Jenny again turned away, pushing her face further into the pillow to try to break all visual contact. Again, instead of holding back, the mother continued to chase Jenny. The pillow and side wing of the infant seat now prevented the mother from swinging around to the face-to-face position. So this time, she moved closer, in an apparent attempt to break through and establish contact. She also escalated the level of her stimulation even more by adding touching and tickling to the unabated flow of vocal and facial behaviors. . . .
With Jenny's head now pinned in the corner, the baby's next recourse was to perform a "pass-through." She rapidly swung her face from one side to the other right past her mother's face. When her face crossed the mother's face, in the face-to-face zone, Jenny closed her eyes to avoid any mutual visual contact and only reopened them after the head aversion was established on the other side. All of these be-haviors on Jenny's part were performed with a sober face or at times a grimace.
The mother followed her to the new side, producing volleys of stimulation that again progressively pushed Jenny's head farther away until she performed another pass-through. After a series of these "failures," the mother would pick the infant up from the infant seat and hold her under the armpits, dangling in the face-to-face position. This maneuver usually succeeded in reorienting Jenny toward her, but as soon as she put Jenny back down, the same pattern reestablished itself. After several more repeats of these sequences the mother became visibly frustrated, angry, and confused and Jenny, quite upset.
What is telling from the point of view of forming an I, however, is Stern's description of the years after Jenny and her mother had fit: "At each new phase of development Jenny and her mother have had to replay this basic scenario of overshoot and resolution, but with different sets of behaviors and at higher levels of organization." Stern does not use a theme-and-variations concept of identity, but he is here describing exactly the process I visualize for an identity's coming into being. Out of their fitting, mother and baby establish a theme for their relationship--"this basic scenario of overshoot and resolution" is Stern's phrase for it. The baby then becomes the baby that fits into that theme. I am the kind of child (or later, person) who always feels as though I am coping with too much. Even Stern's metaphor of a "scenario" echoes mine of a dialogue (1977, pp. 110-114).
The dialogue between mother and baby answers to a theme and variations reading just as the behavior of a single person does. Holistic readings can prove useful for the dyad here as well as for the self.
Indeed, if sufficiently skilled at "It fits" inferences, one can even read the individual baby holistically, although the media are often semiverbal or nonverbal. Here, for example, is Margaret Mahler's account of the behavior of Bruce, aged twenty-five months:
love object, his mother (1975, p. 131). Mahler has "read" a theme, 'whole but with a part missing,' in Bruce's symbolic use of a variety of media: his bowel movement, a train in a book, a picture of a family, a toy mail box, blocks, the play yard. All of these provided Bruce a language with which to talk about the physical and emotional absence of his mother. Mahler then translated it into her own language.
One morning, after having a bowel movement in his diaper, Bruce looked for his mother. When he could not find her, he picked up a book on trains, his favorite book; he pointed to a picture and talked about the coal car which happened not to be in this particular picture. He knew the train had a coal car, even though it was not shown. Similarly, he had just looked for his mother but could not find her. Also, he had moved his bowels, which he felt in his diaper, but which he could not see. Subsequently he found another book and looked at the picture of a family. He pointed to and named the father and the boy, but he did not name the girl and mother who were also in the picture. Then he went to the toy mail box, pointed to the flap that had come off it, and then clearly enunciated: "doo-doo" (bowel movement). Subsequent to this he played with hollow blocks, putting a small one into a big one (quasi hiding it) and then putting them in order. Then he looked out the window, where he had often seen boys playing in the yard and said, "boy," even though nobody was in the play yard at this point. He called the observers' attention to all these parts that belong to a "syncretic whole," which at that moment, however, were missing or invisible. Thus, with his free associative sequence of words and actions, he disclosed his concern about missing part-objects or whole-objects, particularly the absent
Perhaps Mahler was aided by her prior knowledge of Bruce and Bruce's situation. Bruce always translated a lot of things into missing parts: "Bruce could not easily express his needs directly: he touched his mother while avoiding looking at her." Similarly, when his baby sister was born a few months earlier, he avoided the sight of his mother with the baby--as long as he could. Later, at thirty-three months, "Bruce liked to poke holes in the play dough, then cover them up, and say with great relief: 'Hole all gone.'"
Bruce's life involves one child's style interacting with events that many children share: the birth of a sister, fears about body losses, controlling his bowels, standing up, or walking. A central problem in understanding child development is to put the two different kinds of phenomena together, the unique and the shared. Sometimes we need to look at Bruce in isolation, as if he were in front of the photographer's blank backdrop. At other times we need to walk Bruce away from the backdrop and see him in the context of his mother, his family, and his society.
The classical if-then generalizations of psychoanalysis give us a way to talk about Bruce as being like many other children. The holistic analysis of individual themes and style gives us a way to talk about Bruce as a unique individual. How can we put them together? I have suggested three models. Waddington and Erikson's "epigenetic landscape" or "groundplan" image an individual marching through a widely shared terrain. A two-tier feedback network models an individual identity making use of shared cultural and biological tools to act on and receive feedback from reality. Finally the model I prefer, dialogue, portrays one individual addressing people and things by means of the shared resource of language, hearing their answers in his own idiolect, and responding--feeding back--in turn.
By listening to the growth of a child as a dialogue, we are in a new position to explore the way an I comes into being. Identity--the I--as this I has been developing the idea, is:
--an agency that initiates a feedback response from the world outside the self;Given this idea of an I and language as a medium, we can model human development as a dialogue of question and answer. Physiology, family, and culture pose questions to babies, but what are the questions? That is our next question.
--the cumulating consequence of that feedback;
--the topmost and pervading reference in a hierarchy of feedbacks;
--the verbal representation of the above triad as a theme and variations.
Late in his career, Freud put forward two hypotheses that have given rise to an immense body of research, greatly lengthening our perspective on early infancy. First, in 1930, in the opening chapter of Civilization and its Discontents, he asserted that the baby only gradually separates a self from the nurturing world around it. That slow differentiation provided the basis for all situations in later life in which the boundaries between self and other blur or dissolve entirely: mysticism, love, imaginations, or (I would add) the whole process of DEFTing.
Second, he acknowledged the importance of a major developmental phase prior to the oedipus complex. So momentous was his realization that he compared it to Sir Arthur Evans's discovery of a Minoan-Mycenaean civilization that had flourished ten centuries before the classical Greece we, and Freud, studied in school (1931b, 21:226). The early months form the geological substratum--or the basic fault--on which all subsequent development, including the oedipus complex, builds. I want to "read" both the older theories and the new knowledge in the light of "the I."
In psychoanalytic thought in general since Freud, the early relation between the infant and his mother has come to overshadow the later triangle of child, mother, and rival, even though Freud himself emphasized the triangle and discovered the dyad only near the end of his life. Indeed the whole tenor of the development of psychoanalysis after Freud's death has found more and more importance in the first year of life. This emphasis on the pre-oedipal marks one major difference between "Freudian" theory (in the strict sense of what Freud stated) and "psychoanalytic" theory (referring to the ongoing science Freud founded). It provides yet another bridge between psychoanalysis and regular psychology.
In recent years, there has been a virtual explosion of interest in the psychology of babies, often based on completely different methods. Daniel Stern is one among many "baby watchers" who are trying to understand children by direct observation. He videotapes the eloquent ballet between mother and infant as she feeds or bathes him or simply responds to his cry or his gaze, as, for example, he filmed the struggle around stimulation between Jenny and her mother. One mother will dart the bottle in and out of her baby's lips. Another will slowly, lingeringly roll it round his mouth. Some other might doze as she gives the breast in a midnight feeding. Typically, a mother speaks to an infant in a slow, high voice that adult humans use in no other circumstances. She gazes at him as long as he is willing to look at her. It is he, not she, who turns away and so breaks off this communication through the eyes (1977). Jenny's mother, by contrast, forced her stimulation on the baby. Her intrusions defined their relationship, defined, in effect, Jenny.
The opposite of Stern, Jacques Lacan is a theorist who analyzes babies by reason rather than observation. For example, he has visualized the development of the I through a mirror phase (le stade du miroir). The baby perceives himself, in an actual mirror, as having a bodily unity which he feels inwardly is still lacking. The baby therefore identifies with this image. Unfortunately for the theory, babies do not behave this way with mirrors (Lewis and Brooks, 1975, p. 123). Rather than restrict human development to a particular experience of mirrors, however, I (like Winnicott) read Lacan's metaphor as referring to the mirroring that takes place between mother and baby. She reflects him back to himself, but through the wholeness she perceives or wishes to perceive in him. In either case, this first sense of self is a self through another, a self that is radically not the baby's actual, experienced self. Yet it is the basis for future growth. The I comes into being through otherness, Stern's conclusion, but reached in an entirely different way (1936).
Such new observations and theories from both psychoanalysis and psychology mean that we have more incisive ways of thinking about some of the traditional riddles of human nature. These particular riddles are especially pivotal because we have to think them through before we can reply to social and political questions on which millions of destinies hinge. Our social policies rest on our assumptions about the relative importance of heredity and environment or, in the neater phrase, nature vs. nurture.
Psychologists translate that contrast into the balancing of learning theories against nativist or rationalist theories. Do we learn to see or do we inherit that ability? Can a person who went through all the stages of childhood development deaf and then is granted hearing learn to hear as normal people do? Do we learn how to use language (as Piaget seems to maintain) or are we (as Noam Chomsky claims) biologically programmed with a certain linguistic capacity that defines and is defined by the universal features of all grammars? To the extent that we believe in learning theories, then we may believe efforts at political and social control will eventually succeed and seem natural. We may also believe that we can educate many more people and better than we presently do. If we believe in innate capacities, however, then any attempts to force or override them will seem tormenting and futile. There would be no point in making a special effort to educate the children of the "underclass," no point in a Head Start program. We should simply learn to live with a lumpenproletariat.
In psychoanalysis, the nature-nurture enigma finds an equivalent in the debate between those analysts who hold to a "classical" drive theory, defining instincts physiologically, and those who have adopted the "English object-relations theory." Is the developing human being propelled by biological instincts (Triebe, properly "drives") with fixed stages associated with body zones (oral, anal, and so on), or should we say the infant is born into a relationship and all development, pleasure, learning, and adaptation must be defined within that and later relationships?
I do not see any necessary contradiction here. Drives presuppose objects, and objects presuppose drives. The relations between a baby and its objects must change as the baby's drives evolve, and the drives must change in relation to the baby's changing objects. Indeed the ego-psychologist David Rapaport thought one of Freud's outstanding ideas was making the object of a drive a defining characteristic of the drive (1960a, p. 202; see also Loch, 1977, p. 210).
The task for psychoanalysis, it seems to me, is to find ways for these two approaches to enrich each other, not cancel each other out as mutually exclusive. In the same way, I see the exciting discoveries of those who observe or test children as contributing to psychoanalytic knowledge, not competing with it.
Today's experimental psychologists have considerably revised William James's oft-quoted image of the newborn baby's world as "one great blooming, buzzing confusion." Babies are capable of a lot more than we used to think.
To be sure, a newborn sees only percent of what an adult sees, but that provides "functionally useful" vision. Stern says the newborn baby's eyes are focused at eight inches, forming a "perceptual bubble," adapted to the perception of his mother's face during feeding and little else. Other experimenters, however, seem to suggest that babies are born with more perceptual capacity, abilities to see distances or the position of objects in three dimensions. Often, apparently, these abilities are lost and later relearned in another form, as though they were first innate, then learned in a more adaptive way in response to experience and other forms of knowledge.
After four months or more, the baby begins to be able to accommodate his vision for near and far objects, probably as a result of improved acuity (Atkinson and Braddick, 1981). Vision probably develops according to "a preset, presumably genetically determined program" (Held, 1981). Indeed all of infant development probably takes place as part of the program by which the neurons in the body and brain grow their sheaths of myelin and begin to function as they do in adults (Freedman, 1981). From the very beginning, however, babies show they like to look at some things more than others, at curves and depths and many small events rather than a few large ones (Fantz et al., 1975).
The newborn's hearing is much more sophisticated than his vision. Films have shown infants as early as twenty minutes after birth spontaneously moving their bodies in time with speech (Condon, 1976; Condon and Ogstron, 1966). As one researcher remarks, if this observation proves true, it is surely one of the most significant discoveries of any modern science, because it suggests that we are by nature speaking animals and social beings. Infants do, in fact, have social exchanges from the very beginning. The days when a newborn first comes home from the hospital (in our culture) provide a period of intense negotiation during which mother and baby try to mesh their two schedules (Sander, 1969).
Babies can move their bodies in rhythm to speech at one day, and at one month they can distinguish a p from a b (Spieker, 1982). Moreover, a four-month-old baby apparently hears that difference not just as a random difference in the timing of the voice but as a difference in linguistic category. Again, the inference seems inescapable that we are born knowing that language is made up of discrete units (Eimas, 1975). From the moment we are born we are getting ready to speak.
Indeed, newborns either have or develop quickly a number of what I can only call intellectual categories. Babies recognize almost from the start whether something is familiar or not. Babies can also predict, and they are able to act in response to familiar events or, conversely, to expect events to occur in response to their own actions. All of this presupposes (to me) surprising capacities of association and memory (Papousek and Papousek, 1981). Babies seem to understand sameness, difference, cause, effect, and sequence from birth.
By the second month of life babies are able to recognize specific individuals and behave differently toward them (Lamb, 1981). From a psychoanalytic point of view, however, these persons are "part objects." Before two months, a baby's sight is drawn just to the greatest number or size of visible elements ("contour density"). According to the experimenters, a very young baby neither sees the object as a whole nor is sensitive to the arrangement of features. After all, vision at two months is 20/500 and at four months, 20/150. Also, because a baby has little stored information about pattern and form, no schemata for perception, he cannot at first see an object (or a person) as such, only as a sequence of features. Probably that is the first meaning of an "other" for us: a figure or pattern or, more exactly, the feeling of alternately scanning and focusing on a sequence of critical features (Salapatek, 1975).
An eight-to-ten week old baby will kick and continue kicking to keep a mobile spinning (Suomi, 1981). That is, the baby can perceive events as events and act in response to them. It "perceives contingency," in psychological jargon, and again that implies some sophistication of concepts.
One of the most important of the baby's early concepts was "faceness," the invariant configuration of eyes, nose, and mouth. At four months, the eyes are the most salient feature of a face and "faceness" is not yet established, but by five months, a baby could recognize distortions of the mouth or inversions of the nose. An infant evolves a "face configuration," and that means the baby can understand the facial communication patterns that adults use (Campos and Stenberg, 1981). A four month old can tell whether a person he sees speaking is the source of the voice he hears by detecting the relation in time between face movements and the voice. A four month old knows that a speaking face normally goes with a speaking voice (Spelke and Cortelyou, 1981).
Around this time babies make another major cognitive leap. Before twelve weeks, experimentalists find only "very spotty" evidence (despite all claims of adoring and delighted mothers) that a baby knows the difference between its mother and a stranger. Somewhere between twelve and twenty weeks, however, that ability clearly and decisively appears.
Smiling helps in this. Babies start smiling toward human voices by one month and toward faces at three months, choosing between faces by four months. In general, babies show a spurt of response to all social stimuli around four months and, most important, they begin to show expectations about persons (Olson, 1981).
All of this shows the development of a rudimentary "person concept" (Olson, 1981). Conversely, a disruption of this interaction with persons spells trouble, as, for example, with blind children who cannot elicit or return the loving gazes that ordinarily pass between parent and child. For these unfortunate children, the risk of autism (a complete breakdown of development and interaction) greatly increases--unless their parents are taught to recognize and use other signs of interaction (Freedman, 1981).
It is clear, then, that infants have from the very start far more sophisticated abilities to sense and think about the world than people just a few years ago believed. From the outset, they have some sort of inborn, nonverbal mechanism for knowing, that is, for representing in their minds the concepts they are developing and by which they organize their environment into a world that is full of differences and meanings. From the first hours after birth they are able to draw on concepts in order to perceive, and their perceptions sophisticate those concepts in turn. In short, they engage in the same kind of feedback as adults who are DEFTing.
For example, studies of how infants perceive physical things show concepts shaping perceptions. A baby up to five months old ceases to look for a rattle placed on a table or, in general, any object placed on another, larger object. The infant ceases to look for it. Why? In general, when a five-month old tries to find a vanished object, how the object disappeared is important. If it disappeared on a trajectory, the infant can follow the object and will look for it. If, however, someone throws a blanket over it, the object has, as it were, ended. It is "inside" and the infant has no concept for inside. Similarly, if one puts an object under a transparent cup, it ends. The rattle on the table is "inside" that way and it, too, simply ends. With a seven-month-old infant, if one places a small object on the palm of his hand, he will close his hand over the object and that puts the object out of sight. The infant will then act as if the object no longer existed; eventually he just drops it. "Inside" doesn't mean anything yet, even if it is inside the baby's own hand. In other words, a seven-month old has a concept of trajectory but not yet of inside, and psychologists can watch the latter concept come into being (Bower, 1975). Before it does, a baby simply does not have the same kind of spatial sense we adults have.
A great many concepts have to come into being before we can say an infant has begun to establish human relationships. For example, a baby has to learn that others can be relied on or that it is itself capable of affecting its environment, indeed is in partial control of its experiences. A baby has to have some notion of its mother's continued existence despite her momentary absence for us to say that the baby is crying in order to bring her back. Then, once these concepts do come into being, a baby begins to have a more active and intentional role in its relations with other people (Lamb, 1981).
The experimental baby-watchers have made, then, at least one very important point. Emotional and cognitive development go together. Cognitive skills make emotional relations possible, and emotional relations motivate cognitive skills.
The crucial event in their mutual progress takes place usually by the third quarter of the first year of life: a baby begins to have a sense of the permanence of persons (Lamb, 1981). Once it does, it begins to have a sense of its own self. In psychoanalytic thinking, this is self-object differentiation, the basis for all relations with others and all sense of self. Piaget dated this watershed later, but it appears that the psychoanalysts' surmise was correct: the eighth or ninth month (Gouin Décarie, 1965).
To its parents, a baby's newfound sense of self and other shows as "stranger anxiety," fear or crying at the presence of adult strangers, male or female, but not, normally, of the mother. Interestingly, babies do not show stranger anxiety to other infants, evidence that their fears proceed from a genuine concept of who and what the others are. A twelve-month old who is looking through magazines or newspapers with pictures of adults will sometimes point at them and say "baby," showing that he is judging size per se. He is not compensating as we would for the reduction of a person to the size of a page, but he is fitting the apparent size of these persons into a one-year old's concept of person (Lewis and Brooks-Gunn, 1982).
Indeed by the end of the first year, you could say a baby has something like a full-fledged theory of mind. The one-year old, for example, understands that people have identity over time despite changes in location or behavior ("Daddy at work," "Mommy mad"). The baby knows that you have to influence people by asking for things or telling them. ("Watch me.") Hence the baby knows that people are self-moving. People identify one another (for example, by correctly using pronouns). People sense things within a limited perceptual field. Outside that field, things are not perceived. ("Did you see me jump in?") People have intentions ("I want") and moods ("Daddy loves me." "Mommy is sad"). People postpone or restrain or retain or repeat behaviors. ("Daddy will come home." "I can go home"--and can says the baby knows about what psychologists label "action potentials.") People share rules about what is appropriate and who can do what, when, and how. ("Norman is a good boy." "That's Daddy's hat.") In general, the one-year-old understands that people communicate messages through words and gestures. These are related to context, although not always unambiguously. Indeed, you have to infer the internal states of others. ("Are you mad, Daddy?") All in all, the one-year old has a fairly sophisticated theory of persons, although, obviously, he could not express it in abstractions like the ones in this paragraph (Bretherton et al., 1981). You could even say that he knows about as much about people as the psychologist knows about one of the rats in his mazes.
Most important, the one year old is beginning to detect genders and by two years will have made gender identity a part of his own self-identity. A basic principle in the child's development of self is "I will act like others who are like me," the principle of "attraction of like" (the opposite of magnets). The motivational system of the child thus rests at least partly on the ability to distinguish types of people and to decide to be like them. Thus the infant constructs sex-roles from the biological and cultural differences around him: hair length, type of clothes, different first names, work patterns, and so on. These cues provide information for differentiating oneself from others. Then the principle of "attraction of like" comes into play, and the child moves toward conformity in sex-role behavior. Each new behavior the child adopts provides a further basis for establishing what is like and what is unlike. Hence sex-role behavior tends to feed back onto itself, leading the child further and further into one gender or the other (Lewis, 1981).
Not only does a baby have a theory of the human and of gender by the end of the first year, he has begun to evolve his own personal style (Yarrow, 1982). From the beginning babies are active, information-processing organisms, engaged in feedback with their environment. They try to reach objects and get responses from them, preferring novelty and change to a static environment. Hence reaching out to people or to objects tends to be self-reinforcing. This positive feedback leads to a "generalized expectancy model," a belief that one can affect one's environment (notably through "contingent mother-infant interaction," in the jargon). This trust provides the basis for a personal style, that is, continuing some behaviors or, if you will, a way of DEFTing that the baby finds successful. It seems likely that even newborns have some rudimentary sense of self, developed out of the consistency and regularity of and the feedback from the baby's own actions. For example, each time a baby closes its eyes, the world become black. A self does that. In the same way, a self feels pain. A self makes the pain stop. Mother reflects back what I--a self--do (Lewis and Brooks-Gunn, 1982).
Also, by the end of the first year, infants have probably developed a sense of the styles of the people around them (their "behavioral propensities," in the jargon). Erikson's notion of basic trust, for example, presupposes that the baby can distinguish between the various people around him and predict their different responses to him. Infants develop different relations with their mothers than with their fathers. They also generalize from their experiences with parents to new people, trying out the social modes they know from their parents on newcomers. That generalizing means that a one-year old has developed a style discernible to the observing psychologist (Lamb, 1981), and that, from the point of view of this book, is an identity.
In all this vigorous experimenting, John Bowlby is an important influence with his concept of attachment, which he defines as an affectional tie from one person to another, binding them together in space and time. Bowlby was trying to situate the early mother-child relation in an updated psychoanalytic instinct theory, as grounded as Freud could have wished in biology and ethology. From observing primitive peoples and ground-living apes, Bowlby suggested that the baby's attachment to the mother served to protect the infant from predators and other dangers, balancing closeness to the mother with the child's necessary adventurousness.
Bowlby traced four stages in a modern baby's attachment. Until three months, a baby uses his behavioral repertoire, sucking, grasping, looking, smiling, and so on, to bring any person in his environment nearer to him, in general, to relate socially to any human around him. From three to six months, a baby clearly discriminates between his mother and other persons, wanting her near but not wanting the rest the same way. From six or seven months on, a baby becomes more active and takes more initiative in relating to people. Bowlby says the baby has become "goal-directed," changing its strategies according to the reactions of the other persons. This is the period when, according to Bowlby, a baby is truly "attached" and, in regular psychoanalytic theory, true object-relations begin--a baby relates to others as others and feels its self as a self. Finally, in a fourth period, beginning about three, the baby begins to be able to infer things about his mother's goals, and the give and take of mother and child becomes much more intense (1951, 1958, and 1969).
Bowlby's phases correspond in several ways to stages in babies' play described by two later researchers, Belsky and Most (1982). At first a baby plays in a completely undifferentiated way, manipulating and mouthing objects more or less at random. You could phrase this stage as, "The object is what I do." Then an infant begins to tailor its own procedures to fit the object, fingering and mouthing and looking at it according to what fits a mobile or a rattle or a box. "What is this? And what can it do?" Eventually, children begin to draw conceptual relationships between objects, and they start to use their own previous experience with mobile or rattle. They assert control of the relationship between the object and themselves. "What can I do with this object?" At about a year, the child gets beyond the physical limitations of the object--or the self. He begins to be able to do pretend play, to use a seashell as a cup or to mimic driving a car. "What can I make this subject or object into?"
In effect, the baby-watchers are demonstrating some of the basic assumptions of psychoanalysis. Their work asks for a psychoanalytic response.
One, a child develops in a progress (which is probably genetically programmed) from earlier and more primitive abilities to later and more complex skills. Such a program fits the psychoanalytic notion of developmental phases or stages. It is not consistent with the romantic idea of childhood that we began life in some unrepressed, utopian state of mind that later succumbed to repression and other civilizing ills. Rather, the newborn, as compared to the child of three, is not so much free as limited. The loss of infancy is growth.
Two, we did not, like Topsy, just grow. There is a logic to child development. We do not lurch abruptly from one stage to another, unrelated stage. Rather, an earlier stage transforms into the next in ways that we can understand commonsensically. A child develops in a continuous, sensible way.
Three, from the moment of birth (and perhaps before), a child is engaged in a feedback or dialectic with his environment, particularly the persons who surround him. They act on him, his response affects their subsequent actions, and that response to him enters in turn into his next action.
Four, in this feedback, what a baby feels emotionally and what a baby knows cognitively intertwine. One cannot separate a baby's affective development from his developing perceptual and cognitive skills. Each aids or interferes with the other.
No doubt we could glean other psychoanalytic fundamentals from this, to me, extraordinarily exciting line of psychological research, but we also need to recognize that the psychoanalysts and the observers and experimenters are coming at childhood in rather different ways. One could trace all of the above principles in Freud's account of childhood, not, to be sure, always fully explored. Freud's (and later psychoanalysts') accounts come almost entirely from observing this particular adult or that particular child, a clinician's concern. The baby-watchers, by contrast, concern themselves with categories, a certain kind of stimulus, a certain kind of gazing, a certain kind of play.
One experimenter, Michael Lewis, has addressed this difference by distinguishing two aspects of the self. One is categorical, the self I intend when I say, "I am male" or "I am big" or "I am writing a book." The other is existential, a more basic self, the "I" who inhabits all those sentences, whom I have known from the first moments of my existence as the self who opens my eyes or feels pain. Clearly, the existential self comes into being before the other, yet the existential self, starting at a very early age, is constantly discovering and defining itself as being like or unlike this or that category (Lewis and Brooks-Gunn, 1982). Categorical and existential selves exist in a dialectic relationship.
Characteristically, I would translate Lewis's dialectic into observables. The categories are what the observers and experimenters provide, and indeed what I provide myself when I look at myself "objectively," "out there," as an object, an other. I would translate the existential self into what an observer would see as the individual self, a unique being with a unique history which one senses as a personal style. Just as, when I write, I use categories, nouns and verbs, but choose and combine them in my individual way, so the baby uses categories, significant persons and stimuli, but chooses and combines them in an increasingly individual way. One could model a baby like a sentence, as drawing on socially and biologically given categories but using them with a certain personal style. That model brings us back, in effect, to earlier ones: identity governing a hierarchy of feedbacks or an identity hearing the questions all humans share but hearing them and answering in a personal idiom.
