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Infant Mental Health Journal, Vol. {3, No. 1, Spring 1994 The Way to Subjectification SERGE LEBOVICI 1 will start with a personal recollection. René Spitz, who became a friend during his stay at the University of Geneva, continued a steady correspondence with me from the time he returned to Denver. Unfortunately, I did not keep this correspondence. Spitz devoted much energy to defending the Freudian paradigm which, according to him, was simple. What differentiates the baby from the animal is that the former does not react to aggression with reflex withdrawal, but with thought, even before it perceives the origin of excitation. From this response is inferred the main postulate of psychoanalytic theory: that “the breast! arises from the absence of the breast” (Freud, 1925). This meant that the newborn is able to hallucinate the object that is suddenly missing and would be able to reactivate the mnemic traces of the object through auto-erotic activity. Thus, the introjection of the oral object expresses the primary desire that “represents” the instinctual excitation. These reminders by Spitz of Freudian theory allow one to imagine his acrid criticisms against the “harrowing” revision by Bowlby, who spoke of the attachment that the human child and all animals feel towards those who raise them. The existence of the internal release mechanism, and the “imprint” that results, allowed Spitz to sug- gest his theory on the levels of organization, or “organizers,” and to give a definition to the foundations of the baby’s capacity to represent itself and to represent the agents of nurturing care. In other words, Spitz defined the levels of relationship “based” (“socles,” Montagnier, 1988) on programmed models like the child's burrowing in the “primary cavity,” and the reactivation during separation. This theory is quite dis- tant from that of Bowlby’s work on “internal working models,” much of which has been done in the United States through a modification of the Freudian paradigm, (ve., through a questioning of the theory of instinctual drives). The papers of Sandler and Stern make contemporary contributions to the same issues that preoccupied Spitz and Bowlby. My second preliminary remark will be of a semantic nature, dealing with the notion of representation and of self as it relates to representation, Freud has not facilitated the task. He used the German word “Vorstellung,” in its usual meaning close to "That is, the representation of the breast. ©Michigan Association 50 for Infant Mental Health S. Lebovici SI “thought mechanism” and differentiated from the imaginary child (“Darstellung”). ‘The word “representation” is still used in a similar way by the cognitivists, whereas the understanding of contemporary psychoanalysts often seems to have been con- taminated with the idea of image, or even of scenic representation. I would think that such was the case with Daniel Stern who, in 1985, considered that the study of the origin of thought representations that implied fantasy was sufficient for him. His conceptions have changed considerably. THE “SELF” The history of French psychoanalysis illustrates that Freud did not introduce much clarity in the French translation of the German terms “Es,” “Ich,” and “Uberich.” He wrote to his “dear Princess” (Marie Bonaparte) that he wanted French psychoanalysis to say “moi” for “Ich,” and “soi” for “Es,” which became “the Ca.” The result was that the term “soi” (Self) disappeared from French psychoanalytic vocabulary. This enabled Lacan to deny the existence of a subject who speaks, its existence being dependent on the existence of the other whom the subject sees in a mirror. This is where the aphorisms praised by his disciples stem from: (1) “ca (it) speaks,” and not “I speak”; (2) the Unconscious is structured like a language. This confusion can also be found in the English and American analytic literature concerning the use of the word “self.” The so-called American school (Hartmann) mentions the self as the container of the unconscious, before the tripartition of the mental agencies. Edith Jacobson has made the self a fourth agency. Winnicott has tried to show that the newborn, when it receives care, after the original concern of its mother, lives with a “good enough mother” and has to ensure its own feeling-of- continuous-psychic-life. This concerns its self, an unconscious agency. In this sense, the analytic self is almost equivalent to the self of the neurobiologists, who describe the self as the result of the “auto-organization” of the nervous system. Those who, like Robert Emde, describe a “biological” unconscious, find here a possible field of “transduction” between analytic theory and modern biology (Bourguignon, 1981). SANDLER'S SELF In 1956, Joseph Sandler was asked by Anna Freud to create the Index of the Hampstead Clinic (which was to become the Anna Freud Center). This experience led him to take into consideration “subjective experience” and to describe the analytic experience as an interactive process between the patient and analyst. In the same way, he suggests that the concept of motivation should be added to the concept of the “so-called instinctual drives” (“beyond