Metaphor and Psychoanalysis: The Analyst's Metaphors: A Deconstructionist Perspective

by Donald L. Carveth

September 19, 2001


In simile one thing is said to be like another; in metaphor it is said to be another. As long as the metaphor is "alive" the equation is understood as an analogy, whereas in "dead" metaphor the identity of the terms is accepted. There is a tendency for "live" metaphors to regress into the "dead" metaphors that shape the thought and action of both analysands and analysts. Analytic concepts are sometimes little more than reifications of unconscious phantasies which, as "dead" metaphors, "possess" us. Such metaphorical monopolies reflect a fetishism of the imagination that breeds intolerance. On the other hand, "live" contrast, in which one thing is said to be (relatively) distinct from another, tends to regress to "dead" contrast or splitting in which two things are said to be (absolutely) antithetical. A conception of psychoanalysis as the enlightening transformation of "dead" metaphors (fusions) and contrasts (splits) into "live" ones is developed.


    Poor Mr. Casaubon had imagined that his long studious bachelorhood had stored up for him a compound interest of enjoyment, and that large drafts on his affections would not fail to be honoured; for we all of us, grave or light, get our thoughts entangled in metaphors, and act fatally on the strength of them.                                                      --George Eliot, Middlemarch

    As early as 1895, in the Studies on Hysteria (Breuer and Freud, 1893-95), Josef Breuer expressed a prescient concern regarding a tendency toward the literalization of metaphor in psychoanalytic theory. Influenced, no doubt, by the more general apprehension regarding the abuse of language shared by many leading Central European thinkers of that period (Steiner, 1969; Szasz, 1976b), Breuer wrote:

It is only too easy to fall into a habit of thought which assumes that every substantive has a substance behind it--which gradually comes to regard "consciousness" as standing for some actual thing; and when we have become accustomed to make use metaphorically of spatial relations, as in the term "sub-consciousness," we find as time goes on that we have actually formed an idea which has lost its metaphorical nature and which we can manipulate easily as though it was real. Our mythology is then complete. All our thinking tends to be accompanied and aided by spatial ideas, and we talk in spatial metaphors . . . .  If, however, we constantly bear in mind that all such spatial relations are metaphorical . . . we may nevertheless speak of a consciousness and a subconsciousness. But only on this condition (pp. 227-228).

    More recently, Leavy (1983) expressed a similar concern: "It is only when we stop to think about it that we can see what a momentous step this is, to give more than lip service to recognizing that our traditional metaphors--even 'repression' itself--might not be the most informative ones. Indeed, it gives us something of a jolt to acknowledge that they are metaphors--alternative descriptive words--in the first place, and not determinate, positive facts of the natural order" (p. 48).

    This paper discusses a few of the ways in which the experience of both analysands and analysts is unconsciously shaped by metaphors and contrasts that, having become literalized, have assumed the status of myths. In addition, a parallel is drawn between the deliteralization of metaphor and contrast--a practice resembling what has come to be known in poststructuralist literary and philosophical theory as "deconstruction" (Derrida, 1978, 1981; Culler, 1979; Sturrock, 1979; Meisel, 1981b)--and those "jolting" experiences of insight that characterize important phases of psychic development in general and the psychoanalytic process in particular. However, in keeping with Breuer's (Breuer & Freud, 1893-95) warning regarding "the danger of allowing ourselves to be tricked by our own figures of speech" (p. 228), this metaphorical concept of psychoanalysis as the "deconstruction" of literalized metaphor and contrast must itself be deliteralized and prevented from claiming, as mythologies inevitably do, an absolute and exclusive validity by implicitly invalidating all other metaphorical concepts of analysis. But although, like every metaphor, it is in no way complete or even adequate to describe a multi-faceted reality, the metaphor of analysis as the promotion of insight through deliteralization seems worth elaborating at a time when the cognitive dimension in general is receiving less attention than other, complementary aspects of the analytic process.

    The reflexive, self-questioning and even to some extent self-undermining strategy of this paper is characteristic of that genre of contemporary literary and philosophical criticism that seeks, precisely while analyzing the mythologies of others, to simultaneously "deconstruct" itself. This is a method that, far from representing something alien to the psychoanalytic tradition, may be viewed, like the analysis of countertransference in general, as an essential element of conscientious analytic work.1 One of its possible benefits may well be the emergence of an applied psychoanalysis of psychoanalysis.


    Metaphor may be defined as the "application of a name or descriptive term or phrase to an object or action to which it is imaginatively but not literally applicable (e.g., a glaring error, food for thought, leave no stone unturned) . . . . " (Sykes, 1982, p. 636). Similarly, in a paper on "Metaphor and the Psychoanalytic Situation," Arlow (1979) states that: "The word metaphor comes from the two Greek words meaning 'to carry over,' and refers to a set of linguistic processes whereby aspects of one object are carried over or transferred to another object so that the second object is spoken of as if it were the first" (p. 367). According to Bruyn (1966): "A metaphor is an implied comparison between things essentially unlike one another. It is so much a part of language we hardly notice it; for example, the 'leg' of a table, or the 'face' of a clock" (p. 133). In his 1963 Massey Lectures, The Educated Imagination, Frye (1963) writes that:

As soon as you use associative language, you begin using figures of speech. If you say this talk is dry and dull, you're using figures associating it with bread and breadknives. There are two main kinds of association, analogy and identity, two things that are like each other and two things that are each other. You can say with Burns, "My love's like a red, red rose," or you can say with Shakespeare: "Thou that art now the world's fresh ornament / And only herald to the gaudy spring." One produces the figure of speech called the simile; the other produces the figure called metaphor (pp. 10-11).

    Whereas in a metaphor the comparison between the two elements is only implied, in a simile it is explicitly stated in words such as "like" or "as": ". . . . the Kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed; as dead as a doornail; life, like a dome of many-coloured glass" (Sykes, 1982, p. 985). Whereas the simile and the metaphor are closely related figures of speech, the former is in an important respect a less hazardous one. Because the comparison is explicit in a simile, it is less likely to be mistaken for an identity. As Frye (1963) points out:

You have to be careful of associative language. You'll find that analogy, or likeness to something else, is very tricky to handle . . . . , because the differences are as important as the resemblances. As for metaphor, where you're really saying "this is that," you're turning your back on logic and reason completely, because logically two things can never be the same thing and still remain two things (p. 11).

    To social scientists and psychoanalysts concerned with what Wittgenstein (1958) called the "bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language" (p. 47), the metaphor is of central interest. Not only is psychoanalysis "the talking cure" based upon the method of free association, but according to  Arlow (1979, p. 382) transference and metaphor are two words for a single associative process. In addition, it would seem that the phenomenon known in psychoanalytic theory as regression from secondary to primary process mentation is paralleled in the tendency for metaphor to regress through literalization from the more differentiated level at which similarities are regarded as merely relative and comparison takes the form of analogy, to the less differentiated level at which similarities are absolutized and the representations of different objects are identified or merged. This process of dedifferentiation is described by Bruyn (1966) as a regression from "live" to "dead" metaphor:

Students of language such as Colin Turbayne (1962) are aware of stages in the life of the metaphor. The first stage involves giving a name to something that belongs to something else. Initially, this is generally thought to be inappropriate or "going against the ordinary language."  Examples would be Newton's calling sounds "vibrations," or we would imagine, Comte calling enduring social relationships "structure" [or Freud calling the mind an "apparatus"--D.C.]. The second stage is when the inappropriate name becomes appropriate, or in effect, a true metaphor. Other people besides the creator of the comparison acquiesce in the make-believe, yet still understand it to be only a comparison, not a complete identity. The third stage is when the metaphor is used so often that the difference is forgotten. The term then, as Turbayne would say, has moved from a "live" metaphor to a "dead" one. The identity is accepted (pp. 136-137).

    Once such literalization has occurred and a "live" metaphor has been regressively transformed into a "dead" one, one no longer compares the "leg" of a table, let us say, to the leg of a person (or the mental "apparatus" to a machine; or a woman to a castrated man) but literally thinks of the supports of a table as its legs (of the mind as a machine; of a woman as a castrate). "In the myth there is no recognition of difference or comparison; the identity is complete" (Bruyn, 1966, p. 137). The distinction between live and dead metaphor or myth overlaps to some degree Bion's (1962) distinction between alpha and beta elements (the former have undergone "alpha-betization"), which itself resembles Segal's (1957) distinction between symbolic representation and symbolic equation, which in its turn parallels Klein's (1946) distinction between the depressive (D)and paranoid-schizoid  (PS) positions. Whereas on the level of the depressive position the distinction between the metaphorical and the literal is maintained and each form of conceptualization and communication is employed in its proper domain, on the paranoid-schizoid level the distinction is blurred or lost altogether and the subject treats the metaphorical as the literal and vice versa.