We can put the new knowledge about early infancy together with identity theory and feedback to explore the ways heredity and environment, nature and nurture, learning and faculties, or instinctual drives and object relations interact to form an I. We can use identity theory to imagine a moment by moment dialogue that will model the way we learn to see, hear, know, or remember reality. We begin with a paradox, namely,
Until now, I have been describing the baby's developmental dialogue as calls from his community and family. These relations of the baby to the people and things that environ him are "there," in the sense that you can even videotape them, and see how they call to him. Less obviously "there," but a balance of evidence from experimental studies confirms them, are the zones and drives that Freud and other early psychoanalysts, notably Karl Abraham, posited (Fisher and Greenberg, 1977, pp. 131-37 and 163-66). These sound the calls from his own body.
Early psychoanalytic theory said that, as the baby grows, different areas of his body become the focus of psychological concern and excitability of the nerves. For the first year of life, the inside and outside of the mouth become the focal zone, with eyes and skin taking on a related importance. Later the key zone will be the anus, and later still the genitals.
As each of these zones becomes focal, it provides a mode of behavior, taking in through the mouth, for example, or expelling from the anus. The zone also provides a focus for the significant people in the baby's environment, leading (in Erikson's phrase) to "decisive encounters." In the dialogue I am proposing as a model, these body zones provide a major part of the language in which the family and the community speak to a baby and a major part of the vocabulary he builds to respond.
In the earliest period of infancy, the baby lives through its mouth. He relates to the world by incorporation in its most literal sense, taking it into his body. Mostly he sucks in milk but he also takes in sights through his eyes and feelings of warmth and cuddling through his skin. We can understand this taking in as one side of a developmental dialogue. Family and society are saying to the baby, This is how we give. Some societies offer plenty, others famine. Some cultures swaddle, others encourage movement of arms and legs. In my own childhood a rigid schedule of feeding was the norm. In my children's childhood, we fed on demand. In the largest sense, however, all cultures, in giving, pose the same question: How will you receive what we give? And a baby answers in "personally and culturally significant ways" (again, Erikson's phrase), and so grows. The I comes into being through otherness--a profoundly paradoxical twist to our ideas of human nature, a decentering.
Lacan uses the word "alienation" for this state of affairs, giving it a negative tone, but one could equally well state it positively through a word like "community," as, say, Erikson does: the I can only come into being through a community of I's. The essential idea, however, is the same: self comes into being through another person's experience of that self. The mother gives back to the baby her version of the smiles and gurgles and cries the baby has given to her. Further, she perceives the baby more integratedly than the baby can perceive itself. Hence the other reflects a more integrated, a superior, so to speak, self back to the originating I, which takes it in and uses it to model a possible future I and to elicit other reflectings and hence further growth of the I. Generally this feedback is good, but it can be destructive. Jenny's mother was telling Jenny, you are not responsive enough for me, and Jenny gave back in her mother's scheme of things precisely what her mother reflected, a nonresponsive baby, and this bad feedback threatened her very sanity.
Within this dialogue of giving and receiving early psychoanalysts distinguished an earlier and a later mode. In the first (say) four weeks of life the baby mostly receives passively, sending out massive signals of total body pleasure or pain as a response. Gradually, however, he begins to take a more active role in shaping his environment. He not only sucks but clamps his gums onto the nipple. His brain learns to single out the human face from the stream of sights that passes before his unskilled eyes. His fingers clasp particular objects. He begins to take as well as to receive. Soon, with this new activity (as opposed to passivity) comes the pain of teething and the pleasure of biting. He feels angry because his mouth, hitherto the focus of pleasure, has become the focus of pain. Associating the change with mother, he bites her and perhaps she in response retaliates for being bitten, the first of many situations "in which the intensity of the impulse leads to its own defeat" (Erikson, 1963, p. 79). In effect, the baby's body and family are asking him, How will you take?, in a double sense. How will you actively take instead of passively being given to?, but also, How will you "take it?"
The mutuality of mother and baby can and almost always does sustain them through this confrontation and reversal. To the extent it does, Erikson theorizes, the baby builds the first layer of a basic sense of trust that will provide the base for a sense of hope and confidence throughout life. To the extent the mutuality of mother and infant does not overcome the baby's frustration, the baby develops a sense of doom, failure, and loss. In extreme cases, the baby can become psychotic, but most of us simply develop a trust that outweighs the sense of distrust. Always, however, we have both, as Iiro combined a sense that he was loved with a feeling he was loved on condition he get caught up in his mother's obsession to correct his fingers and toes.
My account of babyhood thus far follows Karl Abraham's early and Erik Erikson's later descriptions of "orality," based primarily on Freud's positing of drives associated with particular zones. This early idea of orality rested mostly on adult character structures explored in the therapy of adults. Another way of exploring the first, wordless year of life would be to look back at the zero year old from the perspective of a one-year-old and account for some of the things he has become able to do.
He can be "alone together" (in Winnicott's phrase) with his mother, he playing by himself, she doing something of her own, yet each aware of the other. He can love a blanket or teddy bear and use it as a source of solace. He can let another take care of him while his mother goes out, knowing that it is another and accepting the stand-in. He can walk or crawl into another room out of his mother's sight and stay there, returning when he wishes.
To do just these simple things, a baby has had to achieve ever more and more sophisticated answers to a constantly growing array of questions, answers far beyond those he was born with. To be "alone together" asks that the child accept the separateness of his mother and himself. Now he can "be held" in a symbolic as well as a literal way. To love a teddy or a blanket as "security cloth," he has learned to adapt pieces of the world outside himself to his own needs, another relation to otherness. To accept a babysitter, he has learned to distinguish different persons in the stream of people who attend to his needs, to accept them as persons, and to trust that the one person who matters most to him will return even if he accepts a temporary substitute. Simply to crawl into another room involves a willingness to be separate from that primary caregiver and a trusting belief that the union can be reestablished at will, either by physical crawling or by crying out. It implies also an ability to wait the necessary time to be reunited, to "tolerate delay."
Infants are unspeaking, and in imagining what goes on in the mind of a child who can't say, one must infer. I have been using two inferences widely accepted by psychoanalytic observers of very young children. The first is that the newborn baby does not recognize otherness as otherness. I do not mean to rule out some degree of sophistication in the newborn about what he sees and hears. The baby may be able in a purely perceptual way to grasp the position of an object in space or relate the occurrence of a certain voice to a certain face, but he does not see these things as discontinuous with himself--as "other." Everything is referred to inner comfort or discomfort. When he does begin to know otherness (around the eighth month of life), he senses it as a rude awakening from a world previously felt as lovingly, embracingly centered on himself, intensely and quickly responsive to his wishes.
The second inference is that at some time during the first year or year and a half the child accepts that otherness. Not permanently, not irrevocably--but he becomes able to make the distinction between self and other, to hold it, or to give it up, more or less at will. The psychoanalyst speaks of the baby's achieving "object constancy" but means by that term something different from the psychologist who also uses it.
Most psychologists mean by "object constancy" your ability to perceive, say, a postage stamp as such. You see it from many different distances or points of view, at different angles and under different lighting. You may never see it as a rectangle of a certain size and color, yet you "know" it is a pink oblong and, moreover, the same pink oblong although its image on your retina keeps changing. You have the ability to make a concept of the object and hold that constant even though your perceptions of the object vary widely. Certainly this is essential to what Mahler and other psychoanalysts call "object constancy," but it is not all of it.
Piaget speaks of "object constancy" as the ability to keep track of a ball when it rolls behind the sofa, to know where it is and to imagine it, even though it is out of sight. This, too, is part of what a child needs in order to achieve psychoanalytic "object constancy," but only part.
For the psychoanalyst, "object" means an emotional object like a mother or a teddy bear. Selma Fraiberg, in an inspired guess, formulated the difference between psychoanalytic object constancy and Piaget's by watching her dog, Brandy. Brandy learned early to recognize the can of dog food when it appeared: "recognition memory." Babies quickly do the same with breast or bottle. Brandy also learned to recall the can of dog food when he was hungry and it had not appeared. He would stand in front of the refrigerator and scratch and plead. This Fraiberg called "evocation memory": recalling the object when it is wanted but absent. But Brandy never gave a sign of imagining the can of dog food simply at will (1969).
That is the human thing. That is the imagining that babies achieve. Having this ability, a baby can imagine his mother apart from his love of (or anger at) her. He can begin to feel her as really a part of himself--internalized. Simultaneously, he can begin to think of her as wholly separate from himself, a whole other being, not just a source of satisfactions. Further, he has shown that he can turn passive into active, memory prompted by need into memory he himself initiates.
A mother is likely to see this rather abstract achievement as the baby's calm at her absence. Erikson's term for it is "basic trust," "the basic faith in existence," the sense "not only that one has learned to rely on the sameness and continuity of the outer providers, but also that one may trust oneself and the capacity of one's own organs to cope with urges; and that one is able to consider oneself trustworthy enough so that the providers will not need to be on guard lest they be nipped" (1963, pp. 248, 252).
As Erikson makes clear, the baby's growing sense of constancy and trust embraces not only the outer world, but the inner. Object constancy implies self constancy. That is, feeling that another is trustworthy makes it possible, indeed requires, that one know that the other is in fact other. This knowledge, this "self-object differentiation," is probably the key achievement of the first stage of development because it marks the child's entry into the specifically human world of symbols.
To imagine itself, its own body, or to imagine another person--these abilities mean that the infant has to use a symbol. Symbolization grows in an atmosphere of trustful sharing of contemplated objects. For a baby, symbols and the ability to symbolize are what he and his mother have shared. Conversely, if the infant's relationship with his mother is seriously disturbed, symbolization will very likely miscarry as well (Werner and Kaplan, 1963, pp. 73, 79, 83).
We can only infer a baby's state of mind, but theory suggests that the child can put relatively neutral objects into symbols before being able to symbolize itself or its mother. A rattle or a block bears very little of the mingling of frustration and desire that the baby brings to that all-powerful other who satisfies his needs. Sometimes she satisfies quickly and rightly. Sometimes she cannot figure out what it is he wants, and then he can feel overwhelmed by need. He can dissolve into paroxysms of angry frustration. Inevitably, then, toward the caregiver, the baby feels that mingling of love and hate for which Freud coined the term "ambivalence." For the baby (as for an adult) ambivalence must make it difficult to single out an other as a defined concept.
The very nature of infancy poses the baby the question, "How will you deal with your ambivalence?" Classical theory, beginning with Freud, holds that the baby copes by imagining his caregiver in two parts, a bad part outside him and a good part inside him. One of the tasks of the first year is to put those parts back together into a whole person. If a baby can imagine his mother as a single person, he has brought his ambivalence within manageable bounds. He has found a neutral space free of his own passionate love and hate in which she can simply be or in which they can be "alone together."
To bring his love and hate within bounds implies that over a period of time he has learned to wait to be fed, to have the room made warm, or to have the light turned off, without being overwhelmed by need. He has learned, in the psychoanalysts' phrase, to tolerate delay, because he has been able, from time to time, to have the experience of endurable and successful waiting. He has had what Winnicott called "good enough" mothering. He has been hungry and has had to wait to be fed, but was fed before he was overwhelmed by desire. His body was warmed--not before he could know it needed to be, but before he had been swamped by the agony of waiting. The light was turned off, not before it had begun to bother him, but after he had become tetchy and irritated without being able to communicate why.
Key to this toleration of delay is hope and trust in another being. René Spitz concluded from his studies of babies separated from their parents during World War II that there must be one primary person toward whom the infant can form a relation, no matter how many others assist in his care (1965). Recently, in the interests of freeing women from the tyranny of Kinder, Küche, Kirche, some researchers have challenged Spitz's conclusion that the baby needs some one person to relate to. One researcher, for example, finds "nothing to suggest that mothering cannot be shared by several people." Chodorow and others point out, however, that the psychoanalytic point of view does not advocate exclusive mothering, only that there be one person with whom the child can form an affective bond (1978, pp. 74-75 and references there cited). Out of that bond comes the child's ability to wait, to symbolize, to tolerate delay, to achieve object constancy, and all the rest.
These abilities we have inferred by looking back from the one- year-old to the zero-year-old. Another source of evidence, obviously, would be to watch actual babies. Two important psychoanalytic groups have done so: René Spitz's, starting in the 1930s, and Margaret Mahler's, beginning in the 1950s. The psychoanalytic baby-watchers divide this first major stage of the I's becoming, that is, the baby's first year or two or three, into six phases, with one important division taking place around the fourth or fifth month. The division into stages before then has to rest largely on inference from the analysis of adult and child psychotics with disorders stemming from that early period. After four or five months, however, one can learn much more by directly watching babies.
There is, of course, plenty to watch in the first few weeks, but it is difficult to interpret, as every caregiver knows who has tried to relieve a newborn's massive but unnamable distress. In our society, the baby and mother come home from the hospital a few days after birth. The hospital has often separated mother and baby so that it is only when they get home after some days' delay that they begin the intense process of fitting their rhythms together. These negotiations take place in the language of feeding. The baby demands food peremptorily in response to overwhelming need. The mother responds in adult time, perhaps nudging the baby toward a three- or four-hour schedule (Sander, 1969).
A problem for this negotiation is the undifferentiated quality of the infant's inner life--at least as we guess at it. He and his mother relate as needer and satisfier, and he feels that relation as all or nothing. He is either needing and crying or not needing and content. Researchers describe him as a purely biological organism, his responses as "reflex" or "thalamic." Spitz calls his sensing of the world "coenesthetic reception," in which all the senses overlap; he contrasts it to perception proper (1965, p. 134).
In that single-mindedness one percept stands out, the human face. From the earliest feedings, a baby has looked into his mother's eyes as part of his total gratification: the satisfaction of mouth, skin, stomach, and eye, her face marking the presence of his need gratifier. Around the fourth week of life, a baby begins to single out her face from its surroundings, seeking it with his gaze. This happens so early that it may even be biologically programmed (Spitz, 1965, pp. 81, 86).
In thus singling out a face, the baby is making a momentous reply, but what has the world around the infant asked, and how can we understand the unworded answer? In our society, perhaps in every society, the all or nothing needs of the baby have to be matched to the family and household around him, to brothers' and sisters' play, a father or mother's work, to all the family's concerns and wishes. Most important, the people around him want the baby to respond to them, to their need to evoke a human response in another. This need is scarcely a question that adults could phrase. It is more like a call of nature, a beckoning that has to be interpreted. I think we can say that gesturing to the baby means, Fit! Join! Become part of our human group.
What the baby hears or how he interprets it, I can imagine only by reading back from his response. By singling out a face, he says, in effect, I can "be toward" someone. I can come out of this world I have, in which I am totally self-absorbed and omnipotent, in which I am the world. I can "be toward" something or somebody--that face which is a sign for ecstatic contentment. If the baby has answered, I can be toward, then the first form of that call from mother, family, and community must have been, Be toward me, and the baby's being toward a face accepted that relationship. Conversely, as Selma Fraiberg has shown, blind children who cannot return gaze for gaze risk autism or psychosis, the catastrophic failure of that first mutuality, unless one can train their parents to recognize other signs of "being toward" (1977).
To answer, Yes, I can "be toward" implies another answer as well. It says a baby has mastered another fundamental ability, which underlies many others and which, in the context of his family's need that he join, is completely paradoxical. He shows that he can single out a physical object in space. He can disjoin. He can give a person an edge. He can separate a presence in time, giving an event a beginning, middle, and end. This bounding is nothing definite or willed, just a "toward," but it is a beginning.
Around the third month of life, Spitz reports, a baby makes another response to that insistent call from his community. He smiles, not the haphazard gurgling sort of glee he may have shown before, but in response to a specific stimulus: any human face. Curiously, a baby responds to the combination of two eyes and a nose in motion, even if the "face" is a Halloween mask. A baby will not smile at a profile and, presented with a side view of a face, may even stare perplexedly at the ear as if to wonder where the other eye went. In other words, the child is not responding to his mother or any particular person. He is greeting a sign (or gestalt) of need gratification, and he will smile at any face, real or drawn, white or black, known or unknown. Spitz calls it a "pre-object." Nevertheless, this action, too, is momentous as a reply in the developmental dialogue. Not only can the baby single out this sign from the stream of sensations, he can smile at it.
In effect, by "smiling toward," a baby shows that he has discov- ered that he has a partner in the dyad of baby and adult. Further, he has actively used what Spitz calls his "snout," that is, the configuration of lips, chin, nose, and cheek. Up till now this snout had been primarily his way of taking in the world passively, either as satisfaction or as perception. He now has made this "snout" into something that puts out as well as takes in, expressing as well as absorbing. He has turned passivity into activity (Spitz, 1965, p. 107).
Until this time the baby had been a passive receiver of nurture. When he becomes able to smile at a human face, he has given a first answer to the communal call for him to join the human race, to turn from being wholly passive to being active (Spitz, 1965, pp. 52-85).
He thus shows, in psychoanalytic terms, a rudimentary ego. That is, he demonstrates the beginnings of two abilities that will someday underlie all his adaptations to reality. First, he can bound something. Second, he can reverse direction from passive to active, from coming in to going out. Mahler speaks of two intertwined developmental tracks of separation and individuation. Separation is the move toward distancing, differentiating, distinguishing. Individuation is the move toward personal autonomy: perception, seeing, hearing, remembering, knowing, or testing for oneself (Mahler et al., 1975, pp. 39-41).
The baby who is able to "smile toward" has passed through only two "pre-object" stages, however. Mahler sees four more stages in separation proper before the infant achieves true object constancy: first, differentiation, from 4-5 months to walking; second, practicing, from walking to 15-24 months; third, rapprochement, from 15-24 months to the middle of the second year (but with great variability); fourth, the consolidation of individuality and the beginnings of object constancy, a developmental period that in Mahler's experience does not begin before the third year and then continues all through life. Throughout, the community around an infant is asking him to join, not mindlessly or conformingly (although sometimes that way, too), but as an individual who thinks, feels, and acts on his own and in relation to others (ibid.)
A baby changes from indiscriminate smiling to a smile reserved for one special caregiver, mother. That smile signals a transition. It is the "first organizer" (in Spitz's term) and marks the transition passage from the "pre-object" stages toward Mahler's first stage in separation proper: differentiation. In the pre-object stages a baby molded and nestled into his mother's arms. Now we see him pushing away from his mother's body. She holds his arms and he uses the newfound strength in his legs to push against her stomach, almost standing, so that he gets a better look at her. "Stemming" the baby-watchers call it.
Erect this way, he can turn his head to scan his surroundings. The baby pulls at his mother's hair. He pokes into her ears or nose. He may put food into her mouth. He may become fascinated by a brooch or necklace or eyeglasses. Having discovered an other, he now explores and bounds her (Mahler et al., 1975, pp. 52-55).
This exploration peaks at six or seven months and then shades into what Mahler calls "checking back." A baby continues to learn about mother, her look, her feel, her texture, her sound, her smell, and her taste, but he begins to compare her with not-mother, to other sights, sounds, smells, and textures. In exploring eyeglasses, hair, or bracelet, he finds out what belongs and does not belong to mother's body. He sharpens the discrimination signaled by the special smile he gives mother and not not-mother (Mahler et al., 1975, pp. 55-58).
Spitz coined two terms for the kinds of perception going on. The earlier, in which the baby focuses inwardly onto the state of his own well-being and perceives events globally as pleasing or displeasing, satisfying or frustrating, he called "coenesthetic." The word literally means that the different senses all act together as one sense, leading to a feeling of total pleasure or displeasure. The perceptions that develop in true separating he called "diacritic," literally separated judgments, in which the eye sees and the ear hears and a baby discriminates between sight and sound (1965, p. 44).
These heightened perceptions and distinctions lead to the familiar "stranger reaction" around the eighth month. Some babies are frightened of strangers. They cry and strain toward their mothers. Other babies explore. They check out a stranger's finger, clothing, pen, or necklace. They may even run their hand over her face or hair. Having made this "customs inspection" (as the baby-watchers call it), a baby relaxes into his mother's arms, and his face and eyes tell of the joy of reunion. In other words, a baby does not just turn away from the stranger; he turns away toward someone (Mahler et al., 1975, pp. 56-58).
This is the time when the baby begins to be able to play the familiar games of childhood. At three months, like Jenny subjected to her mother's relentless stimulation, a baby is relatively powerless. So is a five-month-old. As Louise Kaplan describes him, when he sees his mother disappear through a doorway, he can't do much about it, but, if he has come to feel confidence in the sound of her footsteps or a typewriter or water running, he does not panic.
One sign of that confidence is his ability to enjoy her games of peekaboo. She hides her face and when his worry reaches just enough of a tension, out she pops again. That was at five months or so. Around ten months, the baby can play his own peekaboo. How does mother react to his disappearance when he puts a blanket over his head or when he sticks his face down into his mattress? Then she hides her head and he looks worried until she reappears and he can crow with triumph just as she did. The game satisfies many needs. Perhaps that is why it is played all over the world (Kaplan, 1978, pp. 143-47).
The most famous game in the literature of baby-watching, the one that Freud watched his small grandchild Ernst playing, also satisfied the need to master parental disappearance. At one and a half, little Ernst would throw toys out of his bed, crying as he did so a long, drawn-out "o-o-o-o-o." Freud and the boy's mother agreed this was the German word fort, "gone." One day the child was playing with a spool with a string tied round it. From the floor, he threw the spool over the edge of his crib so that it disappeared and he said "o-o-o-o-o." But then Ernst used the string to pull the spool into his crib again and cried da, "there!" Freud's interpretation of this fort-da game (as it has come to be called) is much more tentative than those theorists who have erected virtual systems of metaphysics on it. Freud reads it as like peekaboo, a way of demonstrating that what disappears returns. It was a way of mirroring a situation he had suffered passively, his mother's going out, by one he actively created for himself. In other games, he played at making himself disappear from a mirror and his father disappear at "the front." In all these situations he was using objects (almost as an adult would use an artistic medium) to re-create an intensely personal situation involving his own relation with his mother (1920g, 18:14-16; see also Kaplan, 1978, pp. 151-52).
Once a baby learns to crawl, he can play catch-me. The baby scrambles off with his mother in hot pursuit, but she just barely can't catch him! He stays out of her reach until he tires and lets the menacing pursuer of babies catch him--to his great joy. Here again, the baby has made active what he experienced only passively, being caught up by his mother. He mirrors something she did, thereby turning into active play the perhaps fright-ening reality of her great power and his helplessness. Again, he proves in a cognitive sense that what disappears comes back (Kaplan, 1978, pp. 147-151).
Obviously, a baby cannot play catch-me until he can crawl. This game and the others depend on the particular infant's physical abilities and coordination, and at any given age, say ten months, these will vary widely. So too will the baby's temperament and his mother's. These games, like everything else the mother and child do together, are played in a vocabulary unique to each mother and child, although the developmental tasks they involve and the abilities they require are common to all children--and mothers. Their dialogue takes place in a universal physiological language, a cultural dialect, and a unique and individual style.
What happens in that conversation is that the child is evolving a variety of answers to the persistent call of his family and community to join them. His earliest response was to "be toward." As he begins more and more to separate the continuum that first surrounded him and to individuate himself, he can answer more complexly: can be apart-from-toward. Can be toward but can also wish to be "apart from." Can move from the one wish to the other. "Can be"--where once he was only passive and receptive, now he can choose and act. Not quite an I yet.
"Hatching" is Mahler's term for the infant's first pulling away from the orbit in which he and his mother formed a union of two people wholly focused on each other, a dyad. "Practising" is her term for the second stage, in which a baby uses physical separations to prepare for the far more important psychological separation that is to follow. Thus, a baby progresses from the pattern of checking back, playing or crawling close to his mother, to his first unaided steps away from her, taking off on one's own.
What sets this second stage apart from the first is the baby's increasing ability with his legs and arms as he progresses from crawling to unaided walking. During the first part of this transition, the baby sits up, crawls, paddles, creeps, rights himself, and sometimes clambers up to a standing position by holding onto the coffee table. In the second part, he stands unaided and begins free walking. Interestingly, according to Mahler's observations, the baby usually takes his first unaided steps away from his mother (not as in folklore and poetry, toward her--Mahler et al., 1975, pp. 65-76).
It is impossible to overstate the symbolic meaning of being upright. Each baby lives again the exhilaration our hominid ancestors must have felt when they stood up and looked far across the African savannas and realized that they alone surveyed all that land. Other creatures became beneath and lesser. Imagine the feeling of first being able to turn the muscles in your neck and back to deliberately locate what you want, to look down on obstacles and objects that once you had to eye on their own level, to take a grand survey of your environment.
Many of our words and metaphors reflect this pride in standing. "Survey" itself, for example, means to oversee or see over. Moral terms like "erect," "upright," or "upstanding" gain force from our childhood achievement of verticality, just as words like "grovel," "cower," "squat," "crawl," and "creep" take on moral connotations of an infant's powerlessness.
This second stage is a transition from a "fall" to a "rise." To a baby, standing and walking mean a vastly increased scope for all the skills he was born with but has yet to perfect: seeing distances and dimensions, turning his head, locating objects by sound, understanding relations of higher and lower, left and right, in front of, behind, above, beneath. To be sure, at this stage the baby will do all these things close to mother's knee but he will do them. He can exult to himself, I am upright the way they are. He meets his mother now when he is erect, a new kind of face to face closeness in which he is much more of an equal partner. Moreover, his new powers allow him to come to mother, not just she to him. He thus strengthens his bond to her, at the same time that he makes it a matter of his own choice and will. Jason's sense of omnipotence was thus right for his age, although his depressed mother did not answer him with realistic responses to dangers. The more usual outcome is a negotiated balance between the omnipotence of the child and the caution of the adult (Mahler et al., 1975, pp. 70-75).
This new position of control and will implies a loss of something else, the snuggly, cuddly world of a few months before. To make the most of what his legs can now do, the child needs to take the security of that world with him as he walks. He needs to get it inside himself, as his own confidence and trust and perhaps in a more tangible form as well. Hence the importance of
In the first months of life, a baby finds in his fingers, thumbs, and fist a way of easing the discomforts his psyche feels. In his mouth, they simulate the comfort of the breast. By holding a hand to his cheek he can imitate the feel of breast against cheek and hand against clutching breast. From fingers, fist, and especially thumb, a baby moves on to dolls and other toys, without, however, giving up the sensuous comforts of his hand. He finds what the English have happily called "soft toys," the teddy bear, the floppy dog, or the lopeared bunny, or he can seize on, in the American phrase, a "security cloth."
The thumb was only one step away from the breast, a sign accompanying rather than a symbol standing for pleasure in the mouth. The teddy or the blanket, however, serves as a reminder of the feel and warmth and smell that accompanied mothering. It is a sign of a sign, so to speak. Two steps away from the actual gratification, the teddy or blanket is a true symbol, for it has an arbitrary connection to the mothering for which it stands: there is no reason inherent in this blanket why it can give the baby a feeling of security while some other blanket cannot. Yet, of course, there is, for this symbol is only partly created by the baby. Partly the teddy or blanket has a history as well as a good smell and a warm, worn feel that derive from that history. Partly it is, in Winnicott's term, "found" (and for me the word has the sudden, joyful feeling of "The lost is found!").
