Last Updated on Sunday, 27 October 2013 20:37
Written by Anne Malone
Anne Malone interviews Donald Kalsched
An Interview with Donald Kalsched, author of The Inner World of Trauma: Archetypal Defenses of the Personal Spirit
AM: In reading your book, I have the sense that something new is being developed here.
DK: Well, I hope so. It might be fairer to say it's a new integration of a lot of material that has been in the field in a variety of ways. It's been known, for example, that there's a "tyrannical inner object" that has a great deal to do with psychological depression, with harsh super ego attack. Jung called it the negative animus. Odier calls it the "great malevolent beings in the psyche." Fairbairn calls it the internal saboteur, and Guntrip, the antilibidinal ego. What may be new in the book is my effort to show this as one half of what I call the "archetypal self care system," and that it's related to early trauma. If my hypothesis is correct, we can see this in dreams and other unconscious material as psyche's primitive defense. Building on what Fordham called "defenses of the Self," I suggest that in cases of early trauma, we see a remarkable wisdom in the psyche to assure survival of what I call the imperishable personal spirit, the essence of the person. That, along with seeing the destructive attack of the primitive Self that effort to 'kill' outer relations in an effort to prevent further trauma as analogous to auto-immune disease, I think may be new.
AM: How did you come to this insight?
DK: A number of years ago, I got interested in the fact that certain patients had dreams which seemed to contain images of unconscious defenses against strong affect. The dreamer might be suffering an encounter with frightening contentslet's say the dreamer is swimming in a lake near her childhood home at precisely the spot where at age four she almost drowned, and suddenly a large snake approaches in the water. As her fear mounts, suddenly the dream changes, and she's sitting in a sunny meadow with her favorite cat, feeling blissful. This break in the dream narrative shows us a dissociative defense a place where her psyche is unable to metabolize unbearable anxiety (related to the early trauma) and the dream maker simply changes the story.
AM: Her dream affect couldn't be symbolized?
DK: Well, it was symbolized by the break in the action. The dreamer was terrifiedperhaps becoming conscious of the terror of her four-year-old's trauma and suddenly she's in this blissful place, safe and secure again a clear victory for her "security operations." This intrigued me because Jung says very little about defenses in dreams. That was Freud's idea of the dream. Jung thought dreams were "just so stories" not defensive disguises. Jung is mostly right here, but there are dreams, especially with early trauma patients, where defenses are clearly pictured. Sometimes the defensive images are quite numinous to the dreamer. I began to wonder how to account for this fact.
AM: Is this where the unconscious archetypal defenses come in?
DK: Yes, but it's ironic how this came into focus for me. Winnicott helped me here. He describes how "primitive defenses" often emerge during childhood in order to preserve the self from psychotic anxieties of trauma. They do this by splitting the self between the true (inner) self and a false (outer) self, which is left to negotiate in the world. Winnicott acknowledges that these defenses are common to all humanity, and, he says, have "common denominators in anthropological lore." In other words, they are archetypal--archaic and typical. But Winnicott is mostly disparaging about these primitive defenses. He fails to appreciate the miracle at the core of the psyche's self-preservative operationsthe wisdom of the Self in their design.
Here Jung's archetypal understanding is essential. Yet Jung fails, I think, in a different direction. By emphasizing the Self's "intentions" toward individuation for the ego, he passes over the fact that when we encounter archetypal material clinically, half of the time we're in the realm of primitive defense. The dream material may have symbolic "meaning," but this meaning may be the total annihilation of the person's ability to integrate.
AM: Not exactly the "meaning" we tend to imagine.
DK: There is a meaning to those defenses which we must try to understand. Let's say that among reasonably healthy neurotics, as Jung shows, the Self promotes the union of psychic opposites a wholeness or integration (what Alchemy calls "the greater coniunctio"). But in the dreams of early trauma victims, we see something entirely differentat least for the first phase. There seems to be a "force" in the unconscious of these patients that attacks integration that conspires toward undifferentiated states of mind, that resemble trhe tate of Rapunzel in her tower, (what Alchemy calls "the lesser coniunctio,"the union of two things that are not sufficiently differentiated). That happy meadow with the girl and her pet cat in the dream example I gave earlier, is one of those magical "safe" places to which the traumatized child-ego retires not to fulfill a wish, but to preserve the personal spirit against unbearable affect which (at this stage) cannot be integrated or even experienced consciously. I give many clinical examples of this in the book.