    A drawback of the metaphors "dead" and "live" in this context is the false and unintended association of "dead" metaphor with states of relative emotional "deadness" and "live" metaphor with more "lively" states. In reality, "dead" or concretized metaphor, like paranoid-schizoid processes in general, can lead to states of great emotional intensity, while "live" metaphor, like depressive position phenomena in general, may produce more muted or modulated, even at times "deadened," emotional states. For example, if, as in the "dead" metaphor, "life is a jungle," then daily existence becomes a very intense matter of life or death. Just as it is necessary to overcome the splitting entailed in older notions of PS as all-bad and D as all-good by recognizing the good in PS and the bad in D and the dialectical interdependence of the two, so the merits of the primary process and of "dead" metaphor and contrast and the demerits of the secondary process and of "live" metaphor and contrast must be kept in mind. Beyond this, I think it is important to recognize PS and D, "dead" and "live" metaphor and contrast, as the polar extremes on a continuum the "intermediate area" of which may be viewed, following Winnicott (1955), as a "transitional process" in which metaphor and contrast are neither completely "dead" nor fully "alive."

    The association of nonliteralized or "live" metaphor with secondary process mentation (corresponding approximately to Lacan's [1977] Symbolic order) and of literalized or "dead" metaphor with the primary process (Lacan's Imaginary order) appears to be supported by Rogers (1978) who says of the latter: "It employs symbolism in a crudely associative way . . . . [which] differs from what people usually consider symbolism in that similarities are not realized as mere similarities but treated as identities" (p. 17). Rogers cites Fenichel in support of this view of the primary process: "The object and the idea of the object, the object and a picture or model of the object, the object and a part of the object are equated; similarities are not distinguished from identities; ego and nonego are not yet separated" (Fenichel, 1945, p. 47).

    Yet it would be a mistake to define primary and secondary process thinking exclusively in terms of absolute versus relative similarity (i.e., in terms of "dead" or "live" metaphor respectively). For primary and secondary process are equally concerned with the question of difference; either absolute difference in the case of the primary process antitheses which constitute splitting, or relative difference in the case of secondary process distinctions. Hence, in deliteralizing various metaphors we must guard against the opposite fallacy: that of literalizing various contrasts. For primary process mentation appears to be characterized as much by absolute antithesis as by absolute identity, by "dead" contrast as much as by "dead" metaphor. Although any two objects are inevitably similar in some respects while being different in others, it appears that individuals are frequently induced to repress either similarity or difference (splitters repressing similarity, linkers repressing difference) or both (at different times or on different levels of consciousness) by painful affects of anxiety and depression (Brenner, 1982) associated with an expanded range of infantile danger situations (expanded to include the danger of impingement or annihilation by bad objects in addition to loss of good ones). It is important to recognize, however, that the representations of danger (based on perception, memory, fantasy or their combination) which arouse such signal affects are themselves frequently characterized by literalized metaphor and contrast. As the analysis of transference and resistance and of their of their unconscious cognitive-affective foundations, psychoanalysis may be viewed as simultaneously deliteralizing and relativizing the associations (metaphors) and dissociations (antitheses or splits) which characterize the fixated and regressed individual's relatively undifferentiated and unintegrated mental functioning.


    The importance of metaphor in human experience and action--especially of "dead," literalized metaphors or myths--has recently been emphasized in an interesting study by Lakoff and Johnson (1980) of the Metaphors We Live By. They write:

Metaphor is for most people a device of the poetic imagination and the rhetorical flourish--a matter of extraordinary rather than ordinary language. Moreover, metaphor is typically viewed as characteristic of language alone, a matter of words rather than thought or action. For this reason, most people think they can get along perfectly well without metaphor. We have found, on the contrary, that metaphor is pervasive in everyday life, not just in language but in thought and action. Our ordinary conceptual system, in terms of which we both think and act is fundamentally metaphorical in nature . . . .   But our conceptual system is not something we are normally aware of (p. 3).

    As an example of the "dead" or literalized metaphors that unconsciously organize our everyday thought, affect and action, they focus upon the metaphor ARGUMENT IS WAR (p. 4):

Your claims are indefensible.
He attacked every weak point in my argument.
His criticisms were right on target.
I demolished his argument.
I've never won an argument with him.
You disagree? Okay, shoot!
If you use that strategy, he'll wipe you out.
He shot down all of my arguments.

    Lakoff and Johnson argue that:

It is important to see that we don't just talk about arguments in terms of war. We can actually win or lose arguments. We see the person we are arguing with as an opponent. We attack his positions and defend our own. We gain and lose ground. We plan and use strategies. If we find a position indefensible, we can abandon it and take a new line of attack. Many of the things we do in arguing are partially structured by the concept of war. Though there is no physical battle, there is a verbal battle, and the structure of argument--attack, defense, counterattack, etc.--reflects this. It is in this sense that the ARGUMENT IS WAR metaphor is one that we live by in this culture; it structures the actions we perform in arguing (p. 4).

    Try to imagine a culture where arguments are not viewed in terms of war, where no one wins or loses, where there is no sense of attacking or defending, gaining or losing ground. Imagine a culture where argument is viewed as a dance, the participants are seen as performers, and the goal is to perform in a balanced and aesthetically pleasing way. In such a culture, people would view arguments differently, experience them differently, carry them out differently, and talk about them differently . . . . (p. 5).

    Our conventional ways of talking about arguments presuppose a metaphor we are hardly ever conscious of. The metaphor is not merely in the words we use--it is in our very concept of an argument. The language of argument is not poetic, fanciful, or rhetorical; it is literal. We talk about arguments that way because we conceive of them that way--and we act according to the way we conceive things (p. 6).

    Lakoff and Johnson analyze a host of such literalized metaphors that unconsciously mediate our experience. Some further examples (p. 27) occur in the mapping THE MIND IS A MACHINE

We're still trying to grind out the solution to this equation.
My mind just isn't operating today.
Boy, the wheels are turning now!
I'm a little rusty today.
We've been working on this problem all day and now we're running out of steam.

    Psychoanalytic metapsychology is, in large part, an elaboration of the MIND IS A MACHINE metaphor that was pervasive in Freud's industrializing society. Currently, in the computer age, cybernetic metaphors have a growing appeal, which partially accounts for recent dissatisfaction with the mechanistic metapsychology.

    Psychoanalysts hardly need to be informed by Lakoff and Johnson about the prevalence in our culture of the metaphor, TIME IS MONEY (pp. 7-8):

You're wasting my time.
I don't have the time to give you.
I've invested a lot of time in her.
You need to budget your time.
You don't use your time profitably.

It is very difficult for us to imagine life in a culture where time is not money, or a resource, or a valuable commodity--as it seems it is not in many preindustrial societies (much to the consternation of European or American managers of branch plants in these societies who expect the local workers to behave as if they too were "possessed" by this metaphor).

    Of particular relevance for psychoanalysts interested in the concepts of "ego defect" and "deficit" in "psychic structure" is Lakoff and Johnson's discussion of the metaphor THE MIND IS A BRITTLE OBJECT (p. 27):

Her ego is very fragile.
He broke under cross-examination.
She is easily crushed.
The experience shattered him.
I'm going to pieces.
His mind snapped.

Those less inclined to literalize this metaphor are perhaps also less likely to regard certain borderline or psychotic patients as unanalyzable--or at least not on the grounds of their allegedly defective, deficient or broken mental "apparatuses."  However, that does not mean that there may not be other reasons to consider such people unanalyzable. Lemaire (1970) explains the Lacanian rationale for doing so as follows: "The neurotic has effected the transition to the symbolic order, whereas the psychotic . . . never effected it completely" (p. 7). Whereas, in neurosis, repression effects the forgetting of an already established symbolization (and, hence, the regression from "live" or secondary process to "dead" or primary process metaphor and contrast, in principle reversible through the analytic process), in psychosis "foreclosure" or "repudiation" has precluded accession to the principle of symbolization (and, hence, to "live" metaphor and contrast) as such: "The impossibility of re-evoking the foreclosed experience arises from the fact that the psychotic never really had access to the principle of symbolization" (p. 231). In this view, in order to be "revivified," metaphor must once have been "alive."

    On the other hand, those who reject the disjunction between neurosis and psychosis in favor of something like a continuum--perhaps sharing Sullivan's (1953) "one genus hypothesis" that "everyone is much more simply human than otherwise" (p. 32)--will seek explanations for the challenge these patients pose for psychoanalysis that avoid the odious implication that they are less than fully human. Although acknowledging that "one encounters patients who, one feels, never had attained (even before the schizophrenia became overt) any full differentiation between metaphorical and concrete thought" (pp. 579-580), Searles (1962) lays major emphasis upon the role of regression which he conceptualizes as a process of "desymbolization."  "By the term I refer to a process, seemingly at work in the schizophrenic patient, whereby the illness causes once-attained metaphorical meanings to become 'desymbolized'; and in the grip of the illness, the individual reacts to them as being literal meanings which he finds most puzzling" (p. 580). For Searles, it is not that the schizophrenic's thinking is concrete or literal or that he is unable to employ metaphor, but rather that in his thinking "there is a lack of differentiation between the concrete and the metaphorical" (p. 561)--i.e., that the metaphors he employs, being "dead" or literalized, are unrecognized by him as such. In this condition, his thinking is neither truly metaphorical (in the sense of "live" metaphor), nor truly concrete: ". . . . just as the schizophrenic is unable to think in effective, consensually validated metaphor, so too is he unable to think in terms which are genuinely concrete, free from an animistic kind of so-called metaphorical overlay" (p. 561).