Hence the teddy bear is both a symbol and a sign and even, to some extent, the thing itself--mothering--embodied in a set of sensations as well as an object. Winnicott coined the term for this special entity: a "transitional object." It is transitional between sign and symbol. It is a created object standing for something else, hence a symbol. It is also a found object that either is or is a sign of the presence of that something else (mothering) and of the desires mothering satisfies. Also, to the extent that it is a sign or symbol of mothering, not mothering itself, it is a sign of the absence of mothering as well. The teddy bear embodies the transition between the presence and the absence of mother (Winnicott, 1971a, particularly chap. 1).
It can also be transitional between self and the world of not self, between inside and outside, between the child's inner memories of merger and the outer world, unmerged. Most of all, the teddy bear stands for oneness, the earlier relation when the baby and his world were perfect and, as Louise Kaplan phrases it, "differences between inside and outside and between me and not-me did not exist."
As the baby presses the security blanket to his cheeks and nose it caresses him. It smells of the sweetness of a yes-saying mother and also of smells that belong to the baby. The blanket's molding softness is like the time when he and mother were one. The blanket exists "out there" in the inanimate world of rattles, bottles, pillows and mobiles. Yet it is alive with reminiscences of human dialogue. Furthermore, the baby can scratch, pinch, rub and slap his blanket around without a no or a don't or any possibility of real destruction. The blanket withstands the baby's passionate excitements and it never lets him down. It's always there when he longs for it (Kaplan, 1978, pp. 154-55).
The soft toy thus can stand for the mother in a mystical oneness between baby and mother, a creature who, in a way, never existed, yet was imagined and needs to be imagined again and again, now especially when the baby is venturing out on hands and knees or upright into new and wonderful spaces which are, nevertheless, challenging, hard, even dangerous and frightening. Sometimes there will be strain and frustration. Sometimes outer reality will be harshly unresponsive to inner desires. Then the baby--and even the adult--will try to bring back the illusion of a union that includes otherness. A security cloth, a soft toy, a hum, a stroking gesture, or a rocking motion can bring it back for the infant. A poem or a special memento can bring it back for the adult (Kaplan, 1978, p. 156. For the artistic implications of a baby's objects, see Milner, 1957b).
Looking back at the birth of an I, we can see the establishment of five intertwined themes or problems that make up the I which the child will bring to new situations (see the chart on pp. 244-45). First, the child must have learned to tolerate delay and hence must have begun a sense of time. Second, out of the ability to wait comes the ability to imagine and to symbolize what is being waited for. Third, by waiting the child also makes a sign that it has distinguished an external other separate from its own inner states. The baby has made its first moves toward control of the boundary between inside and outside. To recognize an outside is the first step in acting on it, while accepting an inside as such provides the basis for passivity (as Dr. Vincent had to do when brainwashed). Hence the baby has also taken a fourth step, distinguishing activity from passivity. Fifth, by imagining the other as other, the child necessarily learns there is a not-other, an I. He has opened the door to all the distinctively human things that follow from that I's knowing it is an I.
We begin to see the adult human's ability to DEFT take form, still in what Piaget would call the "sensorimotor stage." The baby acts out in literal, physical ways ideas that tax the metaphors and metaphysics of adults.
How will you separate and re-relate self and object?
By endowing the admittedly not-me with my inner wishes and fears--as I do this blanket (F).
How will you bound inside and outside?
As by holding this blanket, I hold onto what I have projected from inside, even by acknowledging it is now outside (D).
How will you symbolize?
By means of external, 'found' objects which themselves have and which I imbue with symbolic value (D).
How will you accept delay by yourself and by others?
By displacing my attention to symbolized and imaginatively endowed objects (like this blanket), to which time is irrelevant (T).
How will you tolerate loving and hating the same person?
By displacing my love and hate onto other, less vital objects, like this blanket (D), and by trusting that my love and hate will no more destroy them than they destroy this blanket (E).
Even with a teddy bear, a baby does not learn these things irrevocably, of course. As an adult, how well do I tolerate delay in love or recognition? Am I able to see those I love as wholes, faults and all? Do I see myself uncolored by my own wishes or fears? Can I always keep a sharp boundary between what I think and what the rest of the world thinks? Does any of us?
It is probably with the baby as with the adult. The I wins these abilities at first for a brief moment or two, then for longer periods, as favorable experience accumulates, but never without the possibility of lapsing back toward an undifferentiated, unsymbolizing self. In the 1950s when these ideas were beginning to circulate, psychoanalysts tended to think of a crucial moment of "self-object differentiation." To be sure, there must be one moment when, for the first time, the baby imagines an other and a self, but it seems easier to think of this ability as also a relative thing, coming into being over a long relationship of dialogue between caregiver and care receiver.
We can tease out, then, five strands of achievement in that first year of becoming I, five experiences the child must have had in order to do things like crawl out of sight of its mother, call her or itself by name, or be "alone together" with her. The child must have tolerated delay, mastered ambivalence, distinguished self from other and activity from passivity, and symbolized those distinctions. No doubt there are other ways of thinking about the achievements of the first year, but these will serve to outline the origins of an I.
Also, they correspond (not entirely by coincidence) to four fundamental capabilities of an ego, as defined in second phase psychoanalysis, that is, ego psychology. An ego, to deal with the demands of inner and outer reality, uses four modes of displacement. The baby achieves object constancy when he has acquired corresponding abilities (Holland, 1973a).
|The ego displaces||The baby begins to|
|in direction.||separate inside from outside|
|in time.||tolerate delay.|
|in number.||distinguish self from other|
Of course, one stage does not suddenly leave off and the next begin. Stages may be completed, may overlap, be separated or linked, and the problems posed by one may be heard in the language of another. Indeed, one of the important ways to account for the tremendous variety in human development and personality despite a relatively small number of stages, three or four or five, is precisely this possibility of almost infinite variability.
Differentiation, discrimination, distinction--development proceeds by a kind of parting or separation, Juliet's "sweet sorrow." "Individuation," writes Hans Loewald, "comes about by the losses of separation" (1978, p. 46). He is stating one meaning of what is often called Freud's tragic sense. To become an active little toddler, the baby gives up the ease and passivity of the cradle. To become a speaking baby, he gives up the undifferentiated gurgle and goo. To become a baby at all we gave up the blissful union of the womb.
Not entirely, however. We give them up but partially,
hesitantly, and never irrecoverably. When we suffer a loss, we
mourn. That is, we incorporate what is lost "out there" as
part of the "in here" which is our continuing mental
processes. We carry these earlier states with us, and
we come back to them as we give ourselves moments of extreme
passivity or ecstasy. We return like travelers to that most ancient,
Mycenaean self that existed in a prehistory before other
had become other.
9 / Zones and Modes
In the classical psychoanalytic picture, throughout the birth of an I, the mouth was the baby's main window on the world. Once the baby acquired new capacities for relationships with things and people, other body zones became important. In particular, much of his mental and nervous energy became focused on the process and product of squeezing wastes out of his body.
Freud believed that different zones of an infant's body became focal because of purely biological promptings. Modern object relations theorists believe that it is the people around the baby who focus his attention now on the mouth, later on the anus, still later on the genitals. I am inclined to think that that social call to the child fits a bodily determined matrix: the baby's body can answer only within certain limits, and hence only certain demands can be addressed to, say, the process of defecation. Conversely, the body process provides a way for the baby to model his parents' and society's demands. Thus Erikson sensibly calls this anal stage "letting go" and "holding on." He gives the case of a little girl trying to let go, yet hold on, to her mother, using her bowel movements as the medium in which to express her struggle. Bruce (p. 174 above) symbolized his mother's absence by the bowel movement he could feel separating from himself, but could not see. Similarly Little Hans (Freud's child case) analogized from his lumf to the birth of his sister. Lumf is also language.
Communications aside, Western societies take the emptying of the bowels seriously and circumscribe the process with rules. Other cultures have customs or climate that permit fewer strictures. All cultures, however, place some restrictions on defecation. Further, all cultures ask a new generation to abide by the laws of the existing society. The first laws the baby encounters have to do with feeding, and usually the next have to do with excreting. We might do well, then, to think of this "anal" stage more generally. I shall call it
By the end of such a nomic stage, the child must have established a style of relating to the rules of others. By the end of the oral stage, the child had learned to symbolize his mother. Now his parents and his society are asking the child to take symbolization a step further. Think rules! By the end of the nomic stage, the child will have answered by forming his individual pattern for dealing with rules, obeying or disobeying, minimizing them, extending them to new subjects, making the rules of others his own internal rules, or formulating rules for himself or for others. To the extent that he can create rules for himself and follow them, he will have begun to find his own style of control, both self-control and the control of other people and things, although what he actually controls may seem very primitive in the eyes of adults.
To satisfy both the child's need for pleasure and admiration and the parent's need for order, child and parent need to come together in a mutual regulation. Social rules need to be brought into that potential space between parent and child where they can be both found "out there" in society and accepted and resymbolized "in here" in the child. Around these rules, earlier emotions of love and hate become more precise as attraction and disgust, both in an immediate physical relation to people and things and more abstractly, as the beginnings of values.
The child who has completed the oral phase has achieved a sense of self, perhaps even some sense of what his body can do and where his body leaves off. Now, as interest focuses on defecation, the question of what is part of his body and what is not assumes a new importance and complexity. That is, the stool comes from inside the body, yet the parent defines it as disgusting and to be thrown away. The sense of self must now acquire a social dimension. Cultural values, rather than the earlier boundaries of pleasure and displeasure or inside and outside, define what is or is not to be included in the bodily self that you want to be loved.
In the oral stage, self and other met in the process of feeding, holding, gazing, and other nurturings. The baby was given to and accordingly took in. In the nomic stage, self and other meet in a new way: around rules that are to be followed and taken in and made a part of oneself, as before food was taken in. These will be rules about eating, defecating, making noise, handling ashtrays, and a myriad of other body and household actions.
The parents are likely to speak these rules. Hence although we do not know (in 1985) how children learn to speak, we can be sure that some of the rules they learn in the nomic stage are those for language. Whether or not the capacity for language in a larger sense is innate, the child will learn a right way of saying what he wants to say to these parents in this society in this language. What in the oral stage was symbolization in a very general sense now becomes something more precise. The child simultaneously learns the grammar of a particular language and the rules in a particular culture for cleanliness and order.
Time was the teacher from whom the child learned that there was an other and hence a self, an outer source of nurture that followed its own time rather than the time of the child's inner needs or wishes. Simple delay in the oral stage now becomes a sense of cyclical recurrence in the process of excretion and in the daily round of a society whose rules the child's time must now fit. We ask the child to focus its sense of time into a sense of timing.
In the oral stage, the healthy child has learned to tolerate (at least some of the time) the mixture of love and resentment he feels toward the mother who, in the nature of things, must both gratify and frustrate him. In the nomic stage the same ambivalence focuses on the process and product of defecation. To love is to hold onto (as Erikson suggests), to gain the almost masturbatory pleasure of keeping back the column of feces, now perceived as a precious part of the newly sensed self (1963, p. 82). To let go is to lose it.
Throughout the oral stage, the baby made one psychological maneuver over and over. He turned a passive experience of nurture into an active ability. Similarly, throughout this nomic stage, the child uses one maneuver over and over. Symbols become rules. Language becomes grammar. Time becomes timing. The body's boundaries become social as well as physical. Love becomes keeping. Hate becomes disgust and throwing away. If, then, there is a learning beneath and beyond all these other achievements, we could call it transforming toward precision or, if you will, "precising." The child learns how to focus the large concerns of the oral stage into more precise versions.
Is it this that makes the nomic stage so markedly visible? Every parent knows "that stubborn stage at two," and almost every parent can tell an anecdote about a child's fondness for making a not-overly-welcome gift of the precious contents of its diapers. "Anal" traits are especially visible in adults. The first personality type Freud discovered (and that as early as 1908) was the "anal character" with its distinctive triadic style: "orderly, parsimonious, and obstinate" (9:168-75; see also 1913i, 12:313-26). Classic papers by Jones (1918) and Abraham (1921) became encyclopedic anthologies of all kinds of adult transformations of the process and product of emptying the bowels: miserliness, fussiness about time, collecting mania, pedantries, obscure little dirty habits, compulsive cleanliness, odd quirks about money, or preoccupations with certain sounds or smells. In literature, one finds in the writings of "anal" writers like Ben Jonson or Nikolai Gogol a concern with the same themes that Abraham and Jones and Freud found in their patients: rules, pedantry, miserliness, obstinacy, fussy precision, or explosive anger. The writers themselves show a strange restriction of the imagination. They can elaborate endlessly in some directions (odd habits, "humours," for example), but turn curiously vacuous in others (heroines).
Perhaps we see these traits so clearly because they are precisings. Erikson points to the importance of the baby's being able to sit "not only securely but, as it were, untiringly, a feat which permits the muscle system gradually to be used for finer discrimination" (1963, pp. 85-86). In this sense the nomic (or anal) stage would correspond to a transition in Piaget's account of the development of thought. The baby shifts from large actions directly on the environment characteristic of the first, "sensorimotor" stage to a more precise and distant work with physical symbols during the period of "concrete operations." We can also understand the nomic phase (like the oral) as one prototype of human development: it proceeds by differentiation and specialization. Conversely, human aging is represented by the opposite: dedifferentiation accompanied by loss of control over excretions. In the nomic stage, the child learns both to focus his concerns and to defocus them, both to make and to unmake precisings of earlier knowledge.
In general, then, we can think of the nomic stage as asking the child five basic questions, continuations of the five questions associated with the birth of an I (see the chart on pp. 244-45). How will you love and fear in this new bodily and social context? How will you symbolize? How wait? How will you be a self, both one person alone and one person with others? How will you separate outside from inside in this mode?
The answers can be quite various despite the narrow context. 'I will separate outside from inside as a loving gift.' 'I will separate outside from inside by pushing out a disgusting part of my body and keeping inside a totally pleasurable self.' 'For me to give up that pleasurable inside means giving up my very self' (that would be Dr. Vincent). One can imagine an infinity of paradigms, any of which will cumulate into a growing I.
Despite the variety, however, one can jump ahead in the landscape or dialogue to the end of the nomic stage. Looking backward, one can then surmise what must have happened for the nomic stage to have run its course.
The child must have learned to say, 'I will not,' curtailing his own pleasures to meet the demands of his family and society that he not do this or that. He must also have learned to say, 'I will not' to those very demands. He must have learned, out of that conflict (that "ambitendency" as Margaret Mahler would call it), to achieve an I that can say both 'I will' and 'I will not,' just as a still earlier I emerged from the emotional conflict of simultaneously loving and resenting mother. That emotional conflict becomes in the nomic stage the tension between holding on (one kind of loving) and letting go (one form of losing). That might be Erikson's way of putting it. Fenichel would see a special form of fear, the fear of the loss of love, balanced by a special form of love, possessiveness (1945, pp. 77, 276). Love and hate become polarized into the desire to keep and the disgusted wish to get rid of (corresponding to the earlier pattern, What I love is part of me, what I hate is 'out there').
Within this emotional climate, the child makes the rules of others his own. In yet another way, passive becomes active. Similarly the passive waiting of the oral stage becomes the active demand and the self-timing of the nomic stage. Both intellectually and emotionally, the child is being asked to learn what is me and what is not-me in the most immediate body sense. What are the parts of my body I must keep, and what are the parts I must force outside of me and get rid of? By the end of the nomic stage, in finding a personal repertoire of answers to these questions, the child will have added a new set of dimensions to its I.
Anal functions call for one kind of control. Urination involves a control similar in some ways but different in others. A child who has learned to control urine has learned to hold on and let go urethrally as well as anally. Urination, however, occurs more frequently than defecation. The product is watery, not weighty, lighter in color, less smelly. Arrangements for urination are likely to be less elaborate. Failures of control are less disastrous. In general, the urethral control seems thinner somehow, more abstract, less messy, less enforceable, than anal.
If we state the issues of the urethral stage in their largest terms, the child who has reached the end of the stage must be able to say, 'I can plan my urination so they will give me admiration, not shame.' The basic question the phase poses must be, then, Can you relate your impulses to your long-term wishes? Can you plan? The language in which the child answers is, as in the earlier nomic stage, sphincter control, but extended into control of all kinds.
I suggest thinking of this stage as "projective." To hold on or let go anally, the baby has to concentrate on the spatial back or the temporal past. In planning, the child projects himself forward in time and, often, in space. The child also projects fantasies. A boy projects his urine, but all children, dealing with urethral control, project their image for their parents' admiration or shaming.
Perhaps the abstractness of planning or projection is the reason that psychoanalysts have written less about a urethral phase and a "urethral character" than the more familiar oral, anal, and oedipal stages. Perhaps, too, the shift from rules about a visible, weighty, smelly product to the control of a watery liquid accounts for the association of urethral control with a sense of abstract consequences rather than a set of rules (Michaels, 1955; Fenichel, 1945, pp. 68-69, 232-34, 371, 492). The adult anal character is ridden by a constant conscience and an unrelenting set of rules. He is compulsive. The adult urethral character is impulsive. He does not think well in abstractions and has difficulty reasoning through to consequences. Clinically, a child's fixation at the urethral phase provides the basis for an adult's "antisocial personality." The character type corresponds to the all-too-familiar stereotype of the juvenile delinquent or the psychopath or sociopath: antisocial, truant, aggressive, impulsive, often in particularly violent or sadistic ways. Antisocial personalities show a marked indifference to ordinary social or moral values, do not learn from punishment, and often offer grandiose but obviously specious rationalizations for behavior (Freedman et al., 1972, pp. 210, 214, 368-70, 788). Often they are charmers and manipulators, indifferent to the consequences for either the charmer or the charmed.
Freud linked urethral erotism specifically to fire. Fire, he said, was "discovered" when some Paleolithic man found a naturally occurring blaze, say, from lightning and overcame the impulse to urinate on it and put it out. Surprisingly, statistical studies tend to justify Freud's rather odd idea. Setting fires (or pyromania) correlates positively with persistent bed-wetting in youth among delinquents--and among arsonists and volunteer firemen (1932a, 22:185-93, Michaels, 1955, pp. 30, 34-36, 67-68; see also Lewis and Yarnell, 1951). Some strange emotional paralogic may connect the water we excrete, fire that is put out by water, and the burning sensation of having to urinate. Several times, from 1908 on, Freud linked fire to urination (or bed-wetting) as infantile correlates of the more adult trait of ambition, saying simply that analytic experience had convinced him repeatedly of this connection. (Presumably his first analytic experience of the urethral was his own vivid memory of urinating in his parents' bedroom and his shame at his father's reprimand, "The boy will come to nothing"--1900a, 4:216). Other writers have suggested that the special shame of uncontrolled wetting provides a basis for ambition: if I achieve greatly, I do not need to be ashamed. (Any ambition, of course, rests on an ability--or perhaps an inability--to think of consequences.) Still others see urination as gratifying sadistic or self-assertive needs or, alternatively, as a passive giving oneself up and foregoing control (Fenichel, 1945, pp. 69, 233, 371-72).
The whole topic of a urethral phase in child development deserves further exploration. In the meantime, I can see parallels with nomic development. In the earlier, anal phase, the child is supposed to obey and have rules. In the later, urethral phase, the child is supposed to have plans and bow to farther-off consequences--abstractions, really. The earlier phase leads to compulsiveness, the later to impulsiveness. The earlier involves a sense of duty and guilt (Thou shalt not), the later of ambition (Thou shalt). The two phases dovetail--with one important difference.
All human babies suck more or less the same way, and all human babies defecate more or less the same way. Now, however, for the first time in the growth of an I, we come to a difference between boys and girls inscribed in their very bodies. For all but children with physical abnormalities, urination will differ in simple bodily terms for the girl and the boy. It may be that children learn first of the bodily difference between male and female through the different ways boys and girls or mothers and fathers urinate. This is the first time in our human development where the body--the genitals, really--make a gender difference a focal point.
It is in connection with urination therefore that the development of boys and girls first has to differentiate. Indeed, in one of his stranger readings back from psychoanalytic cases into history, Freud went so far as to suggest that woman had been made "guardian of the fire" in the domestic hearth because her anatomy made it impossible for her to yield to the impulse to put out the fire by urinating on it (1930a, 21:90).
Since the child's new ability to control and plan urination elicits admiration, its failure or its "being different" can elicit the opposite, shame. Thus shame can attach to the necessary differences between adult parent and child or between male and female and especially to not being able to manage as the grown-ups do. These contrasts between activity and passivity, masculine and feminine, grown-up and child become crucial issues for the next stage.
In traditional psychoanalytic language, we would call it the "phallic" stage. To get beyond this obsolete, "phallocentric" view of development which takes the male child with a penis as the norm and the female as a deviation, I would like to borrow a term from Erikson (1963, pp. 87-88) and call this
Wilhelm Reich described adults fixated at this stage as "self- confident, often arrogant, elastic, vigorous and often impressive." Athletic in body, their faces usually show "hard, sharp masculine features, but often also feminine, girl-like features." They are likely to make an "exaggerated display of self-confidence, dignity and superiority." (Think of Hemingway, Mussolini, or Napoleon.) Reich found the type most frequently among "athletes, aviators, soldiers and engineers," one of the most important traits being "aggressive courage." (Nowadays astronauts, as portrayed, for example, in The Right Stuff, provide striking examples.) They like "being on top," and they resent being subordinates "unless they can--as in the army or other hierarchic organizations--compensate for the necessity of subordination by exerting domination over others who find themselves on lower rungs of the ladder" (Reich, 1949, pp. 200-07). The type, however, is by no means confined to men. Erikson speaks of both men and women "being on the make," either by boyishly enjoying head-on attack, competition, conquest, winning the goal or (most often in girls) teasing, provoking, or otherwise "snaring" (1963, p. 90). A fluttery, "hysterical" type of woman, all ribbons and bows and seductive helplessness, shares the underlying trait: meeting the world with one's body, someone like David Copperfield's Dora or, in a lighter vein, Blondie of the comic strips. If the mask slips, the strength and manipulativeness underneath show through, as in the stories of Scarlett O'Hara or Becky Sharp.
Classical psychoanalysis called this stage "phallic" and attributed this intrusive style to the boy's discovery of pleasurable sensations in his penis and its mysterious power to rise and fall (our constant metaphors for achievement and power). Today, I would want to complicate the idea that a penis is the source of this "phallic" intrusive style, because it seems to me too simple and confined to only one sex.
Perhaps, as the child gets bigger, he senses new physical ways in which the elders want him to be in their world, ways that require penises. Perhaps simple growing leads to a desire to get into the world that heightens the importance of the penis. Perhaps, then, the "organ" whose mode this phase represents is the whole musculature (as Erikson hints).
One of the commonest answers children find in our culture to the question, How will you get into the world? is, I will get big. One of the most dramatic signs of something small becoming something big is the penis with its power of erection. The penis may thus be a key symbol for the child in the intrusive stage. May be. It will depend on what other resources the culture opens up to developing children, male or female. The little girl may feel the absence of a penis as a traumatic lack that must be compensated for, as in the classical psychoanalytic idea of "penis envy." Yet the wish for a penis does not seem today as biologically determined as it once did. The wish may be exaggerated or tempered or, indeed, nonexistent.
I think we need to begin by assuming that biology and culture work together to pose tasks (or questions) for the developing child. The answers the child finds will depend on who the child is or perhaps how. That is, the answers will depend on the personal style that the child has already achieved and the resources available to the child for answering the questions that culture and biology pose. One of those resources may be a penis or it may be a vagina. Having a vagina may be perceived as a lack, an advantage, or simply a difference.
Having or not having a penis, however, affects development much more decisively in the next phase, the oedipal. In our trek through the developmental dialogue, we are still negotiating the pre-oedipal phases, and we need to consider the relation of mother and child during all this questioning and activity. What I have been calling the "intrusive" stage, Margaret Mahler terms "rapprochement," the period from fourteen or fifteen months to two years or so (Mahler et al., 1975). That is, in her observations, the upright baby in "practising," crawls, climbs, stands, begins to walk, all at some optimal distance from his mother. The toddler now stretches out that distance, moving definitively away from her, asserting his own independence. At the same time, however, he finds this a dangerous project and returns to her side. He returns. In the earlier period, it was she who closed the distance between them. "Bye-bye" was the key word. Now it is "Hi!" as he goes to her.
Thus, during the "rapprochement crisis," the baby develops two conflicted tendencies ("ambitendency," Mahler calls this): "I am not weak and dependent. I can do all these things. I am superior to the child I was." At the same time, "Help me! I can't manage, and I am worthless because I can't." In other words, during this crisis the child goes to and fro, sometimes proclaiming a grandiose self, sometimes wailing about the exact opposite, a self mortified by feelings of dependency, helplessness, failure, humiliation, and fear.
Mahler specifies the crisis by four elements. First, the child wants to be big and therefore not to recognize help from outside. Second, however, the child also fears being passively "left behind." Third, "stranger reaction" (such as a resistance to babysitters) resurges, and people are likely to comment on the child's "shyness." Fourth, as in the earlier period, the child splits bad mother from good mother, identifying more strongly with the good, giving mother and trying to coerce what he wants out of the bad, resistant mother. All these strategies can appear later in life in borderline patients (just as the loss of boundaries in earliest infancy can appear later in psychotics).
What comes to the child's aid in this crisis is language and the ability to symbolize. If "Hi!" is important, so is "Cookie!" and even more, "Look, mommy!" and "No!" By "No" the child uses his mastery of the nomic stage. He actively takes over the "No" of his parents and uses it to coerce the behavior he wants from them, mirroring the way he perceives their "No's" to him. By the end of the rapprochement crisis, the child becomes able to name people (and also photographs) and, most interesting, to use "I" of himself. Through language and drawings the child can express his wishes, and he can use symbolic play with dolls or cars or toy animals to imagine mastery over his growing abilities. In general, the child moves from symbols shared with its family to symbols the child itself owns (Werner and Kaplan, 1963, p. 83).
Mahler reports that the ups and downs and variations among the children she was observing became quite large during rapprochement. The children ceased to be an example of a phase and became individually distinct and different from one child to the other (p. 102). We are seeing identity (in our sense) emerge in itself, not just as our referring later traits back to infancy.
Mahler also reports the emergence of gender identity. Boys become acutely aware of their penises. They learn about erections. Their own upright posture makes it easier for them to see their penises from different vantage points. Girls become aware of the contrast between their genitals and those of boys, often by their different ways of urinating.
The anxieties of the stage heighten this sensitivity to gender. The child fears, as it has before, the loss of love from those he relies on. Now, however, that fear is intensified by inner promptings of "Thou shalt" or "Thou shalt not" because the child has begun to internalize parental wishes and values. Further, the child is more aware of body feelings and pressures, especially those related to the bowels, urination, and gender differences, all matters about which adults are likely to be very edgy.