the so-called instinctual drives”). He writes, “So, (for example,) he (the infant) has to learn to differentiate between self and other, to create boundaries between self and other.” Sandler suggests further, “Today this formulation can be modified somewhat. If what is represented is the child’s self in interaction with an object, changes in the child’s self-representation will be accom- panied by changes in the related object representation, and clinical analytic evidence, in particular our heightened awareness of the relation between transference and countertransference, reinforces this view” (p. 30). Infant Mental Health Journal Sandler suggests that there is a change in perspectives (shape) that illustrates the changes of the representations that take place when different defense mechanisms are put into action in relation to the unconscious content of the representations. One sees that Sandler’s self is no longer the self of the Freudians, because it is linked to a subjective process where the experience of reality and the motivational system through which the infant confronts this reality intervene. But such considerations can only question the theory of instinctual drives. This can be ascertained when one reads Sandler, who doubles the emphasis he puts on the word “drives” when he writes “instinctual drives.”* One does not still need the notion of instinctual drive if one thinks of the interactive development program (Meissner, 1981). STERN'S PROTONARRATIVE ENVELOPE Daniel Stern goes much further. He suggests that we classify the psychic represen- tations, the events that have taken place in the baby’s interaction, as well as its fan- tasies, in a system he calls “the protonarrative envelope.” This is a global concept, which leads organized events taking place in the interactions, to what can be said about them by the person who has experienced them, and who, in order to do so, uses procedural memory. Stern, with others, had already described scripts, or even scenarios, that punctuated the most ordinary events during interactive exchanges, either at the time of their at- tuned harmonization, or during the nonharmonic moments. This suggested that he agreed with those who spoke of fantasmatic interactions (Lebovici, 1983). The notion of the protonarrative envelope is much more complex, because it describes the state of “vitality,” which could be assimilated in the baby's mood in relation to its somatic and “prepsychic” state, as the baby is confronted by the maternal behavior. Alll of these developments will build a story when the future will be the occasion, through “deferred action,” to bring back to life an ancient affective state, which has constituted the protonarrative envelope Stern has given us a clinical illustration of this concept, the protonarrative envelope of “the dead mother,” in other words, of variations in expression of postpartum mater- nal depression. This example allows me to make several points. (1) Stern does not show, unless I have misread him, how a very young baby can influence the behavior of an adult who may not be its natural parent; in other words, a professional. The example that follows seems interesting to me: ‘A 2-month-old baby was brought to me by the female director of the nursery where it had been placed through a decision of the court. Its mother was a chronic drug addict, This baby went through withdrawal from drugs, and it had never slept, except in the arms of nurses. The little girl was tiny; her face was tense and wrinkled. I wanted to speak to her, although I knew that, contrary to what the followers of Francoise Dolto say, she would not understand my words. But I was surprised to hear myself say, “You see, I am here with Mommy!” And I was surprised to find that *The French theoreticians of the translation of Freud are known to have dedicated too much energy to distinguishing in the Freudian language “Instinkt,” which would have the meaning of a programmed behavior, and “Trieb” (in French = “pulsion,” and in English = “drive") S. Leboviei 53 my hand was placed on the young woman’s knee, But I did not take my hand away, and I realized that the baby’s feet were not in hyperextension anymore, its toes were relaxed. Then I heard myself saying, “With my wife, we used to wrap our children in swaddling clothes.” I agreed to wrap the little girl's feet in a towel until swaddling clothes were found, and she fell asleep immediately. A retired wet nurse brought swaddling clothes, and the baby now slept well. It continued to do so, from the time it was returned to the nursery, and permanently throughout the 5 months during which I saw the young woman and baby, who suffered and made the personnel of the nursery suffer. My “playing,” had been engaged from behavior that must be qualified as counter- transferential, The female director of the nursery was not this baby's mother. Had she become parental through her transference to me? I know nothing about her except that she does not have children, It seems to me that this brief example shows how the active empathy of a clinician-researcher-therapist can generate, via the baby— bearer of the metaphor and the allegory —the meaning of a protonarrative envelope. (2) One basic