    It is not unusual in the history of psychoanalytic theory for a psychic process originally regarded as pathological to be eventually recognized as characteristic of normal mental development. An example would be the extension of the concept of identification from its pathological role in melancholia (Freud, 1917 [1915]) to the status of a central process in normal ego and superego development (Freud, 1923). Similarly, so ubiquitous are "dead" metaphors and contrasts, or undifferentiated and black and white thinking respectively, in "normal" mentation that if schizophrenia were simply equated with the use of literalized metaphors and contrasts we would all have to be considered mad--a theory that, despite its considerable plausibility, has certain obvious drawbacks in that some of us, evidently, are crazier than others. It would seem that, as is so often the case in psychoanalysis, we are thrown back for our definitions of normal and pathological upon quantitative considerations and concepts such as Freud's (1916-17 [1915-17], p. 347) "complemental series."  In this view, instead of absolute contrasts between normality and neurosis, and between neurosis and psychosis--antitheses which themselves reflect regressive splitting--only a relative differentiation is recognized depending upon the prominence of "dead" metaphors and contrasts (i.e., primary process) in an individual's experience, among other factors.

    In this vein, Searles (1962) complains that: "Most of the writings on this subject [schizophrenic thought disorder] do not attract the psychotherapist, for they possess a certain static, fatalistic quality, portraying this aspect of schizophrenia as though it . . . . sets the schizophrenic hopelessly apart from his fellow human beings" (p. 561). In focusing upon the defensive function of desymbolization in warding off various painful affects, Searles enables us to view schizophrenia as meaningful action (Schafer, 1976) and not merely as a manifestation of a defective or deteriorated mental "apparatus" as those "possessed" by the metaphor THE MIND IS A BRITTLE OBJECT would have it. Searles writes:

Usually the loss of ego boundaries is regarded as a final, grievous result of the schizophrenic process, and in a sense this is so. But I have found it of the greatest value, in my therapeutic work, to realize that this loss of ego boundaries is one of the most vigorously formidable defence mechanisms which comprise the schizophrenic process. This latter view is not only accurate, but is particularly conducive to our approaching the chronic schizophrenic patient not as being solely a grievously broken object for our compassion, but as being also, like every other living person, a creature imbued with limitless energy and the unquenched potential, therefore, for limitless growth and change (p. 566).

    It can only serve to further counteract such objectification and the therapeutic pessimism that accompanies it if we also recognize that such defensive desymbolization is motivated by a range of infantile anxieties which themselves arise on the basis of our representations of danger--i.e., from literalized metaphors and contrasts amenable to analytic deconstruction.


    If, in their metapsychological writings at least, Freud and his followers have frequently appeared to be in the grip of a metaphor of the mind as a steam enngine or an electrical apparatus of some sort, Kohut and his students sometimes seem to regard "the self"--with its qualities of cohesiveness or vulnerability to fragmentation or disintegration under various circumstances--as something resembling a delicate ceramic artifact which may well have failed to harden properly in the kiln constituted by the early selfobjects. Such divergent guiding metaphors, particularly when literalized, are bound to significantly influence our ways of approaching our patients: one may occasionally take a hammer to a machine, but seldom to a piece of fine china, particularly if it is already cracked.

    In the view of Arlow (1979), "Psychoanalysis is essentially a metaphorical enterprise. The patient addresses the analyst metaphorically, the analyst listens and understands in a corresponding manner" (pp. 378-379). Arlow offers the following illustration provided by a student:

A woman patient is sitting outside the analyst's office right after having returned from a hairdresser. She is thoroughly dissatisfied with the job that had been done on her hair. It makes her look wretched and awful. The stuff that the beautician had put on is sticky and smelly. Her thoughts turn to the session which is about to begin and she thinks of the analyst and wonders, "Where do they get the name 'shrink' for a psychoanalyst?" At the beginning of the session she reports the thoughts she had had in the waiting room and continues with her feelings of dissatisfaction and hostility toward men that had been occupying her for the past few days. The painter, for example, who was cleaning the walls of the living room in her apartment had been using a sandblasting process. He had failed to take adequate precautions by preparing a sheet between the livlng room and the library and as a result the dirt from the sandblasting spilled over into the library. She was angry with the air conditioner repairman. He came too late; the machine had not been working properly and, as a result the water that had condensed while the machine was in action dripped onto the floor, spoiling the carpeting the patient had just installed and causing damage to the underlying flooring. Without further ado, the therapist asked the patient, "Are you menstruating?"  "Yes," she replied with great surprise, "I just began this morning. How did you know?" (pp. 378-379).

    Following Freud's (unfortunately inconsistent) rejection of the "symbolic" or "essentializing" (Burke, 1939) mode of interpretation, most analysts would likely disapprove of such jumping to conclusions without the analysand's own associations to her manifest discourse--a practice Arlow criticizes in the work of Sharpe (1940). This material could be indicative of a woman's irritation at a man's premature ejaculation ("he came too late"--i.e., too soon); a fear of pregnancy caused by his failure to "take adequate precautions by preparing a sheet between . . . . "; or even resentment at the analyst's "dirty" insinuations which sully and smear her character; among other possibilities. Nevertheless, Arlow's point is clear: psychoanalysis is essentially a metaphorical enterprise. As he explains:

Transference, perhaps the most significant instrumentality of psychoanalytic technique, and metaphor both mean exactly the same thing. They both refer to the carrying over of meaning from one set of situations to another. The transference in the psychoanalytic situation represents a metaphorical misapprehension of the relationship to the analyst. The patient says, feels, and thinks one thing about a specific person, the analyst, while really meaning another person, an object from childhood (p. 382).

    But to view transference as a metaphorical misapprehension of the relationship to the analyst and to hold that the analysand really means another person, is to overlook the overdetermination ("oversignification") of psychic reality, to succumb to the "symbolic" or "essentializing" mode of interpretation Arlow rejects and, hence, to adopt an oversimplified view of both transference and metaphor. Arlow's statement that "Under the influence of neurotic conflict, the patient perceives and experiences the world in a metaphorical way" (p. 374) suggests that metaphor (including transference) is primarily neurotic or distorting, an implication that seems inconsistent with his earlier statements that in metaphor "Substitution is not arbitrary but is based on a point of resemblance between the substituted word or phrase and its referent . . . . " (p. 367), and that "In my view metaphor is an inherent quality of language in general and of how the human mind integrates the experiences of the individual" (p. 373). Far from originating exclusively in neurotic conflict, metaphor is a universal feature of human mentation. Furthermore, if it is not entirely arbitrary but rests on a point of resemblance between the objects compared, metaphor must possess the power to illuminate as well as to obscure. The contributions by Langs (1978) and Gill (1982) are relevant here: not only may the analysand's perceptions of the analyst be, at times and to varying degrees, more accurate than distorted, but even the transference distortions usually depend upon a real point of resemblance, however faint and hedged about by fantasy, between current and past figures or situations.

    In addition, Arlow's discussion suffers from a failure to distinguish between "live" (secondary process) and "dead" (primary process) metaphor, and also to consider the possibility that if "dead" metaphor is an outcome of neurotic conflict the reverse might equally be true: neurotic conflict may be an outcome of "dead" metaphor. The hypothesis that neurotic conflict on the one hand and the literalization of metaphor (and contrast) on the other are, if not two aspects of a single process, at least related in a manner more complex than a unidirectional causation of the latter by the former need imply no intellectualistic evasion of the role of affect and impulse in human mentation. It merely suggests that, in the spirit of secondary process thinking, we ought to transcend splitting, in this case the splitting of cognition and affect, whether such splitting results in privileging affect and impulse over cognition or vice versa.

    It is essential to realize that although metaphorical thinking (i.e., all thinking) frequently obscures and distorts various aspects of an eternally incompletely knowable reality (Lacan's [1977] category of the Real as distinguished from the Imaginary and the Symbolic; Bion's [1962] "O"), it at the same time highlights and clarifies others. As Lakoff and Johnson put it:

The very systematicity that allows us to comprehend one aspect of a concept in terms of another (e.g., comprehending an aspect of arguing in terms of battle) will necessarily hide other aspects of the concept. In allowing us to focus on one aspect of a concept (e.g., the battling aspects of arguing), a metaphorical concept can keep us from focusing on other aspects of the concept that are inconsistent with that metaphor. For example, in the midst of a heated argument, when we are intent on attacking our opponent's position and defending our own, we may lose sight of the cooperative aspects of arguing (p. 10).

