Primary Failures and Secondary Formations: Commentary on the Shanes’ Case Study of Kathy K
Without the new sense of herself, Kathy was a desperately unhappy woman who had revealed with considerable shame that she had never, with anyone at all, had a romantic or sexual experience. In relation to her peers Kathy had apparently lived a rather isolated personal life interrupted by successive short-lived, highly intense, and overly demanding relationships with several girlfriends during college and graduate school. With each new girlfriend Kathy’s entire existence seemed to be centered on the current friendship, but her embittered rages, when the friend found her tenacious demands becoming intolerable, inevitably led to a termination of the relationship. I believe this repeated sequence of events epitomizes Kathy’s desperate attempts to fill in what she felt was missing in her. That missing emotional something was experienced as a void at the core of her, a void too terrible to bear. She reexperienced that same feeling in the analytic transference when her feeling of “oneness” with the analyst was disrupted. That sense of emptiness and that desperate need to somehow obliterate the intolerable experience of it were manifestations of Kathy’s primary pathology: a deficit in her core self-structure. This brings us to a related issue, the Oedipus complex and what role it played in Kathy’s psychological life.