The Significance of the Oedipus Situation
作者: R. D. Hinshelwood / 6683次阅读 时间: 2009年10月04日
来源: Influential Papers From the 1940s P210-215 标签: OEDIPUS Oedipus Hinshelwood Structure
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The Significance of the Oedipus Situation

I have already said enough to indicate that the technique whereby aggression is employed to subdue libido is a process which finds a common place in Freud's conception of ‘repression’ and my own conception of ‘indirect repression’. At the same time, my views regarding the origin of this technique differ from those of Freud. According to Freud, the technique originates as a means of averting or reducing the expression of libidinal (incestuous) impulses towards the parent of opposite sex and aggressive (parenticidal) impulses towards the parent of similar sex in the setting of the Oedipus situation. According to my view, on the other hand, the technique originates in infancy as a means of reducing the expression of both libido and aggression on the part of the infant towards his mother, who at this stage constitutes his only significant object, and upon whom he is wholly dependent. This discrepancy of view will be interpreted, quite correctly, in the sense that I have departed from Freud in my evaluation of the Oedipus situation as an explanatory concept. For Freud, the Oedipus situation is, so to speak, an ultimate cause; but this is a view with which I no longer find it possible to agree. So far from agreeing, I now consider that the role of ultimate cause, which Freud allotted to the Oedipus situation, should properly be allotted to the phenomenon of infantile dependence. In conformity with this standpoint, the Oedipus situation presents itself, not so much in the light of a causal phenomenon as in the light of an end-product. It is not a basic situation, but the derivative of a situation which has priority over it not only in the logical, but also in the temporal sense. This prior situation is one which issues directly out of the physical and emotional dependence of the infant upon his mother, and which declares itself in the relationship of the infant to his mother long before his father becomes a significant object. The present is no occasion for an elaboration of the views which I have now reached regarding the Oedipus situation—views which have been in some measure adumbrated already (1941). Nevertheless, in view of the comparison which I have just drawn between my own conception of repression and Freud's conception, formulated as it is in terms of the Oedipus situation, it seems desirable that I should indicate briefly how I propose to introduce this classic situation into the general scheme which I have outlined. It will hardly be necessary to remind the reader that I have dispensed with the Oedipus situation as an explanatory concept not only in my account of the origin of repression, but also in my account of the genesis of the basic endopsychic situation and in my account of the differentiation of endopsychic structure. These accounts have been formulated exclusively in terms of the measures adopted by the child in an attempt to cope with the difficulties inherent in the ambivalent situation which develops during his infancy in his relationship with his mother as his original object. The various measures which the child adopts in his attempt to deal with this ambivalent situation have all been adopted before the Oedipus situation develops. It is in the setting of the child's relationship to his mother that the basic endopsychic situation is established, that the differentiation of endopsychic structure is accomplished and that repression is originated; and it is only after these developments have occurred that the child is called upon to meet the particular difficulties which attend the Oedipus situation. So far from furnishing an explanatory concept, therefore, the Oedipus situation is rather a phenomenon to be explained in terms of an endopsychic situation which has already developed.

The chief novelty introduced into the child's world by the Oedipus situation, as this materializes in outer reality, is that he is now confronted with two distinct parental objects instead of with only one as formerly. His relationship with his new object, viz. his father, is, of course, inevitably fraught with vicissitudes similar to those which he previously experienced in his relationship with his mother—and in particular, the vicissitudes of need, frustration and rejection. In view of these vicissitudes, his father becomes an ambivalent object to him, whilst at the same time he himself becomes ambivalent towards his father. In his relationship with his father he is thus faced with the same problem of adjustment as that with which he was originally faced in his relationship with his mother. The original situation is reinstated, albeit this time in relation to a fresh object; and, very naturally, he seeks to meet the difficulties of the reinstated situation by means of the same series of techniques which he learned to adopt in meeting the difficulties of the original situation. He splits the figure of his father into a good and a bad object, internalizes the bad object and splits the internalized bad object into (a) an exciting object associated with the libidinal ego and (b) a rejecting object associated with the internal saboteur. It should be added that the new paternal exciting object would appear to be partly superimposed upon, and partly fused with the old maternal exciting object, and that similarly the paternal rejecting object is partly superimposed upon, and partly fused with the maternal rejecting object.The adjustment which the child is called upon to make in relation to his father differs, of course, in one important respect from that which he was previously called upon to make in relation to his mother. It differs in the extent to which it has to be achieved upon an emotional plane. The new adjustment must be almost exclusively emotional; for in his relationship with his father the child is necessarily precluded from the experience of feeding at the breast. We are thus introduced to a further important respect in which his adjustment to his father must differ from his previous adjustment to his mother. His father is a man, whereas his mother is a woman. It is more than doubtful, however, whether the child at first appreciates the genital difference between the two parents. It would appear rather that the difference which he does appreciate is that his father has no breasts. His father thus first presents himself to the child as a parent without breasts; and this is one of the chief reasons that his relationship with his father has to be established so much more on an emotional plane than his relationship with his mother. On the other hand, it is because the child does have the experience of a physical relationship with his mother's breast, while also experiencing a varying degree of frustration in this relationship, that his need for his mother persists so obstinately beneath his need for his father and all subsequent genital needs. When the child comes to appreciate, in some measure at least, the genital difference between his parents, and as, in the course of his own development, his physical need tends to flow increasingly (albeit in varying degrees) through genital channels, his need for his mother comes to include a need for her vagina. At the same time, his need for his father comes to include a need for his father's penis. The strength of these physical needs for his parents' genitals varies, however, in inverse proportion to the satisfaction of his emotional needs. Thus, the more satisfactory his emotional relations with his parents, the less urgent are his physical needs for their genitals. These latter needs are, of course, never satisfied, although substitutive satisfactions may be sought, e.g. those of sexual curiosity. Consequently, some measure of ambivalence necessarily develops in relation to his mother's vagina and his father's penis. This ambivalence is reflected incidentally, in sadistic conceptions of the primal scene. By the time the primal scene is envisaged, however, the relationships of his parents to one another have become a matter of moment for the child; and jealousy of each of his parents in relation to the other begins to assert itself. The chief incidence of his jealousy is, of course, partly determined by the biological sex of the child; but it is also in no small measure determined by the state of his emotional relationships with his respective parents. Be this as it may, the child is now called upon to meet the difficulties of two ambivalent situations at the same time; and he seeks to meet these difficulties by the familiar series of techniques. The result is that he internalizes both a bad maternal genital figure and a bad paternal genital figure and splits each of these into two figures, which are embodied respectively in the structures of the exciting object and the rejecting object. It will thus be seen that, before the child is very old, these internal objects have already assumed the form of complex composite structures. They are built up partly on a basis of the superimposition of one object upon another, and partly on a basis of the fusion of objects. The extent to which the internal objects are built up respectively on a basis of layering and on a basis of fusion differs, of course, from individual to individual; and the extent to which either layering or fusion predominates would appear to be a matter of no small importance. Thus, in conjunction with the proportioning of the various component objects, it would appear to play an important part in determining the psychosexual attitude of the individual in so far as this is not determined by biological sexual factors. Likewise, in conjunction with the proportioning of the component objects, it would appear to be the chief determining factor in the ætiology of the sexual perversions. We may thus envisage an ætiology of the perversions conceived in terms of object-relationship psychology.

