Commentary on Maurice Bouvet’s description of Object Relations Theory (Seminar IV)

by Julia Evans on July 27, 2017

These notes were presented to the Earl’s Court Clinical Group, in Earl’s Court, London on Thursday 27th July 2017. This is the second of three presentations on Maurice Bouvet’s description of a case he names Obsessional Neurosis. This case is examined by Jacques Lacan in Seminar IV, especially on 28th November 1956. The three parts are intended to be:

1) A reconstruction of the case from the given details.

Commentary on Maurice Bouvet’s case of Obsessional Neurosis (Seminar IV) : a reconstruction of the case by Julia Evans  on 15th June 2017 or here

2) How the case is viewed through object relation’s theory.

3) Jacques Lacan’s commentary.

Julia Evans 

References:

[JL] Seminar IV : 28th November 1956 : Jacques Lacan : Seminar IV : The Object Relation & Freudian Structures 1956-1957 : begins 21st November 1956 : Jacques Lacan or here

[MB] Clinical analysis : 1956 : Maurice Bouvet : Availability here

A post-presentation summary

There is a pre-ordained normal way of developing with relation to objects as specified in the theory. The three essential types are (1) oral (2) anal (3) genital. The genital stage operates as a limit. If you do not reach the third stage your ego is described as regressed. If you reach the genital stage then

– your view of reality is rational

– your sexual relationships are normal (probably within a heterosexual marriage)

– a non-emotional position is attained

Before this stage

– you project your emotional attachment to your object onto your view of reality and other people, including your analyst

– your sexual relationships are either inappropriate, that is not within a heterosexual marriage, and are not up to the standard of satisfaction achieved in the genital stage

– a non-rational, emotional position is in place.

Those with phobias in place (Little Hans examined by Jacques Lacan in Seminar IV) are at a more adult stage than obsessionals.

The notes from which I presented:

So last time in an attempt to grasp Maurice Bouvet’s case study, I stripped out the factual information about the case – available here. I thought that was difficult enough and talking about Bouvet’s clinical use of Object Relations Theory is more complicated. The attempt to summarize Object Relations as stated by Bouvet has been abandoned. There follows quotations from Bouvet with an occasional comment. It is interesting to note that Jacques Lacan and Maurice Bouvet were on friendly terms, so this is a friendly critique!

Tenants of Object Relations Theory

Object Relations Theory distinguishes 3 types of object relationships [See p26 of MB] which occur developmentally at ‘different stages of evolution’. The three ‘essential types of object relationship’ are designated by reference to the child’s predominant interests at the different stages of his development. They are:

(l) Object relationships of the oral type correspond to the early months of life when the child’s centre of interest is the mouth, both for food and as a source of pleasure. (2) Object relationships of the anal-sadistic type predominate from the first to the third year and correspond to the manifestations of those drives that are involved in the processes of excitation and in education in cleanliness.

(3) The genital type of object relationship comes into existence some time after the third year, is built up during later childhood and throughout the early pre-pubertal and pubertal conflicts, and, indeed, continues to develop during the greater part of the individual’s sexual life. From the beginning of this period the centre of the child’s interest is fixed on his genital organs.

Comment: Bouvet standardises all children to the exemplar ‘the child’. All children go through these types of objects in this order? Later Bouvet describes this progression as genetic.

These forms of Object Relationships are independent of individual development so operate as standards for the analyst to judge which stage of development the subject has reached. Example:

[p25 of MB] Quote : The pathologic object relationships in the phobias belong to a more evolved, more adult relational system than do those in obsessional neurosis. The phobias represent, in a pure form, regression to the oedipal stage of development, which is nearer to the adult state than is the anal-sadistic stage to which the subject regresses in obsessional neurosis. Psychotic object relationships in their turn may regress to even more primitive stages of development.

The analyst is given ‘general characteristics’ to help diagnose the stage of Object Relation development which is in place. Example : [p34 of MB] The following, then, are the general characteristics of the object relationships of subjects whose ego is regressed or fixated at a pregenital level:

a close dependence of the ego on the object;

violence and lack of control of the affects and emotions;

love that is possessive and destructive of objects that are only objects;

the continuous intrusion of a projection made in the image of the subject which disdains reality;

the retention of a certain sense of reality at the cost of a crippling defense mechanism that utilizes unconscious projection and makes possible the enormous distance between subject and object which is essential to the conservation of pseudo objectivity.

Relation to reality :

The subject’s relationship to reality, in Object Relations Theory, is derived from their stage of Object Relation [p34 of MB] In the first two stages everyone (‘universality of projection)’ maintains an apparent, objectivity at the cost of crippling defences. The reasons given, which make no sense to this reader are:

– because, on the one hand, the pregenital object relationship is the true pathologic relationship whatever its varieties

– and because, on the other hand, the genital object relationship has, when all is said, no history.