AM: You talk about the greater versus the lesser coniunctio in your discussion of several fairy tales in the book. Could you say something about that?
DK: I've been intrigued to find that there's a lot of confirmation of trauma theory in fairytales. I've selected four of them for the book. The interesting thing that we find in fairytales is that they supply images of a two stage process of lesser coniunctio followed by a greater coniunctio in working through trauma. Usually, in the first part of the tale there's some kind of problem which is analogous to the patient's "presenting complaint," the place is a wasteland, or the miller is impoverished, or some other problem. Then a bewitching wizard or a diabolical figure comes on the scene and sweeps the innocent into some sort of castle or tower. That's the first part of the tale; that's the lesser coniunctio. There the person is usually presented with all kinds of treasures and possibilities, but it's all within this crystal palace. In the second part of the tale, once the wizard's powers (the transpersonal powers) have captured this part of the ego, the second part of the tale is about separating from those powers in order to gain the full 'humanization' of the protagonist. In that part of the tale, we usually find those helpful figures which represent the positive side of the transpersonal images. It's interesting to me that fairytales often depict the state of trauma as a movement from emptiness and alienation to bewitchment by dark powers at a moment of crisis usually accompanied by an eruption of huge affect. This leads ultimately to "enchantment," which is a positive state. There's a slow transformation of both of the heroine or hero and of the bewitching powers. And the tales actually show it.
AM: You mentioned the metaphor of the auto-immune system. It's really quite striking.
DK: Yes, the immune system analogy describes a particular form of the defense against unbearable pain where the psyche's aggression is turned on the self. The point about the immune system is that it's a killer! We'd all be dead if we didn't have killers inside us, called white cells or T cells. The immune system is capable of recognizing non-self elements like viruses and attacking and killing them. Some of the auto-immune diseases like AIDS are particularly problematic because of the trickster element. The system "thinks" it's attacking something dangerous, but its "enemy" is actually a vital aspect of the body. Let's imagine a very young child whose dependency needs are attacked or ignored by an over-burdened parent. Pretty soon, the child internalizes the parental attitude toward its own neediness and starts to attack itself as soon as its dependent need is felt. Such children become self-sufficient too early. Ronald Fairbairn has also taught us that they use their own aggression internally to defend against this need. This becomes a defensive structure. It continues to operate later when the person, as an adult, is in a situation which calls for opening up in an intimate relationship and exposing vulnerability to a love partner. The defense will see that opening up process just as it saw it when the person was eighteen months old, when the opening up was immediately followed by humiliation or shaming. So it will attack the inner world in the same way that the auto-immune system will attack the body's tissues, and it will cut off relatedness to aelf and others. and make the person defensive.
AM: The same thing happens in therapy when the therapist attempts to get close.
DK: Exactly. The therapist tries to get close to the shame ridden affect, and the resistance comes up. What put me onto this were several remarkable dreams that related to moments in therapy, such as the case of Mrs. Y. A very tender moment occurred in which we were watching a film of her childhood, and she saw tears in my eyes. This was a woman who could never ask for help for anything because she was so self- sufficient and afraid. In the past, getting close to her own needs and her tender feelings had been devastating for her. So there she was in the session, feeling very moved by this. She went home. She wrote poetry about it, and she was very touched by the whole experience. That night, she had a dream in which two women, long since separated, were reunited. They came together on a beautiful staircase, which reminded her of a uterus. One was dressed in red, one in green. Just at the moment of the meeting, the reunion after many years of separation, as my patient looked on hopefully, a shotgunner pulled the curtain aside, blasted the one woman in the face, and she fell down the staircase. A terrible, bloody scene! When she brought this dream in to me, she was numb, with eyes glazed over; whereas, the night before, she had been open and poetically moved. The dream had had an effect on her mood. It had cut her off. So that was a clue to me that something in the psyche doesn't like integration. We as Jungians are always more inclined to see integration as the longed for thing in the psyche; the Self in its greater coniunctio role of uniting the opposites wants integration. Well, this is the other side of that. This is something that doesn't want integration. For this beast in the psyche, integration is the worst imaginable thing.