It will be noticed that in the preceding account the personal pronoun employed to indicate the child has been consistently masculine. This must not be taken to imply that the account applies only to the boy. It applies equally to the girl; and the masculine pronoun has been used only because the advantages of a personal pronoun of some kind appear to outweigh those of the impersonal pronoun, however noncommittal this may be. It will also be noticed that the classic Oedipus situation has not yet emerged. The stage which was last described was one at which, whilst the relations of his parents with one another had become significant to the child, his position was essentially one of ambivalence towards both parents. We have seen, however, that the child seeks to deal with both ambivalent situations by a series of processes in consequence of which genital figures of each of his parents come to be embodied both in the structure of the exciting object and in that of the rejecting object. It must be recognized, of course, that the biological sex of the child must play some part in determining his attitude to his respective parents; but that this is very far from being the sole determining factor is obvious from the frequency of inverted and mixed Oedipus situations. Considered in terms of the views which I have outlined, these inverted and mixed Oedipus situations must necessarily be determined by the constitution of the exciting object and the rejecting object. It is, therefore, only taking a further step in the same direction to conclude that the same consideration applies to the positive Oedipus situation. The fact then would appear to be that the Oedipus situation is not really an external situation at all, but an internal situation—one which may be transferred in varying degrees to the actual external situation. Once the Oedipus situation comes to be regarded as essentially an internal situation, it is not difficult to see that the maternal components of both the internal objects have, so to speak, a great initial advantage over the paternal components; and this, of course, applies to children of both sexes. The strong position of the maternal components is, of course, due to the fact that the nuclei of both the internal objects are derivatives of the original ambivalent mother and her ambivalent breasts. In conformity with this fact, a sufficiently deep analysis of the Oedipus situation invariably reveals that this situation is built up around the figures of an internal exciting mother and an internal rejecting mother. It was, of course, on a basis of hysterical phenomena that Freud originally formulated the concept of the Oedipus situation; and according to Abraham's ‘phase’ theory the origin of hysteria is to be traced to a fixation in the genital (phallic) phase. I have already (1941) passed various criticisms on Abraham's ‘phase’ theory; and so I shall be merely passing a further criticism, if only by implication, when I say that I have yet to analyse the hysteric, male or female, who does not turn out to be an inveterate breast-seeker at heart. I venture to suggest that the deep analysis of a positive Oedipus situation may be regarded as taking place at three main levels. At the first level the picture is dominated by the Oedipus situation itself. At the next level it is dominated by ambivalence towards the heterosexual parent; and at the deepest level it is dominated by ambivalence towards the mother. Traces of all these stages may be detected in the classic drama of Hamlet; but there can be no doubt that, both in the role of exciting and tempting object and in that of rejecting object, the Queen is the real villain of the piece. The position then would appear to be this. The child finds it intolerable enough to be called upon to deal with a single ambivalent object; but, when he is called upon to deal with two, he finds it still more intolerable. He, therefore, seeks to simplify a complex situation, in which he finds himself confronted with two exciting objects and two rejecting objects, by converting it into one in which he will only be confronted with a single exciting object and a single rejecting object; and he achieves this aim, with, of course, a varying measure of success, by concentrating upon the exciting aspect of one parent and the rejecting aspect of the other. He thus, for all practical purposes, comes to equate one parental object with the exciting object, and the other with the rejecting object; and by so doing the child constitutes the Oedipus situation for himself. Ambivavalence to both parents persists, however, in the background; and at rock bottom both the exciting object and the rejecting object remain what they originally were, viz. figures of his mother.

 

 


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