    An awareness of what we may lose sight of through metaphorical thinking must not blind us to what it helps us to perceive. Lakoff and Johnson conclude their study with the following reminder:

But metaphors are not merely things to be seen beyond. In fact, one can see beyond them only by using other metaphors. It is as though the ability to comprehend experience through metaphor were a sense, like seeing or touching or hearing, with metaphors providing the only ways to perceive and experience much of the world. Metaphor is as much a part of our functioning as our sense of touch, and as precious (p. 239).

    Hence, the problem is not metaphorical thinking as such, but rather the degeneration of such thinking through literalization in which enlightening comparisons are reduced to identities and "live" metaphors to "dead" ones. The problem is not transference as such, but the regression of "live" transferences (which add a quality of depth and vitality to personal relations) to "dead" ones (which in "dying" to the "play" of signification by becoming literal frequently become "deadly" serious).

    Szasz (1976a) puts it this way: "Literalization of metaphor: mistaking metaphor for fact. For example, in Roman Catholicism, the belief that the Eucharist is the body and blood of Christ" (p. 36). Szasz (1961) argues that the myth of mental illness

rests on a serious, albeit simple error: it rests on mistaking or confusing what is real with what is imitation; literal meaning with metaphorical meaning; medicine with morals. In other words . . . mental illness is a metaphorical disease . .  [and] bodily illness stands in the same relation to mental illness as a defective television set stands to a bad television program. Of course, the word "sick" is often used metaphorically. We call jokes "sick," economies "sick," sometimes even the whole world "sick"; but only when we call minds "sick" do we systematically mistake and strategically misinterpret metaphor for fact--and send for the doctor to "cure" the "illness." It is as if a television viewer were to send for a television repairman because he dislikes the program he sees on the screen (pp. x-xi).

    But whereas one might agree with Szasz that regarding psychological suffering as literally an illness is a metaphorical mystification, one need not become so preoccupied with overcoming this distorting literalization that one fails to appreciate the positive and illuminating aspects of the illness metaphor. Although functional psychological problems should not be confused with literal illnesses, neither should we be blind to the possible advantages to be derived from the self-conscious use of the illness metaphor qua metaphor. To simply replace the "dead" metaphor that equates psychological suffering with literal illness by a "dead" contrast which denies that the two phenomena have any similarity at all is merely to substitute one form of regressive thinking for another.

    Those of us who, like Szasz, are critics of linguistic mystification run the risk of expanding our campaign against literalized metaphor into a crusade against metaphor as such. This danger notwithstanding, the exclusive emphasis upon demythologization in Sontag's (1979) study of Illness as Metaphor is understandable. She writes: "My subject is not physical illness itself but the uses of illness as a figure or metaphor. My point is that it is not a metaphor, and that the most truthful way of regarding illness--and the healthiest way of being ill--is one most purified of, most resistant to, metaphorical thinking" (p. 3). One need not be hostile to metaphor as such to agree with Sontag's critique of the metaphorical mystification of cancer in our culture: "As long as a particular disease is treated as an evil, invincible predator, not just as a disease, most people with cancer will indeed be demoralized by learning what disease they have. The solution is hardly to stop telling cancer patients the truth, but to rectify the conception of the disease, to demythicize it" (pp. 6-7).

    It would seem that metaphor can promote both apprehension and misapprehension, perception and understanding, and misperception and misunderstanding. Some metaphors will obscure more than they illuminate; others will illuminate that which has been obscure. No doubt a metaphor will always obscure certain aspects of reality precisely in order to illuminate others of greater interest at the moment. To know one thing is not to know something else, as both the Gestalt psychologists and modern physicists after Heisenberg and Bohr have demonstrated. Perception is selective: it raises one element of a manifold reality into figure by relegating everything else to ground. We know A (the vase of the classic Gestalt illustration, for example) at the expense of B (the two faces) and we find it virtually impossible, it seems, to know both simultaneously.

    Fortunately, as an alternative to a fixation upon one perspective and ignorance or repression of all others, we are capable of achieving, through deliteralization, the cognitive flexibility to intentionally diversify and alternate our conceptual frameworks and languages such that reality may be approached first from one angle (or "vertex" to employ the Bionian [1962] term) and then from another. This is by no means to suggest that alternative perspectives should be confused or mixed, as in Ricoeur's (1970) defense of metapsychology as a "mixed discourse." For whereas the flexible variation of one's metaphors enhances perception and understanding, the use of mixed metaphors simply leads to confusion (as in the case of the "broken speech" that characterizes so much of metapsychology).

    The suggestion that we ought to vary or circulate our theoretical frameworks and languages (not mix them), which seems congruent with Freud's recommendation of "freely hovering attention," is nevertheless in direct opposition to the insistence by various theorists upon a unified discourse both in general psychoanalytic theory and, by implication at least, in clinical work as well. It is necessary, I believe, to oppose both the "mixed discourse" which confuses alternative models, as well as the "unified discourse" which emphasizes one metaphor--for example, "compromise-formation" (Brenner, 1982); "action" or "intentionality" (Schafer, 1976; Warme, 1982); or "the self" and the self-selfobject relationship (Kohut, 1971, 1977)--at the expense of all others. In an important sense, the trouble with the neurotic is that his discourse is all too unified--the paranoid being exemplary in his consistency of vision. We do our patients no service if in our own theory and practice we mirror their rigidity and reductionism.

    The suggestion that we vary, oscillate, or circulate our theoretical frameworks in order to be able to listen in a more open, subtle and multidimensional manner and to relate empathically to a broader range of the analysand's experience, occasionally meets with the objection that without the analyst's commitment to a coherent theoretical position of some sort as the basis for consistent interpretation, the analysis might become chaotic for both participants. There are a number of possible responses to this objection. Although it commits the fallacy of irrelevant reasoning, the ad hominem question of the unconscious roots of the critic's fear of analytic chaos can hardly be ruled out of court in a psychoanalytic context, in that psychoanalysis is by definition ad hominem. But beyond the question of motive, it is important to recognize that the alternation of one's listening frameworks is not the same as mixing or confusing them, or equivalent to the therapeutic nihilism that claims to have, or recommends, no conceptual model at all. One can listen consistently within one framework and then another, depending upon which perspective seems best to "fit" (economically, dynamically, hermeneutically, semiotically) the specific material or phase of the analytic process at hand.

    But, ultimately, one's preference for either a "unified discourse" or one characterized by "complementarity" will depend upon one's model of the analytic cure. Even if everyone agreed, for example, that the goal of analysis is the promotion of ego mastery, ego synthesis, or the cohesion of the self--and many would disagree with these ideas and even with the very notion than analysis should have a goal at all--there would remain serious differences as to how these attainments are to be conceptualized. For some, ego strength is evidenced in attained self-knowledge and a capacity for, and commitment to, a consistent vision of reality and the self. However, for others (e.g., Lacan) the strength of the personality has more to do with its capacity to transcend the "ego" or "self" (which for Lacan is a mere literalized, "dead" and deadening metaphor) and its defensive need for self-knowledge, consistency and synthesis, attainments that, like the "ego" itself, at best amount to illusions that falsify the multifaceted, ambiguous and paradoxical nature of the Real and which, therefore, can exist only on the basis of repression of the eternal Otherness (i.e., the unconscious) within the self. But even to say that one's attitude toward the question of models of analysis depends upon one's model of analysis is both to court involvement in an infinite regress and to indicate the inevitability of models--something which can be viewed as strengthening the argument for deliteralizing or circulating (as opposed to literalizing or essentializing) them.


    Since all knowing is mediated by metaphors that are inevitably partial and selective, our knowledge is necessarily relative and incomplete. It would seem that we must abandon our quixotic attempt to discover the meaning (as opposed to a range of complementary meanings) of anything, not least ourselves. A great deal of the very best thinking in various fields of modern thought suggests that our grandiose positivist aspiration to achieve an unmediated and absolute grasp of the Real (i.e., a godlike omniscience) must be relinquished and replaced by a principle of uncertainty--a sacrifice through which, from a conceit of knowledge, we might advance toward a rudimentary knowledge of our conceit. To say all this is in no way to succumb to a sterile relativism, for the overdetermination ("oversignification") of psychic realities has long been recognized, and analysts taught to emphasize (in their clinical work, if not always in their general theorizing), not the meaning of the phenomenon but only that meaning of many that is economically and dynamically most salient at any given moment. (Unfortunately, these very metaphors of "economics" and "dynamics" are not infrequently literalized themselves, resulting in what Habermas [1971, ch. 10] has called "the scientistic self-misunderstanding of metapsychology," a mystifying reification of the human psyche in mechanistic and biologistic terms that Lacan [1977] regarded as Freud's own repression of his discovery of repression--i.e., of the semiotic nature of the unconscious.)