– the genital object relationship is in fact a limit, a limit to which every person tends rather than a reality that any one person experiences

Comment : Unless your analyst judges you to have genital object relationships, you will not view reality objectively. (This is where the distinction between rationality and emotions, made in Object relations theory, seems to be grounded.)

[p30 of MB] Projection is always present, and reality as seen by a patient is always a transforming reality, so that if we wish to understand the basic determinisms of object relationships, we must never lose sight of the fact that he and we may quite possibly not be talking of the same thing when we are speaking of reality.

Comment : I wonder what clinical evidence there is for a ‘transforming reality’ though I agree that the analyst and subject will not be talking of the same reality.

The aim of the analysis :

[p30 of MB] ‘When we use the words “true realization,” we mean an authentic discharge of instinctual energy with all the emotional expansion that should normally accompany it. The simplest example of what can easily be a merely formal or apparent realization is the sexual act. Nobody who has abnormal object relationships can find in this act all the satisfaction that it should bring.

Very often this act seems to be performed normally enough and only after a successful analysis does the subject realize the enormous difference between what he thought was sexual happiness and what he feels now.’

Comment : So the analyst is able to judge when an authentic discharge of energy is in place and claims to be able to improve the subject’s sex life…

Rationality separated from Emotionality :

[p32 of MB] The ego of the obsessive, as everyone knows, presents two very different segments. In the regressed segment-the “magic animismo” of Nunberg, to give it one of its many names-the behaviour of the ego is completely primitive; for it, thought is all powerful, for example. In the other, generally more important, segment, the ego seems [p33 of MB] governed by the laws of logic, and the object relationship appears quite normal. But if we study this “rational” segment we find that it remains objective only so long as the patient can practice that isolation which consists in detaching an idea from its natural emotional and ideational connections. The patient behaves in a docile manner. He tries to understand his doctor, shows consideration and a normal interest. In fact, he takes him for what he is: a doctor. But once this isolation is given up, the sense of reality in this relationship is lost for the most part; projection comes into play and unconscious fantasy blots out objective awareness of the situation, to a certain extent at least and often nearly, although not quite, completely.

As he lives through the experience of depersonalization, in transference, for example, the patient does not abandon himself to those forms of behaviour that the total replacement of the real by the projected situation might imply. Nevertheless, the gap between psychotic behaviour and the patient’s behaviour becomes narrow and at times is almost obliterated.

Comment : So as the subject progresses up the developmental ladder, they loose their emotionality and become objective?

Developmental :

[p24 of MB] I have purposely chosen as an illustration of regression in object relationships the early phases of obsessional neurosis

[p25 of MB] The genetic aspect of the psychoanalytic theory of object relationships becomes much clearer

[p30 of MB] In a sufficiently deep analysis of any serious neurosis in which a pregenital regression of the whole personality is involved, we come across objectivized projections of this kind. Before analysis, they have remained unconscious but now they become almost hallucinatory in their force.

Comment : This is a bit peculiar. So everyone develops to genital object relations and some/most of us regress to the pregenital phase? It would appear that this development is genetic so occurs in everyone!

Reality

[p32 of MB]  The regressed condition of the ego is essential, as is also the primitive nature of the drives, so that reality may not conquer by the simple fact of being perceived. However pseudo objective these subjects may be, it does not prevent-as I shall try to show for obsessional neurotics-their living the object relationships they experience as if they were really what the totally unconscious projection makes them. That is why in every case the retention of a sense of reality is in fact only apparent and why there is a radical difference, on the plane of lived emotions, between reality as these subjects perceive it and what is perceived by a person whose ego is not regressed.

This distance is such that apparently normal object relationships may be maintained, and it is thanks to this adaptation, this sophistication of object relationship, that the neurotic ego, unlike the psychotic ego, manages to retain a certain sense of objective reality. An excellent example of this sort of result is furnished by the obsessional ego, but one could reach similar conclusions about the ego in the perversions and, although less distinctly, the ego in the phobias and in hysteria. Of course, the fact is most striking in the character neuroses.

Obsessionality and Phobias & Object Relations Theory

Freud’s case of Little Hans is examined during Seminar IV, so Maurice Bouvet’s distinction between the two is important.

[p24 of MB] I have purposely chosen as an illustration of regression in object relationships the early phases of obsessional neurosis.

[p25 of MB] The child who is to be an obsessional neurotic and who, long before pubertal conflicts reawaken the oedipus conflict, seems to have normal relationships with his environment presents certain peculiarities of character which are manifestations of that type of object relationship peculiar to the obsessional subject, or, in genetic terms, to the anal-sadistic fixation. The same is true of the obviously obsessional subject in the intervals between his crises.

