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Psychopathology I: Neurotic-Level Character and Symptom Disorders
April 7 @ 1:45 pm - 3:15 pm, Wyman Classroom
Second Year Adult Psychoanalytic Training (APT)
2022-23, 3rd Trimester — Fridays, 1:45-3:15pm
Michael Pauly, MD
Kelly Lippman, LMHC
April 7, 2023 — Depressive Position, Triangularity, and Their Relationship to Neurotic Character
The Oedipal situation has long been regarded as the developmental triangular space allowing the child to work out conflict within two parents (triangular field).
Winnicott, in this chapter, stresses that the depressive position in emotional development is an achievement, reached as early as the second half of the first year. He describes the mother’s holding of the situation over time as enabling the baby to work through coexisting love and hate (think affect tolerance, tolerance of ambivalence, object and self-constancy). He states that he wishes he could rename this position the “stage of concern” rather than the “depressive position” given the need to delineate it from clinical depression. Attainment of the depressive position (repression-based defenses, concern for the other, capacity to mourn) helps to distinguish patients from more primitive mental organizations (paranoid-schizoid position, splitting-based defenses, concern primarily for the self).
Britton presents his idea that the observed link between the child’s parents forms the “closure of the Oedipal triangle” and generates a relational triangular space, which if handled well makes possible a “third position” in the mind of the child. It provides a developmental hypothesis for the conditions allowing for the development of an observing ego, reflective capacity, and tolerance of separateness / exclusion that are characteristic of neurotic mental organization and healthy relationships. The model can similarly be used to understand the conditions leading to narcissistic and borderline characters (and hysterical/histrionic) and the transference-countertransferential experience one has working with these patients.
Auchincloss E.; Samberg, E. (2012), “Oedipus Complex”, in Psychoanalytic Terms and Concepts, pp180-183
Winnicott, D.W. (1954). Ch 21, “The Depressive Position in Normal Development” in Collected Papers, pp262-277.
Britton, R. (2004). Subjectivity, Objectivity, and Triangular Space. Psychoanal Q., 73(1):47-61.