    Rather than trying to determine the essential meaning to which any specimen of psychic reality may be reduced, psychoanalysis (at its best) has always sought to amplify the range of relevant significations. And just as the reductionist theorist is blind to every alternative to the essence upon which his attention is fixated, so the neurotic's problem is not that his thinking is metaphorical but rather that he is possessed by his metaphor (or contrast) rather than being in possession of it; that he is used by it rather than using it critically in his thinking and acting. Far from being an attempt at the elimination of metaphorical thinking (or of transference), psychoanalysis (as "metaphor-analysis") is an exercise in becoming conscious and self-critical in our employment of the metaphors (and contrasts) we live by.

    ln deliteralizing Freud's mythology of the mind as a machine determined by (metaphorical) forces, energies, and mechanisms--i.e., metapsychology--we need not succumb to an equally literalized and one-sided voluntaristic mythology of intentionality and free action that ignores the degree to which we frequently are victims of the "dead" metaphors and contrasts that so often control our thought and action. Although, as human subjects, we are free from the type of mechanical determinism that may be thought to apply to the material world (to which as material and biological objects we are at the same time subjected), we are frequently governed by a distinctively human semiotic determination by the symbolic structures that "live us" (Carveth, 1984a). To be in the (metaphorical) grip of a "dead" metaphor or contrast (i.e., a metaphor or contrast that, being literalized or absolutized, is simply taken for granted) is in an important sense to be unfree both to think along different channels and, hence, to act along different lines. As Wittgenstein (1958) put it: "A picture held us captive and we could not get outside it, for it lay in our language and language seemed to repeat it to us inexorably" (p. 48).

    Fortunately, as human subjects we possess the capacity to reflect upon our metaphors and contrasts and, hence, to liberate ourselves from our "possession" by them to some degree. Such emancipation replaces primary process identities and antitheses with secondary process analogies and distinctions. One is now aware that there are two phenomena being compared that are not alike in all respects, and that the two phenomena being contrasted are not absolutely antithetical. Just as a contrast no longer denies all possible similarities, so one metaphor no longer swallows up all other possible analogies. In the famous allegory of the four blind men and the elephant in some respects it is like a snake (its tail), in others like a tree trunk (legs), in others like a hose (trunk), and in still others like a fan (ears). As Freud (1919) put it:

A name, however, is only a label applied to distinguish a thing from other similar things, not a syllabus, a description of its content or a definition. And the two objects compared need only coincide at a single point and may be entirely different from each other in everything else. What is psychical is something so unique and peculiar to itself that no one comparison can reflect its nature (p. 161).

    It is only necessary to add that the two objects contrasted need only differ at a single point and may be entirely similar to each other in everything else. What is psychical is something so unique and peculiar to itself that no absolute comparison or contrast can reflect its nature, but only that type of secondary process discourse that attends to both relative similarities and relative differences.

    The import of statements such as this one (which occur not infrequently in Freud's writings) and of his insistence upon the necessity of obtaining the patient's associations to his material--his partial surrender to Stekel's idea of universal symbolism (Meisel, 1981b) notwithstanding--lies in the suggestion that the nature of psychic reality is such that no one interpretation can ever hope to exhaust its manifold meanings. It is precisely on this score that Arlow (1979) criticizes Sharpe's (1940) employment of what Burke (1939) called an "essentializing" as opposed to a "contextualizing" hermeneutic. According to Arlow,

Sharpe seemed to separate metaphors from their background; that is, she seemed to remove them from their dynamic context, with the end result that specific metaphorical expressions came to take on a uniform, standardized meaning in keeping with basic Kleinian concepts. She listed a set of metaphorical expressions that can be taken to have the same meaning for any patient. Thus, instead of expanding communication by way of metaphor, she contracted the metaphor into standardized, dictionary-type significations (p. 370).

    Unfortunately, this "essentializing" or "logocentric" (Derrida, 1978) strategy is by no means restricted to Kleinians and Jungians. An examination of The Interpretation of Dreams (Freud, 1900, Ch. V [D] and Ch. VI [E]) and the Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis (Freud, 1916-17 [ 1915-17], Lecture 10) will reveal that it was also characteristic of Freud's practice, at least in respect to the so-called "symbolism" of dreams and "typical" dreams. It has since been the characteristic abuse or vulgarization of the psychoanalytic interpretive method.

    The positing of the meaning of any signifier, text, or psychic reality itself reflects a regression from "live" to "dead" metaphor, a literalization of meaning, and a mystifying insistence that analogy is identity or that a complex system  of signification is reducible to one of its elements regarded as an essence. This "essentializing" strategy reflects a misunderstanding of the nature of psychic reality as a semiotic system in which each signifier holds meaning primarily in relation to the others within the system, and only indirectly in relation to an eternally incompletely knowable presymbolic or extrasymbolic Reality outside the signifying chain (Bion's "O"). It is a fallacy that appears to be motivated by the wish to evade the anxiety and depression that are frequently associated with the uncertainty intrinsic to our human condition as "world-open" (Berger and Luckmann, 1967) and symbol-using animals (Langer, 1951), affects that psychoanalysis recognizes as related to various infantile fantasies and fears. In the view of the early Sartre (1943), the search for "essence" results in those varieties of "bad faith" in which we seek to evade the inherent tension or ambiguity which, as subjective objects or objective subjects, is an ineradicable aspect of our "existence."  In psychoanalytic terms, such "essentializing" is motivated by the affects associated with one or more of an expanded range of infantile danger-situations that lead one to embrace some metaphor, antithesis, or theory--even psychoanalytic theory itself--as a fetishistic or idolatrous defense against the dangers represented by the otherness (the difference despite the similarity and the similarity despite the difference) that the specific theory seeks to repress.


    In drawing attention to the infantile anxieties motivating the "essentializing" or "absolutizing" of similarity and difference that constitute the regression from secondary process or "live" metaphors and contrasts to the "dead" identities and antitheses characteristic of the undifferentiated and split representations of the primary process, we draw attention to the affective element of such cognitive regression. For it is important to avoid the implication that psychopathology entails a purely cognitive error, a mere linguistic mystification, having no emotional or affective determinants or concomitants. However, the issue of whether unconscious emotional ("instinctual") conflict causes the cognitive regression (as a classical psychoanalytic perspective would hold), or vice versa (as a cognitive or reductively linguistic psychoanalysis would claim), is a classic "chicken and egg" problem. Do people embrace the metaphor LIFE (ARGUMENT; ANALYSIS) IS WAR because of their anal sadistic impulses?  Or is their sadism itself the result of their "possession" by this metaphor?  We call people sadistic because of the ways in which they characteristically feel and act (consciously, preconsciously, and unconsciously). But action and feeling are guided by metaphors and contrasts--in this case such metaphors as LIFE IS A JUNGLE and such related oral, anal, and phallic antitheses as EATER/EATEN, CONTROLLER/CONTROLLED, CASTRATOR/CASTRATED, among others. Viewing the world in these terms, a person will manifest those feelings, impulses, and actions that together constitute the sadism which is supposed to give rise to this view of the world.

    Far from being primary, psychobiological "givens," the only "drives" that make an appearance in the analytic discourse arise themselves on the basis of, and in relation to, various of the analysand's metaphorical concepts of his situation or self. For example, conceiving oneself as a "lack," one may experience desire for that which is imagined to be missing and an aggressive impulse to take it from those whom one envies for possessing it. But if the metaphor of the self as empty and lacking were to be genuinely relinquished (not merely replaced by a compensatory self-image as full and complete), the libidinal and aggressive desires (literalized in our metapsychology as sexual and aggressive "instincts") would dissolve and be revealed as no more primary than their metaphorical foundation. Once again, we encounter here the binary opposition: impulse or affect versus cognition. The temptation is to absolutize either their difference and then proceed to privilege one or the other term as the more fundamental or real, or to absolutize their similarity and to insist that the distinction between them is illusory. In my view, affect and  cognition are different but mutually influencing features of psychic reality. Not only may one's view of life as a jungle evoke sadistic impulses, and one's view of oneself as a lack stimulate desire for what seems to be missing, but the presence of such impulses and affects in one's character may motivate both the maintenance of these views of reality and their resistance to change.

    A recent newspaper article quoted a well-known American writer as follows: "Writing's gotten to be a habit. Sometimes the books do seem kind of silly and very papery, but there are moments when a sentence or a series of little sentences clicks makes a kind of music and suddenly feels hard, as though this were the tip of something like a big rock--that you've actually delivered this hard point and there is reality growing and and thrusting away under these words. That sort of keeps you going back every day."  The quoted author's recent work has touched on the subject of writer's block. The connection between the phallic metaphor and the possibility of inhibition would be described in the terms of Hartmann's (1964) ego psychology as the resexualization of an ego function and its removal from the conflict-free ego sphere and reinvolvement in conflict. Perhaps a simpler way of putting it would be to say that when one is "possessed" by the metaphor WRITING IS FUCKING, the former activity is likely to become heir to all the fantasies and conflicts to which the latter may be subject. To view the metaphor and the inhibition as the outcome of deneutralization or resexualization and reaggressivization is to privilege impulse or affect over cognition, whereas to view the impulses and their inhibition as the outcome of the phallic metaphor is to privilege cognition over impulse or affect.

