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"Difficult Passions:
Desire and Destructions at our Core"

Giles Clark

This paper (which is a shortened edition of a lecture given to the Canberra Jung Society) is about our inherent need for primary love and thence ever after for enough good love of whatever sort. But, of course, such basic ‘rights’ (sic) and/or such assumptions about love never do run smooth: we are inevitably, though to different degrees, thwarted, disappointed, shocked, rejected, wounded and defeated... and so necessarily a variety of defences get set up.

In fact though I suggest that it is through and out of our most passionate and problematic loves … their frustrations, losses, and sheer absences as well as their lusts and longings, both our joys and our disappointments, and too the pains and suffering of grief and of mourning, that there emerges and develops our real symbolizing function. It is also through these passionate relations that we forge our most vital thinking and consciousness, our significant imagination and creativity. And eventually perhaps it is also thus that we become aware and accepting of the determining reality of our wishes, motivations and powers … and also of our limitations.

As I proceed perhaps you might like to ask your selves, (or not like to): am I an anxious optimist or a cheerful pessimist?? If neither of these, then I suggest that you are either melancholic, an angry depressive, in manic denial, pleasantly deluded …  or you are a higher being … or you are psychically dead.

I am going to posit and the build uponfour basic, inherent, determining and fateful forces that are the raw material out of which we may be able to construct and develop our individual destiny.

1) The starting point of everything that follows is the basic psychic force that makes each and all of us juggle and be juggled by our inherent impetus to preserve our vital, good and true self; … But this very ‘self’, our core psychological identity, is itself actually made (or constructed) by our creative and/or destructive manoeuvres by which we seek to manage our problematically strong emotions and passions, our potencies and impotencies… and above all by trying not to lose (but rather to increase) our power to preserve both the objects of our love and the knowledge (which may be a fantasy) that my desired and loved one desires and loves me in return and as much; (this reciprocal relation is the essence of my valuable goods (or good values).

2) We all start in the erotic politics of mother and baby, and in the erotic politics of the family, or rather in our relational experience viewed through the lenses of oedipal fantasy … and thence our strategic manoeuvres to get at least enough primary love, a degree of oedipal victory … which may mean learning to divide and rule, and/or/simultaneously to not divide, to not harm but rather to establish and maintain the security of love, etc.

3) Thirdly, we are determined by various levels and degrees of ‘repetition compulsions’: the compulsion to repeat painful actions, behaviours and relations in order to seek their resolution and to gain understanding and a sense of power over (and of pleasure in) painful defeats of our omnipotent fantasies and desires. Thus we gain or regain a sense of agency. Indeed, surely our love relations are often compulsive repetitions themselves!

4) Our inherent and intrinsic condition is one of a tension of affects and passions, of our emotional ‘bodyminds’ working and being worked by, or  ‘made’ through our relations with our difficult (subjective and other-peopled) world.

Now let me make a second start with more detailed introductory points:

1) A definition: Love, at least post-pubescent sexual/erotic love, is the wonderfully creative and sometimes destructive meaning (much informed by culture) that our passionate and relational ‘bodyminds’ make of our biology, that is of our pheromone-fuelled, testosterone-driven and dopamine-connecting natural animal lusts, desires, drives and attachments … including the sense that I am desired by the other whom I desire.

2) A rider: To the extent that so-called loving, any intimate relationships or ‘marriages’ are motivated by either the devouring narcissistic need and greed of mother/other/lover, or by socio-economic needs or by the powers of sexual politics, that is not true love.
So, as well as wanting to be desired and loved back, we also do not want (are disgusted and frightened) to be desired or loved ‘in the wrong way’ or ‘too much’.

3) To speak of love from a developmental perspective, inherently most infants literally fall in love and attach to mother, to the breast, her active face, body-bits, sound, smell, to her ‘bodymind’ … and also need and want to be similarly and satisfactorily loved back in return. This always ‘goes wrong’ in that the primal need for ‘primary love’ (Balint) is bound to be in some degree unreliable and disappointed, and so defences against traumatic absences or losses and disillusionments, including (especially) not being sufficiently desired and loved back, are necessarily set up.

The vicissitudes of love start with this ‘primary love’ and its failures; but thence is the source of our imagination, creativity, strategic thought and reason, as well as our faults and defences. These attempts at psychosomatic self-preservation include: repetition compulsions, repetitive self-defeating defences  (such as melancholic retreats, fearful narcissistic hidings, depressive defeat or fiercely angry, destructive and sometimes cruel borderline behaviour which is really a psychosomatic (even psychoid) communication to get a hurt love recognized, realized, known and loved in spite of its offensive defensiveness.)
However, such defences don’t actually work that well; in fact they usually backfire.
But even self-defeating defences are intended to preserve a sense of a good, true and potent alive self … and of necessary agency.
The need and struggle for love is intrinsic and is perennial.