AM: It means death.
DK: Actually it means healing, but to this defense structure, it means catastrophe, retraumatization. I talk about how these defenses aren't educable. They don't learn from experience. You can be received and warmly loved by your partner and you open up, but the defense doesn't learn from this. It keeps repeating the early dismemberment. We call this "repetition compulsion".
AM: Even if the person doesn't get destroyed from opening up?
DK: Yes. The defense will say, "You didn't mean it," or the person will rationalize this as an exception, it's just a fluke.
AM: Particularly if it comes from a therapist, as you make the point in the book. The defensive demon will say, "It's his job, someone else is in the waiting room. . ."
DK: Right. Very often it's exactly this edge in the therapy that's so difficult for people with early trauma. Therapy is, on one hand, a very intimate personal relationship in which a lot of feeling is mobilized in both the therapist and the client, and what happens in that compressed time of the sacred container is real for both parties. Traumatized individuals have a lot of trouble getting that together with the fact that this is a professional relationship, that this is the way the therapist makes his/her living. The "frame" of the therapy relationship can feel like a re-traumatization. The patient simply wants the therapist's love. Total mutuality is the desired illusionand a necessary one for the child in the patient. The therapist, however, is likely to experience this pressure for the "lesser coniunctio" as unwelcome.
AM: You talk about the lesser coniunctio as potentially addictive. Could you say some more about what that is in work with trauma?
DK: The person that has suffered a lot of early trauma has really had a terrible rupture in relationships. Early relationships are notoriously relationships of participation mystique, a fused union. Klein would say projective identification. But they're not relationships that we know as mature relationships, where there's self/object differentiation. The early relationship is a dual union of the child and his mother, as Erich Neumann said in The Child , and as the self psychologists have emphasized. When the dual union has been ruptured prematurely and that natural process of being one with the other has been truncated, there's a longing set up in the psyche to re-establish this state with another. There's also always a terrible resistance to re-establishing it. That state of oneness or dual unity or participation mystique or projective identification is a normal state, which in the usual process of maturation and development slowly yields to more differentiated self/object relationships through what Kohut calls "phase appropriate disillusionment." Melanie Klein says that it slowly yields to a state where the person is able to feel both love and hate towards the same person. Then that person takes on a three dimensionality as an autonomous object because the child can, as it were, see that object through binocular glasses, not just loved or hated, but both.
AM: The earlier state, the lesser coniunctio , is the union of two things ,like the mother and the baby in very early life,
DK: Yes, but you get a union of insufficiently differentiated entities in adult life, and you get a mess. It might be a state of addiction where the client or the child forms a kind of adhesive attachment to the object, terrified that separation will occur, or you might get a very addictive transference. It might be a passionate mess or a creative mess for awhile, but it can't sustain itself because it's sustained in "illusion" the illusion that you are "one" with the other and need never separate. There's always that hunger for the restoration of that early state. It's very difficult in therapy because two things are always going on: union and separation. Nobody could survive in therapy if they didn't have some capacity to sit in the treatment situation and know that they were separate from the therapist, that they and this therapist were meeting together to enhance their functioning, to bring a greater sense of fulfillment and satisfaction into their lives, and that this was their mutual goal. But another part, the child that hides in the transference, wants to crawl into the lap of the therapist and be held forever but it tends to be ashamed of that need. So, in therapy, we're always working with the lesser coniunctio and the greater coniunctio, and we're trying to honor both. A kind of cold analysis that never allows the lesser coniunctio experiences to happen can never promote the greater coniunctio because it doesn't allow the first stage. Whereas, a too gratifying analysis that doesn't have rigor in it, any toughness in it, can never get beyond those states of unity into the greater coniunctio, which requires frustration and requires suffering and sacrifice.
AM: Sacrifice of that fused state?
