DOI link for Reparative Mastery
Reparative Mastery book
The repetitive "unreal wishes" I described in the pre ceding chapter, however maladaptive they may be in the long run, serve the immediate purpose of maintaining a pseudointegratedness of the ego by means of which the patient seemingly functions as an autonomous personality in the face of disorganizing tension. Because they thus serve to "repair" breaches in the ego, I view them as instances of what I have previously termed "reparative mastery." Such "wishes" always betoken developmental failure in the reso lution of the symbiotic relationship of infancy: When depri vations of mothering result in severe trauma in infancy, ego functions whereby the infant recognizes himself as distinct from his surroundings and the agent of his own well-being do not develop to a degree sufficient to permit mastery of disorganizing states of tension. In their absence, to whatever
extent, such states of tension will be attributed by the patient neither to a need for symbiotic gratification nor, still less, to the developmental insufficiency that resulted from the frus tration of that need, but rather to an objective condition of his existence that can be rectified only by what amounts to, but cannot be recognized as, a renunciation of his subjectiv ity. When Schur's patient wishes that analysis would equip her with a penis (1966, p. 168), she wishes ultimately, meaninglessly, not to be herself. She wishes to exist in a state of undifferentiated union with the analyst that admits no distinction between self and non-self, a state as impos sible of being experienced subjectively as was that of symbi otic union with the mother, before the onset of subjectivity. This unrecognizable renunciation of subjectivity, to what ever extent it exists, is a renunciation of personal agency to that same extent. The patient's state of tension, which is his to master, is rather to be mastered by another, who performs precisely those functions that the patient cannot perform himself and that were originally performed by the symbiotic mother. Gratification of symbiotic dependency needs thus serves at once to reduce the disorganizing state of tension and to maintain the pseudointegratedness of the ego by preserving the symbiotic bond in fantasy. Needless to say, these developmental failures will vary in degree to the same extent as the episodes of trauma that gave them rise. As Freud wrote in 1940, "No human individual is spared such traumatic experiences; none escapes the repressions to which they give rise" (p. 185). This view agrees with my own that repetitive phenomena in treatment are expressions of ubiquitous biotraumata whose mastery, by repression proper, accounts for the phenomenal development of the human mind and whose failure to be mastered-whose persistence in primal repression -lies at the very heart of mental disorder, of schizophrenia in cases of overwhelming trauma, of neurosis in cases of lesser but still morbid
traumatization marked by attempts at reparative mastery. In the latter instance, the conflicts of later stages of develop ment will be superimposed on the original developmental failure.