This primary need, its frustration and the urgent attempt to get it ‘solved’ is of course is the central impetus behind all transferences … including the extremes of narcissistic emptying out of relations and borderline attacks. It is also the psychic matter of both the various degrees and levels of the ‘basic fault’, and the various degrees and intensities of the ‘psychotic core’ … and of their defence systems and behaviours. We all of us have, to some extent, such neurotic and proto-psychotic pockets, conditioning the nurtured nature of our idiosyncratic appetites and defences, both affecting and spoiling our loves and hates, and the way we do them ... with love and psychotherapy, “It’s not what you do, it’s the way that you do it” … as Bananarama sang.

Some basic questions: Can we love properly, healthily and generously or relatively un-greedily and not over-demandingly, if we have not received enough primal love or had our love sufficiently reciprocated? Is our subsequent hurt or frustration or depressed defeat the generator of such solutions as false narcissistic charm (hiding hurt, fear and righteous grandiosity) or destructive and envious hate, or of an idea of an absolutely loving personal God … or an impetus to suicide, where suicide is a fantastic act of preservation of and reunion with ‘the good’ by killing off ‘the bad’ self?

Love and its hopes are inherently fragile, incorporating inevitable breakages, losses, damages and distortions; love is a close and often sore example of ‘the fragility of goodness’. The most primitive family-relational fear (other than the fear of the death of a parent/parents) is that the needed on-going maternal/parental love (later, the lover’s love) should turn to anger (or disgust or indifference) and so to the loss of that love … forever.

We learn as much or more of affective states through their problems and pains. And perhaps most commonly from the perennial problems and pains of love, its shocking losses or the sheer lack of it, and its neurotic defences and contortions … just as much as from the harmonies of good love, or loves goods (good objects).

It is almost a psycho-developmental truism that the formation of each and every individual consciousness emerges not only through experiences of good and harmonious relational mix-ups, but is also motivated as much through learning from experiences of emotional perplexity, bewilderment and incomprehension in the face of our outer and inner worlds, especially our painful absences, losses and changes in primary (and later) love. This natural pain is what moves our symbolizing function.

In fact, it is our early absences that make us symbolize, generate the emergence of the symbolizing function, or (of course) sometimes fail to do so if the damage-of-absence to primary narcissism is too great.

Primary losses, lacks and consequent disturbances to the symbolizing function means that the developing person cannot integrate and so  symbolize normal disillusionments and disappointments, and so cannot mourn and move on.

But then … and let’s be very careful here … and not overlook the possibility that a real love can be pre-symbolic yet still be love, and be developmental and redemptive, actually healing of self-defeating but necessary defences against intolerable early loss.
Perhaps some of you have seen the film ‘Lars and the Real Girl’? This is about what Hanna Segal called ‘symbolic equivalence’, a story of an emotionally wounded man really loving and really mourning … through a relationship with a sex doll (in a non-sexual way) and thereby not only changing his own fear of intimate touch, but also redeeming his brother’s life of denial, and indeed the various personal defences of every other member of the village. The perceptive and therapeutically able doctor absolutely understands the essential reparative processes moving Lars’ ‘symbolically equivalent’ love of his doll as a real girl.

In other words, we are probably all in psychotherapy … or are psychotherapists … because we have to do something about our personal problems with love, ab origine back then, thereafter and still now.
Love’s desires, excitements, pleasures, infatuations, dreams, illusions, pains and problems, are a natural source of ‘normal madness’.

                                                  *****

Early and certainly later love does and indeed must bring with it other attendant strong emotions:
For example:
Lust and disgust: – these responses are indeed very close, two sides of a very thin membrane, and very quick to switch from one to the other; an intimate and strongly emotive polarity that is a sexual, bodily and whole person matter, personal (own body-self) and inter-personal;
Desire and frustration;
Appetite and fear;
Healthy competition and green jealousy;
Generosity and selfishness … or more strongly,
altruism and possessiveness … or …
imaginal empathy and projective distortion;
Joy and sadness;
Harmony and irritation;
Security and loss;
Power and impotence;
Hope and anxiety … (note: anxiety, as a fear of losing love, can become strong enough to be self-fulfilling, and therefore is perhaps the greatest internal threat to love);
Finally, I suggest that an intrinsic aspect of love-as-desire is always aggression (as well as a desire for harmony and peaceful intimacy); and related to this ‘normal’ aggression are part-object sexual fantasies and actions, and thence … fantasies and acts of sado-masochistic power, and other more ambivalent perversions.

