FREUD'S MODELS OF THE MIND (An Introduction) by Joseph Sandler, Alex Holder, Christopher Dare and Anna Ursula Dreher, with a Forward by Robert S. Wallerstein. From the Monograph Series of the Psychoanalysis Unit of University College, London and The Anna Freud Centre, London. 203pp. $32.50
The series editors are Joseph Sandler and Peter Fonagy. This is Monograph No. 1.
International Universities Press, Inc., of Madison, Connecticut, first published in 1997. ISBN 0-8236-2049-2.
This volume contains the seminal papers by Joseph Sandler, Alex Holder, and Christopher Dare on Freud's theories, which originated in the early seventies as a group of lectures by Sandler at the Institute of Psychiatry, University of London (Maudsley Hospital) and were subsequently revised and elaborated into a series of papers by Sandler, Holder and Dare, published in the British Journal of Medical Psychology between 1970 and 1978. A final, twelfth paper, published in 1982, is also included along with material necessary for the completion of the work, which has been added by Joseph Sandler and Anna Ursula Dreher along with extensive notes and commentary referring to later developments in psychoanalysis.
At first I was skeptical, if not cynical, about yet another book which could be compared to the commentaries on the commentaries of the commentaries of the Talmud. However, the more I read the more I could see that within these pages were illucidations of a basic kind. These clarifications of Freud's models of the mind are Darwinian in scope and detail, revealing how contemporary psychoanalysis evolved from Freud's original writings. In doing so, the authors have rendered the reader a great service, clarifying Freud's early, middle and later thinking, and even suggesting examples in which the translation from German to English was unfortunate.
The raison d'etre of this very significant book is to provide a historical basis for understanding and working with the constantly changing world of post-Freudian formulations and to make it possible for the reader to navigate the labyrinthine world of the present-day multiplicity of theoretical viewpoints.
After a brief overview of Freud's theory and a note on the basic assumptions, there are chapters on the affect-trauma frame of reference, the organization of the mental apparatus in the topographic frame of reference, and the systems unconscious, pre-conscious and conscious within it.
These are followed by chapters on dream processes, narcissism and object love, limitations of the topographical model and the transition to structural theory. In addition, the characteristics of the structural frame of reference and its three agencies is described.
Particular attention is paid to the topographical frame of reference because it formed the basis for the development of most subsequent psychoanalytic ideas and has profound clinical relevance. The frames of reference are not independent of one another. Rather, there is a developmental progression, and considerable overlap in the ideas involved, although these may be obscured by changes in the terminology used.
The published papers proved extremely popular with teachers of psychoanalytic theory and their students, particularly in Britain, Israel, and the United States, and copies were widely circulated. They have been used extensively in teaching at the Anna Freud Centre and the Psychoanalysis Unit of University College, London.
Wallerstein, in his important forward to this monograph, says:
"The psychoanalysis created over a lifetime of prodigious labour by its founding genius, Sigmund Freud, was subsequently further developed by a host of gifted (and charismatic) followers. Unfortunately it has never achieved the coherent and seamless unitary--- and unifying--- theoretical structure that Freud and his close colleagues in the original secret committee of the seven ring holders envisaged and aspired to. In fact, David Rapaport, the great systematizer of the epoch of hegemonic sway (at least in America) of ego psychology, declared psychanalysis to be rather an assortment of theories. He saw it as a theory of mind and normal mental functioning, a theory of mental development, a theory of psychopathology, and, among other things, a theory of therapy.
"This last was, however, stated by Rapaport to be only a collection of "rules of thumb", all loosely articulated with one another. There was overlapping, of course, but there were cleavagle lines and awkward fits: and all of this was usually glossed over by what Joseoph Sandler has felicitously called the "elasticity" of our concepts. As a consequence, works and conceptions could be employed with altered meanings as they were deployed as bridges between one psychoanalytic conceptual framework and another."
He goes on to say that "this has never made for tidy theory formation and growth, and the inherent theoretical slippage and potential confusion have only deepened as time has past since Freud's era. In Freud's lifetime there was at least the effort to maintain a unified theoretical structure for psychoanalysis, but now we have a multiplication of theoretical perspectives, or "movements", within the house of worldwide organized psychoanalysis."
"Though updated with appropriate referential linkages to subsequent developments in psychoanalysis, the authors have held firm to their original intent to present the structure of Freud's own work and thought as systematically as possible, given all the twists and even contradictions in Freud's developmental progression. This can serve as a conceptual springboard for both neophyte and seasoned analyst better to navigate our burgeoning literature. At the same time they can keep in mind the transformed derivations from and elaborations upon Freud, as well as the clear departures from--- and even repudiations of--- other tenets of his overall body of work."