The child's physical ability to move out into the world, to stand up, to poke into things, to walk, and even to fall down, all together serve to create a firmer sense of self. I can do things. The "intrusive" stage contributes to identity as did the negativism of the "nomic" phase. Both 'I can do' and 'I can say No!' are ways of saying I. Now too--we are talking about the second year of life--the child's verbal abilities have grown. He can name things and call people. "I can say," even though he may not yet have a sufficiently stable sense of self to say "I."
All these abilities in turn rest on the basic sense of trust that the child must have achieved during the first year of life to be functioning later at all. Out of the confidence that waiting is not forever, that separation is not loss, and that needs and desires will be satisfied, the child can build an emotional trust in an essentially benevolent other.
Experimentalists have made a most important contribution by showing--indeed measuring--the carry-over of a style from that first, "oral" year of life to the second stage. Matas et al. have shown that the quality of attachment to the mother in the earliest stage continues to become the quality of competence and obedience in the second stage (1982). The competent two-year-old does not automatically comply but shows a certain amount of noncompliance. Gradually, however, a general pattern of cooperation takes over--as Erikson's remarks on basic trust would suggest. The data gathered by Stayton et al. did not fit the behaviorist models that say one has to bring an essentially asocial or antisocial infant to obedience and controls by schedules of reward and punishment (1982). Rather, a responsive, accommodating social environment leads naturally toward patterns of obedience in the context of an attachment bond (of the kind Bowlby describes), a trust in others.
Besides that emotional knowledge of otherness, the child needs to know otherness intellectually through cognitive skills of seeing, hearing, knowing, remembering, saying, or counting. Together, the emotional thrust and intellectual belief in "the other" provide the child a foundation on which to maintain a stable inner figure of the one he loves, even when she is absent. It is that ability--and it is not something we can always do even as adults--that marks the beginning of the stage defined by what Mahler called "object constancy." It is a stage that the child will be in for the rest of his life.
During the rapprochement crisis, the child suffered from conflicting aims. He wanted to assert himself as a separate other and thus to use his new motor skills and cognitive abilities to distance himself from his mother. At the same time he would use his newly learned negativism to coerce her into being an omnipotent extension of himself. And he also longed for their earlier state of oneness. He wanted to cling to her, physically and emotionally. Given this "ambitendency," he would show clinging and negativism in rapidly alternating sequence, but if development went well, by the end of the rapprochement period, he would have begun to find his own optimum distance along this line between absolute closeness and absolute parting. Having, for a time, split his mother into "good" (identified with himself) and "bad" (separate, absent), he would be able to bring her together again. He is approaching "object constancy" in the psychoanalytic sense, making her into one person whether she is good or bad, whether or not he is kindly disposed to her, whether or not she is satisfying his needs. He has to unify the good and bad, loved and hated aspects of this mothering person, in order to bring her (or, more exactly, his relation with her) permanently and as a whole into his own personality. That is his task in the fourth and last, but unending, phase, according to Mahler's description of the child's growth in terms of object relations.
In that fourth stage, the child internalizes the relationship he has by this time established to his mother, making it part of his personality. He brings her nurturing inside himself, where she will always be "there" to love and support his growing "self-identity" (in Mahler's term). Now, in this later version, the child becomes emotionally more self- sufficient. He builds a sense of security and confidence by incorporating in himself the original source of that confidence, the assurance that sustained him at the beginning of his life: his needing and his mother's satisfying those needs in due measure. He builds a whole and consistent self which can, therefore, perceive others as consistent and whole. The abilities of the earlier stages come together to begin an adult way of dealing with other human beings. Hence, from two years of age and on, peers may make some contribution to emotional and cognitive development in and of themselves (Eckerman et al., 1982). This is an important issue that, as far as I know, psychoanalytic researchers concentrating on mother and father have not raised.
Now, however, this new ability to think of people as wholes opens to the child what is perhaps the greatest challenge of all. Until this point, the child's tasks have fitted a two-person relationship between the child and a mother or a father. Getting, taking, holding on, letting go, shame, admiration, planning or intruding--all can take place within a dyad.
The next stage brings us from a dyad to a triangle: child and
mother and father. The child has to answer how he will
deal with the relationship between mother and father or,
more generally, between child and and parent-figures.
Moreover, the sexual part of the relationship
becomes important. Society, family, and his own body begin
asking the child, How will you make your way into that more
complex relationship? How will you keep on seeing these people
as wholes? How will you deal with your own love and jealousy
and hate and desire? How will you deal with theirs?
10 / Gender and Oedipus
"Only one idea of general value has occurred to me [in my self-analysis]. I have found love of the mother and jealousy of the father in my own case too, and now believe it to be a general phenomenon of early childhood." Thus Freud, writing to his friend Fliess on October 15, 1897, announced the oedipus complex (1950a, pp. 226-27).
Strangely (or not so strangely), he thought of the oedipus complex as something originating entirely with the child's "love" and "jealousy" alone, as though the parents had nothing to do with it, as though they had no feelings of desire, resentment, jealousy, or simple fatigue. Strangely (or not so strangely), although most of his patients were women, Freud discovered the oedipus complex as male. A little boy wants to replace his father (kill him) and have his mother all to himself (marry her). Freud remained puzzled all his professional life about the little girl's version of the myth.
Nevertheless, Freud also thought that the complex was mythic and universal and decisive for all children, fondateur as the French analysts say, founding. Freud thought of the oedipus complex as intrinsic to the human condition, perhaps even inherited. "The Greek myth seizes on a compulsion which everyone recognizes because he has felt traces of it in himself" (1950a, p. 227, the "he" and "himself" being the German pronouns for "everyone").
Others, less resolute, alibied that children might feel that way in decadent Vienna but surely did not in more civilized--or more primitive--areas of the world. The redoubtable anthropologist Malinowski countered Freud's claims of the universality of the oedipus complex by pointing to Trobrianders, who did not know the facts of fatherhood. Hence, he said, they could not have an oedipus complex. Ernest Jones showed, however, that the mother's brother, who took the role of the father in the family, served as the focus for the child's oedipal projections. Hence the form of the complex could vary from culture to culture, but the complex itself was universal.
Recently, the anthropologist Anne Parsons has updated the old Freud-Malinowski controversy by studying South Italian families, where the son's attachment to the mother remains strong (1964). (Freud, by contrast, had written of the "destruction and . . . abolition of the complex" [1924d, 19:177]. "It is literally smashed to pieces by the shock of threatened castration" [1925j, 19:257].)
Parsons's study suggests that we can understand the combination of a universal complex with different cultural versions as a borderline between instinct and culture, "for the original question of whether the oedipus complex is universal or not . . . is no longer very meaningful in that particular form. The more important contemporary questions would . . . be: what is the possible range within which culture can utilize and elaborate the instinctually given human potentialities, and what are the psychologically given limits of this range?" (p. 383, for her history of Freud-Malinowski, see pp. 331-34).
The identity cum feedback model lets us imagine those limits as a set of universal questions, posed to all of us because we are part of the human species. Then the answers that different cultures permit and different individuals give vary considerably. A push comes from the child's own drive to grow up, yet the child is also answering a call from parents, society, and culture. All humans are asked to become women or men by their physiology and by the society they need. Yet what it means to be "womanly" or "manly" in a given culture can vary tremendously.
At first, Freud thought this fateful complex of ideas (at least for the boy) simply enacted in fantasy the Oedipus myth. The boy wants to get rid of his father and take his place with his mother, as Oedipus did. Under the fear of castration, however, the boy gives up his wish for his mother and resolves to be like his father. Indeed he brings his father's authoritative voice into his psyche as the superego, and in that sense the complex disappears. It is replaced by this new agency in the mind, the incorporated voice of parental (and through the parents, cultural) authority. Later Freud realized that there was a "negative" oedipus complex as well as this positive one: the boy longed to be loved by his father as his mother is, to be feminized (castrated) and take the mother's place. For any one boy, the positive and negative complexes interplay dialectically.
Since for girls, in Freud's version of development, castration has already occurred, it can no longer be feared and is resented instead. The girl becomes angry at her mother for not having provided her with the same highly valued part of the body the little boy has. Moreover, the mother, since she lacks this same instrument, herself seems valueless. The little girl resolves to acquire a penis and turns to her father, who seems able to give her one. Eventually she sublimates her desire for his penis into the wish to have a baby from him. Where for the boy, the castration complex broke up his oedipus complex and "resolved" it, for the girl, the castration complex begins her slower and later oedipal growth. She does not incorporate into her psyche the figures of father or mother, keeping them as real objects of her love and resentment. Hence she does not develop the same internal voice of the father, the superego, as the boy.
For both boy and girl, the oedipal stage marks a transition from a numerical two to a numerical three. (Curiously, two and three mark another famous Freudian distinction, between the comic--involving two persons--and the joke--three.) In the earlier stages, oral, nomic, and even intrusive, our object relations took place in a dyad: feeder and fed, ruler and ruled, penetrator and inhibitor. To be sure, the dyad could be mother-and-child or father-and-child, or a child might perceive both parents as the opposite side of the dyad, but dyad it was. Now the child has to deal with a triangle. Further, he has to deal with a mixture of love and hate (jealousy), not simply toward one other but toward two others, hence an eternal triangle in still another sense.
In the dyads up to oedipus, the girl and the boy have developed alike--or have they? Has the classical focus on the genital difference led us to overlook other, subtler differences between the sexes in the earliest phases of life? In recent years, researchers have suggested differences in brain structure, in hormones that affect the amount of aggression, or in responses to the "startle reaction," the little lurches of consciousness that babies show (something like the abrupt wakings we adults sometimes feel as we are dozing off). Boy babies respond to startles by having an erection and going off to sleep, girl babies by crying. How real these innate differences are or what difference they make in development remains very much open to further investigation and evidence. So far we have only hints.
Studies of people born with abnormal genitals have shown that it is not the genitals, nor even the chromosomes, that determine gender, but the way parents treat the child. Whatever gender the parents firmly believe in will become the child's gender, overriding either gonads or chromosomes. Further, this gender identity is firmly established by the age of two and a half or three years. To be sure, both boys and girls progress through an oral and a nomic stage in a passive relation to a mother, but otherwise boys and girls are born different and develop from birth on differently because parents treat boys and girls differently (Money and Ehrhardt, 1972, Stoller, 1968a, 1968b, 1972).
Nancy Chodorow has pointed to still another source of early gender difference. Today, in our society, parenting is left primarily to the mother or some other woman. Few men serve as the primary caregiver for an infant, and a movie like Kramer vs. Kramer dramatizes the panic many men of today feel at the prospect. In our society, the human who first mirrors the infant to itself is probably female, and she is mirroring and nurturing precisely because of her gender. It seems very likely, says Chodorow, that under these circumstances, she will feel differently toward a boy baby than toward a girl, leading to differences for the two genders in the very process of identity formation.
Just as anybody DEFTs novels or newspapers, one who takes care of an infant would DEFT the sex of the child. I, as usual, think the DEFTing of gender would be a function of the identity of the individual caregiver. That there would be a difference between male and female caregivers confronting male and female babies, however, seems to me most probable. Further, if the caregiver finds herself defined by her gender, I would expect the sex of the child to seem even more intensely a subject for expectation, fantasy, defense, or transformation. To be sure, we do not have much evidence about this, but the inference seems to me irresistible.
Chodorow makes another sensible suggestion: that mothers of daughters will tend to see daughters as less different from themselves than sons. They will see a baby girl as "just a baby" and not as much of an "other" as a "baby husband" or a "baby father" might seem. Hence, she suggests, a mother and a daughter will tend to keep a symbiotic, merged relationship longer than a mother and a son. Conversely, the son will separate sooner and with more recoil. Hence--and this is Chodorow's highly important inference--mothering by women tends to create women who will be mothers and men who will resist mothering impulses. Mothering reproduces itself, and the sex roles that society imposes today will seem natural tomorrow. Unless, of course, psychology can provide the insight into our ways that enables us to replace unconscious script with conscious choice (Chodorow, 1978, chaps. 5-7).
It may well be, then, that children have already been differentiated by sex when they come to the discovery of the differences in their genitals or their urinatings. Here again, I would like more evidence about our pre-oedipal development. Whatever happens in those earlier stages, however, all observers agree that from the time the baby stood up, walked, and was dressed for walking, society's call to the child to establish its sex became much more urgent and explicit, and so did the child's own inner need to become gendered.
Seen in this larger context, we can understand the oedipus complex as a continuation of our parents' (and their and our culture's) call to us to grow up into the society the parents already inhabit. For them and us at that point in our young lives, the most important divisions in that world are parent and child, male and female. Our bodies and our culture asked us, How will you fit yourself into those alternatives? Our bodies ask through our genitals and the genitals of other children or of our parents, as Freud first pointed out. Our culture asks us in a thousand other media. Will you dress as a boy or a girl? How will you walk? Will you play with dolls? Will you roughhouse? Dance? How long will you wear your hair?
The intrusive phase had asked the child, How will you get into the world? The genital phase then asked us the same question in more specific terms: How will you get into a world which consists of two genders, male and female, and two generations, parents and children? "Genital" here has to connote both "gendering" and "generationing," for in this phase the child has to situate itself with respect to both. It has to face the differences between boys and girls (however they might be defined by the culture surrounding us) and become one or the other. Similarly, it has to accept the fact that, at least for a long time, it will not itself be an adult, at least as instanced by our parents.
In the classical oedipal situation, described by Freud, a boy child begins the phase by answering, I will kill my father and mate with my mother and so become a male parent. A boy ends the phase by answering, I will become like my father and mate with someone like my mother in the distant future. That, however, as Freud pointed out, is only one solution for one gender. There are many others both "normal" and "abnormal" (terms whose meanings will differ widely from culture to culture).
It is not only the cultural oedipus complex that varies. Individual oedipus complexes diverge so much that generalizations, even at this early stage, the third and fourth years of life, become very difficult. Mahler's group, for example, found that by twenty-one months, it "was no longer possible to group the toddlers in accordance with the general criteria hitherto used" because they had become so differentiated as individuals. "Their individuation . . . [was] changing so rapidly that they were no longer mainly phase specific" (1975, pp. 101-02).
The difficulty of generalizing is particularly regrettable because of the pressing social and political need to understand more about
Examination they have certainly had. A number of writers have ably summed the history of Freud's ideas and those of his early followers, both the ones who agreed with him about femininity and those who disagreed. At the same time these writers have chronicled the early feminist criticisms and the more recent, those dating from about 1968 (Chasseguet-Smirgel, 1976; Chodorow, 1978; Mead, 1974; Mitchell, 1974; Moore, 1976; Strachey, 1961; Strouse, 1974).
Very briefly, before his 1925 essay, "Some Psychical Consequences of the Anatomical Distinction Between the Sexes," Freud thought that the development of boys and girls was symmetrical. As we have seen, he traced in detail the path of development in boys, generalizing from his adult male patients and, most importantly, from his analysis of himself. Freud frankly admitted that he had been unable to discover a similarly detailed pattern in the development of little girls and simply reasoned out an analogy.
By 1925, however, he had become dissatisfied with the "precise analogy" between the little boy and the little girl. New clinical observations led him to state a theory of female development in the 1925 paper, a paper he apparently hoped would settle what was becoming an irritating and divisive question within the psychoanalytic movement.
According to this paper, the girl begins, as the boy does, by loving her mother, treating her father as a distinctly secondary figure, but she makes the shocking discovery that the boy has a penis and she and her mother none. The girl blames her mother for not giving her this body part, thus finding her doubly deficient, and transfers her love to her father who has what she wants. Faced with realistic biological limitations, she transforms her desire for a penis into a desire to have a baby by her father. Not until puberty, however, does she realize that this is impossible, at which point she angrily rejects her clitoris (her substitute penis up to that point) and transfers her genital sensitivity to the vagina. In this development, she does not identify with the father (as the boy does) nor, really, with the mother, and hence does not acquire the same kind of superego the boy does. Hence we see, he claimed, certain "female" personality traits that males do not share.
Carol Gilligan states (1982) that women develop an ethic of care, relationship, and responsibility that is simply different from the male ethic of justice and treating everyone the same. Freud and modern theorists like Lawrence Kohlberg fail to see this ethic as a separate, different experience, and therefore treat it as a lack (the moral equivalent of the missing penis?).
As Roy Schafer has suggested (1974), if Freud meant that women lack the kind of abstract, inhuman moral values, the isms, that often permeate male-dominated politics and warfare, perhaps that is no bad thing if it is true that women do not have that kind of superego. If. Fisher and Greenberg, surveying the experimental literature, conclude, "There is a trend favoring Freud's hypothesis. But . . . it is hardly of such proportions as to support the rather dramatic distinction that Freud sought to make between the male and female superego" (1977, pp. 207-12, 220-21, 212).
Today, it seems obvious to us that any explanation of child development or of femininity should combine elements from physiology, culture, family relationships, and the individual personality. It would take a bold theorist indeed to claim that one of these explanations excludes the others, yet that is essentially what Freud did. A neurologist by training, a scientist seeking Helmholtzian principles for the mind that would be as rigorous as physical or chemical laws, a man whose commitment to truth and "reality" amounted to a passion, Freud translated what he observed in a Rat Man or a Little Hans into what seemed the most direct explanation.
For Freud, what must differentiate the boy's growing up from the girl's is their anatomy: their genitals (or perhaps their hormones, the existence of which Freud early guessed--1905d, 7:216n). In recent years, only the most conservative American and the most innovative French analysts, following Jacques Lacan, have tried to continue this early reliance on anatomy. Lacan, for example, whimsically metaphorizes the phallus as "a major yardstick for the categorisation of human beings." For Lacan, the oedipus complex consists of a dialectic: to be or not to be, to have or not to have, the phallus, understood both as a man's real penis and as the "signifier of desire," the symbol of symbolization.
As Murray Schwartz says, what makes Lacan so hard to understand is that he uses the words and concepts of early psychoanalysis to state the ideas of much later psychoanalysis. Hence part of the French "manner" of psychoanalysis is to use words that could apply to the genitals to describe object relations. The female, for example, is "an absence." The feminist Luce Irigaray suggests that because women's genitals have the form of two lips, "Woman 'touches herself' all the time." "She is already two--but indivisible into ones . . ." (1977, p. 24). Genitals serve as a metaphor for something she is claiming about the inwardness and doubleness of woman's whole self.
I do not want to let the modish puns of this way of writing obscure the profound truth it seeks to convey. The puns I see as an effort to alter our perceptions, to persuade us by confronting directly the means by which we see and believe. That is, we use symbols from the body to represent our adult world. This is one great wisdom we have gained from the free associations of psychoanalyses, and the language of today's "French Freud" foregrounds that truth. It is equally possible, of course, to use the language of relationships to describe a genital world. That would be the manner of Erikson: understanding "phallic" strivings as intrusions, "anal retention" as "holding on," or "erecting, constructing, and elaborating" as male tendencies and including, enclosing, and holding safely as female (1963, pp. 97-108). Both fac;acons de parler illuminate the same profound connection between the body and personality. Both assert that anatomy is at least a good part of destiny. Incidentally, then, both reveal a parallel between the most recent French psychoanalysis and some American ideas of the 60s.
We need to understand that "woman" and "femininity" are themselves constructs, defined not by chromosomes, genitals, or customs--or defined by all of these, depending on how we construe woman. Thus, when we analyze woman, woman analyzes us. Freud's ideas about women say something about Freud and about the society in which he lived and in which we, to some extent, still live. In this sense, Freud's ideas about feminine development have proved useful to feminists by giving an understanding of the present situation as a first step toward changing it.
One group of feminists, like Luce Irigaray and Juliet Mitchell, has advocated using Freud more or less "as is," as a neutral, scientific, value-free way to understand how girl babies become women in a patriarchal society. To be sure, they do not naively believe that Freud is free of bias or that they themselves are. Nevertheless, they find it useful (as I do) to stretch the unbreakable lifeline between fact and value. It helps to pretend, for the moment, to be value free in order to understand what needs the inequities of patriarchy serve and what ideas of maleness and femaleness it engenders. Freedom from prejudice (prejudgment) is an illusion, but it can be a useful one.
In our patriarchal society, many boys and girls think of female genitals as a lack--and so did Freud. For him, the discovery of that "fact" was decisive for both the little boy and the little girl. Frightened by the prospect of such a "castration," the little boy is propelled into his oedipus phase. His new knowledge makes into a real threat what was before only imaginary or meaningless.
The fear of castration takes its place in a succession of childhood fears. First, there was an oral fear of the loss of the breast and annihilation. Then came a fear of the loss of one's bowel movement in the nomic stage, and with it fears of the loss of approval or love, a narcissistic blow, so that the fear of the loss of a bowel movement could become a model, both physical and emotional, for the fear of the loss of a body part. Fearing such a loss, a little boy may give up the use of his penis as an instrument of his desire for his mother. Instead, he may resolve to "be like" (identify with) his father and to be a penis-wielding father later. He thus smashes to pieces his oedipus complex because he abandons the libidinal parts. His desires become desexualized and sublimated into the games and superboyish behavior of latency. The aggressive drives are turned outward, away from the father. The objects, the real persons of father and mother, become figures in his ego, the basis for the superego.
Where for a boy, the castration complex broke up his oedipus complex and "resolved" it, for a girl, the castration complex begins her slower, later oedipal growth. She does not incorporate into her psyche the figures of father or mother but keeps them as real objects of her love and resentment; hence she does not develop the same internal voice of the father, the superego, as the boy.
In this script, both boy and girl read the female genitals as a lack, and Freud wrote as though this were a necessity, a primal fantasy (Urphantasie) that must be part of every child's world view whether he or she actually experienced it or not. Near the end of his life Freud wrote that castration anxiety and penis envy were "bedrock," beyond which psychoanalytic treatment could not dig (1937c, 23:252). Freud even proposed that castration anxiety was inherited.
This concept of an Urphantasie represents a somewhat puzzling departure from his usual procedure. Schafer notes that it is the hallmark of psychoanalytic investigation, and particularly of Freud's thinking, to question further and further. Freud usually tries to establish the fullest understanding possible of the particularity of individual responses to specific circumstances, "especially when these reactions are intense, disturbing, profoundly formative, and enduringly influential." Yet at this point, where all children form their genders, Freud resorted to a "shock theory" based on a momentary realization of inherited fantasy (1974, pp. 474-75, cp. Lasch, 1974, for a somewhat different account).
It is also surprising that Freud did not raise the question of cultural variability. Indeed in Totem and Taboo he seems to say that castration and the oedipus complex provide the basis for religion, morals, art, and society in all cultures. Yet today we know that in some cultures, as Margaret Mead reports, "It is men who envy women their feminine capacities. It is men who spend their ceremonial lives pretending that it was they who had borne the children, that they can 'make men'" (1974, p. 118). Aborigines aside, Freud was well read in the classics and would have known the Isis-worship described by Apuleius in his Metamorphoses. That cult reverses our ideas of genital lack or absence. The penis is perceived as an unwelcome presence and the vagina as the ideal. The most devoted priests would castrate themselves to become more like the goddess. In a less extreme, symbolic version of the act, the priest would shave his head (a rite which survives as the tonsure worn in some Roman Catholic orders).
To be sure, in Freud's culture and our own, castration anxiety and penis envy are probably the norm. When he assumes that they are biological givens, however, he is succumbing to what Margaret Mead (generally a sympathetic reader of Freud) calls a "socially conditioned naiveté."
Freud thought of himself as a scientist, not as a poet or philosopher. He did not expect his texts to be treated as ends in themselves, never to be updated, like Shakespeare or Schopenhauer. Freud expected his writings to be the basis for further investigation that might very well lead to their revision. He himself energetically revised his earlier work when he thought it outdistanced. It is with that same tone that feminists like Nancy Chodorow have reworked Freud's thinking on female development by bringing in object-relations theory.
Freud thought that boys and girls developed essentially the same way until the penis became important in sensation and fantasy. Recent observers would agree that there are no differences in kind, but point to differences in degree. That is, the boy is hormonally more aggressive than the girl. The mother may respond to the girl as less of an other than the boy (Chodorow, 1978, chaps. 5-7). There are at least these, and there may be other gender-related differences. Nevertheless, Freud's basic view holds in the sense that until the discovery of the importance of the penis there are no psychologically important differences visible in the child's body. Differences between individual boys and girls are probably more substantial than the differences between the genders.
With the "discovery" of the penis Mahler observed changes in behavior for both boys and girls, and she makes the point that the "discovery" takes place about the same time that the child masters walking--seventeen or eighteen months. At that point boys and girls diverge. The boy becomes more aggressive, more disengaged from mother, and the girl becomes more engrossed with her (1975, pp. 101-06).
Today's observers agree that to both sexes the penis may symbolically represent a paradox. In a question-and-answer model, the penis (for either boy or girl) may represent an answer to two inconsistent questions. How can I achieve mother? (Father who has a penis did.) How can I distance myself from mother? (She does not have a penis.) Both sexes shared the problem of being a baby helplessly dependent on a mother who held the power of life and death. As a way to undo that trauma, the penis can thus become a symbol for power (Serebriany, 1976, Stoller, 1974).
Modern psychoanalysts would agree that the penis can represent several other important answers to questions. Through the penis, the child (of either sex) learns the difference between the sexes. The child may also learn about the mother's role in giving birth. The child may learn about girls' or women's genitals. The child may learn about either mother's or father's actions in conceiving a baby and therefore have to accept some fairly terrifying imaginings of parental sex (McDougall, 1964, Chasseguet-Smirgel, 1976). Also, there will be wide variations in what individual children do and do not learn from the existence and nonexistence of the penis.
In our society, at least, a girl may want a penis in order to triumph over the mother (in several possible ways): to become independent of her, to be like the father, or to have what she lacks. A girl cannot have a penis, though, and she may transfer to her whole body the narcissistic pride a boy can reserve for his special organ, or the fear, dissatisfaction, or fantastic imaginings (Chasseguet-Smirgel, 1976, p. 285). The girl may fantasy that the boy will lose his, or she may imagine various ways she could acquire a penis: by medicine, by surgery, by eating, by making up to her father, by being penetrated by one, or ultimately, by having a baby who would be a symbolic substitute.
Again, what a girl imagines and what life experiences she draws on will vary widely. These fantasies are, in any case, secondary to her primary ambivalence: the wish for and frustration with the mother. A little girl oscillates between her primary one-to-one relationship with her mother and the later heterosexual triangle in which she is her mother's rival for her father. She has what Freud called a "complete" oedipus complex. She has a "positive" one in which she loves the parent of the opposite sex and resents not being able to take the place of her parent of the same sex. She has a "negative" one in which she loves her same sex parent and wants to get rid of the intruder of the opposite sex. This more complex interpersonal structure may remain her preoccupation through latency and into puberty and adolescence, as she goes through various individual phases in which either the positive or the negative triangle weighs more heavily (Mahler, 1975, p. 106).
