Pioneers in Object Relations Clinical Thinking:
We cope with our anxieties and desires … in symbolical ways. We all need a capacity for symbol formation, or symbolization: hopefully, we will try to find someone like our mother to marry, rather than try actually to marry our mother. Artists exist on the borderline of severe psychotic anxieties: if they succeed in symbolizing them, then they can produce great art – but if not, they can be in trouble.
She kept shouting, ‘I shat my lover in the loo! I shat my lover in the loo!’ … Later, after I read Klein, I realized that girl’s words actually had a very obvious meaning; you could understand them. She was the one being evacuated, but in her mind she had reversed that situation: she was the one doing the evacuating. This, I understood, was the language of subconscious fantasy.
There’s no quick cure or absolute certainty. And the truth rarely stays the truth; yesterday’s truth is not today’s. But there is a sense of accumulating evidence. You mustn’t concentrate, or try to remember – but in the mass of patient communication, you have to select the right fact, with an open mind. And you have to be sure that fact is not just your idea, your own, overrated idea. It’s not easy.
The view that phantasy is operative from the beginning, at the most primitive stages of development, implies that this phantasy is to begin with physical: the hallucinated breast is not to begin with a visual experience, but a bodily one. Early experiences, such as hunger or satisfaction, are experienced and interpreted by the infant in terms of object relationship phantasies… Satisfaction is experienced as containing a need-fulfilling object; hunger as persecution. Our language reflects this. We speak about being ‘gnawed by hunger’; or ‘the wolf being at the door.’ My favorite is the French: hunger is being described as eating an enraged cow (‘manger de la vache enragee’).Such primitive psychosomatic phantasies evolve with growth and reality testing, but they remain at the core of our personality and can still play a dynamic part in later development. Physical experiences are interpreted as phantasy object relationships, giving them emotional meaning. A baby in pain may feel itself as being hated. But also, conversely, the phantasies are so close to the somatic that they affect physical functioning. It is well known that emotionally upset baby often develops digestive and other physical symptoms.