DK: Well, yes, because when we look at that fused state here things get much more complicated that fused state is recreated by the self-care system as a defense against the unbearable suffering of too early separation. It becomes a seductive undertow in the psyche. It always wants to pull the differentiated ego back in to prevent it from growing because growing meant trauma. It's almost as if the defense uses the regressive pull of the lesser coniunctio states, now established internally to pull the growing ego back into the unified state which is very addictive. Still, the healthy ego wants to individuate, to get itself out into life and differentiate, but the defense won't let this happen or extracts impossible reassurances. It's like an undertow into that old state. I call this defensive structure the "Queen Baby" or "King Baby" because people who are identified with that state of being are simultaneously very young in that they have a lot of unfulfilled infantile needs, and at the same time, they're very inflated and demanding. When you pull those two aspects apart, you can see that the dependent, disillusioned child is in the care of an imperious, tyrannical queen. You get the Queen Baby or the Witch and Rapunzel. If Queen Baby is going to give up its archetypal defense structure and get humanized, it has to sacrifice something, and what it has to sacrifice is simultaneously its omnipotence and its infantilism. In sacrifice, you always have two things going on. (That's why sacrifice is really a true sacrifice. It isn't a net loss, it's also a transformation of something onto a higher level.) A god is being emptied of its omnipotence while at the same time, hopefully, an infant or a child is gaining a measure of empowerment. Jung would say it's a sacrifice of infantile trends. That's true because the child grows, but it's also a sacrifice of the inflated entity in that structure. Sacrifice really has to do in a big way with the regulation, the homeostatic balancing of energies between the ego and Self. That's its role in primitive culture and that, I think, is its role in the therapy situation. Sometimes in the dreams of a patient there is someone who has to make a sacrifice, and some part of the patient will have to be sacrificed in order to make a move into the next stage.
AM: In one of the chapters based on the story of Rapunzel, you write:
In our story, Rapunzel represents that part of the personality that is held captive. In our case of Mary, we saw that this was also the addicted part of the personality, the part addicted to the witch, to a life of "bewitchment." I think the power of this negative enchantment is the most powerful resistance that therapists confront with Rapunzel patients and with the part of the therapist that identifies with their injuries. This seductive undertow in the work results from the fact that the inner sanctuary to which the beleaguered ego repairs in time of crisis is also a world that opens onto transpersonal energies. (p.156-italics in the original.)
I think that's where we can get hooked in our work with these patients, particularly if we have a Jungian bent. You can see right in. It's all there in front of youthe wonders of the psyche. There's a sense that because you can see it, it can be worked with, and very soon you find you're not in Kansas anymore.
DK: The patient hasn't been in Kansas for a long time. The patient's been in Oz. And if you have a particular love for the unconscious and the imaginal and they suddenly open up their Oz world to you, it's very alluring and very exciting. Pretty soon you're talking about nothing but archetypal dreams and archetypal mythological motifs and all the rest of it. All this is wonderful to a certain extent because it normalizes the schizoid world into which the patient has retreated and found God, as it were, but that's also the lesser coniunctio world. In the language of the fairy tale of Psyche and Eros, that's the crystal palace where everything goes fine as long as it's all under the shroud of darkness and you never light a lamp to see what the hell's going on. What you find is that the patient's life in this world is usually crummy. They're pretty unadapted, they don't have an empowered place in their own lives. Frequently their relationships tend to be very short lived or terribly dependent. Sometimes they're addicted to various substances. So the problem, then, for a Jungian analyst or therapist swimming around in this wonderful archetypal world is, How do you get Dorothy back to Kansas?
DK: To do that you have to see through the wizard. If you take The Wizard of Oz as an image, you have to depotentiate the wizard's power, and that has to do with seeing through the seductiveness of what I call the "system of fantasy," a substitutes for the creative use of the imagination. This is the Self in its survival function. The wizard came on the scene because he helped the child survive. But now, after many travels along the yellow brick road, this person needs the capacity to imagine things about the real world and to use the power of the imagination actuallytobe creative. To live a creative life in creative relationship will mean a sacrifice, a giving up of the wizard and his power, and wizards don't like to give up their power! They are always quite cross about it. As a matter of fact, the really wicked wizards will try to dismember you when you decide that you no longer have need for them. So usually you have to work out a contract with them. You have to let them know that they've done a wonderful job up till now, that you're going to retire them with good severance pay and good retirement benefits, but they're no longer needed.