The little boy, by contrast, has available to him a penis with which to symbolize and undo his dependency on his mother. For him, as for the little girl, his attitude toward the penis is not primary but secondary, a way of coping with the earlier trauma of his life-and-death dependence on her. That was a wound to his narcissism, a source of fear and resentment, and the source of dangerous aggressive wishes. All this a boy may try to defeat by overvaluing the organ that he has and his mother lacks (Chodorow, 1978, pp. 107, 122). He may break loose from her, asserting his independence and separateness, thus weakening or even denying the interpersonal tie to his mother. To some extent his new oedipal love for his mother may continue the way he had to cling to her in his first years, and to that extent the new love becomes a source of danger. He may push away all the harder, turning more and more toward his father. To be loved by his father as his father loves his mother, however, he would have to lose his penis (as his mother apparently has). He may counterbalance, therefore, by forming a new, more distant kind of love for his mother. 'I am not her. I am not female, but I want the female.'
In general, a boy is likely to weaken the interpersonal ties that remain strong for a girl, and he tends to have only the "positive" oedipus complex. That is, he tends not to seek a dependent relationship with his father like the earlier relationship with his mother (as the girl may). He is more likely to assert his pride, aggression, and anger toward the outer world, but he is also more likely to fear injury. He will probably try to become the idealized, powerful--and feared--father, identifying with the most "fatherly" aspects of father, trying to control himself and others (Horney, 1932). As with the little girl's interpersonal involvement, his detachment persists through latency, the period of relative calm after the oedipal tempest when, as Peter Blos says, there are no new instinctual demands and the old methods of solution hold up (May, 1980, Blos, 1968). His detachment may persist into the urgent drives of adolescence and perhaps beyond into a life-style which many in our society call "typically masculine."
The feminist criticism of Freud's first and second theories of female development has led to a realization of how various the experiences of little girls are. That realization in turn leads to recognizing that the situation of a little boy, which Freud treated as uniform, is equally various. We simply have not questioned it as much because little boys have not been curbed as little girls have.
Today we need to underline the importance of these variations. Throughout both their scenarios, each child's experience will differ. Each child will experience the first mother differently. For each, walking will be different. Each will differently know what a penis looks like, feels like, or does. Each will see father differently. Also, of course, each mother and father will be different. The variations are so great as to make all talk about "the" boy and "the" girl suspect if applied to "this boy" or "that girl." Rather, the genital stage poses universal physiological and cultural questions which children hear and answer in their own private styles (Fenichel, 1931).
Similarly, societies differ greatly, and what a mother and father do in modern America they may not in Nigeria or Korea. This whole scenario might change in an African society where several mothers bring up children by one father, so that there may be no primary attachment to one omnipotent mother. (Or is that not possible?) Little Hans's parents thought it all right to threaten him with castration. We no longer think so. Within a few years, modern American fathers may do more mothering than, say, I did.
How these social variations might affect character we have no way of knowing. If we did, it would be sensible to advocate this or that change. We don't, though. The best route to reform, therefore, is to understand more about the way children make the experiences of childhood into adult character--or identity.
Nevertheless, Freud's great "founding" stands. Margaret Mead phrases it as the discovery "that the Oedipus complex is a reality in all societies, since in all societies boys and girls go through a period in which their investment in their budding sexuality is both threatening to their elders and inappropriate for their stage of physical and mental maturity" (1974, p. 116). The consequences of this stage for our biology and our cultures is immense. Understanding how we are gendered and generationed offers a key to the best of social reforms, those that touch human nature itself.
Freud thought he could explain our gendering primarily as a result of our genitals. Early analysts sometimes wrote as though a person had a certain kind of genital and willy-nilly the person behind that genital, so to speak, or around it had to grow up a certain way. In the more than ninety years since Freud wrote, "I have found love of the mother and jealousy of the father in my own case too," we have come to realize that we also need personal and interpersonal explanations. There is a person inside a body and a culture outside that body. Rather than simply say, Anatomy is destiny, we need to ask, How do anatomy and culture coact to become an identity?
As Mahler's observations make clear, we grow up through phases that we share (apparently) with all other humans, yet we experience those phases in highly individual ways. By the twenty-first month, in Mahler's work, individual differences seemed to outweigh "phase specific" ups and downs yet "developmental conflicts that are phase-specific, even though individually variable . . . occurred with amazing regularity from the second half of the second year on" (Mahler, 1975, pp. 102, 228). The trick is to see how those of Freud's generalizations that we still find valid and the individual's highly personal version of them go together. That is the usefulness of the model of a theme-and-variations identity governing a hierarchy of feedbacks.
For example, consider a patient of Heinz Kohut's who repeatedly dreamed she was urinating standing up and someone was standing behind her watching. In an earlier analysis, the analyst had interpreted these dreams as a wish to have a penis and urinate standing up like a boy. Kohut added that the dream might express her need to pull away from her relation with her bizarre and flighty mother and to turn toward her more responsive, down-to-earth father. The patient responded to the interpretation by remembering that her mother had cautioned her not to sit on toilet seats other than those at home lest she get dirty or diseased. The toilet seat figured in miniature her mother's generally suspicious attitude toward the world, and the patient's dream symbolized a wish not to be like her mother and see the world as dangerous and infected but to be like her father, to gain his support (as she had admiringly watched him in the bathroom) so that she could "sit down on the toilet." In other words, in her dream she used the commonplace wish of a little girl to urinate standing up to say, not 'I want to be a boy,' but 'I want to be a more joyful and alive person.' Paradoxically, because of her personal history and her individual feelings about toilet seats, a dream about urinating standing up could embody a wish to urinate sitting down (Kohut, 1977, pp. 220-22).
Once again, individuality turns out to govern--to use, really--physical, social, cultural, and family constants. To be sure, all humans face an oedipus complex, and all humans use it to build a gender identity. Generic explanations of maleness and femaleness, however, tell only part of the story. Each individual makes his or her own maleness or femaleness and may indeed create
Freud wrote that other sexualities--"perversions" (although I intend that term in the special sense of page 231)--developed as events forced changes from "normal" sexuality. That is, regular maleness and femaleness came into being as boys coped with the fear of castration and girls with the "fact" that they had already been castrated. Any conflict, any excessive fear or stimulation or guilt, could interfere with the regular oedipal outcome. The boy or girl would fall back on earlier gratifications, through the mouth or anus or urethra and become fixated there. (Hence the homosexual seeks oral, anal, or other pregenital intercourse.)
Freud thought fetishism the prototype of all these sexual variations, and in the course of analyzing a number of fetishists, he derived a pattern. A boy cannot face the knowledge--typically the sight--that his mother does not have a penis. He transfers the feelings he would have had toward a penis to something else: stockings, a shoe, panties, typically what the boy saw just before he saw the fateful lack. Freud's chief case had focused his desire on a certain shine (Glanz) on the nose, which was really a "glance" at the nose. Other fetishisms involve cutting women's hair or binding their feet (the Chinese custom).
The boy "disavows" the missing penis. He denies it is missing, yet in providing a substitute, he acknowledges it. He splits his ego, making one part respond to reality, the other to his wish. He thus loses touch with reality but only within a certain narrowly defined context. An "other" sexuality thus serves as an alternative to and defense against psychosis: putting it in an erotic capsule. A perversion is a defense. In my question and answer model, the phallic-intrusive and genital stages pose questions, and a perversion is simply an answer outside the customary male or female range.
For later psychoanalysis, however, neither regular nor alternative sexuality derives simply from fear of castration or the oedipus complex. Rather, sexuality draws on the relationships of all of infancy. Freud's basic hypothesis still stands, that the purpose of a perversion is to deny the difference between the sexes, but the missing penis fits into a long history of things missing. At first, it was the mother herself, leaving and making her hungry infant wait. Later it was the mother's breast (or bottle), understood now by the baby as something separate from mother herself. Later it was the baby's own stool, a part of himself that would be taken away. Finally, it is (for either boy or girl) the penis.
Long before arriving at the oedipus complex, some boys and girls must have established a pattern of looking in the external world for what they feel missing in their internal world. Indeed this must be a common pattern based on the feeding experience (McDougall, 1972). Associated with all these absences are fear and anger. When the absence is the penis, feared or seen as missing, the child may mobilize all that earlier fear and anger.
What primal fear or anger the child senses in himself, he also imagines in his parents. If I feel this angry and afraid, they must too. They must fear me and be about to retaliate on me for the way I hate them. In developing a perversion, according to Robert Stoller, the child splits the parents, putting all this destructive emotion into one and none in the other (1975). Thus either the mother or the father, depending on the particular sexual variation, will be idealized and the other debased. This way the child holds the parents apart, yet keeps them in relation to each other. The child reinterprets their sexual relation as between one frightening, angry person and a victim. The sexual variation yields another paradigm for turning sex into hostility.
Joyce McDougall sums up her theory by saying, "There is a condensed primal scene . . . in every perverse act." Traditionally, "primal scene" refers to a child's real or imagined sight of his parents in a sexual act, but McDougall carefully enlarges the term into "the child's total store of unconscious knowledge and personal mythology concerning the human sexual relation, particularly that of his parents" (1972, pp. 383, 372). As with knowledge of feminine genitals, a child may acknowledge the sexual relation between his parents but deny it by turning it into something else.
In creating such an alternative, a child usually imagines sex as charged with hostility, in which one party is the victim and one the victor. To some extent this is a distortion of reality, at least as other children know it. The child is coping with inner danger by using psychotic defense mechanisms, not changing inner reality but altering his perception of outer reality. Instead of simply repressing feelings or reversing pleasure into unpleasure or retreating to earlier kinds of gratification (repression, reaction formation, regression), the children we are talking about deny reality, split it, or project their inner states onto reality.
Just what factors might predispose some children to deny the difference between the sexes rather than fantasy about it, no one knows, but some do deny the missing penis or the sexual relation between their parents, some split those parents into one artificially good and one artifically bad, and some project their own massive feelings of fear and anger into their parents. All these maneuvers are answers to the questions of the genital stage, answers that will feed back and form part of a cumulating identity.
Psychotic defenses represent an element of madness. Most of us deny, split, or project our perceptions of reality some of the time, but if someone does so all of the time, he is indeed psychotic. The person devoted to some variant sexual script confines these perversions of reality to one sphere of life, the sexual, but does so compulsively. He or she "can do no other." In that sense, a perversion is a "miniature psychosis."
This "psychosis" is highly structured. Perversions amount to a script that has to be followed exactly. Any change in the recipe beyond sensitive limits spoils the fun. The sexually deviant individual is acting out a personal myth about sexuality and the genitals, and this myth has a universal, driving quality. As some homosexuals say, "I was homosexual before I knew I was homosexual." That is, before there was any sexual act, this sexual act felt like the right one.
Yet all of us have our sexual preferences, and most of us have the feeling about our sexuality that the way we do it is the way. Everybody would do it this way if they had the chance or the sense. Freud concluded that each individual combined traits with early influences to arrive at a specific sexual method of his own; each uses specific instincts, aims, and preconditions for love. "This produces what might be described as a stereotype plate (or several such), which is constantly repeated--constantly reprinted afresh--in the course of the person's life, so far as external circumstances and the nature of the love-objects accessible to him permit, which is certainly not entirely insusceptible to change in the face of recent experiences" (1912b, 12:99-100). There is a similarity, then, between the heterosexual male's falling in love with a woman like his mother, a male homosexual's need for "rough trade," and a voyeur's interest in peering through windows only in houses that look like homes of families.
Such scripts, duplicating the primal scene of a child's own watching, require a spectator. In most people's sexuality this may simply be the sense that this is the way sex ought to be, the voice of a parental supervisor, a superego of sex. As the stakes rise, as the sexual act becomes more imbued with anger, perhaps with fantasies about parents' sex or with ideas about the mother's missing penis, the need to be or have a spectator may become more insistent, precise, and literal. The spectator may represent some lost internal object. It may represent the perverse individual himself, projected onto another. It may represent the superego, a voice of conscience, society, or father. To give McDougall's statement fully, "There is a condensed primal scene involving three people in every perverse act" (1972, p. 372).
In a curious way, then, these literary metaphors for the perverse act, the "spectator," the "script," the "scenario," or the "myth," are scarcely metaphoric. The perversion shades off into the creation or enjoyment of pornography. Robert Stoller makes this connection and pinpoints the crucial element that leaves me unaroused by, say, transvestite pornography but stirred by Playboy centerfolds. There is aggression in perversions and, indeed, in all sexuality. Excitement comes from a favored pattern of risk, reversal, and triumph. My boredom tells me I do not feel the risks in transvestite pornography as risks, and my excitement says that the risks in the Playboy centerfold (nakedness, immobility) are truly risky for me.
As McDougall analyzes it, the perverse sexual activity serves to reverse roles. The child who was once the victim of anxiety at castration or the primal scene is now the agent of somebody else's anxiety, someone who may stand for the original threatener of castration. The once helpless child is now the controller and producer of excitement, either his own or his partner's. The onetime child is now the castrator or the fornicator or the rapist. In fact, many perverts are preoccupied with manipulating the other person's sexual response, making their partners suffer what they themselves once passively endured. Thus the perverse sexual play functions as a defense, warding off intense castration anxiety (1972, p. 378).
There is a truth here about all art, not just pornography (as Stoller points out). An artist like Scott Fitzgerald is driven to create and re-create the risk of being withheld from because that was the risk that mattered to him. Through his art he reverses and triumphs over it. In the same way, the types of art that I prefer allow me to imagine risks that are real risks for me, reverse them, and come out triumphant (1975, pp. 116-17, see also Holland, 1968a, chaps. 4, 7;, Peckham, 1965). Within my range of preferences, I need a constant flow of works on the edge of what I already know so that I can reach new versions of the risks that are basic to my character--my identity. We come back again to the individual. In effect, art works as sex does, both to gratify drives directly and to ward off anxiety defensively. In this sense, a person's sexual preferences, either normal or perverse, are individual creations: works of art shared only by partners. Works of art are perversions shared by thousands. Perhaps.
Robert Stoller makes the sensible suggestion that "perversion" is not a diagnosis or an evaluation (despite its connotations) but a mechanism, like repression or sublimation. However we evaluate perversions as a society, we cannot use psychology to judge them, for "perversion" is simply a defense mechanism like repression or sublimation, in and of itself neither healthy nor unhealthy, moral or immoral. That is, in perversion, the erotic is charged with hostility, with the reversal of risk into triumph, and with the ability both to act out and to deny the material at the heart of the risk (typically, the sexual relations between the parents or the difference in male and female genitals). This is a process that finds its place in the creation of art and normal sexuality as well as perversion. It is a blank, providing in itself no basis for social judgment or action.
We create all our sexualities from a dialectic between the individual and the given. We have biological givens like the anatomical difference between the sexes or the difference in size between parents and children. We have social givens like the kinds of clothes we wear or a legislative decision to make only heterosexual sex legal. The individual uses these givens to situate himself within the matrix of male and female, parent and child.
Yet even these givens exist "between," "in relation to," as part of an identity. There really is no such thing as "the" boy or "the" girl or "the" pervert. Boys and girls and deviants are creations of I's. Sexual identity is one part of a total identity that uses and is limited by the human and cultural resources available to that identity.
We create our genders and our generations as we find personal
answers to universal questions. At birth, the questions are
strong and simple. By the time we have reached three or four
years old, they have become various, and our power to give
individual answers has grown. Once we have embarked upon the
genital riddles, the combinations are so various and
individual and our own creative power has so grown that we can
generalize very little. That is why psychoanalytic accounts of
development beyond the age of oedipus are so few. Like this
chapter, they face the miracle of human variety, and those who
would generalize about it would be wise to let themselves be
awed into silence.
11 / Questions and Answers
When planning this book, I had hoped at this point to outline a full question and answer model of the development of an I. I had in mind a type of flowchart developed by T. G. R. Bower in his 1974 study of the development of children's understanding of spaces and physical objects.
In the first year of life children learn that when a rattle rolls under the couch it has not disappeared forever. If you look for it starting where it disappeared, you may find it. Similarly, if an object passes behind the headboard of a bed, you can imagine it traveling at constant speed behind the headboard and spot it again when it emerges. It is fun to watch a two year old who has just learned "inside" endlessly putting things into a box, closing the lid, and taking them out again. We even have toys specially designed for just this kind of play: nested cups or the series of Russian dolls each with a smaller doll inside.
As children, you and I learned about "under" and "behind" and "inside" by guessing--framing hypotheses--about paths and speeds, testing them, and framing still more hypotheses from the feedback of success or failure. It is even possible that we were born with some of these hypotheses already in place.
Bower found that he could organize the child's growing knowledge of spatial relations by putting these hypotheses into words and hence into logical relations. For example, a child begins by guessing, 'If it disappears from sight it is gone forever.' A young baby loses interest in a ball if it rolls out of view. Later, after some further development, how the previously seen ball disappears becomes important. If it goes inside something (for example, if you throw a blanket over it), the infant does not try to find it. Curiously, this can be true even if the object remains in plain sight, if it is in, say, a transparent cup or sits on a larger object like a table. If the ball rolls behind a chair leg, however, the baby knows to look there and does so. Bower renders this change in hypotheses by a kind of flowchart or "modified epigenetic landscape," which can cover a wide range of the child's knowledge, showing how hypotheses combine and complicate one another. 
Possibly because I am a literary critic, I tend to think of the flowchart as a series of questions and answers:
Ball: Okay, where am I?Or--
Baby: I saw you before and not now. How did you disappear?
Ball: Inside something.
Baby: I don't know "inside." You're gone as far as I'm concerned.
Ball: I rolled behind a chair leg.
Baby: Are you along the path you rolled? That's where I'll look.
Ball: You found me, kid!
I had hoped to work out as detailed a dialogue or landscape for setting out the development of the path of identity through the oral, nomic, and other stages as Bower's diagram. As his work suggests, however, such a dialogue even for the straightforward problem of the child's developing an idea of object constancy becomes very intricate very quickly. Nevertheless, I believe I have sketched out, in the chart on pp. 244-45, some fundamental themes or questions such a dialogue would have to include. I think of this chart as summing up not only chapters 7-10 of The I, but the now well-established psychoanalytic account of development as set forth in many introductory texts (see, for example, Waelder, 1960; Hendrick, 1958; Buxbaum, 1959; or Smirnoff, 1968). There is, however, one glaring omission.
I have not tried to include the "psychology of the self" developed by Heinz Kohut (1971, 1977, and 1979, see also Ornstein 1974). Kohut proposes major modifications in the classical psychoanalytic picture of development. It is one- dimensional. The child proceeds along one track, passing through stages like a train going through stations. Kohut proposes a "bipolar self" with energy going in two directions: toward objects (as in the classical view), that is, persons or organs of the body, and toward "ego nuclei" within the self. The bipolar self thus goes through two sets of stages, the classical oral, anal, or phallic phases plus phases in the development of "narcissism."
Kohut defines narcissism not in the classical way, by the target (narcissism is libido directed toward the self), but by the quality of the instinctual charge: grandiose, unreal, or archaic. Narcissism in Kohut's sense (see Appendix, pp. 360-62) can be and is directed not only to the self but to objects as well. "Self-objects," he calls them, parts of the not-me "used in the service of the self and of the maintenance of its instinctual investment, or objects which are themselves experienced as part of the self" (1971, p. xiv).
The "self" in Kohut's theory is a cohesive, coherent, unified structure that the individual can invest with loving energy. The "self" is also a content of the mental apparatus, one's self-representation. In a way, then, Kohut's self is, like the ARC model of identity, simultaneously agent, consequence, and representation. For Kohut, however, "representation" means representation by the self, while in ARC, "representation" is representation by anybody. Nor does Kohut (so far as I know) use either theme-and-variations or feedback. He refers to the self-representation as the "self in a narrow sense" and the structural self (agency and consequence) as the "self in a broad sense."
Were one to try to add Kohut's doubling of the classical psychoanalytic picture of development to the identity-directing-feedback model, one would do so by allowing for double answers to a given developmental question and by adding the precursors of identification to the chart on pp. 244-45. The latter, in particular, seem like a useful addition to theory.
I have not, however, tried to include Kohut's contribution, despite the enthusiasm it has awakened in many American analysts (and despite its curious resemblance to some features of Lacan's stade du miroir). For one thing Kohut carefully confines his observables to the analytic situation. Only in the transference of a psychoanalysis can one detect the grandiosity, mirroring, or idealizing to which his theory refers. That observation in turn rests very heavily on the analyst's empathy, a far cry from the directly observable miserliness or dependency that mark classical anality or orality. As of now, Kohut's is a category theory, very diagnostic. I would like to see the Kohutians transform it into the holism that I think central to psychoanalytic thought. Most of all, I want to see how the theory fares in therapy over the next decade--that is the only test I know for a psychoanalytic theory, and the best.
Except for that omission, I think the chart and the following series of questions and answers present the classical psychoanalytic account of child development, a history that establishes a paralogic in the adult in which experiences that have no commonsense connection (like, say, eye and mouth or flying and gender) run together beneath the surface.
During the first, "oral" stage, a baby is primarily an eater. The question his world asks him every day and several times a day is, How will things from outside you get inside? The world is asking the baby such things as, How will you incorporate? How will you take into your body? How will you get? (All terms from Erikson.) Of course these questions are not asked only or even primarily of the baby. They involve asking the mother, How will you give from your body to your child's? How will you make yourself available to your baby's sight, touch, hearing, and imagination? How will you fail your child? These are all questions for the unit of mother and child.
An even more profound question, then, dominant throughout the first three or four years of our lives, is, How will you (two) cease to be a unit? How will you (baby or mother) become a separate I? Or, as the chart says, How will you be a self?
As children, we coped with issues like, How will you get? or How will you separate? by acting the answers out bodily. Our environment responded to those answers with satisfactions or frustrations. We had, however, an underlying fear that toned the way we heard those demands and what we did in response. A child dreads hunger, dreads cold, dreads being left alone, dreads abandonment, but in earliest infancy, a child dreads most of all (says psychoanalytic theory) being overwhelmed. That is what analyses of adults suggest. A baby fears that suffering will not stop but will go on and on from suffering to more suffering to utter annihilation. How much his nurture energizes that fear tones the pleasures and unpleasures the baby feels at the questions he is posed and the answers he provides.
In the earliest phase of babyhood, we were primarily passive. We answered the demands on us mostly by waiting, giving signs of either patience or impatience. Mother was the active one, feeding and bathing us, taking care of our requirements, and leaving us so as to take care of her own and others' needs. As a baby, our task was to learn to tolerate her absence. We cried, we fretted, we gurgled, or we slept. Gradually, we learned to handle the delay by symbolizing our absent mother, and this, we have seen, represented an important state in our growing ability to know the world around us. Emotionally, our being able to imagine our absent mother (and our mother absent) provided the foundation for our ability to trust in her return, for our more general "basic trust."
Symbolizing a mother already represented some growth beyond our original total fusion with her. As we have seen in the research of Mahler's group, to symbolize her we had to have passed through a subphase of "mirroring identification." Bodily imitating a mother provided us with the felt body movements, intentions, feelings, sensations that formed a basis for imagining her.
We acquired these body movements colored by the love and resentment we felt toward a mother who both gratified and frustrated us. According to Freud, Melanie Klein, and many other observers, a baby deals with this intolerable mixture of love and hate by splitting the image of his mother into a good mother inside him and a bad mother "out there." Gradually, as we worked our way through the various subphases in which we separated ourselves from total fusion with a mother, we put these two split images together. We became able to feel both love and hate toward the one person without shattering our symbolic representation of her. We could hate without feeling that we were destroying, and we could love without feeling that we had to engulf her.
Earliest infancy was completely preverbal, just body states, yet I know of no way that an adult can think about the experience except by putting it into words. Hence I image our progress through the first, "oral" stage as answering a series of questions. We were acting out--feeling out--answers to questions like these: How will you separate from this dyad of mother and baby to become a distinct you? How will you replace your physical and psychological fusion to your mother with a symbolic union and boundary? How will you tolerate delay? How will you turn your massive responses of love and hate into a steadier trust? I can think of the answers to these "How's" as becoming a personal style, an identity (still invisible to any observer) but which we brought to our next stage.
In the first stage, we were primarily taking in from outside. That was our "modality." In the second we gave from inside out. We emitted cries, noises, actions, smells, body products. Of course we had been "expressing" in these ways from the beginning, but now they became a new focus for that dyadic relation between mother and child.
Further, what was large and global in the first, passive phase, we now began to make more precise in this second, active stage. In the earlier period, we feared utter annihilation. Now that dread became more precise: the loss of love, the failure of that sustaining otherness that made life and feeling possible.
These two moves, precising and making active answers out of questions that had been posed to a previously passive child, mark an infant's progress from every stage to the next stage of development. At this point in the dialogue, precising and making active marked our passage from the first, "oral" stage to the second, "nomic."
In the earlier stage, we had been receivers. Now we both received and gave. Newly precise muscles allowed us to control more and more of our bodily activities, especially evacuation. In the earlier stage, we began to rework the physical merging of mother and child into a symbolic boundary that could be created or undone. Then that doing and undoing took the form of defining what was self and what was not self. Body products posed the most perplexing issues. This stool, is it a living part of me or something dead, disgusting, to be thrown away? The sound I make--it leaves my mouth and is no longer part of me, yet am I to be held responsible for it? Transitional objects like soft blankets and teddy bears become part of the I, and yet the I knows they are also or primarily part of the "out there," the not-me.
In the earliest part of the earlier stage, we expressed love by keeping what we loved inside, either literally or (later) symbolically and imaginatively. What we resented or hated, we put outside, into the "out there" either literally or symbolically. Then we had the choice of holding on to the various things we were creating with our bodies or letting go, defining the me and the not-me by an active process--or letting them be defined as our body processes took over. The creation of trust in others in the first stage (and throughout life) acquired another dimension in this stage: the trust in self. Erikson introduces for this stage the term autonomy, self ruling, as opposed to being ruled by others or by happenstance.
The earlier development of symbols (and, of course, this too goes on all through life) acquired a new precision: symbolizing rules. Later we "had" our own rules and may even have tried to impose them on our parents. Symbolizing others, taking them in or putting them out imaginatively, acquired the meaning of accepting their rules or having one's own rules--with all the complex shadings of government that those alternatives provide. Some of these rules concerned symbols, now precised as speech. Some concerned what goes into and out of the body. Some concerned when. In the earlier stage our sense of time was a sense of delay, simply waiting and wanting. Next it became something more precise, a sense of timing: When is this or that appropriate? The earlier determination, "I will be me," acquired a special tone, "I will decide for myself." This is the stage of "No!" and "Not now!" At first we simply followed rules.
By active answers, we turned the earlier questions posed us by our parents and society into preciser modes. The achievement of a symbolic union and boundary that can be created and uncreated led into such questions as, Who decides? Who rules? Do I do as I wish? Do I live by their rules? Or by my own? Or can I make theirs mine and mine theirs? The chart's early question, How shall I let the outside inside?, now acquired a second dimension, How shall I let the inside outside? and hence the question became, How shall I control that boundary between inside and outside? The early question, How will you become a distinct you?, shaded into, What is me and what is not-me? What is animate and inanimate, living and dead? The earlier question, How will you tolerate delay?, includes, When will you do it? Similarly, the earlier, How will I fuse love and hate into trust? becomes, How will I turn their rules, some of which I resent, into rules for myself that will be the basis for my own self-rule, self-confidence, and self-respect?