When a new crisis occurs the reason is as follows. The special object relationships by means of which the patient has managed to satisfy his primary instinctual needs cease for one reason or another to be adequate to ensure the discharge of instinctual energies in ways suitable to the patient. There is fragmentation of the emotions bound up with the instinctual need, and the obsession appears.

The genetic aspect of the psychoanalytic theory of object relationships becomes much clearer when we try to understand the intimate connections that clinical descriptive psychiatry has long shown to exist between obsessional neurosis and the phobias, on the one hand and the psychoses, especially schizophrenia and melancholia, on the other. If we look at classic case descriptions, we find that obsessional phenomena may, in a transitory fashion, be in the foreground of the clinical picture at the beginning and at the end of the development of the two psychoses. Psychoanalysis helps us to understand both the relationship between these diseases and their peculiar developments thanks to its theory of object relationships. The pathologic object relationships in the phobias belong to a more evolved, more adult relational system than do those in obsessional neurosis. The phobias represent, in a pure form, regression to the oedipal stage of development, which is nearer to the adult state than is the anal-sadistic stage to which the subject regresses in obsessional neurosis. Psychotic object relationships in their turn may regress to even more primitive stages of development.

[p30 of MB] The obsessional who unconsciously wants to take possession of the object by assimilating it into himself also feels that if he takes the object into himself, it may keep a separate existence, keep a life of its own that will contaminate and completely change the subject, he himself, who has done the absorbing.

[p32 of MB] This distance is such that apparently normal object relationships may be maintained, and it is thanks to this adaptation, this sophistication of object relationship, that the neurotic ego, unlike the psychotic ego, manages to retain a certain sense of objective reality. An excellent example of this sort of result is furnished by the obsessional ego, but one could reach similar conclusions about the ego in the perversions and, although less distinctly, the ego in the phobias and in hysteria. Of course, the fact is most striking in the character neuroses.

Knowledge & Judgement of the Analyst (unfinished section)

[p24 of MB] the early phases of obsessional neurosis. It is well known that it occurs, classically, at the onset of puberty.

[p25 of MB] Psychoanalysis helps us to understand both the relationship between these diseases and their peculiar developments thanks to its theory of object relationships.

[p32 of MB] I am thinking of one schizoid obsessive patient who asked me to break off a session because he was afraid of me. The apparently continued contact with reality is only maintained because of devices of remoteness which still exist however inapparent they may be.

Position of the Analyst in the Transference

[p33 of MB] But it is only a “false objectivity,” for a real objectivity demands an awareness of the affective content of relationships with the external world. The proof is that feeling of emotional lack which [p34 of MB] spoils the whole life of the obsessional and which seems to be an indirect result of his isolation. By dint of living in a purely formal world that lacks life and content, by acting purely formally in that world, the subject becomes aware of a void around him. [Comment : JL river analogy in 28th November 1956?]

Yet, this void is only an appearance. Once the isolation is lessened, as in transference, the emotions reveal themselves as enormously intense. The too great remoteness resulting from isolation gives way to too little remoteness. Anxiety becomes hardly bearable, so traumatic is the liberation of the affects and emotions linked to the unconscious instinctual process.

We may conclude that the basically lived situation is the projected situation, since only at the price of abandonment of the remoteness called into being by that very latent projection that robs experience of its affective reality can the world be apprehended objectively, or, more accurately, apprehended apparently objectively.

Julia Evans

Practicing Lacanian Psychoanalyst, Earl’s Court, London

Further texts

Of the clinic : here

By Sigmund Freud here

Notes on texts by Sigmund Freud : here

By Jacques Lacan here

Notes on texts by Jacques Lacan here

Jacques Lacan in English or here

Translation Working Group here

Texts written by other members of the Earl’s Court Clinical Group

Bruno de Florence (See here or http://www.deflorence.com )

Owen Hewitson (See here or http://www.lacanonline.com)

Greg Hynds here

Julia Evans (See here or www.LacanianWorks.net )

Texts presented to Clinical Group meetings

Greg Hynds : Reading the Recommendations : London, 1st April 2017 : Information here

Julia Evans  : What makes the initial interventions by an analyst work? : 1st April 2017 : Information here

Commentary on Maurice Bouvet’s case of Obsessional Neurosis (Seminar IV) : a reconstruction of the case by Julia Evans  on 15th June 2017 or here

A preliminary engagement with ‘Psychoanalytic Violence: An Essay in Indifference in Ethical Matters’ by Dany Nobus by Julia Evans on 30th July 2017 or here

See also

Notes & References for Jacques Lacan’s Seminar IV : 21st November 1956 by Julia Evans  on 28th February 2017 : See here

Notes & references for Seminar IV : 28th November 1956 by Julia Evans  on 2nd July 2017 : See here