In many analyses the patient’s wish to have a child is expressed during the first weeks or months. For a long time this wish was traced back to Oedipal wishes. This may well be correct. Nevertheless, the patient’s associations often show the narcissistic background to this wish very clearly.
For the patient this means: ‘I want to have somebody whom I can completely possess, and whom I can control (my mother always withdrew from me); somebody who will stay with me all the time and not only for four hours in the week. Right now I am nobody, but as a mother or a father I should be somebody, and others would value me more than they do now that I have no children.’ Or it may mean: ‘I want to give a child everything that I had to do without, he should be free, not have to deny himself, be able to develop freely. I want to give this chance to another human being.’
This second variation looks as though it were based on object relationships. But if that were so the patient would be able to take his time in fulfilling this wish – and to wait until he would be able to give from his abundance towards the end of his analysis. If however, this wish for a child at the beginning of the analysis cannot be delayed but shows such urgency, then it is rather an expression of the patient’s own great need.
Various aspects come together:
- The wish to have a mother who is available (the child as a new chance to achieve the good symbiosis, which the patient still seeks since he has never experienced it).
- The hope that with this birth the patient may become truly alive (the child as symbol for the patient’s true self).
- Unconscious communication about the patient’s own fate as a child, with the aid of compulsive repetition (the child as a rival sibling, and abandoned hope; the sibling’s birth had increased the patient’s loss of self, and with the birth of his child the patient would give up (for the time being) his hope of realizing his true self.
Alice Miller – The Drama of the Gifted Child p.102
The more unrealistic such feelings are and the less they fit present reality, the more clearly they show that they are concerned with unremembered situations from the past that are still to be discovered, If, however, the feeling concerned is not experienced but reasoned away, the discovery cannot take place, and depression will be triumphant.
After a long depressive phase, accompanied by suicidal thoughts, a forty-year-old patient was at last able to experience her violent, very early ambivalence in the transference. This was not immediately followed by visible relief but by a period full of mourning and tears. At the end of this period she said:
‘The world has not changed, there is so much evil and meanness all around me, and I see it even more clearly than before. Nevertheless, for the first time I find life really worth living. Perhaps this is because, for the first time, I have the feeling that I am really living my own life. And that is an exciting adventure. On the other hand, I can understand my suicidal ideas better now, especially those I had in my youth – it seemed pointless to carry on – because in a way I had always been living a life that wasn’t mine, that I didn’t want, and that I was ready to throw away.’
Alice Miller – The Drama of the Gifted Child p.78
As infant (mouth) and mother (breast) are not identical, or better, not one whole, any longer, a libidinal flow between infant and mother originates, in an urge towards re-establishing the original unity. It is this process in which consists the beginning constitution of a libidinal object. The emancipation from the mother, which entails the tension system between child and mother and the constitution of libidinal forces directed towards her, as well as of libidinal forces on the part of the mother toward the child – this emancipation and tension culminate in the phallic phase of the psychosexual development, lead to the Oedipus situation, and to the emergence of the super-ego.
The development away from primary narcissism, that is, the development of the ego, culminates in the resolution of the Oedipus conflict through the castration complex. The castration threat, directed against the gratification of libidinal urges toward the mother so that she is given up as a libidinal object, is seen as the representative of the demands of reality, and the submission to the castration threat as the decisive step in the establishment of the ego as based on the reality principle.
Hans Loewald – The Essential Loewald: Ego and Reality p.6