Then something starts to change. Here's the miracle and the actual experience which has led me to talk about the Self as both light and dark, protective and persecutory. The fact is that as the spell casting wizard begins to give up, as the person begins to sacrifice the fantasizing system and its lesser coniunctio energies, he or she begins to hold more affect. Affect tolerance is the biggest issue here. People have to learn how to tolerate more affect without "splitting" and without going back into the fantasy system that had protected them yet cut them off from life. That also means tolerating more conflict. As that capacity grows, the negative wizard is replaced by a positive wizard. Edward Edinger talks about this as the moment when the sacralized ego comes under the aegis of the individuation process. The Self's energies were previously devoted to the survival of this person. As far as the self-care system knew, survival required the dissociation and splitting of the person into one part that was inside, cared for by the witch and another part that was outside, as a false self. Eventually, that survival self can give up its functioning and turn its energy over to the individuating Self, the side that Jung wrote most about. When there's a differentiated ego to relate to the Self, the guiding function of the Self is much more effective.
Most of Jung's patients display not the trauma process that I'm trying to document in the book, but the second process. Most were relatively healthy people with intact egos, who had very little relationship to the inner world, and that's why he was such a shaman for them. Once they started relating to the Self, there was all this imagery of the quadrated world, the centering process, the mandala image, and this incredible guiding function that the Self is quite capable of setting up. There are really two stages. I'm describing two stages in the relationship to the Self, and two stages that the Self has in relationship to the ego.
AM: So this is somewhat of a controversial position to take in the Jungian world?
DK: The controversial aspect of it is the question, "Can we talk about the dark side of the Self as such a potentially negative, evil, dangerous, even deadly entity as the first stage of defense in early trauma?" In the book I take this argument as far as to say that if unchecked, and that means, if the human relational world is not sufficiently engaged with the person to transform these negative energies, then all the felicitous, wonderful things that can happen in an individuation process are lost. The person's life can be a life truly ruled by evil, or ruled by self-destruction. In short, the question is, "Can we imagine a Self which supervises disintegrative as well as integrative processes?"
AM: By disintegrative processes, you mean destruction of others as well?
DK: Absolutely. Once this process starts and there is no affect tolerance, one's affectscan do a lot of damage. This is especially so when rage directed back at an inner world erupts outwardly. So the idea, I think, is faithful to Jung. It's the basis of Jung's Answer to Job where he talks about evil being in the godhead, in the primordial image of Yahweh. He says that Yahweh's right hand was mercy and his left hand was wrath, that the wonder of the Job experience was that Job had the capacity as a person to hold his suffering of the opposites in God and the confidence that if he suffered the wrathful side of God, the merciful side would emerge. He had more consciousness or capacity to hold the opposites than God did. Now theologically this is very problematic!
AM: It doesn't quite jibe with what I learned in Sunday school!
DK: Well, no, and I think that most theologically informed people would be hesitant to follow Jung this far in attributing that evil to God. I think they'd want to say that evil was an absence from God, or a separation from God, or the privatio boni argument, that Jung really didn't agree with. He wanted to make a statement that God was both evil and good. For example, Ann Ulanov says that Jung fell for the Devil's trick here because of his own personal difficulties in housing these things. She says he put them into God he put the aggression into God and really missed the enormously valuable and complex arguments that the privatio boni really contains. It's a complicated issue and the theological elements of it are really beyond me. I'm more interested in how the theory that we have matches the clinical experience and the experience that we all have internally. So far, the clinical evidence leads me to think that the same energies that are so diabolically negative seem to be linked to the energies that are so enhancing and positive. A tremendous amount depends upon human intervention; a frightening amount in terms of where this goes. Archetypal energies do not personalize without a person to receive their projection and then to transmute the prima materia into something useable. That is what psychoanalysis is about.
AM: It's a tremendous responsibility in the light of this material.
AM: In writing about a client whose inner figures match those in the Rapunzel tale, you say that you feel pretty safe in saying that Jung was one of these people who suffered a lot of trauma.