    The following is a clinical example of the therapeutic deliteralization of metaphor (i.e., of the unconscious becoming conscious). For some time, a young man in psychoanalytically oriented psychotherapy had been engaged in political activity devoted to blocking development and testing of the American cruise missile. He would arrive at his sessions wearing various buttons pertaining to disarmament and related issues (e.g., "Block the Cruise!"). For some time he had been concerned about his difficulties in asserting his masculinity and in establishing and maintaining relationships with young women. Several friends had recently told him that he was always inhibiting his assertiveness--a theme that had been touched on many times in his therapy, but which now seemed to be becoming central. On this particular day, he was speaking of his readiness to sympathize with certain views of the victimized and downtrodden woman, of his guilty compliance with the accusations against men presented by certain feminists, and his tendency to identify with the image of the female as mistreated and damaged. On the basis of these and other of the patient's associations, the therapist commented that it seemed that he viewed the male as a sadistic attacker, the male organ as an instrument of violence and oppression, and sexual intercourse as a kind of annihilation of the woman. At this point, the patient sat forward and exclaimed: "The cruise missile! I've been blocking my missile!"

    Needless to say, this man's politics and commitment to nuclear disarmament were in no way undermined or invalidated by his insight: he merely began to become aware of some of the regressively absolutized metaphors and contrasts mingled with them. Hopefully, this kind of insight will enable him to stop working for his own "disarmament" and, hence, assist him to pursue more actively and effectively the cause of real disarmament or whatever other goals to which he chooses to commit himself. Perhaps deliteralizing his metaphorical and grandiose association of his phallus with a weapon of mass destruction will free him to combat this dead and deadly metaphor in society at large. For, unfortunately, far from representing an exceptional form of psychopathology, this unconscious equation appears to be widespread, at least among males, in our culture--an instance of the "pathology of cultural communities" (Freud, 1930, p. 144) that no doubt has much to do with the creation of such weapons in the first place and with their increasingly likely eventual use in a metaphorical phallic apocalypse which, although resulting only in a universal metaphorical castration, will spell utter disaster in reality.

    In this vignette, the therapist's comments addressed the patient's cognitive regression (his literalized metaphorical equation of his phallus with a lethal weapon) rather than the unconscious hostile and destructive impulses toward women accompanying it. Although it is valid to argue that the "deadness" of the metaphor is related to intrapsychic conflict involving such aggressive wishes, it would be misleading to conclude that such "instinctual" factors are the primary causes whereas the literalized metaphors and contrasts are merely their derivative effects. For on further analysis it may well appear that such aggressive aims are themselves the sadomasochistic effects of a literalized metaphor of the female as a castrating, dominating, devouring and annihilating destroyer who must herself be destroyed if one is to have any hope of survival in light of the metaphorical equation LIFE IS A JUNGLE and its accompanying dichotomy KILLER/KILLED. The inclination to find the ultimate sources of intrapsychic conflict in the "instinctual drives" entails the risk of premature termination of the analytic inquiry which, if permitted to continue, might discover that, rather than representing the "bedrock" of human nature, such "drives" are to a considerable extent themselves responses to and concomitants of the unconscious assumptions and literalized metaphors and contrasts that constitute the taken-for-granted vision of reality upon which such "drives" are premised and from which they derive.

    Outside this view of the unconscious sexual, aggressive and narcissistic wishes as resting upon particular assumptions regarding the nature of reality, the self, and others--assumptions that can be discovered, subjected to reality-testing or critical analysis, and revised--it is hard to conceive of any model of psychoanalytic cure other than as a shift from relatively pathological to relatively normal compromise formations involving the immortal "drives" (Brenner, 1982). But this latter perspective not only underestimates the dependency of the "drives" upon cognitive factors, thus underestimating the potential for fundamental personality change through cognitive reorganization, it remains ambiguous in light of Brenner's (1982) equivocations over the nature of the "drives."  On one hand, he dismisses their alleged somatic sources in favor of what he claims is a purely psychological conceptualization, while on the other he continues to refer to "drive derivatives" and to imply that something pre- or extra-psychological exists as the real foundation from which such "derivatives" are derived.

    But aside from theoretical arguments in favor of a purely psychological conception of the human motive as a cognitive-affective complex or gestalt, a technical argument can be made in favor of emphasizing the cognitive equation over its accompanying unconscious wishes and affects, at least initially. For the interpretive calling into question of a literalized metaphor or contrast is less likely to be experienced by the patient as a moralistic attack or a narcissistic injury and, hence, is less likely to intensify resistance or arouse iatrogenic negative transference than would interpretation of the repressed wishes, which in any case are themselves bound up with more encompassing taken-for-granted visions of reality. If, for example, a young woman's unconscious metaphorical equation of a doctoral degree with the phallus is associated with her penis envy, it is equally the case that the affects and wishes constituting such envy are contingent upon the cognitive conviction that she is lacking something that "whole" or "complete" people possess. The analytic deliteralization of this metaphor of the self as a lack or a deficit and the exploration of its genesis and effects has the virtue of preserving both the analysand and analytic theorists from the fallacy entailed in reifying such reactive affects as rage and envy and mistaking them for "bedrock" elements of an innately depraved human nature. Even if they are regarded as derivatives of metaphors that might themselves be in some sense inevitable, such affects may not only be discovered and mastered, but also considerably diminished through the subjection of their metaphorical foundations to a process of reality-testing.


    As we have seen, it is not just our patients, or the "normopaths" (McDougall, 1980, ch.13; 1983, p. 2) who so rarely become our patients, whose minds are "possessed" by literalized metaphors and contrasts: the same appears to be true of us, both in our general theory and in our conceptions of the therapeutic process and its practice. Here are some illustrations, starting in the realm of psychoanalytic theory. In the space of one page, Freud (1933) moves from discussing "The girl's recognition of the fact of her being without a penis," to the statement that "The discovery that she is castrated is a turning-point in a girl's growth" (pp. 125-126). It is essential to realize that the girl's recognition of the fact of her being without a penis is by no means the discovery that she is castrated. How could she "discover" she is castrated when she is not?  Yet the fantasy that the fact of her being without a penis means she is castrated (i.e., the metaphor FEMALE IS CASTRATE) plays a very significant role in the psychological development of many women. The trouble is that Freud not only discovered and described the unconscious castration metaphor in these women, but he unconsciously agreed with it (i.e., was "possessed" by it himself).

    Similarly, Kohut (1971, 1977) observed that many analysands suffering from narcissistic problems think of their "selves" as being prone to fragmentation, disintegration or enfeeblement under certain circumstances. Kohut made an important contribution by drawing our attention to and describing such fragmentation experiences and particularly in illuminating their significance in the context of the self-selfobject transferences. However, such experiencing of "the self" as some "thing" which can either cohere or fragment is a metaphorical equation calling for analytic deliteralization rather than reification in a psychology of the self. The activity in which both Freud and Kohut are to some extent here engaged is not really psychoanalytic, for little is being analyzed. Instead, the analysand's unanalyzed metaphors are being re-presented as psychoanalytic theory.

    In a paper entitled "On Hybrid Concepts in Psychoanalysis," Slap and Levine (1978) observe that "Psychoanalytic discourse is increasingly pervaded by concepts which are strange hybrids that combine tangible observable data with abstract, at times abstruse, constructs drawn from metapsychology" (p. 499). The reification of the concepts id, ego, and superego (i.e., their treatment as concrete entities) is a well-known theoretical pitfall. Quoting Kohut (1971, p. 20), Slap and Levine (1978) offer an example of the use of a hybrid concept in self psychology: "Because of its structural deficiencies, 'in the narcissistic personality disturbances . . . the ego's anxiety relates primarily to its awareness of the vulnerability of the mature self [to] . . . temporary fragmentation'" (p. 505). Not only is a metapsychological construct, the ego, anthropomorphized into a person capable of experiencing anxiety and awareness of vulnerability, but it is said to be aware of the vulnerability to fragmentation of another metapsychological construct, the self. Slap and Levine comment: "Kohut frequently uses metapsychological terms as though they refer not to abstractions, but to substantial phenomena--even ones the individual can perceive directly" (p. 507).