point remains: I have not understood Stern’s resorting to the notion of instinct as it emerges from Freudian theory. On the other hand, it seems to me that he describes the conflictual or nonconflictual relations in the protonarrative envelope as more intersubjective than interpersonal. If | am not mistaken, should he not profit from the use of the cognitivist proposition of Baron-Cohen, Leslie, and Frith (1985), mainly concerning the theory of mind? Therefore, I have two more questions: (2a) Do Stern's propositions on the protonarrative envelope not suppose, on the baby’s part, a certain degree of psychic activity, of a fantasy, dream, or interpreta- tion type, as Sandler suggests? In this respect, it would be interesting to re-read Freud’s text on the fantasy, “A Child Is Being Beaten” (Freud, 1919). (2b) What is this Self, and how does its organization take place, in the conditions described in the protonarrative envelope? Winnicott’s work entitled “Mirror-Role of Mother and Family in Child Develop- ment” (Winnicott, 1980) should serve as a paradigm. Indeed, one reads, “What does the baby see when he or she looks at the mother’s face? I am suggesting that, or- dinarily, what the baby sees is himself or herself. In other words, ‘the mother is look- ing at the baby and what she looks like is related to what she sees there’” (p. 131). Further, one can read, “I refer here . . . to the exasperating and skillful and challenging artist of our time (Francis Bacon) who goes on and on painting the human face distorted sig-nificantly, From the standpoint of this chapter, this Francis Bacon of today is seeing himself in his mother’s face, but with some twist in him or in her that maddens both him and us” (pp. 133-134). Also, Winnicott writes, “when the average girl studies her face in the mirror she is reassuring herself that the mother- image is there and that the mother can see her and that the mother is in rapport with her” (p. 132). This article has important value in the following way: When a baby looks at its mother eyes, it sees two things: (1) its mother’s pupils and (2) its mother looking at it. This is to say that its mother sees her baby, and sees that her baby is looking at her, and therefore is proclaiming her Mother. This metaphor poses the problem of being in the world that this baby is in, and leads to asking how to define the origin of its activity, in other words, the nature of its Self. 4 Infant Mental Health Journal As we have seen above, in the French terminology, the “I” would appear as the equivalent to the Self (“Soi,” in French), that is, to the subject, to the actor of his or her own thoughts or actions. Sandler discusses also the semantic problems linked to Freud’s use of the concept of “ego ideal” (Sandler, 1987), “James Strachey, in his editorial introductions to ‘On Narcissism’ and ‘The Ego and the Id,’ points out that the meaning that Freud attached to ‘das Ich’ underwent a gradual modification. At first, says Strachey, he used the term without any great precision, as we might speak of ‘the self.” Strachey also points out, in his introduction, that, ‘it seems possible to detect two main uses, one in which the term distinguishes a person’s self as a whole . . .’” (p. 82), Therefore, Sandler first shows the relative ambiguity of the notion of ego ideal: “in ‘On Narcissism’ (1914) and ‘Introductory Lectures’ (1916-1917), the term was used to refer to the individual's ideal for himself, constructed as a conse- quence of his efforts to regain infantile narcissism. It was here distinguished from the self-observing and critical agency, the conscience” (pp, 77-78). In “The New In- troductory Lectures” (1933), the superego is referred to as the “vehicle of the ego ideal.” “This usage was foreshadowed in 1924 in the ‘Economic Problem of Masochism’ (1924) in which Freud notes that ‘the ego reacts with feelings of anxiety . . . to the perception that it has not come up to the demands of its ideal, the superego.’ The use of the term ideal here refers to the ideal parents as embodied in the superego” (p.78). Winnicott has suggested that the meaning is retained for the self, but without much alluding to narcissism. He would rather oppose the self to the object. The self would arise because the attacks against the object determine, at the same time, a depressive state (rather than a stage). This state would convince the child of its existence, and would enable the child to feel that it has a continuous psychic life: This would be an unconscious state. Whatever the case, Kohut (1971) has suggested that the object cathexis should be distinguished from the cathexis of the self, which he calls “self object,” meaning to describe through this expression the cases where the object of the self is the self itself. This option is certainly not very far from that of Freud, when the latter opposed, in his study of secondary narcissism, the fate of libido when it cathected the object, or withdrew upon the ego. It is nevertheless true that Freud maintained here the opposition between libido and ego drives. Freudian theory first describes primary narcissism as a limited concept that relies on the newborn’s original distress. Later, Freud was led to make auto-eroticism