Less well known is the stage after the anal or nomic: the urethral. We can enlarge Freud's linking the control of urine to ambition by thinking in terms of a projective stage. What had been at first a reaching toward symbols, then a mastering of rules, now became an attempt at plans and abstractions, a projection into the future or the general. The child tried to generalize his experience into concepts and categories like animate and inanimate, big and small. The most important of these were, of course, parents and children and male and female.
To the nomic concern with establishing rules for himself the child added a projective concern: What shall I plan for myself? The sense of timing he had already acquired in connection with rules, he now applied to actions that were not governed by rules. When shall I be a parent? When shall I go out into the world?
That question of entry pervades the next, intrusive stage. What began as a boundary between inside and outside became a barrier to be penetrated in a burst of aggressive energy. Our first concern with symbols, transformed into rules and concepts, became a body language and the use of that language and speech to dominate, intrude, and explore.
Parents recognize the intrusive (or "phallic") stage as a child's bursting into noise, physical attack, constant talking, and endless curiosity--the Why? games. All were ways of pushing ourselves into the world through bodily activity.
Partly we explored our own bodies, curiosity fueled now by new sexual knowledge, for example, about the different ways boys and girls urinate. That difference became part of our sense of personal power or the lack of personal power, for throughout this period our ambitions and projections far outran our actual abilities, so we felt not only constant aspiration but also constant frustration. "Good enough" mothering in the first stage meant not letting delays become overwhelming lest we be overcome by the primal fear that suffering would only lead to more suffering and annihilation. Now "good enough" mothering meant tolerating and even enjoying our bursting activity, not creating a massive sense of frustration or the belief that "I won't ever be able to enter the world," or, "I will never be big."
As children we constantly confronted the limits of our bodies. We felt, "I can't stand these limits on me, yet I can't escape them either." What reminded us of those limits was the daunting difference between what we could do and what we imagined ourselves or our parents doing, or, perhaps, saw them doing, possibly in a sexual way. All the more intense, then, became our ambition: I want to be big.
The earlier fears that colored our experience, the fear of annihilation, the fear of loss of love, became transformed into the fear of losing a body part. Our interest in our own and others' bodies intensified in this period, partly because the body had become the key to being big, to entering the adult world. Any bodily deficiency could mean the end of your or my future as a member of that community of adults. It is in this context that a four-year-old boy or girl interprets the anatomical difference between the sexes. Do they see that difference as a difference or as a lack?
Physiology plays an obvious role here. A boy has a visible organ that gets bigger and smaller, playing out the drama that both boy and girl imagine of becoming big. A girl does not, and she may therefore see her difference as a lack. May. What she feels she has instead depends a great deal on her culture and her family. If they use femaleness as a reason for depriving women of avenues to various adult activities, then indeed a little girl is likely to feel that the difference between her and a boy is a plus for him and a zero or a minus for her. One can easily imagine cultures, however, in which a little girl would perceive her situation as different from a boy's without being inferior. One can visualize a society in which women are given equal rights with men in the workplace. One can visualize--indeed observe, as Margaret Mead did--societies in which pregnancy and birthing are women's great power, not a hospital procedure run by male doctors. One can observe societies which value mothering equally or beyond other kinds of work. One can imagine settings in which men do as much mothering as women. In such contexts a little girl may come to feel that what she has instead of a boy's penis is less visible, less touchable, but a power and a privilege, both mystery and mastery.
The intrusive stage, understood as both a phase in body development and the result of three years of parenting, asked us as children, How will you enter the world? And we answered, Through my body. I will be big.
How will you be big? Here there was a great deal of room for individual answering: big at thinking, big at spending, big and strong, big and cruel, or big at football. At the same time, biology and culture insisted that we find our ways to one of two specific ways of being big: "I will be a man." "I will be a woman." "I will have--be, really--a sex." "I will become a parent." In this context we reinterpreted earlier fears about our bodies as either preventing our taking a place in that matrix or foreclosing one place and forcing another.
"I will become a parent." That answer does not imply that the child will literally become a five-year old parent, although that may have been part of your or my imagining. We imagined ourselves in the situation of one or both of our parents. We included a child's confused idea of adult work in that imagining, and we included a child's even more confused idea of sex and the origin of the babies that define parents as parents.
In the oedipal period we had to learn an answer to the question, How will you situate yourself in a world divided into male and female, parents and children? The answer all existing societies want is, "I will have--be, really--one of the genders our society accepts." "I will be like one of my parents." We had to learn that we could not be both parents, only one. We could not have both genders.
We were supposed to identify with the parent of our own sex. That is, we were to take in as our own aspirations (at least for a start) the social values represented by that parent. At the same time, we had to learn that we could not be that parent or even be like that parent now. Our early experience and acceptance of delay became first a sense of excretory timing and planning, then a sense of time in the long, generational sense. Now it had to become something more, an acceptance of generational difference, a long, long wait indeed. The identification with one of our parents meant acceptance of some of his or her values, building them deeply and firmly into our own character for the duration of that long wait.
This oedipal stage required identification. It demanded anti- identification as well. In identifying with one parent, we accepted the other as the object of our love, and in so doing we said, "I want that parent, but I am not like that parent." A little boy says, "I want to grow up like my father. I want to have my mother or someone like her. I am not like her. I am not female." A little girl says, "I want to grow up like my mother. I want to have my father or someone like him." For her, however, the anti-identification blurs. She cannot look at her mother and say, I am not like that parent, for she is.
For a little boy, the anti-identification also blurs, but differently. He may say he is not like his mother, but in fact he had identified with her and internalized her values for the first and most formative years of his life. For him now to say, I am not like her, I will not be like her, requires a separation from aspects of himself. It is a distancing almost as drastic as that first, "oral" separation in which he began to become a separate person.
Similarly, a little girl's love for her father exists over an earlier love for her mother, a love that permeated the first and most formative years of her life. Nancy Chodorow, who has written most convincingly about these blurrings of the oedipal choice, points out that this may establish for a little girl a style of being which is more complexly interpersonal and for a little boy a "masculinity" based on distance and emotional silence. Either of these patterns might change were that first "mother" to be a male (Chodorow, 1978, pp. 130-41).
Indeed, I sense that the oedipal situation itself is changing, at least in the United States. In this question-and-answer model, the questions remain the same but the answers are less firm. In the culture of poverty or in the serial marriages now common in American society, family structures make it less and less possible to answer the question, "How will you be big?" by a strong identification either with one parent's gender or that parent's "manly" or "womanly" values. Without that strong identification with a future, a child has to make do with earlier modes of relationship, getting or taking or holding on or letting go or dominating instead of loving (or, for that matter, hating) in the full, adult sense.
In half a century of living I have seen two major changes in the psychological life of my country. One is the sexual revolution, combining sexual freedom with the loosening of marriage ties and the creation of one-parent or extended families. Whatever the virtues of the new sexual permissiveness and stimulation--and I think they are many--they make it more difficult for children to answer the oedipal question with a firm identification with one parent.
The other change is the (to me) striking rise in the "consumer society" or the "me generation," or what I would call in an older psychoanalytic jargon, "orality." The ability to receive, nurtured by long hours in front of the television set, is an important part of the new freedom and easiness in our society. It also instills a dependency and inactivity, however, which can persist into adulthood as an alternative to the foreclosed oedipal choice of a decisively adult personality.
Together these two trends mark, if not the end, the weakening
of those traditional "puritan" virtues associated with the
work ethic: the inhibition of desire and the postponement of
gratification. Some manifestations of these "virtues," no
doubt, we should be happy to see passing. Others, I fear, we
will miss more and more. With our technology we depend more
and more on one another, but our psyches become less and less
|Zones and Themes||Mouth - Skin - Eyes||Anus||Bladder - Genitals||Genitals - Muscles||Interpersonal|
[I] can "be toward"--
I can be . . .
|"I will rule myself"||"I will plan for myself"||"I will go out into the world"||"I will be 'big'" [male or female]|
How will you fear?
Fear of further trauma
Fear of loss of love
Fear of being shamed
Fear of loss of body part
Fear of loss of place
in matrix of gender
|How will you desire?||Passive: Trust Active: Love (split from) Hate||
Autonomy vs. shame ===> Disgust
|How will you symbolize?||
Mirroring===> Object constancy
===>one's own (active)
|Abstraction - concept - plan||Body language and limits||Gender and generational limits|
|Time: How will you wait?||Tolerating delay (passive)||
Timing onself (for another)
Timing onself (for oneself)
|"Real time"||Generational future|
|Space: How will you separate inside and outside?||
(Outside ===> Inside)
or Taking (active)
(Inside ===> Outside)
Holding on - Letting go
Giving and Giving Up
Inside ===> Outside
Inside ===> Outside
Outside ===> Inside
|How will you be a self?||Self-object differentiation||What is me and not-me? What is animate, what inanimate?|
|How will you be one person?||Total fusion||Hold on||
Mastery and control
|How will you be two?||Total separation||Let go||over self and world)||
("I am not that")
("I am different from that")
|Male and female physiologically differentiating ====>|
|Adult Illness||Psychosis or Borderline Psychosis||Obsessive-Compulsive Neurosis||Sociopathy||Hysteria||Neurosis|
Even during the oedipal crisis, each child makes an individual answer to the universal riddle of finding one's right place in the matrix of genders and generations. Each child arrives at a pattern of identifications and separations and loves and hates that is completely permeated with nuance and personal style. Hence it is hard to generalize about individuals' oedipal experiences. It is even harder to generalize about the still more variable experience after oedipus.
Despite the difficulties, Erik Erikson succeeded in extending the psychoanalytic idea of infantile stages into the period beyond oedipus. After what might be called the oedipal decision, the child enters on latency, a period characterized by Peter Blos as one with no new instinctual demands. The sudden burgeoning of sexuality that led the child and his parents to confront the questions of gender and generationing subsides. The questions and answers of the oedipal period remain stable. "He has experienced," Erikson says, "a sense of finality regarding the fact that there is no workable future within the womb of his family, and thus becomes ready to apply himself to given skills and tasks" (1963, p. 259).
Work is the key. The culture says, "This is how we work," and asks, "How will you work?" In all cul- tures, the children at this stage get some systematic instruction in the fundamentals of their culture's technology, its symbols, and its ethos. Erikson sees the child in this phase as facing outer and inner hindrances to doing adult work and trying to overcome a feeling of inferiority through a sense of successful industry.
Adolescence brings a new upsurge of hormonal change, sexual urgency, and family crisis, a recapitulation, typically, of the stages of infancy, a second chance to work out answers to the oral, nomic, intrusive, and gendering questions of infancy (Blos, 1968). The question, How will you enter the adult community?, becomes immediate. The near-adult must arrive at a choice of career (a word that means road, etymologically echoing the earlier choice of Oedipus where three roads met.) Erikson has suggested that the wise society allows the adolescent to live in a moratorium, hovering between child and adult, enjoying the certain, all-encompassing answers of the young before accepting the need for the compromised wisdom of the adult. Erikson's idea suggests to me that this stage poses such questions as: Who will you be? What will you do? Whom will you love? The adolescent's task is to find for himself answers that will integrate his experience up to that point in such a way as to satisfy him and those inner and outer incarnations of the meaningful people in his life. There will be much lurching, much over-identification, much over-separation, until those whom Russell Baker calls "the big new people" find the paths or answers by which they can negotiate adult lives.
Crucial to those lives are the answers for the next stage. Erikson calls it "intimacy vs. isolation." With whom will you mate and have children--and how? At this stage, a young adult has to act out his or her answers to questions about the nature of love and sexuality, answers that build on but go beyond the body models of the intrusive or genital stages and the childish answers of penetration and grasping. Erikson speaks of the coregulation of two human beings through a sexuality of mutual orgasm so as to provide children with that same mutual regulation. Failure to find this answer leads to "isolation," a lack of intimacy that mere sexual "contact" cannot make up. In the last twenty years in America, this stage has become painfully iffy, as we have begun to accept new kinds of intimacy: "open" marriage, homosexuality, serial monogamy, or the extended family of divorce. The existence of more choices, many with more immediate appeal than long-term commitment to a not-always-satisfying other, makes it difficult to arrive at a stable social or personal intimacy.
Yet the hope of the next stage, generativity, rests on just that intimacy. It is here, Erikson suggests, that the human being becomes "the teaching and instituting as well as the learning animal" (1963, p. 266). Erikson treats this stage as the establishing and guiding of the next generation, either one's own children or young people in a working relationship, or more distantly, through work on which a later generation can rely. As a question, I would state it, "How will you conduct your life (at work and in your family) so as to extend yourself into the generation after you?"
This is, in effect, the complement to the oedipal question. There the child had to learn how to be a child. Here the adult has to learn how to be a parent in at least a metaphorical sense.
In our society, with its electronic immediacy of gratification, this stage becomes especially problematic. The question surfaces, Why reach out toward the next generation?, and the answer often becomes, Why indeed?, leading to escape, divorce, workaholicism, the midlife crisis, and other ills that beset and isolate adults in midlife today.
Finally, the wheel of the generations turns once more, and parenthood becomes grandparenthood. Erikson visualizes this final stage as a closing of the circle in which the aging adult learns to accept the life cycle as part of a comradeship with his or her own parents and more distant times and work and cultures. As a question, I would put it, "How will you accept aging and death?" Failure to find an answer that brings one's life toward a wholeness leads to "despair." An answer that allows for a creative relation with one's forebears, one's agemates, and one's descendants constitutes "integrity." Erikson brings his eight stages to a complete cycle by defining, "Trust (the first of our ego values) . . . as 'the assured reliance on another's integrity.'" "Healthy children will not fear life if their elders have integrity enough not to fear death" (1963, pp. 268-69.
I have not tried to chart the questions that would detail the individual patterns of a life in an epigenetic plan like Erikson's. One can, however, imagine five basic themes (see the chart on pp. 244-45) persisting all through life, transformed and transforming, yet presenting the same issues again and again: fearing, loving, and hating; symbolizing; time; inside and outside; self and other. One could imagine, for example, a sense of time and timing that grows from the infant's earliest learning to tolerate delay through the various timings learned in early childhood through the oedipal imagining of oneself as a parent and as a child into the adolescent's sense of a now! that can integrate his own past as a child into his future as an adult. The next stage, the question of establishing intimacy, involves a sense of time as long-term commitment, and making that commitment into generativity involves the acceptance of the next generation, while the final stage requires us to accept, really accept, the very idea of generations.
Our first symbolic achievement was to imagine a nurturing other in her absence. Later symbolic abilities added rules, concepts, genders, and generations. The latency child learns techniques, while the adolescent acquires ideals and ideologies. Through intimacy we learn to give up the boundaries of symbols, indeed of our own egos, so that later, as parents, we can conceptualize the mind and feelings of a child again. Late in life that ability to give up one's boundaries can grow into the ability to give up self entirely.
One question that runs all through life is, How will you be separate from but united with your fellow human beings? It takes many different forms, yet they follow a cyclical pattern. The child's first great task was self-object differentiation, and we all went on to create a self who could rule a self, accepting rules from others or making rules oneself. Similarly we achieved a self who could plan for a self, who could become a self who was male or female, a child who could become a parent someday. This self takes still other forms in relation to others: the peers of latency become complicated into the adolescent's separation from parents and fusion with the peer-group. That fusion becomes the maturer intimacy of the young adult and the new version of fusion and separateness, parenting, for midlife, just as fusion and separateness took the form of being a child in early life. At the end, the acceptance of death means ultimate separation from one's fellows and fusion with--what? Dylan Thomas put it,
. . . I must enter again the round--a rich phrasing of Freud's death instinct or Lichtenstein's fusion with a stage prior to identity.
Zion of the water bead
And the synagogue of the ear of corn.
Cyclic, too, is the emotional climate in which we work out these major themes of timing, separation, inside-outside, and symbols. At the beginning, it was, How will you integrate your love and your resentment? The baby faced the problem of resolving its feelings of love and frustration so as not to split mother into an inner good and an outer bad, but rather to integrate love and hate into a total relationship. Obviously this is a task we face in different forms all through life: toward the rule-givers, toward those who ask us to project and plan, toward the sexual parents who ask that we accept our status as children and not try to be their mates or rivals. In adolescence we face the task of breaking free from our parents without rejecting them wholly, but instead integrating their inner presence with our new adult selves. Intimacy involves one more acceptance of another person who will inevitably give us both joy and frustration. How will I shape that mixture of love and occasional anger into a long-term relationship? Generativity involves the inverse of one's love and hate of parents: the love and resentment of one's own children. Ultimately there is the love and resentment of the generational process itself which, precisely by giving us birth and childhood, requires of us old age and death.
We can trace our passage through the generations by means of such essentially human questions. How do you set yourself in time? How do you symbolize? How do you relate self and other? How do you resolve conflicting feelings? These questions are posed us, however, in a particular way in a particular situation.
These situations are utterly particular, while the questions are splendidly general. Everyone who has engaged in psychoanalysis, however, knows how childhood continues into adult life. It seems to me that a full-scale biography could work out a whole life as the dialogue the individual had made from these questions that all humans are asked. Rare is the biography, though, that can trace the child in the adult or the adult in the child, for, even in psychobiography, we seldom find in public, sharable sources the data about childhood that would enable us to relate the child's answers to the answers the adult worked out in a career or marriage. Hence we have to rely almost entirely on accounts of psychoanalyses to make such connections.
We are fortunate, then, to be able to turn to a famous, perhaps the most famous case of a child in psychoanalysis. Now, moreover, we can trace the connections between a sixty-eight- year-old man and the four-year-old boy who was Freud's case of
In January 1908, at the age of four and three quarters, Hans developed a phobia. He became terrified of going out into the street. His father, who was one of Freud's first disciples, consulted the master, and Freud suggested that the father carry on the treatment by asking questions of his son and interpreting the answers the boy gave. Freud knew the boy and was evidently fond of him, for he had bought him a rocking-horse (fateful gift!) on his third birthday and carried it himself up four flights of steps to the parents' apartment. Only once, however, did the father take Hans to see "the Professor" for some especially powerful interpreting. From my point of view, however, Freud's and the father's careful observations and interpretations are of even more interest than the diagnosis and cure of Hans's phobia.
In 1908 the psychoanalytic theory of child development rested entirely on reconstructions from the analyses of adults. Freud had therefore urged his students (including Hans's father) to jot down their observations of their own children as a way of confirming and enlarging the theory. Hence we can read a great many details about Hans's upbringing before his phobia.
At the time Freud treated him, Hans had achieved training for both bowels and urine. Indeed, he took pleasure in showing off these accomplishments. He had developed a mastery-game in which he would go into a cupboard ("my W.C.") and take out his "widdler" (the English translators' solution for the German wiwimacher) and pretend, "I'm widdling."
That is, Hans had mastered one function of his penis. It makes wiwi. He had also found in his penis a satisfying symbol for his intrusion into the parental space (literally their bed) and the outer, adult world in general (for example, the loading dock across the street from their apartment). He had yet to learn, however, the genital function of his "widdler," namely, how he might one day use it to locate himself in a world of male and female, parents and children. Indeed, even at five, when he completed his "analysis," he had not solved that later problem.
Until the age of four Hans had slept in his parents' bedroom. They then moved to a larger apartment, and he slept in a separate room. All through his fourth year, however, he found ways of being taken into the parental bed.
At the age of three and a half, his mother had warned him that if he continued to touch his widdler, she would send for the doctor to cut it off. Hans unconcernedly responded that then he would widdle with his "bottom."
Also at the age of three and a half, Hans's baby sister Hanna was born, engendering considerable envy and resentment in the boy. Moreover, Hans happened upon the basins of blood and water in the bedroom where his mother had just given birth. Surprised, he commented, "But blood doesn't come out of my widdler."
Then, in January, when he was four and three-quarters, he saw a horse pulling a bus fall down. That frightened him. "That was when I got the nonsense," he said later. His "nonsense" was an unreasoning fear of going out into the street because a horse would fall down and bite him. Hans had developed, in short, a phobia.
In a question-and-answer model of development, Hans was being asked, How will you adapt the skill you have acquired in controlling your lumf and wiwi to your long-range goals so as to put yourself into the world of "big" things and people? How will you learn that the world is significantly divided into males, females, parents, and children?
Consider, then, these fragments of dialogue as variations from which to infer a theme or themes. Hans is speaking with his father ("I"):
I: "You'd like to have a little girl."
Hans: "Yes, next year I'm going to have one, and she'll be called Hanna too" (87).
[Father:] So on April 26th I asked him why he was always thinking of his children.
Hans: "Why? Because I should so like to have children; but I don't ever want it; I shouldn't like to have them" (93).
I: "Have you always imagined that Berta and Olga and the rest were your children?"
Hans: "Yes, Franzl, and Fritzl, and Paul too" (his playmates at Lainz), "and Lodi." This is an invented girl's name . . . (93).
Hans: "And really I was their Mummy."
I: "What did you do with your children?"
Hans: "I had them to sleep with me, the girls and the boys"(94).
I: "When you sat on the chamber and a lumf came, did you think to yourself you were having a baby?"
Hans (laughing): "Yes, Even at _________ Street, and here as well" (95).
Hans: "This morning I was in the W.C. with all my children.
First I did lumf and widdled, and they looked on. Then I put them on the seat and they widdled and did lumf, and I wiped their behinds with paper. D'you know why? Because I'd so much like to have children; then I'd do everything for them--take them to the W.C., clean their behinds, and do everything one does with children" (97).
In what he said, Hans showed three tactics of response to the projective, intrusive, and genital questions he was asking and being asked. First, he would frame hypothetical answers and act them out. Lest that seem like too grand a way of describing the thought processes of a four-year-old, it is worth noting that he could generalize, as from one horse to all horses or one baby to all babies. He could also analogize from one entity to a very different one on the basis of a common property: from a big animal to a big person to a big widdler, for example, or from a box to a bathtub to a cart, all being containers.
Second, he developed complexes, that is, clusters of ideas that were consciously or, in particular, unconsciously linked. He used his cognitive skills and his hypotheses to develop three main complexes. One was a set of ideas about horses and the various carts and buses they pulled. Another was a group of ideas connected with urinating and defecating and watching or being watched while doing so. The third cluster had to do with containers like boxes, bathtubs, the carts again, his own or his mother's belly and lumf or a baby coming out.
Third, as the press of his own development and the increases in his knowledge brought him into threatening territory, he developed defenses. Typical for him were denial (refusing to perceive the threat) and identification. Just as he acted out his hypotheses, he would act out his defenses. He would deny or identify in quite literal, physical terms. He would, as it were, "do" them. Thus watching and being watched again became important, but in another way: as doing or not doing, seeing or being seen.
If we focus on what knowledge Hans brings to the questions of the intrusive (or phallic) phase, he has solved, as it were, one anal problem: What is a living part of me and what is a dead part, non-me, and to be thrown away? What is not living is what does not excrete. He now tried to translate his solution to that problem into the imagery of the next phase, his widdler. At age three and three quarters, Hans was at the railroad station and watched some water being let out of an engine. He then remarked thoughtfully, "'A dog and a horse have widdlers; a table and a chair haven't'" (9). At this time he had actually spoken of a horse's and a lion's penis, a cow's udder, a monkey's tail, the draining locomotive, and a doll's nongenital. Despite this confusing evidence, Freud noted, "by a process of careful induction he had arrived at the general proposition that every animate object, in contradistinction to inanimate ones, possesses a widdler" (11n). "The presence or absence of a widdler made it pos- sible to differentiate between animate and inanimate objects. He assumed that all animate objects were like himself, and possessed this important bodily organ" (106).
Hans also "knew" (because he had seen) that his mother did not have a widdler. At this point, however, like the earlier time when she had threatened him with castration, this knowledge had no effect on him because it did not fit his world at this stage of development either cognitively or emotionally. Indeed, he had told his mother, "I thought you were so big you'd have a widdler like a horse" (10). As Freud puts it, "Hans had observed that large animals had widdlers that were correspondingly larger than his; he consequently suspected that the same was true of his parents, and was anxious to make sure." Hans now began asking his parents to let him see their widdlers so he might compare theirs with his (107).
In effect, he had arrived at a phallic answer to a phallic question. How shall I enter the world of the big people? By being big. By having a big widdler. But was he big enough? The world of the big people, moreover, had its dangers. Hans showed he knew them by his surprise at the bloody containers after his sister's birth: "But blood doesn't come out of my widdler" (10).
Hans went on hypothesizing nevertheless. Seeing his baby sister in the bath, he commented, "'But her widdler's still quite small. When she grows up it'll get bigger all right'" (11, 14). He had continued and refined his earlier theory. There are degrees of widdlers: big beings have big widdlers; little beings have little widdlers; little beings and little widdlers grow into big ones.
Emotionally, his theorizing was accompanied by positive feelings about his penis. He frankly acknowledged the pleasure he felt when his mother touched him there. He played his mastery-game of widdling. He was also something of a show-off: "Last year when I widdled, Berta and Olga watched me." This year, however, he was (according to his father) more repressed. He would ask his father to take him behind the house to urinate so that no one should see him (20-21).
It was within this particular cognitive and emotional network that Hans developed his phobia. He became terrified of going out into the street lest a horse bite him. Freud read the primary meaning of Hans's phobia as his feeling in the street that he missed his mother from whom he did not wish to be separated and whom he wanted to caress (impossible on a street in 1905 Vienna even when she was with him). Fascinating as the ups and downs of Hans's therapy are, I want to focus on just those episodes that shed some light on every boy's pattern of questions and answers.
One of those episodes (and a key to the treatment) was the answering of Hans's own questions. Freud arranged with Hans's father that he was to tell Hans certain things: that he knew Hans was very fond of his mother and that Hans wanted to be taken into her bed; that his fears had nothing, really, to do with horses; that he was afraid of horses because he had taken so much interest in their widdlers. Freud also suggested that the father tell Hans (when Hans had given him the lead, as by a question) that female beings had no widdler at all.
When Hans's father told him that neither Hanna, his mother, nor any little girls nor any women had widdlers, Hans apparently absorbed this information. Indeed, several months previously he seemed to acknowledge that Hanna's widdler was amusingly different from his own. Nevertheless, he revealed his persisting confusion by immediately asking his father, "Have you got a widdler?" The next morning he reported a dream in which he saw his Mummy's widdler. Evidently he had not (at least in fantasy) believed what his father told him (31-32). Later he completed his hypotheses: "'And everyone has a widdler. And my widdler will get bigger as I get bigger; it's fixed in, of course'" (34). Freud took that last remark to be Hans's attempt to reassure himself against the real fear he was feeling. If there were living beings who did not possess widdlers, then his mother's castration threat of a year ago could come true. Someone "could take his own widdler away, and, as it were, make him into a woman!" (36)
That is Freud's statement, but if we think of Hans's various hypotheses about widdlers as his answers to the questions pressed on him by his culture and physiological growth, we can see why not having a widdler faced Hans with terrors that the phrase "make him into a woman" does not quite suggest. Without a widdler Hans would never be big enough to enter (break into, intrude upon) the world possessed by the grown-ups. Hans's future would have been taken away. Without a widdler, Hans could never be sure of delaying impulses, turning them into plans, and carrying them out in long-range goals, like growing up. He would be helpless, driven, impotent. Without a widdler, he could become inanimate, a dead un-self that could be flushed away like excrement--a nullity. Widdlerlessness, in Hans's intrusive, projective, or nomic fantasies, becomes total annihilation. Against such a threat, Hans mobilized a characteristic defense. He denied the possibility in physical terms: "'It's fixed in, of course.'"