    When analytic inquiry is terminated prematurely by the conclusion that we have encountered something irreducible, it matters little whether such "bedrock" is conceptualized as "drives" or as states of "the self."  In either case there is little attempt to analyze the fantasies (metaphors and contrasts) underlying such alleged fundamentals that, in accordance with the "essentializing" mode of interpretation, tend to be regarded as psychic essences or uncaused causes. Rather than analyzing as metaphors or fantasies the analysand's reports of his "self" and its states of cohesion or fragmentation, Kohut shares in their literalization and incorporates the results into his theoretical framework. Similarly, one can make a case that, in Civilization and Its Discontents, Freud (1930) may have displaced and intellectualized his own (and others') castration fantasies and anxieties into a view of civilization as a dominating and oppressive or repressive authority (a castrating father?) and presented the result as a psychoanalytic theory of socialization and a contribution to social psychology. In addition, as noted, Freud's own (and others') fantasy of the female as a castrated male seriously distorted the female psychology in which he attempted to explain (correctly in my view) the role of this metaphor in the psychodynamics of many women.

    Slap and Levine give the following illustration of the extremes to which we may be led by the use of hybrid concepts: "The interpretation of a fellatio fantasy as a wish to incorporate psychic structure demonstrates in bold relief the kinds of conceptual difficulties that can result from reifying the construct of psychic structure. In addition, this formulation would seem to lend support to the patient's fantasy that he is, in fact, missing something which big, powerful men possess" (p. 511). Could it be that such is the seductive power of the metaphorical concept of psychic "structure" that some analysts have been led to conceive of their task as that of offering themselves as a kind of cement with which their patients may repair their ego defects and the cracks and deficits in their "selves" through "selective identification" or "transmuting internalization"?  As Schafer (1976, ch.8) has pointed out, the very notion of "internalization" rests upon fantasies of oral incorporation and of an inner world of inner presences (introjected good and bad objects and part-objects), metaphors that appear to be quite "dead" or "frozen" in the thinking of some theorists. Should not our theory result from and our technique entail the "resurrection" or "melting" of such fantasies (i.e., their analysis), rather than being a symptomatic manifestation of them?

    But even while criticizing the reifications of others, Slap and Levine fall into the same error themselves when they recommend "a clinical dynamic account of the conflict situation in terms which would remain close to the data of observation, namely that the patient's ego reacts with anxiety to a wishful fantasy" (p. 517). Apparently, certain classical metapsychological abstractions such as "ego" are to be permitted to be used in the hybrid way they reject in the work of others. In all fairness, if we reject "the fallacy of misplaced concreteness" (Whitehead, 1925, p. 52) in the work of other psychoanalytic theorists, surely we must also reject it in Freud's own work? The patient's "ego" does not react with anxiety: the patient does. No doubt these authors see this as merely an inoffensive "shorthand" use of hybrid concepts. But it is a very short step from such "shorthand" use of "ego" to the more serious conceptual confusions they document. Few psychoanalysts would regard such linguistic circumspection as having a merely "academic" interest irrelevant to day-to-day clinical practice, for such dismissal of the careful concern with words runs contrary to the spirit of "the talking cure" and the psychoanalytic interpretive art. But in order to demonstrate the clinical significance of our theme, we turn to an examination of some of the common metaphors we employ in thinking (and fantasying) about our clinical work.

    The natural place to begin is with Freud's two most famous (or infamous) metaphors for the analyst: THE ANALYST IS A MIRROR and THE ANALYST IS A SURGEON. Regarding the former, in his "Recommendations to Physicians Practising Psycho-Analysis," Freud (1912b) writes that "The doctor should be opaque to his patients and, like a mirror, should show them nothing but what is shown to him" (p. 118). Stone (1981) has placed this metaphor of Freud's in the context of his, often very different metaphors for the analytic relationship, as well as contrasting it with what we know of his actual behavior toward analysands. Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that the mirror metaphor has had a profound influence upon the self-conceptions and behavior of many psychoanalysts, and not merely upon those who consider themselves "classical" analysts, or those who took this metaphor to its extremes of silence and aloofness and whom Stone (1981, p. 102) refers to as "neo-classical" to distinguish this stance from that of Freud and the earlier generation of analysts who appear to have followed more closely his actual attitude and behavior, rather than the implications of the mirror metaphor.

    How many psychoanalysts have spent how many years fighting free of the guilt and anxiety arising from their inevitable failure to achieve the "mirror" ideal, an "ideal" that even if it were attainable would surely cancel most of the therapeutic benefit of analysis? Fortunately, this ideal is, in any case, utterly unattainable because of the volume of personal information about the analyst available to any analysand simply from the analyst's mode of dress, office decor, manner of speaking, choices of when to speak and when to remain silent, what to speak about, and all the myriad ordinary interpersonal minutiae that quite rapidly convey to the analysand a great deal about the unique personality of his therapist--and all this aside from the information which can often be derived from such extraordinary sources as other or former patients, mutual acquaintances, gossip, telephone calls to the analyst's home, drives past his residence, eavesdropping at his door, or peeks through his window. Naturally, none of this detracts in any way from the partial validity of the mirror metaphor: the value of a relatively "secure analytic frame" (Langs, 1978) characterized by an optimal degree of analytic anonymity, abstinence, and neutrality is unquestioned.

    We now turn to Freud's metaphor of the analyst as a surgeon and analysis as an operation. In his "Recommendations" (1912b), Freud writes: "I cannot advise my colleagues too urgently to model themselves during psychoanalytic treatment on the surgeon who puts aside all his feelings, even his human sympathy, and concentrates his mental forces on the single aim of performing the operation as skillfully as possible" (p. 115). But the problem with the surgical metaphor, when literalized and divorced from other and very different metaphors for the analytic process, is that it communicates a very one-sided view of the analyst as active and intrusive and the analysand as passive--a view which, especially in light of hypotheses regarding surgery as sublimated sadism, implies an excessively aggressive model of analysis. For example, one might imagine an analyst in the grip of this metaphor growing impatient when faced with a patient's fear of and unwillingness to lie down on the couch. After all, Freud himself (1916-17) wrote that "Psychoanalytic treatment is comparable to a surgical operation and, like that, for its success it has the right to expect to be carried out under the most favourable conditions" (p. 459). Hence, such an analyst might reason, if a surgeon were faced with a patient who refused to lie down on the operating table, he might justifiably insist that this is the way the operation must be performed. Unless encouraged by his awareness of other metaphors for the analytic process--e.g., as a cure "effected by love" (letter from Freud to Jung, December 6, 1906; McGuire, 1974, p. 11), or as a "holding environment" (Modell, 1976), etc., Freud's mirror metaphor itself connoting a degree of analytic passivity contrasting sharply with the active implication of the surgical metaphor--such an analyst might well dismiss such a patient as unanalyzable. In a sense such a patient is unanalyzable, at least by an analyst so "possessed" by this one metaphor for the analytic process that all other criteria, which the patient might satisfy, are lost sight of.

    A medical metaphor that might serve as a corrective to the surgical metaphor is the obstetrical one. Instead of making aggressive and heroic interventions, the obstetrical metaphor promotes the idea that sometimes we can do little more than provide the necessary setting and the proper conditions and then sit by the bedside, as it were, and convey whatever comfort and encouragement we can and, as a senior colleague once explained to me, be prepared to take the credit while the patient does all the work. Of course the obstetrical metaphor, unlike that of midwifery (either in the literal or in the philosophical sense of Socrates' educational [cf. educare: "to lead out"] method), need not imply relative analytic passivity or a "feminine" as distinct from a "masculine" attitude toward analytic work: traditionally, obstetricians have been men and they have frequently resorted to the use of forceps.

    While on the subject of metaphors for analysis that tend to err in the direction of activity, we cannot avoid discussion of Freud's fondness for military metaphors. Nash (1962) provides many examples: "A temporary blockage of development was commpared to an army held up for weeks by enemy resistance . . . . Regression was likened to troops giving ground in the face of enemy attack. Psychotherapy . . . was compared to the intervention of a foreign ally in a civil war. The therapist comes to the aid of the ego, which is under siege by the id" (pp. 25-26). But, insofar as our clinical work is concerned, the greatest significance of the military metaphor lies in its appearance in the concepts of "defense" and "resistance."  Freud (1914b) states that: "The patient brings out of the armoury of the past the weapons with which he defends himself against the progress of the treatment--weapons which we must wrest from him one by one" (p. 151). Further, on the importance of analysis of the transference and the resistances, he writes that ". . . . one cannot overcome an enemy who is absent or not within range" (p. 152). And again, in "The Dynamics of the Transference," Freud (1912a) speaks of the "struggle between the doctor and patient, between intellect and instinctual life, between understanding and seeking to act," a struggle played out in the transference since "It is on that field that the victory must be won . . . For when all is said and done, it is impossible to destroy anyone in absentia or in effigy" (p. 108). Jones (1953, pp. 25-26) suggests some of the biographical roots of Freud's predilection for the military metaphor in his early idealization of certain famous military leaders who seemed to embody strengths Freud may have felt were absent in his father.