This said, the monograph lives up to its description and potential. For this interested and involved reader, it was sheer pleasure to retrace my own steps in the evolution of my present-day thinking, starting with Freud's original writings. Object relations, inter-subjectivity and narrative therapy do not violate their Freudian roots, but spring naturally from them. The feeling is that of a wondrous re-discovery, as Felix Mendelsohn found his roots in Bach and Glenn Gould brought Bach back to life--- and even popularity. The fact is that psychoanalysis has endured a century in which it was denigrated, adored and then bashed again.
The legion of analysts and analysands grows, and we see endless examples in literature, drama, poetry and the cinema of creative artists having been stimulated and liberated in their creative potential. Psychoanalysis, if nothing else, seems to liberate creative potential, wherever there is a talent and a will. Nothing that has been written adequately explains how psychoanalysis liberates creativity, as well as the capacity to work and love, but this is not the task of Sandler et al.
In a detailed review of the formation of Freud's topographical theory, Sandler et al say that the instinctual wishes characteristic of the system Unconscious representing infantile bisexual impules were seen as being derived from the various stages of psychosexual development of the child, including those intense and ambivalent feelings of sexual longing, jealousy, and rivalry towards the parents, a constellation that constitutes the well-known Oedipus complex. They go on to relate that it is important in understanding the formulations of this period to take into account the fact that Freud initially saw the instinctual wishes as being predominantly sexual in nature--- and gave the energy of these drives the name "libido".
Later in the second phase he added aggressive wishes to the contents of the Unconscious, but he did not specify any comparable term for the energy behind aggressive drives. Freud made a number of changes in his "instinct" theory during the second phase. It was during this phase that Freud developed the view that even the highest and most refined interests in our lives can be traced in part to transformations of infantile sexual and aggressive urges that have remained in the Unconscious. He believed that the cultural pressure that resulted in the transformation of crude instinctual wishes into more refined and apparently non-sexual forms was attained by a process to which he attached great importance--- that of sublimation.
They went on to relate the fact that in 1914 Freud introduced the concept of narcissism, attempting to clarify the complicated problem of the person's relation to his love-objects and himself in both normal and pathological states. Referring to Freud's paper, Sandler wrote that Freud was also concerned with the child's formation of ideals on the basis of his parents as models, and he introduced the concept of the ego ideal, foreshadowing at this time the later (third phase) concept of the superego.
In a chapter on the system Unconscious, Freud is explicated as follows. "A drive can be thought of as being "aroused" by stimuli from within the individual and from without. In this frame of reference allowance must be made for both these sources of increase in the pressure of a drive. With the arousal of a quantity of drive energy, memory traces of previously satisfying experiences are stimulated and are cathected with drive energy."
At this point Sandler points out that the term, cathexis is an unfortunate rendering of the original German Besetzung, which really should have been translated as 'investment'. He admits that for whatever reason, the word, cathexis, is here to stay, but he wants the reader to know that investment is a better word, truer to what Freud had in mind. In psychoanalytic writings the term "libidinal cathexis" is often used to indicate the investment of an object or an idea with any instinctual charge, but the term "aggressive cathexis' is perfectly appropriate, although not found in Freud's writings.
Further elaboration of this footnote relates the truth that the term "cathexis" is also used in psychoanalytic psychology in relation to attention, although here the phrase "investment with attention cathexis: is the appropriate one (in a model that assumes that the making of something conscious implies investing it with a form of non-instinctual energy). The phrase "to cathect a love-object" may simply mean "to invest the mental representation of the object with libido", but the phrase is often used to denote a combination of instinctual cathexis and attention cathexis, i.e. meaning "to be lovingly interested in" the person concerned.
Sandler does not speculate why Freud did not write about investment in the aggressive drives. It may have been that the aggressiveness of his patients did not interest him as much as their libidinal drives. His own aggressiveness was well sublimated, and in his comments about war in his letters to Einstein he predicted that man's predisposition to war is part of his animal constitution. Aggressiveness and territoriality are parts, apparently, of our evolutionary endowment.
Fortunately, Sandler et al avoid speculations into psychohistory and psychobiography, aspects of applied psychoanalysis. Doing so would have confused and complicated their decision to limit themselves to the evolution of theory, the first volume being a good portent for monographs to come. They take pains to elucidate clearly the development of Freud's theories from his basic writings, and so stick to the subject, and not insignificant to the total experience is the gracious employment of the English language, which is not unlike the elegance with which Freud used the German. In all, I agree that this work would be of benefit to both the novice and the experienced clinician.