The tricky realm between these tense concomitant emotional positions between which we are repeatedly and disturbingly moved, brings me to a related theme of a complex and tense dynamic of passionate, affective internal (and interpersonal) relations by saying something about the ‘juice of jouissance’.

‘Jouissance’ is about the tense relations of attraction and separation between appetite (or desire) and disgust (or fear), pleasure and pain, joyous elation and sad depression, power and its limits (or impotence) … all incorporated in the psychosomatic ‘conatus’ (or libidinous force) of the jouissance of the ‘bodymind’.

Conatus

 

  • The conatus unites all affects and passions in a jouissance of liveliness, tension, conflict, and/or psychosis.
  • Conatus-as-jouissance is a dynamic incorporation of all the emotions of the ‘bodymind’.
  • Jouissance both constrains and is constrained by the various emotions and their relations: it naturally incorporates both the conjunction and the keeping apart of affective urges and states.
  • The jouissance that joins and separates the emotions can become a psychotic zone if the tension becomes destructively (rather than vitally) excessive and conflictual or if there is a defensive/repressive split and one affect becomes over-dominant and the other becomes unconscious.
  • From a psychogenic perspective, both an excessive tension between conflicting emotions and/or the intensity of an affect that is unmitigated and unmediated by a contrary affect (e.g. unfiltered desire, pleasure or power) can engender psychosis. On the other hand, endogenous psychosis can cause or exacerbate just such excessive tensions or one-sided intensities.
  • Any ‘emotion’ can be psychically, somatically or psychosomatically ‘used’ as a defence against any other emotion; such defences are often fantastic, illusory, partial or ‘inadequate’ manoeuvres and management systems (within the over-riding and essential nature of the conatus).
  • Conatus-as-jouissance undermines oppositional binary systems; e.g. we can desire fear, fear desire, and find our appetites disgusting; we can love to hate and hate love; we can make a (masochistic) pleasure of pain, and make a (sadistic) pain of pleasure; or we can fantastically aim for self-preservation (of the idea of the ‘good self’) by suicide (killing the pained, failed or shamed ‘bad self’).
  • The left and right columns in this diagram represent neither mutually exclusive nor ‘positive and negative’ poles. They represent the inherently given range of normal human emotions in ever-changing relations and intensities: oscillations, ambiguities, ambivalences (i.e. subjective ideas of good and bad), varying energetic or enervating affects.
  • This is to be understood as a dynamic that cannot and does not demand resolution or an idea of progress/health.
  • All the above are both of mind and of body, may be represented through either, but must be understood univocally, as a non-dual double identity.
  • All the above dynamic relations apply both internally and interpersonally.

For me this dynamic schema is a lens of observation into emotions and their relations, specifically focused for analytic transferential, counter-transferential and interpretive use.

I think I can say that love and its vicissitudes are the seminal relational place for this tension of ‘jouissance’: love’s needs and defeats, the pleasures and pains of love. This is the field of our psychosomatic and emotional relations, always both internal and inter-personal, always an activity or passivity of fantastically imaginative relations between meaning-laden bodies and body-bits, the stuff of our psychoid ‘bodymind’ and its organic forces, including natural forces of disunity/non-union.

                                                      *****
If an infant/child experiences mother as emotionally (or actually) absent, as unreliable, unpredictable, anxious or madly fragmented, then he/she can not go on trusting the object of primary love … and so play and therefore (the development of the) symbolizing (function) is damaged, twisted or lost in the energies of neurotic or psychotic defences ... (including the defences of those whom Balint described as ‘ocnophiles’ or object-clinging types and ‘philobats’ or object-evasive types). Instead of a healthy development of symbolizing and relational capacities, there is either a defensive splitting (e.g. destructive borderline resentment or adamant paranoid schizoid positions), or a fearful disappearing of the wounded self (e.g. narcissistic hiding, depressive retreat or pockets of psychogenic autism), both of which successfully avoid the underlying depressive ‘black hole in the psyche’, the unmet and unborn and unbearable self.
Here is the source of those damages to the self and its necessarily extreme defences: narcissistic false facades, fearful hidings and surrender to the superego (to the point of invisibility) … that covers a more real but alarmingly destructive anger.
A narcissist’s fear of the super-ego (and fear of their hate of the super-ego) splits off and hides a latent violent anger. However this anger is a destructive (borderline) impulse based on a sense of unnatural injustice … which is paradoxically a potentially constructive and vitalizing force.