DK: One is always cautious in making any attribution of pathology to men as great as Jung. Let's just say that Jung suffered a lot of early trauma, and you see in the autobiography many instances where he was feeling unbearable pain, where in the middle of his pain Jung reports: "And then, it was as if a soundproof door closed and I was in touch with the world of the night sky and God's world and I thought to myself, 'Well, you know the teacher's just an idiot and your classmates are just fools. What do you care? You know about God's world.'" Now that was a defense and a defensive dissociation. What Jung discovered was that the world he fell into when he closed that door was a world full of transpersonal energies, it was the archetypal world. This is why I'm so interested in trauma and the transpersonal dimension. When the child who is traumatized falls through the great abyss of trauma, through the earthquake fault into the unconscious, he or she doesn't just fall into what Freud thought a world of bliss and defensive illusion. Instead one falls into a world of archetypal imagery, and frequently the archetypal world is a caretaking world. The threatened, mortified ego, the traumatized ego, is supported by wild wolves or is hidden in the reeds and fed by animals. It's the basic archetypal structure of the abandoned child that is somehow brought up or survives. If the human mother has let it down, the archetypal mother supports it. Jung, to his great credit, found through the lens of his own trauma, a way into that archetypal world and its spiritual depths. He not only found the ways in which the psyche is capable of sustaining the traumatized ego, but also, once the ego has overcome its trauma, that psyche has an intention for the individuating ego.
AM: It seems that a key element in the way you work is allowing clients to see your affective response to a certain extent.
DK: Yes, I think so, within limits. We're always trying to hold a tension of opposites in the analytic position. On the one hand, we don't want to disclose too much of our own personal responses and reactions because then the mystery in us that the client needs to project is lost. We become so well known and friendly and responsive that the patient pretty much ends up with a buddy and the transpersonal aspects of the transference don't get projected. So there's always a balance there between providing affect, which I tend to do a lot, particularly when somebody has not had a lot of mirroring. I try to keep the affect that I provide related to the clients material and not my own material. One always has to find a happy medium between what one discloses of one's personal feeling responses and a certain anonymity, which is also important for the process to go on.
AM: What is it that seems to make the difference in working with this kind of defense?
DK: First of all, maybe we should get clear from the beginning, people with this kind of trauma generally have a borderline structure. So everything that's been written about the borderline patient pertains. There's extreme difficulty establishing trust and an alliance with the therapist. There's a tendency to idealize the therapist on the one hand, and then, if the therapist strays from that idealized image, to diabolize him on the other. In working with these clients, one is always scrambling around for a therapeutic position in the middle of the swing between these extremes. If you can establish a working alliance, it is usually possible because of the predominance of a positive transference, the trusting capacity of the person, and your own registering of the child level that's been so wounded. Once that's established, then the difficulty is that the lesser concunctio is established in the transference. This is terribly important to the restoration of the ego-Self axis, but it becomes a defensive fortress. Then, the difficulty is working out of that and supplying enough frustration and challenge within the therapeutic milieu, so that the person can risk the negative feeling in the transference. The good stuff of the lesser coniunctio has to get a shadow, so to speak. This is the hardest part of the work because most of us who have entered the therapeutic field have done so because of our own narcissistic injuries, and we like to be rescuers. We like to be helpful, and we don't like to be the objects of ridicule, scorn, contempt, and rage.
AM: I've noticed that! (laughing)
DK: Now this is the hardest part of the work, but it doesn't all have to be done in the transference, thank God! Those analysts who think this is only going to happen in the transference are really over-emphasizing transference as the only medium. I've seen the trauma defense worked through in relationship to a spouse, and I've even seen a lot of powerful work on this defense done in relation to one's own children. This requires great consciousness, of course, and usually the analytic container is essential. Sometimes the analyst is the only person with whom the patient is intimate or trusting, and then the transference gets really heated up. Nobody leaves the self-care system without a fight, and the battle is with a truly demonic content which has "possessed " the true self of the client.
AM: I'm thinking of the many clients being traumatized by traumatized people, and they're asking, "How can a person think that way? How can a person act that way?" You assume that there must be some trauma in that other person who is raging or being destructive or highly controlling. I wonder how best to get this across to the average person what trauma means, what it can really do. And how ought one to deal with a boss who has this kind of dynamic, or a spouse, or a neighbor?
