chapter  1
28 Pages

Beyond doer and done to

An intersubjective view of thirdness

This chapter is the second version of a paper originally written for a volume on the concept of the Third for Psychoanalytic Quarterly, then rewritten for Relational Psychoanalysis Volume IV (Aron & Harris, 2011). It emerged from developing an idea I had initially when thinking about Ghent’s (1990) concept of surrender, written for a conference honoring his work in 2000. I began originally to think of the Third as related to an original sense of harmony that exists both in the world and self, an idea one might find in neo-Platonic mysticism (see Benjamin, 2005). But I had already begun to consider with Aron (Aron & Benjamin, 1999) how the shared, intersubjective Third could be differentiated from that of more classical theories in which the Third appears as something in the mind of the analyst alone. It represented an effort to think through the idea of recognition from the ground up in terms of an orientation to a principle, a relationship, or even love, which we refer to in order to step out of the doer done to complementarity. I realized, as I wrote in a separate Afterword to the reprinted version, that my thinking about the Third in this way replicated an idea of Kierkegaard, (brought to my attention by Hoffman in her 2010 book): surrender to the Third, which “is love itself” can be maintained even when the other fails, as the one who remains committed can hold onto the Third “and then the break has no power over him” (Kierkgaard cited in Hoffman, 2010, p. 204). The essence of the third position is that we use it to step out of complementary power relations in which we might feel done to by keeping faith with the intention of our connection. In this paper I tried to ground analytic work based on the intersubjective view of two participating subjectivities by understanding the developmental conditions of thirdness, both the early form of thirdness at the implicit level involving union experiences and accommodation, here called the rhythmic Third, as well as later explicit, symbolic forms of thirdness that recognize one’s own and others’ distinct perceptions, intentions or feelings, the differentiating Third. 1 Here, in this first 22 foray, I tried to show how clinically, the concept of a co-created or shared intersubjective thirdness helps to elucidate the breakdown into the twoness of complementarity in impasses and enactments and suggest how recognition is restored through surrender. This includes accepting moments of disruption and the need to acknowledge them to the patient as a surrender to “what is.”