  • Both major personality disorders, narcissism and borderline, derive from defences against a basic lack (or loss) of real primary love and against existential abject loneliness. Both are desperate for love and connection.  
  • Narcissism is passive, compliant, so over-adaptive as to be false, hides although wanting to be seen but not seen into, and is fearfully over-sensitive; Borderline envy and destructiveness is active, defiant, so emotionally over-real as to be socially unrealistic, attacks though wanting thereby to make others know (psychosomatically, at psychoid depth) how he/she feels, and is offensively over-sensitive.
  • And always remember that in some form, to some degree, these are the defensive traits of each and every one of us. We are all frightened of being hurt, of not getting or of losing who and what we most desperately want.  

In the case of gross narcissistic disorder, the analytic task is to address the primitive anxiety, inter-personal terrors and shames … and this may lead to a recognition, even a shock of recognition that their object of fear is a maternal-parental world in which the self has been/is unrecognized, unloved and its healthy exhibitionistic energies have been crippled. Thus necessary, understandable, clever, strategic and secretive, but very counter-productive, self-defeating and unattractive defenses have been desperately wrought.  

  • Finally, I would say that probably the strongest agent of change is the on-going, long-term emotionally honest analytic relation, its frames and limitations: a difficult but psychically real love in the face of necessity and the eventual inevitable ending … which has to be mourned, internalized and lived beyond. 

                                                     *****

As David Malan said, "The aim of therapy is not to make up to patients for the love that they have missed, but to help them work through their feelings about not having it."

Analytically, it is our task to understand why and how (in what way) a particular person has not lived and cannot live and love well enough, who experiences love as either devouring (their own greedy hunger or that of the other), or as too dangerously intimate, too bound to hurt, too exposing and shameful, too much, too dangerous, too distant, never enough, etc. And as I say, isn’t this (at least some of it) about every one of us?

Our fate and possibly our destiny (by which I mean what we do with our fate) is the tension between, on the one hand, need and desire, and on the other, loss and rejection, or inevitable failures and limitations to getting and keeping good love.
Between, through and out of this ‘normal’ maddening tension of power, pleasure, love, loss, pain and separation … our madnesses may be re-cycled and put to good use, (which is Santayana’s definition of sanity).

Love is transitory and immanently eternal (timeless), and is exquisitely beautiful and most valuable for just this, its inevitable human temporiness.

Strong and passionate love is a relation that must surely, sooner or later, make lovers think through immediate emotional storms … of difficult differences, of power relations, of disillusionment, irritation, anxious fears of loss … perhaps whilst simultaneously hoping to go on loving.
And this of course is exactly what critical transferential psychotherapy re-cycles and transforms through its processes of symbolizing … a particular framed form of emotional remembering, linking and reflective thinking.

Santayana said that our normal human madness is to want to change the unchangeable and to want to fix that which is inevitably moving. Translate that into love relations and the intrinsically false idea or ideal of unchanging love ever after. And by the way, in this context I think that (as well as being impelled by loss and grief, and as an attack on painful loss) some suicides, aim to avert change and to preserve an ideal into eternity.

Love necessarily includes difference, change and impermanence, the challenges of betrayal and guilt, loss, separation and mortality … and thus a call through mourning to gratitude and non-melancholic remembrance, an acquiescent letting go and going on, having surely loved and been loved enough ... or not.

I would say thatthe loss or absence of love is our primary anxiety and our greatest psychic pain ... but thereby it is our perennial psychic mover and the source of true symbolization and the making of meaning.

I said at the beginning that love is the meaning we make of attachment … well, those meanings are not only personal for they can and do become our most glorious aesthetic creations: the celebrations and tragedies of love in poetry, novels, painting, theatre, opera, ballet, film etc.
Indeed love can also be a passionate love of beauty, a love of ideals, and/or a love of God;
Which is all fine and good … but about these other forms of love I make just two qualifying points:

  • such love, like all love can become fanatical or pathological: erotic love can become possessive, obsessive, paranoid, sadistic; a love of ideals can become a fanatic ideology, an exclusive and intolerant  fundamentalism or Puritanism … particularly when fed by an idea of a jealous or punitive God.
  • And secondly, such loves are all to do with an ‘other within’, they are not inter-personal, they are only reciprocated or rewarded in the subjective sense of psychic realities (although of course still affective as a sense of … ‘it is as if’ I’m being loved by the loved object), including a belief in a loving personal God, which is necessarily an act of faith.

It has been said that ‘the greatest love is the love that does not expect to be loved in return’, for that is the reality of nature and its ruthless laws, like Joan’s spectacular volcano. Other people and all relations are part of our sometimes wonderful, beautiful and lovable human world but ultimately this too is an aspect of the contingencies and necessities of nature that is indifferent to our will, pre-determining our very limited freedom of choice and action.

As well as our desires and loves that are reciprocated and happily rewarded, it is this noble love that ‘does not expect to be loved in return’ which we all surely have to learn to accept and integrate somehow.

But then remember that I am a cheerful pessimist.

o0o

 

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