Still more questions were coming, notably the central genital (or oedipal) problem: How would Hans fit himself into a world divided into male and female and a parental generation and a children's generation? Here again, he would try to answer the cultural and biological question in the language of body and relationship he had at the time the question came up. At that point, however, horses had gotten all mixed up with widdlers and fathers and mothers and boys and girls.
The birth of Hanna combined with his own intrusive curiosity to involve Hans in another new question, Where do babies come from? For all their Freudian sophistication, his parents told him that the stork brought them! Hans wisely didn't believe them.
Hans's father realized that it was only heavy vehicles pulled by horses that frightened Hans. Hans himself interpreted the loading platform across the street from their apartment: the horses were lumfs coming out of a behind, the gates to the warehouse. In effect Hans had made an analogy between a heavily loaded wagon and a body loaded with feces (55, 68, and 127).
He went further with his anal analogy: heavily loaded wagons represented his mother's pregnancy. Hence Hanna was a lumf, and buses, furniture vans, and coal wagons were "stork-box carts," enclosures from which Hans had guessed babies could come, as well as his mother's belly (68, 81, 128, 131). There was still another link between horses and Hans's deep fears. When Hans's friend Fritzl was playing horsy, he hit his foot on a stone, fell, and bled. Hans concluded he got his "nonsense" (his phobia) because they kept on saying, "'cos of the horse'" (wegen dem Pferd, echoing Wägen, vehicles). There were very bloody links indeed that connected falling down, bleeding, making a row with one's feet, horses, wagons, lumfs, and the birth of Hanna, all to the absence of a widdler (58-59).
Hans from the age of three and three-quarters to four had not treated these questions of gender and generations as real issues. Having no siblings of an age he could play with, he fell violently in love with any children he met at the skating-rink or on summer holidays. Once asked which of the girls he had met on his summer holiday he was fondest of, he named Fritzl, a boy. He would speak of two ten-year-olds he met as "my little girls," and he would hug a five-year-old boy cousin. He proclaimed, "'I want Mariedl to sleep with me,'" the landlord's fourteen-year-old girl (15-16). In effect, Hans was trying to re-create parent-parent or parent-child relations at the child-child level as though distinctions between male and female or parent and child did not exist or matter--just as the early castration threat meant nothing to him at first. He would simply refer to the landlord's daughters as "my children," or proclaim, "Next year I'm going to have one [a little girl], and she'll be called Hanna too." In this connection, he even evolved a theory of parentage: "'Boys have girls and girls have boys'"--a primitive way of responding to those two genital (or oedipal) distinctions (87).
We can regard Hans's phobia as his way of trying to use a frightening and inappropriate language of horses, carts, and even storks to deal with the cultural and biological questions of the intrusive and genital phases. How will you enter the world? How will you put yourself into gendering and generationing? By being a horse and falling down and spilling a cart. But that is a dangerous and terrifying prospect. Emotionally, Hans's answers involved his whole existence up to that time, so that a mistake would be catastrophic. It is in this framework that I read the confusing history of Hans's complexes. Hans's answer was to avoid (in the literal, physical sense of not going out of the house) those things with which he had symbolized the questions and answers of this stage of his development.
At age four, Hans had reached a phase where he was intent upon intruding into the large world of adults. Literally, he had tried to force his way into his parents' bed, but he also explored all phases of that adult world by his careful watching and listening and experimenting with bodily activities (various people's widdlings), the activities of lions, giraffes, locomotives, and activities of the horses and carts at the loading platform across the street.
In two situations involving his father, he seems to have imaged his curiosity quite physically, as a penetration of barriers. Once, he butted his head into his father's stomach, expressing his hostility. Earlier, however, he fantasied crawling through ropes marking off a forbidden place in the park. He did this with his father, and then both were apprehended by a policeman. Right after the visit to Freud, Hans reported another fantasy in which his father helped him penetrate barriers: "I went with you in the train, and we smashed a window and the policeman took us off with him." Hans was seeing his father intrusively, as a loving ally in penetrating barriers or as himself a barrier to be aggressively penetrated (42, 40, 41).
Hans's beginning the genital (or oedipal) phase introduced new questions that greatly intensified the problem of his ambivalence toward his father. In the pregenital stages of development, he had only to straighten out his ambivalence toward his parents one at a time. Now, in this triangular situation, he had to take into account his own rivalry with his father for his mother's affection and his own hostile rejection of Hanna and her kind of genital.
According to Freud, Hans's experience with the birth of a baby sibling was quite common. Watching his mother take care of Hanna, he revived his own feelings and memories about the pleasure he had felt as a baby when his mother took care of him. His present feelings of envy reenacted his earlier ambivalence toward his mother, and his ambivalent feelings toward the other members of his family (Hanna, his father) intensified the sense of risk he felt. It gave new and frightening importance to the knowledge that some animate beings did not have widdlers.
So far, I have treated Hans's phobia cognitively, in terms of what he did or did not know and the hypotheses he formed to deal with his inner development and his outer world. Emotionally, he was suffering in the phobic situation the dreadful terror that he would himself be wounded in the most awful way imaginable. Classical, that is, first- and second-phase psychoanalysis, introduced the idea of a continuum among the fearful fantasies of bodily harm characteristic of children in different phases of development. The phallic fear of helplessness, impotency, or castration derives from an earlier, anal fear of being robbed of the body's contents, which is itself a transformation of the earliest oral fear of being eaten.
In third-phase terms, treating as central the early self-object separation and subsequent reunions, one would see these anxieties as the child's symbolizations, through his body, of fears about losing the self or the objects who love the self or whom the self loves. The earliest fear would be the total loss of either self or world (and therefore the other as well), a dread of annihilation that Hans symbolized by biting. The nomic (or anal) phase would be marked by fear of the loss of love, separation from the loved world or from the world's loving the self. A child might symbolize such a fear as the body being robbed of its contents. A child might say, there is something in me which is not me, and that is what the person I love desires. Or a child might say, I am not loved: I am to the person I love a not-human who will be thrown away in disgust. At the intrusive stage, the boy-child might fear the loss of his penis. That might symbolize a more global fear: I have lost the means whereby I can enter the big world. Oedipally, the boy might symbolize as castration the fear of losing a place in the world of parents and the world of adult gender identities (Fenichel, 1945, pp. 77, 276).
Deeper than the terrors Little Hans so painfully demonstrated lies still another affective problem. Hans's task, necessary for the first self-object differentiation, was to tolerate a mingling of love and hate for the mothering person who inevitably both gratified and frustrated his needs. Clearly, the happy, responsive four-year-old we read about had done that. Moreover, he had continued to tolerate his own ambivalence in the different idioms of subsequent stages. Nomically, he threw tantrums and stamped his feet, but he also proudly achieved an ability to follow the rules set down by his parents and his culture. So too he had learned bladder control and with it, the power to turn his impulses into plans of longer range--his frequent remarks about the future he imagined for himself as a parent as well as his more immediate plans for his daily amusements.
In psychological jargon, Hans at age four was suffering from a combination of cognitive dissonance with affective overload. He was terribly loving and angry and afraid, all at once. Hans's father spoke of "the violence of his anxiety" (Freud, 1909b, 10:110). But his ideas were conflicted as well, and interestingly, Freud chose to deal directly with the ideas only.
He gave Hans "enlightenment," recognizing, of course, "It was not to be expected that he should be freed from his anxiety at a single blow by the information I gave him; but it became apparent that a possibility had now been offered him of bringing forward his unconscious productions and of unfolding his phobia" (10:41, 43). That is, Freud would help Hans' father to help Hans unravel his symbolizations and false hypotheses through free association. He would also give him new information with which he could build more realistic hypotheses about the world. It was almost as though Freud were using this very question and answer model: if Hans is stymied by the emotional and cognitive questions at the crossroads of the genital phase, let's give him answers he can use.
Accordingly, on Freud's instructions, Hans's father told him that women and girls do not have widdlers. He was (finally!) told what he already knew, that babies grow inside the mother's belly and are then pressed out like a "lumf" (87). His father also acknowledged that he knew about Hans's fantasies of replacing him in his mother's bed, and he could tolerate that (90, 92). Hans was not told, however, about the part played by fathers in begetting a child, nor was he told that someday the begetting of children would be under his control, and these omissions left him asking questions about "what things are made of (trams, machines, etc.), who makes things, etc.," questions "characterized by the fact that Hans asks them although he has already answered them himself. He only wants to make sure" (99). He also kept asking, said his father, what a father has to do with begetting his child. "On the other hand," wrote the father, "I have no direct evidence of his having, as you [Freud] suppose, overheard his parents in the act of intercourse," this although Hans had slept for the first four years of his life in his parents' bedroom! (100).
Hans marked his return to health by rewriting, as it were, an earlier fantasy. In that earlier fantasy, "I was in the bath," he had thought, "and then the plumber came and unscrewed it [my widdler, to take it away to be repaired]. Then he took a big borer and stuck it into my stomach" (65). Hans associated the bath with childbirth, with the basins with blood in them after Hanna's birth, hence with his mother's belly and all the other containers from which he imagined babies might come (69). The plumber might represent his father or, more probably, Freud, at any rate, the kind of fatherly man who could bore into a mother's stomach from which a baby will come. Later, Hans pushed a small penknife into a little doll so it would fall out between the doll's legs, acting out literally his idea of the way a baby or his penis might emerge (84).
He rewrote the earlier fantasy: "The plumber came; and first he took away my behind with a pair of pincers, and then gave me another, and then the same with my widdler" (98). Now, however, the plumber is benevolent: he gives Hans a bigger behind and a bigger widdler. In the intrusive stage, notes Freud, "It was as though the child's wish to be bigger had been concentrated on his genitals" (107). If they would grow as a baby grows, then he would be as big as his father. Freud calls this new fantasy "triumphant" and remarks, "With it he overcame his fear of castration." In other words, it marked Hans's simultaneous recovery from his phobia and his mastery of the developmental tasks of the intrusive stage--at least to the point where he could continue to develop.
Hans's second fantasy was a more familiar one. Freud also calls it "triumphant." Hans was playing with some imaginary children he had invented, and he announced to his father that, while he had been their Mummy before, "Now I'm their Daddy." Mummy was to be their Mummy, and Hans's father was now to be their Grandaddy. His father interpreted: "So then you'd like to be as big as me, and be married to Mummy, and then you'd like her to have children." Yes, replied Hans, "and then my Grandmummy [his father's mother] will be their Grannie." In effect, Hans granted not only his own but also his father's oedipal wishes. Father too was to marry his mother. As Freud sums it up, "Instead of putting his father out of the way, he had granted him the same happiness that he desired himself: he made him a grandfather and married him to his own mother too." Hans thus demonstrates a certain maturing. He shows both the wish to be and the wish to be like his father, and he grants the more realistic of the two to his father: his father can be like Hans (96-97).
What this fantasy says to me is that Hans was confronting directly the developmental task of the genital phase. He was trying to situate himself in a world divided into male and female, parents and children. The birth of Hanna had forced the genital question on him by intensifying his need to find his own place in the framework of gender and generation. Now, once the phobia had subsided and therapy had set him back on his previous course of development, Hans was ready to resume his version of the universal human task of finding solutions to the questions we hear from inner and outer reality.
In this vein, he had a number of fantasies in which he developed ways to acquire his mother from his father. He "gave" his father to his grandmother, as we have seen, or bought his mother (130) or proposed teaming up with God to get mother to have a baby by him (91). As Freud commented, "For Hans they were not mere repetitions, but steps in a progressive development from timid hinting to fully conscious, undistorted perspicuity." He now knew he was male, and he had some notions about what that meant. He had yet to solve the problem of, so to speak, becoming a child, that is, accepting himself as a child who was not now a parent but would be in some far-off future.
I have been trying to represent Hans's development by imagining him as answering questions posed him by his biological sequence of development and by his culture. I have said very little about Hans's individual style of hearing or "reading" those questions or framing his answers. He was, after all, only a four-year-old boy. Had he really achieved a personal style by that age? Margaret Mahler's group concluded, "Later examinations, especially psychological tests, show that whereas . . . the phallic-oedipal phase and its resolution may substantially alter the vicissitudes of the three-year-old's basic personality. . . . The three-year-old as we knew him at that stage would shine through the subsequent layers of development" (Mahler et al., 1975, p. 200n). They suggest the establishment of something like a persisting identity theme, and I agree. I think I can discern traits in Hans and a recurring style of defense and adaptation from which I can formulate an identity theme. To be sure, Hans being translated from the German and speaking like a four-year-old, I cannot provide the precision I would ask of a like theme for Scott Fitzgerald but I can see a theme nevertheless.
For example, when Hans identifies with his father or mother, he does so in a particular way. Like most boys in the intrusive stage, Hans had incorporated his father as an ideal and also as a danger--in his phobia, as a horse. Yet Hans himself was a horse, as when he would prance about: "I'm a young horse," or when he would play horsy and then try to bite his father (Freud, 1909b, 10:52, 58). I think it significant that Hans achieved his identification with his father through physical action. He does not say, as I might perhaps have said at that age, I want to be (like) my father because he does important mysterious work that makes him absent. Hans says, I want to be like a parent by doing what a parent does for children, feeding them, putting them to bed, taking them to the bathroom, wiping them, and even biting them. He identifies with his parents through actions. I would word that as a theme: to be (like) a parent by doing for children (or parents).
Hans expressed himself through literal, physical actions, like crawling into his parents' bed or making a "row" with his legs when he was put on the potty to make a lumf (52). I am also thinking of the cured Hans's playing all day long at loading and unloading packing cases (96) or his direct wish to sleep with Mariedl as his father sleeps with his mother (16) or his playing at being a horse (58) or, like a horse or a lamb, butting and biting his father (42).
Similarly, in the fantasies with which he resolved his neurosis, he imagined actions: the penknife birth from between the doll's legs (84) or the plumber's giving him a bigger widdler quite literally, with his pliers and his screwdriver (65, 98). Here, of course, he is not "doing for" so much as "being done for."
I think, therefore, one key term in Hans's personal style should be something like "doing" or "doing for" or "being done for" (the plumber) or "enactment" or perhaps "reenactment," since Hans is so often repeating someone else's action and so identifying himself with that person--or animal. His first curiosity about having babies took the form of imagining himself as a mother--"I'd like so much to have children; then I'd do everything for them--take them to the W.C., clean their behinds, and everything one does with children" (97). The next year, he decided to have a little girl, as his mother had had Hanna (87, 93, 94); and in general he wanted to be a mother and have babies. In effect, he was equating his own imagination with his mother's act of giving birth, almost a thumbnail description of the process of his illness in which his wishes became physically embodied in horses and carts. Finally, at the end of the case, he achieved a more usual solution to his genital or oedipal aspirations: he wanted to become his father. He "identified" with him.
In tracing the themes of someone's identity, a word like "identified" is helpful in enabling me to say how Hans is like some other boys or all other boys. If, however, I want to get at the individuality of Hans, "identified" smooths off the uniqueness. I can combine the way Hans is a type with the way he is like no other boys by imagining a feedback in which his individual identity uses a cultural and biological mechanism like identification. To do so I need at least to try to get at the unique qualities little Hans had already begun to show at ages three and four. Here, from what Hans does and says, I can infer an identity theme: "reenactment" or, more fully, to be (like) a parent by doing for children (or parents).
A theme of "doing for" leads me to much else in Little Hans's life. I am thinking of such episodes as his tapping on the sidewalk and wondering if someone were buried underneath, as in the containers (69), his wish to crawl under the rope blocking off a space in the public gardens (40), his impulse to smash through a window (41), or his butting his head into his father's stomach (42), all efforts to break into or through. I remember his prancing about, saying "I'm a young horse" (58) or his making a row with his feet when he sat on the potty to make a lumf (54). I am thinking, too, of his dream of the two giraffes (parents) in which sitting down on top of the crumpled giraffe (mother) meant taking possession of it (39). All these episodes involve action, but more particularly all involve breaking through or just crossing boundaries, especially those between the inside and outside of Hans's or someone else's belly or behind.
These enactments and reenactments, it seems to me, also served Hans as adaptations. They enabled him to control or master things, as his game of pretending to widdle in the cupboard or play at loading and unloading packing cases demonstrated his mastery of urination and defecation. What Hans seemed to need to master was the general problem of things coming from the inside to the outside. He was particularly troubled by the birth of Hanna, but also by widdling, lumf, and his own dire imaginings coming physically into the world.
At the same time, however, Hans emphasizes the literalness of these things, their actual look and sound. I am thinking of the way he enjoyed watching and being watched while urinating or defecating, or his looking at his parents' and playmates' widdlers, or the way he observed the activities on the loading platform across the street. He carefully distinguished the kinds of flushing the W.C. made, perhaps also the different sounds of male and female urinating, and certainly his mother's "coughing" during childbirth.
Much of Hans's looking and watching took the form of penetrating into forbidden places. He wheedled his way into the bathroom to watch his mother going to the toilet. He coaxed his way into the parental bed. He blundered into the room containing the bloody evidences of Hanna's birth. He used his sensing and his "doing" to "get in" or to see how others got in. Most important, he got out on the dangerous balcony of the apartment to watch the loading dock across the street, the site of his phobia. I discern a personal style in Hans's tendencies to act things out, to try to crash through barriers, to "do for," or to try to get into places.
To explore that style, I can bring these various themes
together into one central identity theme by means of a kernel
sentence. One can transform such a kernel into an infinite
number of other sentences by substituting various specifics for
its general terms, yet never lose the essential structure
represented by the kernel--like an identity theme. I could
state Little Hans's identity theme this way:
|getting my body into a situation
getting something into my body
getting something out of my body
being done for
One can substitute into a term like "parent" not only Hans's literal father and mother but parental persons, such as "the Professor," Freud, or the all-powerful plumber. Similarly, "a situation" can be transformed into any of the forbidden rooms or places Hans got into or his much larger effort to get into the family matrix of male-female and parent-child. "Getting something out of my body" could refer to doing "lumf" or getting rid of his "nonsense." "Getting something into my body" could be sitting on a dreamed giraffe or imagining a plumber attaching a new widdler or in a much larger sense taking in the affection and admiration Hans wanted from his parents.
I can read Hans's modes of identification as subtle combinations of the basic terms of his identity theme. He got something into his body when he identified with his mother (a baby) and when he identified with his father (a bigger widdler). He got his body into the dialectic of parent and child and male and female by acquiring a bigger widdler from the plumber or the Professor-doctor (being done for) or by getting his fantasies out of his body in his characteristically energetic way (reenactment).
In the same way, I can understand his "choice of symptom" as a function of his identity. Action being his way of forcing himself into the world, when that possibility became dangerous, he met the danger by inhibiting action. He feared lest something be done to him by the biting horse (father) or the loaded horse (mother). Conversely, he feared lest he do to father or mother something that would get him into a dangerous situation--and he stayed home.
Perhaps I have strayed too far. After all, any normal four-year-old boy becomes preoccupied with phallic intrusion and babies going into and out of the body and the rules about urinating and defecating. Couldn't the things I am saying about Little Hans be said about any typical boy his age? Or perhaps about any Viennese boy in 1905? Every child is like all other children, like some other children, and like no other children, and one can model this combination of individual, social, and bodily resources by a hierarchy of feedback networks. The child decides how he or she will put cultural resources to work, and they in turn give direction to the body that will actually do the work.
Little Hans faced cultural problems: a Vienna of Freud and horses. The latter he could see on summer holidays or from a Secessionist balcony facing a loading platform. He also confronted challenges all children face: establishing an identity; controlling hunger, excretion, or lust; finding a place as male or female, parent or child.
These we all face and we hear and respond to these challenges in our individual ways--as Little Hans did. He translated his problems into a spatial language of barriers to be broken through or controlled. He found that actions were his way to answer the issues his environment was posing him, where some other child might have arrived at passivity or thought or avoidance.
What is difficult to represent in this model is not this individual but generalizing at the level of many individuals. Already Hans has made clear that the individual oedipus complex varies so much that generalizations, even at this early stage, the third and fourth years of life, become unreliable. Mahler's group, for example, found that by twenty-one months, her toddlers were "changing so rapidly that they were no longer mainly phase specific" (1975, pp. 101-02).
On the other hand, if we could read back from the adult, we should be able to see these early themes in retrospect as Little Hans answers the questions of later development. We are fortunate, then, that a gifted man's generous candor allows us to look at the four-year-old boy through the sixty-eight-year-old man who was
Graf was the son of Max Graf, a writer, musicologist, professor of music history, and newspaper critic, who was one of Freud's first adherents. Originally, in Vienna, the career of opera director being unknown as such, young Herbert Graf had tried to become a singer, but he switched and established himself as a director, traveling here and there as he was invited to stage various productions. After directing a number of operas in Europe, he came to the United States in 1934 to escape Nazi persecution. He first made his mark here with a series of ten strikingly novel and controversial productions in the Philadelphia Orchestra Series of 1934-35. (He was told to take his work to Hollywood, where it belonged.) From 1936 to 1965, he worked with the Metropolitan Opera in New York, retiring to Switzerland. At the time of his death, he was general manager of the Grand Théa;aftre, the opera house of Geneva. Twice married, he had a son by his first wife and a daughter by his second. , a He died on April 5, 1973, five days before his seventieth birthday.
In a very broad way, one could say that the circumstances of Graf's American career posed him the question, How will you transfer your ability to produce operas from a European to an American context? This question in turn derives from his answers to earlier questions. What career will you choose? Where will you work? With whom will you share your adult life? We can imagine, then, Graf's life as a series of choices responding to the general questions that all humans face about time, intimacy, ambivalence, or work, and the particular questions that faced him as a young Viennese Jew who had musical talent, a psychoanalytically inclined father, Nazis ruling his homeland, and a position at the conservative Metropolitan Opera. From his answers, his choices in life, I can picture patterns and I can infer an identity theme and the variations he worked out on it.
It would be delightful to infer an identity theme from Graf's operatic productions, but difficult because they might be too fugitive or collaborative to record clearly his individual choices. Nevertheless the psychohistorian Melvin Kalfus has resolutely begun interviewing Graf's coworkers and researching accounts of Graf's stagings for a promising study of "The Man Who Was Little Hans."
There is another route, however. As an adult, Herbert Graf left behind a record of many choices from which one could infer an identity theme and variations. He left the long personal memoir in Opera News and three books on the production of opera. For a psychoanalytic literary critic like me, such writings record thousands of words he chose, and from those choices I can represent an identity theme for a "not so little" Hans.*
As Kalfus's work recognizes, the most important choice Graf made was opera. In his memoir, he describes himself as a student in Vienna standing in line for half a day to get tickets for standing room. "Most of the time we were content to close our eyes and imagine ideal productions. . . . Even the most makeshift productions were enough to fire my imagination, and before long I began to try my hand at duplicating the wonders I'd seen in the opera house--first with a toy theater I built with my sister's help at home, and later in school productions." Graf spent one summer in Berlin, where Max Reinhardt was directing three theaters: "That Reinhardt summer was the turning point in my life. I felt it was my mission to do for opera what Reinhardt had done in the spoken theater" (1972, i, 26, 27).
Once Graf had fixed on opera for his efforts, he made his subsequent choices within the framework established by that first, basic choice. He developed a characteristic personal style, for which opera provided the medium and the limits, both giving him freedom and restricting that freedom. Having made his American reputation by his innovative Philadelphia productions, for example, he chose to exist for more than two decades under the stifling Metropolitan administration. "New productions, in the sense of new costumes and scenery, were very rare indeed" (1972, iii, 27).
As in his wish to be the Reinhardt of opera, Graf always longed for the new, and this trait lends his writings a sort of juvenile, wide-eyed enthusiasm. "I had been in New York for a short visit during the summer of 1930 and had marveled at the wonders of America," he wrote in 1951. "What could be more desirable for a young stage director who had experimented on new opera productions in pre-Hitler Europe for nine years, than this highly interesting opportunity to put his experience to work in a big city of the fabulous New World?" (p. 6). It was not all easy, of course.
During times of stress, one of the newspaper interviews reports
of the Grafs, they would relax by taking out road maps and
planning trips, some-
Perhaps it was this adventurous side of Graf that saw America as the New World, while claiming, "Opera in Europe is solidly entrenched in historic tradition" (1961, p. 70). He held a view of American opera so romantic as to border on fantasy:
Here, in the first decades, were simple vigorous people, struggling to conquer the physical wilderness around them and achieve a measure of security and wealth. They were building their new world without the chains of old concepts and with pride in their personal freedom. In their minds, in their busy days, there was no place for the elaborate, glamorous entertainment of European kings and dukes, grand opera, which still bore traces of its aristocratic origin. They were content with their simple folk songs, in church and home.
Later, when their material existence had been made secure and they could enjoy music in concert hall and theater, they listened to simple operas in English, stemming from the English ballad operas of the eighteenth century (1951, p. 12).
"The new folk opera," he wrote of the late eighteenth century, "was ultimately an enormously creative force in the development of later opera. It had new blood in its veins; it stemmed from the people. It replaced the stagnant artificiality of aristocratic Baroque opera, which was decaying. The pompousness of antique gods and heroes gave way to realistic portrayals straight from the hearts of a simple people" (1941, p. 139).
This romantic belief in a Volk had come with his first enthusiasm for Max Reinhardt's productions. "What impressed me most was the realistically detailed handling of the crowd scenes in such epic plays as Julius Caesar and Rolland's Danton." "As soon as I got back to Vienna I begged permission to stage the forum scene from Julius Caesar in the school gym, but since I paid a good deal less attention to the nuances of the big speeches than to the howling and whistling of the Roman mob, the dean soon called a halt to the whole venture" (1972, i, 27).
In the contrast Graf draws between wealthy, older aristocrats, associated with pomposity, chains, deans, and museums, and a more vital, primitive, poorer Volk associated with simplicity, freedom, boisterousness, and a New
In the end American opera will not be an unimaginative imitation of opera in Europe, but rather, as an integral part of American community life, it will become a new and even more exciting art form. The American opera of tomorrow will embody the dynamic, creative spirit of the American people in a cultural achievement recognized and honored not only in the United States but throughout the world (1961, p. 270).
