Friday, October 2, 2009

Sullivan: Empathy and the Significant Other

The "significant other" is a term which Sullivan (1947) uses to denote the most influential person in the child's world, usualy the mother. We have already described in the section on ego formation how the infant first receives an impression of the "mothering one" which gradually differentiates into a `Good Mother" and a "Bad Mother." Sullivan treats another concept in the area of infantile relationships—the concept of empathy.

Empathy refers to a "peculiar emotional linkage" between the infant and significant other. Long before he can understand what is happening to him, this "emotional contagion or communion" exists. Its greatest importance is said to be from six months to twenty-seven months, but it endures through life in some people. An example of empathy is a feeding situa¬tion in which a fright experienced by the mother results in eating disturbances on the part of the child. A vicious circle is set up, since the mother's anxiety decreases the infant's feeling of euphoria, which concequently makes the mother more anxious.

The basis for this unclear mode of emotional communication is thought to be biological, since animals exhibit a similiar phenomenon. However, the process is felt to be very portant for understanding acculturation.

Source: Sullivan, H, S., 1947. Conceptions of Modern Psychiatry. William Alanson White Psychiatric Foundation, Washington.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Freud’s View On The Death Instinct

     Freud originally divided the instincts into two categories:
(1) the self-preservation or ego instincts; and
(2) the sexual instincts.

The historical features in the development of his thinking are clearly outlined in Thompson not concern us here. The end result was a division into the life instinct, Eros, and the death instinct, Thanatos. The life instinct included libido and part of the ego instincts; the death instinct was a new and separate concept, fully as important as Eros. The death instinct, active immediately upon birth, refers to the tendency of organic life to return to its prior inorganic state. The process of living involves tension and the drive toward death aims at release of this tension. By this concept Freud hoped to account for self-destructive urges (e.g., suicide), aggression toward others (e.g., war), and the compulsive tendency to repeat earlier painful experiences. All mental phenomena are thus explainable in terms of fusions or mixtures of the two basic instincts.

Source : Thompson, Clara (1950) Psychoanalysis: Evolution and Development. Hermitage, New York