the origin of narcissism and of object cathexis. From the perspective of the successive descriptions, Green (1983) decreased an- tinarcissism to describe the narcissistic withdrawals upon the ego, and he opposed “narcissism of life” to “narcissism of death” (or negative narcissism). “Contrary to the former, which aims at the accomplishment of the ego, the latter tends to its abolish- ment in the aspiration to zero (p. 256).” Sandler's works (1987) emphasize the relations between the self-ideal and the per- sons met in life, but in terms of the identification with an ideal and admired object {or feared object, as in the identification to the aggressor). Here, the admired object may be internalized or met in the present environment. It can be a child as the admired objects wish it to be. Finally, it can be the self-ideal as it was built in the past. S. Leboviei 55 Stern, who has participated in the Sameroff-Emde group (1989), will probably not disagree. For these analysts, with their basis in experimental research, the self is another unconscious that characterizes the functioning of the nervous system. The self is the “third unconscious,” the one that adds itself to the unconscious acts and thoughts, and to the unconscious system. This system is characterized by the fact that our nervous and cognitive functioning is not conscious. It is true that our thought operations are not always organized consciously. Frequently, Emde alludes to the programmed aspects of this system, Indeed, he describes it as occurring with the first social relations, which leads him to discuss early ethics and the sense of us (“we-ness”); these issues should be studied with the first rudiments of the ego. Winnicott would probably accept such propositions, because he spoke of the self as a feeling of con- tinuity of existence. Freud himself, who saw the ego primarly founded on body bases, would probably not object to these views. But one must evoke here those who describe the organization of the nervous system ‘on the basis of its auto-organization, which leads them also to describe a biological self. Each individual asks biology what the influences are that determine the selec- tion of potentialities at the level of the nervous system and the cognitive apparatus. The specific activity of the system determines a selection of the synaptic functioning. This “selectivist” model postulates that there is a direct relationship between nervous system activity and the way in which this activity organizes the maturation of the brain, One would then be led to postulate that the individual, through his own ac- tivity, builds himself biologically (and psychologically) from the material delivered at birth. This hypothesis of an auto-organization (in sense of an auto-selection) might represent a way to consider the relations between biology and psychology. The study of the self is concerned with the preoccupations from these speculations. They allow us to mention the possibilities of a transduction between the theories of auto-organization, of the nervous system, and of the psyche. So, all of the theoretical studies on the origin of the mental life refer to a subjec- tive system, the self, that is not an instance, as Freud described it, but the subject of action and thought, as opposed to the object. It is a qualification of narcissim. REFERENCES Baron-Cohen, S., Leslie, A. M., & Frith, U. (1985). Does the autistic child have a “theory of mind”? Cognition, 21, 37-46. Bourguignon, A. (1981). Quelques problemes epistemoligiques poses dans le champ de la psychanalyse freudienne. Psychanalyse a universite, 2, 391-414 Freud, S. (1919). A child is being beaten. In J. Strachey (Ed. and Trans.), The standard edition of the complete psychological works of Sigmund Freud, London: Hogarth Press. Freud, S, (1925), Three essays on the theory of sexuality. In J. Strachey (Ed. and Trans.), The standard edition of the complete psychological works of Sigmund Freud. London: Hogarth Press. Green, A. (1983). Narcissisme de vie, narcissisme de mort. Paris: Editions de Minuit Kohut, H. (1971). The analysis of the self. New York: International Universities Press. Lebo. Le Centurion. S. (1983). Le nourrisson, sa mere et le psychanalyste. Paris: Meissner, W. W. (1981). Metapsychology; Who needs it? Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Associa- tion, 29, 921-936. Montagnier, H. (1988). L’attachement: les debuts de la tendresse. Paris; Odile, Jacob, Infant Mental Health Journal Sameroff, A., & Emde, R, (Eds.). (1989). Relationship disturbances in early childhood: A developmental approach, New York: Basic Books. Sandler, J. (Eds.), (1987). Projection, identification, projective identification. New York: International Universities Press. Stern, D. (1985). The interpersonal world of the infant. New York: Basic Books. Winnicott, D. W. (1980), Mirror-role of mother and family in child development. Playing and Reality Harmondsworth: Penguin. Copyright of Infant Mental Health Journal is the property of Michigan Association of Infant Mental Health and its content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder's express written permission. Hewever, users may print, download, or email articles for individual use.