I sense two themes in what I have so far quoted from Graf: a deep commitment to the new plus a strong wish for equality between the new and the old, but based on a firm recognition of the differences, even aggression, between them. In the signs "European," "American," "old," "new," "aristocratic," and "folk," I read more universal meanings: child and parent. That is, I hear Graf trying to answer an oedipal question, How will you deal with your resentment of the parental generation? His answer was, By developing in America an opera both European and free of European influence.
If the past is any guide to the future, it would seem that the present situation of grand opera here makes the time nearly ripe for the development of native American opera which, combining the technique of European grand opera with a content and a style truly expressive of the American people of the present day, will become a rich and complete art form (1941, p. 270).
I hear Graf's continuing emphasis on cooperation and sharing as another continuation of this rivalrous reconciliation of young and old. He translated this theme of cooperation into a production style for the "young" opera: "The more true-to-life approach of folk opera called for natural acting, scenery, and costumes. This opera centered around a dramatic idea, of which every element now became the servant--not, as formerly, the master" (p. 143). Graf idealized this cooperative approach to production and proposed it for all opera:
In its original form, the music drama comprised words, song, orchestral music, action, scenery, costumes, lighting, and a theater plan. It was a unique alliance of all arts--poetry, music, the dance, painting, sculpture, and architecture. Although each of these was a brilliant prima donna in her own right, none tried to overshadow another. Instead, they worked together as a perfect ensemble in the service of a common purpose (p. 79).--a genre of which he thoroughly disapproved and had described a few paragraphs before as a "dream world." Old Europe and new America, star and crowd, parent and child, mob scene and "star effects," all are to be equal.
By keeping the dramatic idea in place as the focal point, all the elements of opera (words and music) and its performance (singing, acting, dancing, scenery, costumes, make-up, lighting, and theater-building) become functional, unified means for its expression. Opera is then true "musical drama." But if the dramatic concept is abandoned, these several elements split apart as independent, self-centered star effects created by singers, dancers, conductors, stage directors, designers, and architects. Opera then becomes "grand opera" (1951, p. 21).
In Graf's efforts to tone down prima donnas, he also minimized his own role: "I've always felt that the stage director is opera's 'invisible man,' or should be. It's the very nature of his job to stay behind the scenes and leave the spotlight to the work itself" (1972, i, 25). Not only was he no genius, neither was the director he most admired:
Look, I'm not a "brilliant" stage director in the style of a Reinhardt or a Zeffirelli, and even though I can appreciate that sort of virtuosity, it's neither part of my nature nor my aim. I'm a professor's son, an earnest worker, a know-how man who believes that certain aspects of operatic know-how can be passed along to others. People say Toscanini was a genius, but for me his ideas, his artistic insights, weren't the stuff of "genius," that came out in his amazing power to put his ideas across--simple, straightforward common sense, conveyed with the thrust and impact of revelation. In that sense he trained everyone who ever worked with him (1972, iv, 27-28).It was a combination of the exalted and the common that satisfied Herbert Graf. Yet elsewhere in his memoir, he reminds us that his own "professional life runs parallel to the emergence of the director as prime mover of the production," and he speaks of "the czar producers of today," just as his own democratic encouragement of young singers like James McCracken, Reri Grist, Gwyneth Jones, or Robert Kerns created the very "stars" he warned against. Graf's theme of cooperation embodies ambivalence toward those cooperated with and those cooperated against--to the degree that they either become or began "above" the crowd. In effect, he would like to deal with the rivalary of parents and children by having us all be children playing--creating--together.
Graf conveys something of the same way of dealing with his ambivalence when he describes his father. Interestingly, he does not refer at all in the memoir to his mother. According to Freud, his parents divorced and each remarried some time after Little Hans's therapy, but Hans remained on good terms with both.
Max Graf was "an extraordinary man, the most extraordinary I've ever known" (and Graf's acquaintances included Toscanini, Furtwängler, and many other musical greats). Graf describes his father as a failed composer but a "formidable scholar" of literature and aesthetics, "equally at home in philosophy and science and quite capable of talking mathematics with Einstein, which he did." But he was also part of the crowd: "One of my most vivid boyhood memories is seeing him on the crowded footboard of a trolley headed for the Sunday soccer match at the Hohe Warte, one hand on the railing, the other clutching his most cherished book, a well-worn, annotated copy of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason." He was also a sexual being, "a true Viennese, in every sense: he knew how to enjoy a glass (or more) of wine and the company of pretty women" (1972, i, p. 25).
I can see these same personal themes in Graf's operatic ideology. He quite explicitly symbolizes the competing traditions of opera in family images (giving us, perhaps, a glimpse of his mother):
Opera was a child born with a silver spoon in its mouth. Taken about to the parties of the nobility, it soon became spoiled and precocious. Its patrons used it to show off their wealth and social position. Like any spoiled child, it soon lost control of its qualities. The elements of opera became ungoverned prima donnas, each working for its own aggrandizement rather than for the sake of the whole--the music drama (1941, p. 83).I detect in another of Graf's analogies a certain malicious pleasure in seeing this spoiled child or ungoverned woman in the New World. After 1929 in America, "opera, scion of the European aristocracy, has had to take off its top hat and go around among the great public seeking support" (1941, p. 15). More positively, because of radio, "opera has become the adopted child of the rank and file of music-lovers" (p. 16).
In order for ordinary Americans to enjoy opera, Graf wanted performances in English (despite a lot of rather snobbish opposition). "If opera is to reach the people, it will have to speak the language of the people" (1961, p. 193). Frustrated in getting the Metropolitan to do opera in English, however, Graf wrote, "My greatest professional satisfaction in the United States is associated with things I did away from the Met, with productions to bring opera to the people" (1972, iii, 29).
With the same aim, Graf devoted himself to producing opera for radio, movies, and television, even going so far as to copyright a design for a television opera theater, which would permit "an actual performance with a regular public which could be simultaneously videotaped. This would re-quire the same 'liberated' theater, we spoke of earlier" as contrasted to the illusionistic picture-frame stage (1972, iv, 29). Again, it was a matter of balance in the interest of making everybody equal:
Opera production for television, therefore, requires sufficient knowledge and ability to strike the proper balance between operatic tradition and modern showmanship, between financial practicabilities and technical possibilities. . . . The artistic, technical, and economic problems are great, but they fade almost to nothing in comparison with the opportunity of bringing opera to bigger audiences than ever before. . . . Television can be the most decisive medium for forcing opera to take off its top hat and enter the American home (1951, p. 231).
Graf was as much concerned with "financial practicabilities and technical possibilities" as with the practical details of theater and set design or television production. He devoted whole pages of his first book, published in 1941, to the dollar sums achieved (or not) by this or that fund-raising scheme. His figures of speech also ran to the practical:
I looked again at my blueprint of the people's opera. No, it was no impossible dream; it was the inevitable result of existing forces. There can be no further doubt about its eventual realization. The site and the tools for building the people's opera are ready; the time is ripe. Let us start production.He used this building metaphor to conclude Opera for the People. He used a similar figure to end his program for Producing Opera in America:
Our proposed program for opera in America lies before you. I hear some voices saying, "Dreams!" I can only reply that the real fantasy is in thinking that opera can establish itself successfully in America in any other way. It must build solidly on the foundations already in existence, and take advantage of the forces presently at work in America. These foundations and these forces are not dreams--they are the only real facts. From these foundations opera in the United States will rise and find its proper place in American cultural life.Both the metaphors and the book titles testify to Graf's concern with practicality and realization--doing it.
Graf, however, was not an unambivalent doer. Victoria Hattam, my onetime associate at the Buffalo Center for the Psyhological Study of the Arts, has written for me her own theming of Graf. She too calls him a "man of action" and points out how energetic he was throughout his career, even during periods of unemployment. At the same time, despite Graf's energy, Hattam points to the many times in the memoir that he uses words like "luck" and "good fortune." He describes all the major events in his career this way, she points out: his first directing job, his first associations with Toscanini and Bruno Walter, and his first engagement at the Met. For example, at the beginning of the interview, Graf says, "As luck would have it, my professional life runs parallel to the emergence of the director as prime mover . . ." (1972, i, 25). After the Philadelphia experiment of 1935-36, "That left me without a regular engagement for the coming year--a gap luckily filled by Walter's invitation to stage Fidelio in Paris" (ii, 29). His engagement at the Met: "As luck would have it, [Edward] Johnson's spring trip to Europe coincided with my own directorial wanderings. Wherever he went . . . there it was on the theater posters: 'Stage Director: Herbert Graf.' Poor Johnson, he must have thought it was a conspiracy! Finally he offered me a Met contract for the 1936-37 season" (ii, 29). "Others," suggests Hattam, "might have spoken of their efforts being finally recognized and rewarded, but these are not characteristic expressions for Graf."
In the same way, Graf externalizes his helplessness and frustration when confronted with the conservative "system" of the Metropolitan. Although there were marvelous singers, "the dismal look of their surroundings, plus lack of onstage rehearsal, . . . gave most of our performances a dusty, museum-like appearance" (1972, iii, 28-29). Yet he stayed with the Met for twenty-five years! In the interview, he describes himself as not much of a "fighter," and I have heard stories of his being tyrannized by Rudolph Bing, the director of the Met. Truly, he was "opera's 'invisible man.'" Evidently his tendency to "do" was balanced by a tendency not to do--by passivity. Hattam sums this trait up more precisely: "He sets a discontinuity between the action and the externalizing."
To act or not to act--Hattam is not the only student of Little Hans to catch this discrepancy. Melvin Kalfus, in his unpublished monograph, concludes that the boy developed, as a result of Freud's therapy, a True Self and a False Self (as theorized by Winnicott, 1960). The True Self was a "rather feminine desire for creative individuality," and the False Self was his need to identify and comply with an idealized, fantasy father. Graf's submission to Bing and other ogres, his minimizing his own talents in relation to Zefirelli and other more glamorous directors, in general, his making himself into the "invisible man" of opera--all these were his False Self. His True Self could listen to the creative unconscious and design impressive stagings, but the True Self always ran up against limits imposed by the False Self.
Perhaps because of this conflict, Graf prized a quality that would undo the gap between internal wish and external circumstances: not fighting, not anything "brilliant" or devious, but what Hattam calls "straightforward action." Graf, for example, applauded the new generation of "'well-rounded' performers" who could act. "But the more we stress surfaces and rely on technique to make a point the more we risk losing the real expressive power opera has to offer." We can laugh at the poor acting of the older singers, but they had "clear, meaningful delivery," not just sheer beauty of voice, but "the affective power of their singing" (1972, iv, 28).
From boyhood he recalled a single phrase sung by Schmedes. It lingered "because, like Caruso, he knew how to act through the medium that was central to his artistic personality--the singing voice" (1972, iv, 28). The key value for Graf is "the ability to sing meaningfully," "personal expressiveness," the same thing he prized in Toscanini, "his amazing power to put his ideas across." "He had a direct, I might almost say primitive, grasp of what was artistically valid, rather like a peasant's shrewd awareness of what will and what won't work. . . . His insights were much closer to common sense than genius, and irresistible for that very reason" (ii, 29).
I hear Graf valuing the ability to take something from inside, a feeling, an idea, and concretize it, first through the physical voice, then through the responses of ordinary people who love opera. By contrast, Graf criticizes "surfaces" or "an operatic dream world" that is "just an exhibition" (1951, p. 20). "In all great periods of opera . . . it has had its roots in the hearts of its audience, and has crystallized their innermost, inarticulate feelings" (1941, p. 270).
I hear in the mature Graf's artistic values something like the boy Hans's need to act out his inner fantasies, giving them reality and testing them against reality: blueprints and foundations, what will work, "clear, meaningful delivery," "crystallized." I would like to be more precise, however, about the best way to read back
For example, here is a statement about Abraham Lincoln: "Such men [great men] have an especial tendency to suffer from the loss of a beloved woman. . . . A very great mind, with an intense mental energy invested in its beloved images cannot easily, if at all, accept the loss of the most beloved image. . . ." The author goes on to say that the death of Lincoln's mother when he was nine led to an identification with the dead which can be traced in the adult Lincoln's speeches and dreams. The logic, I take it, goes something like this:
Some great men with early losses identify with the dead.Logically, the most that one can say is that Lincoln may have identified with the dead. Since one will decide that question by looking at the adult Lincoln, it is difficult to see what was gained by the psychobiographical excursion into childhood and the "Some people" generalization. Indeed, by resorting to generalization, the biographer conceals what might have been Lincoln's individual way of dealing with loss in the categorical term.
Lincoln was a great man.
Lincoln had early losses.
Lincoln identified with the dead (?).
A somewhat different approach emerges in this analysis of the childhood recollections of the explorer and translator of the Arabian Nights, Richard Burton:
The special interplay of these old memories, with the primitive themes of temptation, denial, smashing, poisoning, and decapitation--all having to do with his mother--are no less remarkable than the light-hearted tone of the writing, and the haste with which he dispatches a description of what may well have been the most awesome spectacle of his life [a guillotining]. . . . Sometime early in his life Burton had learned to detach himself from anxiety by assuming the role of observer.Here the psychobiographer proceeds by generalizing a trait, a defense, really, detachment, from recollections of childhood, that can then be applied to adult actions. This is another kind of if-then procedure: If he defends by detachment as an adult, then he must have learned to do so as a child. If he defended by detachment as a child, then he will do so as an adult. But in fact we began simply by noticing that Burton wrote detachedly as an adult.
These if-then reasonings fail because the psychobiographers are trying to reason forward in time from what they do not know to what they do. Either they must be diffuse, because they have to draw on vague materials from infancy, or they will have to claim a rigor of cause and effect that, even with a patient on the couch, few psychoanalysts would assert. One can justly read Lincoln's dark sense of death or Burton's indifferent flamboyance as consistent with what we know of their early lives. Let cause and effect wait for that millennium when psychology will have become a "mature science." For now, the biographer committed to cause and effect will seem either impressionistic or overcertain, and for this style psychobiographers and psychohistorians have been, I think, justly censured.
Biographers almost always begin by being interested in the adult. Only later do they discover the facts or pseudo-facts of their subject's childhood. Identity theory would suggest that the psychological biographer work with, not against, this natural pattern of discovery. The adult's writings, speeches, and choices will all amply evidence a style which one can interpret as a theme and variations. Once one has inferred the adult's identity, it becomes possible to search infancy for its origins. One can then write the biography either in chronological order or in any other order that suits the themes one has inferred. Psychological if-then, cause-effect principles become ways of uniting themes rather than attempts at predicting an already known adult from a child we will (almost) never know.
Little Hans is the exception that requires that "almost." We know him better than most famous children, and the child is as intriguing as the man. We can use Hans to explore the "consistency" or the "It fits" on which the history of an I rests.
I can think of three ways to relate the man Herbert Graf to the boy Little Hans. In the first, I could connect between specific events in the adult's life and specific events in the child's. For example, I might see Graf's statement that he is or should be "opera's 'invisible man'" outside the playing space as an adult version of the boy perched on the balcony of his parents' apartment watching the carts going into and out of the loading dock across the street. I could read Graf's championing of the young American folk opera against the old aristocratic European opera as an adult version of the boy's wish to take his father's place in his mother's bed.
Obviously, however, such connections are speculative. How much more speculative I should be, then, if I were to draw them from written evidence alone (as most psycholiterary and psychohistorical biographies have to). And they are reductive. I may not want to say that Graf's campaign to Americanize opera is "no more than" a child's effort to legitimate himself into his parents' bed, but, given this approach, how can I say it is "more" than the only thing I have to compare it to? Even if Herbert Graf were associating away on the couch before me, I would hesitate to draw this kind of one-to-one conclusion.
I can do somewhat better with a second strategy. I can consider not specific actions but the adult's traits in relation to the child's. I might regard the adult Graf's preoccupation with the practical details of production, indeed his whole career as a director, as an extension of Little Hans's tendency to deal with his fears and fantasies by enactment. He wanted to appeal to people in general, to the various "stars" in an opera to cooperate toward a shared musical idea, and to create an American opera separate from European--I could read all those as continuations of Little Hans's generous impulses to "do for" the other children or to let his father marry his father's mother. Clearly, when I graduate from the one-to-one approach toward larger traits like "activity" or "generosity," I become both less reductive and less speculative. I am coming closer to a third, still larger way of tracing the development from Little Hans to Herbert Graf, opera director.
We can use the concept of identity to see both individual incidents and larger traits as parts of a whole person whom we can read as a theme and variations. We have considered many particulars: Graf's ideals for opera, his view of his own career, his choice of occupation, and his activities as a theater designer. We can describe these particulars over much of his adult life as variations on certain basic themes. Five occur to me.
1. Graf commits himself to the new against the old, contrasting the "dusty, museum-like," the "antique" or "stagnant artificiality," "pompousness," aristocrats, chains, and bad parents (or a spoiled child) with the young, "free," "new blood" of a "folk." He is committing himself, I think, to child over parent.
2. He perceives the world in competing pairs: old-young, rich-poor, aristocrat-peasant, Europe-America. At the same time, he wants to reconcile these pairs in an "alliance," "combining" them to become "rich and complete." His father is a "universal man" who nevertheless has the common touch. Toscanini is a genius because he has a peasant intelligence.
3. He stresses cooperation toward a "common purpose." In a production, every element is to be the servant, none the master, so as to form a "perfect ensemble." There are to be no "stars."
4. He concerns himself with practical details: roots, blueprints, foundations, buildings, to be contrasted with "surfaces," "exhibitions," dreams, or a "dream world."
5. He values in singers, conductors, directors, or himself the direct, immediate transformation of inner, inarticulate feelings into outer realities: personal expressiveness, voicing.
To read Graf's identity more fully I would want to bring these five themes together into a closer unity by means of a centering "theme of themes." I can bring themes 1-3 together under the general idea of uniting competitive groups of old and new into a common whole. Themes 4 and 5 seem to me to come together as the transformation of inner feeling to outer work. I could phrase a total identity theme for the adult Herbert Graf, then, as: to unite competitors into a common whole by directly transforming inner feelings to outer realities. If the theme is to be truly helpful, I should be able to unfold each of the key terms, like "competitors" or "common," into the details of Graf's behavior from which I abstracted the several themes. We should be able to see these various themes in the passages I have quoted, and we do.
Conversely, I can test such a theme by seeing how well it fits some episode that did not enter into its formulation. Graf provides one striking instance, his recall at the age of sixty-eight of a (perhaps the) key episode in his early childhood:
When I was still very young, I developed a neurotic fear of horses. Freud gave me a preliminary examination and then directed treatment with my father acting as go-between, using a kind of question-and-answer game which later became standard practice in child psychiatry. Freud documented my cure in his 1909 paper, "Analysis of the Phobia of a Five-year-old Boy," and as the first application of psychoanalytic technique to childhood neurosis the "Little Hans" case, as it's popularly known, is still a classic study in the field.
I remembered nothing of all this until years later, when I came upon the article in my father's study and recognized some of the names and places Freud had left unchanged. In a state of high excitement I called on the great doctor in his Berggasse office and presented myself as "Little Hans." Behind his desk, Freud looked like those busts of the bearded Greek philosophers I'd seen at school. He rose and embraced me warmly, saying that he could wish for no better vindication of his theories than to see the happy, healthy nineteen-year-old I had become (1972, i, 25-26).
Graf's thematic concern with outer manifestations and work shows in his attention to "names and places," to Freud's "Berggasse office," and his immediate resort to action to express his inner feelings: "In a state of high excitement I called . . ." Graf makes two other characteristic progressions in the first paragraph. He moves from "neurotic fear" to "standard practice," from inner feeling to outer work. He also moves from "very young," "preliminary examination," and "first application" to a "classic study," "popularly known," including all the age groups, Hans, his father, and "the great doctor" and "standard practice."
The second paragraph likewise develops an age-group contrast between the "high excitement" of "myself as 'Little Hans,'" and Freud, "like those busts of the bearded Greek philosophers I'd seen at school." Unconsciously, I think, Graf is putting Freud on the same side as the older, "dusty, museum-like" or "antique," operatic styles. He makes him dead. Then, as in the first paragraph, the language shifts from inner thought ("his theories") to external affirmation ("the happy, healthy nineteen-year-old"), from Freud as bearded philosopher to Freud warmly embracing.*
One piece of information given me by Little Hans struck me as particularly remarkable [wrote Freud in his Postscript to the case]; nor do I venture to give any explanation of it. When he read his case history, he told me, the whole of it came to him as something unknown; he did not recognize himself; he could remember nothing; and it was only when he came upon the journey to Gmunden that there dawned on him a kind of glimmering recollection that it might have been he himself that it happened to (p. 148).Freud treats Hans's reappearance in terms of information (for both Freud and Hans) which is to be explained scientifically (Freud's characteristic need to investigate and confirm reality). In the same way, responding to criticisms of analysis being applied to a child, Freud wrote, "But none of these apprehensions had come true. Little Hans was now a strapping youth of nineteen," shifting from fancies to facts, from the fears of others to the evidence. Freud's testing is a different move from Graf's expressive one: from Freud's ideas to Freud's work. Freud speaks of Hans's "glimmering recollection" that "dawned on him," resorting, again characteristically, to an explanation by means of a decisive moment (as in his theories of traumatic repressions, the boy's crucial sight of female genitals, and the primal murder of the father).
It is tempting to see in Graf's statement that Freud "directed treatment" (specifically questions and answers between father and son) the prototype of Graf's later choice of a career as a similarly behind-the-scenes, "invisible" director of actors in dialogue. I would be making an incident-to-incident, reductive speculation, however. We do better to keep in mind the whole man, theme as well as variations. We would remember his tendency to make himself over into the great figures of his childhood, like his father or Reinhardt. We would remember his wanting to be an actor and the way a director also has to follow a double script as he acts out the actor acting the part, and we might agree, Yes, in his own way, Graf did model himself after Freud.
With a concept of identity it becomes possible to rethink specific elements of childhood in the light of the adult life, as one would do in an actual psychoanalysis. For example, after the trauma of his sister's birth, Hans was suddenly taken ill with a sore throat (10:10-11). He had interpreted the birth (partly) by his mother's coughing. One can understand his sore throat, then, through the identity themes as his "unit[ing] competitors" (identifying himself and his mother--adult theme) or "getting his body into a situation" in which he does as a parent does (child theme). His subsequent tonsillec-tomy gives the enactment (or variation on the theme) yet more meaning: he will have major treatment for his cough just as his mother did.
Reading from adult to infant through identity thus leads to a theme not touched in the original interpretations, Hans' identification with his mother through his own actions (as by making a row with his feet or having a 'lumf' baby). The identity-governing-feedback model leads to a theory of Herbert Graf with which I can relate the experience of Little Hans' childhood to the achievements of Herbert Graf, opera director. I can even read back from the adult to surmise how the boy might have felt about experiences of which we know very little. An imitation of his mother must have had an importance for this future actor that it might not have had for another little boy. Conversely, creating and controlling young "stars" must have had a special value for a man who, as a boy, fantasied so much about giving birth and "doing for" children.
Life posed Little Hans/Herbert Graf questions, and he built a life by answering them. The history of his answering is the classical psychoanalytic form of explanation, a narrative or (to retitle a famous movie)
We can refine that meaning still further by bringing to bear the concept of identity governing a relatively fixed feedback. That is, Little Hans, "agent," grew and acted on his environment. His environment, in turn, his culture, family, and biology, posed Little Hans certain questions much like the questions they posed other little boys living in Vienna in 1905. To them he evolved answers, and he became, in effect, the sum or the style of those answers. In that sense, he was not only the agent triggering these feedbacks but also their consequence. Finally, you and I, by reading and interpreting Graf, have created a narrative and a theory of his life. In that sense we have "represented" him as a biographer or historian might.
Thus, the concept of identity (as agency, consequence, and representation) governing cultural and physiological feedbacks offers help for psychobiography, which is so often stymied in its effort to derive the eminent adult from the skimpy anecdotes of a half-remembered, half-invented childhood. You could not read ahead from four-year-old Hans's phobia to the adult's career as a director of opera, creating emotionally loaded spaces. No causality would hold. Using identity theory, however, you can analyze the adult's style in great detail, arriving at a theme and variations model of his I. With it, you could read even a quite limited history of infancy so as to phrase a continuity between child and adult.identity
Similarly, the literary critic can trace the hand of a Shakespeare (about whose personality we know next to nothing) from play to play. Each play offers his answers to the aesthetic problems posed by that plot, that audience, that cast, or that theater. The answers are the variations on the I that runs through all his plays. If we knew more about his personality or his childhood, as we know more about, say, Fitzgerald's, we could relate the works to the life in a new and to me far more convincing way than trying to relate trait to trait or childhood episode to an episode in a play by the adult.
In effect, the question and answer model of a life opens up the potential space between the individual and the historical reality he inhabited. Graf described his analysis as "a kind of question-and-answer game." Winnicott's squiggle game with Iiro offered a visual image of that process. The doctor drew a line that posed a question to the boy. The boy drew answers with a line that was both an answer to the question posed by the doctor's squiggle and an expression of his unique situation and identity. Even earlier, we began this book in the potential space between Freud and a young man on a park bench who was trying to express his frustration at being Jewish in an anti-Semitic society. In effect, his society was saying to him, "We are blocking you--what are you going to do about it?" His answer was, "I will--I won't--have descendants who will avenge me," and he tried to put this into the free space between himself and Freud. His answer expressed his unique situation and identity, this time willy-nilly.
Herbert Graf, like Iiro or the young man on the park bench, demonstrates how we can understand the little and the big events of a life as constituting a dialogue between questions posed by the historical reality and answers arrived at by a unique I. The questions are sometimes universal. Every human being has to answer the question that was so important for the boy Hans and the director Graf: How will you relate what is inside you to the physical reality outside you? Other questions are common, but not universal: How will you adapt your European values to the America to which you have had to flee? Others are wholly individual: How will an innovative director like you cope with the conservative system of the Metropolitan?
By contrast the answers, even when they seem universal, are all highly individual. Hans decided like most boys to grow up by identifying with his father. In deciding what to identify with, he singled out his father's directness, his common touch, his boyishness--which perhaps no one but Hans would have seen. In part Hans created the father he was going to identify with because even at the age of four he was the kind of person he was.
A life is "a kind of question-and-answer game" between an environment of questions that all or many people face and an I who arrives at individual answers. A psychology can include both the uniqueness of Herbert Graf and the universality of the oedipus complex Little Hans faced by imagining a human being in two modes. One is a unique, theme-and-variations identity that sets standards for the second mode: a hierarchy of feedbacks representing the culture we have internalized and the physiology we have been given as a sequence of questions. Identity is then three things: the agent that evokes the questions, the cumulating consequence of the answers, and the narrative by which an I can represent that cumulation.
I find this holistic model strong and useful, but I--this I--feel (characteristically) that it needs buttressing from another direction. Is it scientific? Classically, we have asked of a science that it deliver universals the way theories of gravity or evolution or quantum mechanics do. We have asked that a theory make statements about the one, the many, and the all with equal rigor. Can this psychology of the I do that?
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