DK: Well, it's as Jung said, "What got into this person? What spirit possessed them?" Let's talk about what the structure is because that may imply ways of relating to it. Victims of early trauma generally have had their normal childhood dependency needs broken, or their own spiritual needs broken at a time when they were very dependent. Perhaps there's been repeated physical or sexual abuse. In such cases the self sufficient defenses have had to grow up too early, too soon. Therefore they tend to be self sufficient, independent, sometimes highly armored individuals who can't get close to others and who can't express needy feelings unless there's already a deep love bond there. There's an intolerance, then, in the inner world for states of dependency and neediness. Also there tends to be a lot of rage and aggression aggression that should have been available for empowering the self as an agent in the world. It could not be vented at the caregivers, so the aggression floods back into the self. As Fairbairn says, the child unconsciously uses the aggression to attack its own dependency. You get an inner world that's both brutal and sentimentally weak at the same time. It's like Hitler, who cried when his canary died; that kind of sentimental emotion which is infantile. Frequently people who have suffered a lot of early trauma and don't know it are extremely conscious of all the injured animals and innocent creatures in the world. What they don't realize is that there's an innocent creature in themselves that's been injured that needs attention while they're taking care of all of the wounded people or animals in the world.
So the inner structure is perpetrator/victim. That inner structure is going to get acted out by such a person. In such cases, it's a question of which side the person identifies with. I think it's fair to say that most women who have suffered trauma pick up the injured part of that structure and play out masochistic roles in relationship to sadistic figures, or at least that would be a tendency. Most men with this problem tend to be identified with the aggression because aggression seems to be more culturally allowed for men. Or maybe men have more aggression, I'm not sure. There are some studies that suggest that little boys seem much more inclined than little girls to play at destructive games. Whichever way this gets organized in the outer world, this is the way it's organized in the inner world. The question then becomes, what do you do with it? It depends on what you're dealing with.
AM: One type of situation that comes to mind is domestic violence. I think of the male batterer who shows the kind of sentimentality where he'll never let the daughter cut her hair. At the same time, he has a kind of contempt for the woman's feelings. You know, his condescending "It's ridiculous that you worry so much" or "Why are you so close to your sister." The woman, nevertheless, is drawn to that kind of wounded little kid in him when he first comes to her. She mothers that, and it ends up in a kind of a loop with the man. But if she just steps on the wrong toe or says the wrong thing ,or burns the toast, she's got that towering rage from him. Also, she's the target of his projective identification, "You shouldn't have so much feeling, you're so weak." For the woman to step back and not buy that anymore is such a huge thing. It's so powerful.
DK: The rage is powerful, it's intimidating, and it's genuinely dangerous.
AM: They take turns being the baby in the relationship.
DK: Yes, in effect, what the tyrannical figure in that situation has become is somewhat like Bluebeard in the fairy tale "Fitcher's Bird." The wizard in that tale keeps everything under complete control, and the devastation of his life is all trapped in this one room. When his wife finally has to come face to face with the butchery, she needs a center in herself in order to deal with that. That center in herself is something that's hard won. It takes enormous courage and enormous centeredness because she has to be careful not to inflame the archetypal rage. At the same time, she has to have enough integrity not to comply with its demands either. I guess, in dealing with this, what one needs is a well differentiated ego that's well related to one's own injury and one's own rage.
AM: It's interesting in that story that it's an egg she holds. It's certainly a feminine image that carries her through.
DK: And it's an egg that the wizard has given her! That's the biggest irony in that story. If you remember, the wizard has gone out capturing innocent maidens and has brought them all to his castle and told them one after the other that they have the run of the castle which is full of jewels and fancy things, except they must never look in this one room which contains the dismembered remains of all his previous female victims. The first two are chopped up and thrown into the bloody basin. To each one of these maidens he has given an egg with the instruction to preserve it at all cost and not to let any harm come to it. The first two took the egg in there with them but the third one takes great care and sets it aside before she enters the room. The egg is an image of potential lifeof life itself of the Self. The woman who protects that, takes it seriously, is given power over the wizard, who now wants to marry her because she represents something that she wants. The fact that the wizard has given the egg to each of these people suggests to me that the wizard wants to be transformed also. Ultimately, the wizard wants his inflated power to be seen through, which will force him to become the human being that he wants to be instead of being the isolated wizard.
