Man’s Inhumanity to Man: Confrontations and Prejudice

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Confrontations involving conflicts between groups and nations are discussed in relation to similar confrontations that take place between patient and analyst in the consulting room. Many such confrontations are based on prejudice in which unwanted elements are projected into the other person and attacked there. Freud’s ideas on the narcissism of minor difference and his discussion of bemächtigungs trieb are raised as a help in the understanding the problem. Finally it is argued that there are limits to the role of understanding and that a capacity to make judgments is critical in recognizing our limitations.

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The present research aims to investigate how the psychoanalytic theory of the intrapsychic functioning of the prejudiced can help to delimit the psychic characteristics of this social evil. Methodologically speaking, we conducted a bibliographic review, a study of the selected documentary sources in an orderly, systematized and documented way, with clearly delimited criteria and procedures. Seventeen articles were selected and each one was studied and analyzed. As a main result, we concluded that prejudice is, basically, a mechanism of identification. The primary functions it serves are directed towards the maintenance of good object relations and the narcissistic cohesion of the Self in the face of the threat of its destruction by the sense of ambivalence. Hence, the individual needs to protect the identifications that are the basis of his/her Self through defense mechanisms that place both the genesis and the product of his/her anguishes on others, fundamentally perceived as different.
Freud's narcissism of minor differences is explored in the context of couple therapy. The paper attempts to highlight how these minor differences manifest themselves in the development of major relationship crises. In particular an attempt is made to illustrate how these minor differences come to act as distance regulators in the delicate intimacy dance of the too‐near, too‐far dynamic.
In this paper, I explore the impact of Islamophobia on contemporary Muslim identities. I examine how Islamophobia and the question of Muslim identities appear in the cultural uses of symbols and media discourses in the West and in the psychoanalysis of a Lebanese-American woman who identified as a “secular Muslim.” The paper discusses how Islamophobia, through its creation and propagation of Muslim stereotypes, flattens the depth, diversity, and historicity of Muslim identities; it examines, as well, how Muslims internalize these stereotypes. This internalization and the direct experiences with injurious speech, discriminatory acts and hate crimes may lead to shame. Driven by shame, Muslims may sever the tie to their cultural background or idealize their Islamic religion or culture, perceived to be located in the space and time of the “glorious Islamic past,” as in the case of Islamic fundamentalism. While these strategies may protect Muslims from their painful shame, they risk collapsing their identities. I also discuss some of the social defenses employed by Muslim communities facing Islamophobia, which may reinforce the stereotypes they are desperately trying to fight.
The history of the term confrontation is reviewed. It is suggested that the reason it was so difficult to define the term over the years is that it is fundamentally an interactive term, imported into an era in which many analysts behaved as if there were no interaction—or should be none. Contemporary analytic process can be seen as a series of confrontations between two people by virtue of the intrinsic differences between them. Three clinical vignettes illustrate this point and its implications. A final section of the article examines the dialogue between the Fool and King Lear in Shakespeare’s (1606) play, which allows consideration of the complex nature of confrontation and other aspects of therapeutic dialogue often neglected.
In this book, Freud applies some of his psychoanalytic theories to society and describes the makeup of civilization. In addition to an infrastructure, a high emphasis on ideas is crucial to civilization. A primary element of civilization can also be found in the regulation of social relationships. The majority of a society decides what is "right" and establishes laws and social norms imposed over the will of the individual. Part of this process involves the individual limiting his or her desires, renouncing aspects of his or her instinct. Specifically, Freud mentions the regulation of sexual desires as part of the regimentation that happens in a civilization.
Seeing and Being Seen: Emerging from a Psychic Retreat examines the themes that surface when considering clinical situations where patients feel stuck and where a failure to develop impedes the progress of analysis.
Extracts from Paradise Lost (Milton 1674) are presented to illustrate some ideas of mutual interest to poets and psychoanalysts. In particular, Milton portrays the distinction between the human and the divine in terms of God's perfection and omnipotence, in contrast to man's imperfections. Recognition of this difference can open a painful gap between the self and the ideal, leading to attempts to bridge it via omnipotence. Because we imbue our objects with omnipotence, a similar gap can arise between adult and child and between patient and analyst. Klein's description of the ideal good object highlights similar issues. Both Klein and Milton present the ideal as something important to internalize as a foundation for hope, trust, and belief in goodness, and both emphasize the ideal as something that can be aspired to but not omnipotently realized. Facing this distinction requires a capacity to relinquish and mourn the loss of the good object, as well as the loss of the omnipotence that made possession of it possible.
This first English edition of "Drei Abhandlungen zur Sexualtheorie" has been translated by James Strachey. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
This short paper looks at Freud's use of the term 'Bemächtigungstrieb' and its translation by Strachey as 'instinct for mastery' when Freud was describing the motives behind his grandson's game with the wooden reel and string in Beyond the Pleasure Principle. The word 'Macht' [power], which is contained in the word 'Bemächtigung' points to Freud's difficult relationship with Alfred Adler, whose early theories on the aggressive drive and later theories on 'striving for power' were initially rejected by Freud. Looking at the changes in Freud's reception of Adlerian terms, some of which he later integrated into his own theory, throws light on his choice of the word 'Bemächtigungstrieb' in 1920, when he was just beginning to introduce his thoughts on the death instinct. A slightly different translation of the word 'Bemächtigungstrieb', one which takes these historical and theoretical aspects into account, could make these connections clearer for the English reader.
Among the many reasons that feelings of hate develop in love relationships is the need to find and to exaggerate differences in order to maintain a sense of separateness. Freud's notion of the "narcissism of minor differences" provides a framework within which to understand this need to find disappointing differences in one's beloved. Developmental antecedents of this concern about defining and preserving one's separateness can be identified in both oedipal and preoedipal periods.
Seeing and being seen are important aspects of narcissism, where self-consciousness is always a feature, and one which becomes acute when a patient loses the protection of a narcissistic relationship and is obliged to tolerate a degree of separateness. Having felt hidden and protected, he now feels conspicuous and exposed to a gaze which makes him vulnerable to humiliation. This often has a devastating and unbearable quality to it, particularly when it is felt to arise in retaliation to the patient's own use of gaze to establish a superiority which allowed the patient to look down on others. The need to avoid or cut short such humiliation may be so acute that the patient cannot deal with guilt and other emotions connected with loss which might otherwise be bearable. The author argues that development is impeded unless the patient is able to gain support to make the humiliation better understood and hence better tolerated. He describes some sessions from an analysis to illustrate how, in some analytic situations, much of the patient's concern and many of his defensive manoeuvres aim to reduce or to reverse experiences of humiliation. An understanding of the mechanisms involved seemed to enable some development to proceed.
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