What we're really talking about here is an internal structure that has to do with victim and perpetrator, which is organized socially also as victim and perpetrator. Jim Hillman and others have commented on how prevalent the victim/perpetrator psychology is in our culture today. The hardest thing for any perpetrator to realize is that there's an innocent, vulnerable core of the self that needs caring for. And the hardest thing for any innocent-identified victim to realize is that there's a perpetrator inside them. So the way out of this is the integration of the shadow, integration of the opposite, but when you have this kind of black and white, authoritarian psychology, integration is the worst imaginable thing. The psychology that puts the enemy "out there" doesn't want peace to happen. It doesn't want integration to occur. I marvel at how many of the of the persons assassinated in the last fifty years were individuals who refused to split, who insisted upon a reunion or union of opposites, starting with Lincoln, Anwar Sadat, Rabin in Israel, Martin Luther King, Gandhi. It's as though the people who stand for wholeness and integration of the opposites are a terrifying, devastating threat to people whose psychic economies require projection to get rid of the bad.
AM: That takes me into another question about the way in which "normal" folks may have a piece of what you're talking about, a place in the personality that can be touched that causes an eruption of a fierce self attack or an attack on others. It seems to come from a life or death level, out of what might be called a lacuna in the ego.
DK: Good point. That's a classic example of what Jung meant by the complex. The complex is that place where normal ego functions collapse, and you fall through into volcanic, archetypal affect. This is one of Jung's deep insights the multiplicity of the complexes. The ego is the one that's the most in control, but when something like this happens, the ego is completely unseated and an affect ego takes over. The affect ego is simply a channel for archetypal affects. So you've got those moments when you lose your mind and you're completely beside yourself, either with self recrimination or a temper tantrum. We'd have to reserve the possibility that there are, as you say, these lacunae where the same defenseive structure might operate in a more whole personality. One hopes that such a person would be capable after the fight of coming back and apologizing, saying, "Here's what I did just now," and later taking it back to their analyst or to the person who was injured and exploring where this came from.
AM: There is that sense of having dropped into the archetypal pool.
DK: Yes. One of the things that we're coming to now is an understanding of the difference between archetypal affect and feelings.
AM: What about that?
DK: I think it's one of the powers of Jung's model that we all start with archetypal affects. Henry Krystal's book on alexythymia talks about "ur affects." He talks about the young child who is simply in somatic states. Those are the states of the earliest affect: the child in bliss; or the child in rage, or the child in love or experiencing a joyful moment. It's a full body experience; it's not just a little feeling. Ultimately we develop an ego that houses those affects so that we give them form and articulation. We begin to know them, so they become more differentiated, toned down and humanized, and they become feelings. That doesn't mean that we don't occasionally fall into those pockets where they're not humanized.
AM: There's a point in the book where you say, "If an affect can have an image, it can be worked with."
DK: Well, it's in the nature of most affects to become images. That is what Jung meant by the archetype. It is affect on the body side, on the infra-red side of the spectrum, and it is metnal image on the ultra-violet side. If the psyche is functioning properly, the archetype communicates. It reaches symbolic form in the dream, and then you get a picture of what you're feeling or what you're not feeling.
AM: I'd like to conclude by referring to something that struck me during the Journal of Analytical Psychology conference in Maine, which we both attended last summer. People there were using object relations theory as a bridge between Jungian psychology and other schools of psychoanalytic thought. Object relations theory seems very alive in your work.
DK: Yes, it is. I think Jung was the first object relations theorist. Jung really took the psyche seriously. James Grotstein at that conference made a great comparison between Freud's and Jung's approaches to the unconscious. He said that Freud treated the unconscious the way the British treated the black peoples of the sub-continent of Africa. They colonized them and then they gave them pants and Bibles! What he means is that Freud tried to "civilize" the unconscious, seeing it as having very little to offer in itself except as it was transmuted into interpretable material such as dreams or transference. Jung saw the unconscious as a cauldron that was constantly producing personified images that were trying to communicate with the ego. Granted, many of these images were archaic images and typical images, that is, archetypal images, what the object relations people would call caricatured images or "part-object" images, but there were also persons in psyche. Hillman has a wonderful chapter on this in Revisioning Psychology The persons in the psyche, that's Jung. He found the typical figures in the psyche and said that we have reasons to look here and there for these persons. I think that Jung's own lexicon of the persons in the psyche fits some individual psychologies and doesn't fit others. But I do think that Jung was, nevertheless, the first object relations person, and one of the very best.
Donald Kalsched is Jungian analyst in private practice and a faculty member of the C.G. Jung Institute of New York.
Anne Malone is a licensed social worker in private practice in the Philadelphia area and Associate Editor of The Round Table Review.