    Commenting on the therapeutic difficulties one can encounter if one is too susceptible to seeing the therapeutic process in such militaristic terms, Blanck and Blanck (1979) write:

Fenichel . . . writes of the defensive ego as "our enemy" . . .   Greenson . . . says, "Resistance means opposition . . . operating against the progress of the analysis, the analyst, and the analyst's procedures and processes" . . .   Menninger . . . regards resistance as aggressive, self-destructive and in opposition to treatment. It is true that Freud thought, very early, of resistance as a bar to recovery, but by l9I7 . . .   Freud had shifted his philosophy about resistance . . . .   [Nevertheless,] while Freud was struggling toward accepting the patient's resistances as useful to the treatment, some of his writings betray the difficulties inherent in working through this monumental task of countertransference. In the lecture on "Resistance and Repression" (1916-17), he describes resistance in contradictory fashion. He calls a patient "to account for having broken the sacred rule" (p. 288): he uses metaphors about criminals and sanctuary: the resistance "is successfully defying us" (p. 289); he laments the fact that when "we succeed in extorting a certain amount of obedience to the fundamental technical rule from the resistance--[it] thereupon jumps over to another sphere" (p. 289). On the other hand, he says also that resistances should not be condemned; they provide the best support for analysis . .  (pp. 145-147).

    Fortunately, as we have seen, Freud (1919) was aware of the inadequacy of any one metaphor to grasp the complexity of the human mind or the analytic approach to it: "What is psychical is something so unique and peculiar to itself that no one comparison can reflect its nature. The work of psycho-analysis suggests analogies with chemical analysis, but it does so as much with the intervention of a surgeon or the manipulations of an orthopoedist or the influence of an educator. The comparison with chemical analysis has its limitations . . " (p. 161).

    But if all these metaphors seem to have in common a certain bias toward activity, in recent years there has been no shortage of theorists who seek to right the balance through the provision of a host of metaphors which place the analyst in a more passive role. Although, in a sense, Freud's (1912b) own recommendation of "freely hovering attention" as the correct state of mind for the analyst itself encourages a kind of passivity--as does his mirror metaphor for that matter--these emphases are quite in contrast to such metaphors as those of chemical analysis, surgery, orthopedics and pedagogy, not to mention the military metaphors. An example of the reemphasis upon passivity would be the paper by Thomson (1980), "On the Receptive Function of the Analyst." Not only is phallic-intrusive activity being downplayed in favor of receptivity but for several decades many analysts seem to have been shifting their identification from that of father to mother. Hartmann's (1939) introduction of the concept of the "average expectable environment" seems to have been instrumental in promoting an increased emphasis upon the quality of maternal care in personality development. By l961, at the symposium on "Curative Factors in Psycho-Analysis" (Symposium, 1962), contributors (e.g., Gitelson, 1962) discussed the merits of the idea of the "diatrophic" function of the analyst introduced by Spitz (1956), a concept later echoed in Modell's (1976) notion of the "holding" function of the analyst analogous to that performed for the infant by Winnicott's (1965) "good-enough" mother. In the work of such writers as Spitz, Winnicott, Mahler (1968), Guntrip (1971), and Kohut, among others, this emphasis upon the analyst's adaptation, attunement, or empathic responsiveness to the analysand would seem to be an expression of the growing influence of the metaphor ANALYSIS IS MOTHERING as contrasted with the ANALYSIS IS FATHERING metaphor that seems to have been prominent in the thinking of Freud and many (but by no means all) of the earlier generation of classical analysts. From a sociological point of view, this increased awareness of the analyst's diatrophic function, not to mention the shift from paternal to maternal identification on the part of some analysts, may be regarded as a manifestation in psychoanalysis of the wider challenge to patriarchal assumptions and the assertion of matriarchal attitudes and values in contemporary Western culture.

    At a recent scientific meeting of the Toronto Psychoanalytic Society devoted to the work of Melanie Klein, one participant observed that whereas in much of Freud's work phallocentric metaphors seem to predominate, the work of Klein is notable for its "mammocentric" focus. It is plausible that many of the issues, both theoretical and clinical, which currently divide the field of psychoanalysis might have their origins in the differing unconscious metaphors and identifications dominant in different analysts. Father- and phallus-identified analysts may tend to privilege separation and difference over symbiosis and similarity, to be more active and intrusive, and more likely to assume what Kohut (1979, p. 12) called a "health-and-maturity-morality" and, hence, to make their approval of the patient conditional upon his facing reality and growing up. In contrast, mother- and breast-identified analysts may tend to privilege symbiosis and similarity over separation and difference, to be more passive and receptive, to stress an attitude of empathic understanding of the patient's difficulties more than the expectation that he will transcend them, and to emphasize an attitude of acceptance. (The famous interpretive activity of the Kleinians may appear inconsistent with a "mammocentric" focus and maternal identification. Perhaps, though, the generalization can be saved by the qualification that, in this instance, the relevant unconscious association may be with an intrusive breast, an omnipotent preoedipal mother, or the phallic mother image.)

    In reflecting upon this difference, one is reminded of the early work in sociological small group research and sociometry (e.g., Parsons and Bales, 1955) that found that in most small groups the most valued member (the instrumental or task leader) is often not the best-liked member (the expressive or social-emotional leader). Such research implies that both leadership styles are useful and necessary for optimal group functioning--a point that suggests that the optimal attitude for the psychoanalyst might be one which somehow integrates the instrumental (father) and expressive (mother) roles, or flexibly shifts between them at appropriate moments in the course of therapy, rather than strictly adhering to one or the other attitude at all times. Perhaps this is merely another way of speaking of the advantages of "instinctual fusion" as opposed to "defusion" of libido (Eros) and aggression (Thanatos) understood as metaphors for unifying or integrating and separating or disintegrating tendencies respectively.

    When carried to an extreme by an analyst strongly identified with the nursing mother, with a bias toward Eros, and perhaps with an inordinate need to  be the "best-liked member," the ANALYSIS IS MOTHERING metaphor may lead to the relative eclipse of what those with the opposite bias privilege as the end of analysis (i.e., insight, psychic differentiation, separation and mourning) by that which is regarded merely as a means (i.e., the diatrophic function, empathy, containment and the therapeutic or self-selfobject relationship). On the other hand, the ANALYSIS IS FATHERING metaphor (again, when carried to an extreme by an assertive and task-oriented individual with a bias toward Thanatos and a characterological aversion to mothering) has a number of limitations, many of which the self psychologists, among others, have identified. It could well lead to the situation in which the dangers of a pathological symbiosis are defended against by an excessively rigid insistence upon a perfectly "secure frame" (Langs, 1978); or even to a situation in which the cognitive task of analysis is fulfilled in the extremely limited sense that the analyst achieves considerable understanding of the analysand's psychodynamics only to find that, despite the success of the "operation," the patient has "died" (i.e., left analysis) because of insufficient "containment" (Bion, 1962) and empathic attention to his social- emotional needs.


    From the perspective of a different theoretical tradition (Jungian), Hillman (1972) writes of the metaphorical or mythical basis of the idea of "analysis" itself:

Because psychoanalysis found the feminine faulty, it shares in that structure of consciousness we have traced to mythemes of Adam and Apollo. That psychoanalysis rests on this same archetypal basis is demonstrated by its fantasies: confrontation with the female body produces fantasies of its inferiority, which are then elaborated by scientific observations into misogynist theory. The Apollonic structure of its Anschauung has determined therapeutic psychology from its beginnings in the direction of science . . .  Matter, body and female--and psyche too--in the hands of science tend more and more to be left out, placed "out there" for objective methods of Apollonic cognition (p. 288).

    Thus, Hillman finds in psychoanalysis not only an identification with the father and his phallus but a patriarchal subordination of the "feminine" in favor of the heroically "masculine": "What we have been calling 'consciousness' all these years is really the Apollonic mode as hardened by the hero into a 'strong ego' . . . " (p. 290). For Hillman, "Therapeutic psychology has an inherent contradiction: its method is Apollonic, its substance is Dionysian. It attempts to analyze the collectivity, the downwardness, the moisture of libidinal fantasies, the child, the theatricality, the vegetative, and animal levels--the 'madness,' in short--of the Dionysian by means of the distance, cognition, and objective clarity of the other structure" (p 290).

    Without falling into the error of identifying the primary process, the unconscious, the irrational and the primitive with the "feminine," and the secondary process, the conscious, the rational and the differentiated with the "masculine"--equations that are themselves fundamental to patriarchal sexism--it is possible to acknowledge the dilemma that arises when therapists who are themselves defensively fixated upon one term of a binary opposition (e.g., "masculine"/"feminine") attempt to help those who are similarly afflicted. For example, in his last clinical paper, Freud (1937) wrote of the limit of what therapeutic analysis can achieve as lying in the "bedrock" that is the "repudiation of femininity" by both men and women, expressed by the woman in her intractable penis envy and by the man in his refusal to adopt a passive role in relation to other men. For Hillman, analysis as traditionally conceived (by father-identified analysts) is unable to assist us in overcoming this ultimate manifestation of the castration complex, "since it [analysis] suffers from the same repudiation of femininity. We are cured when we are no longer only masculine in psyche, no matter whether we are male or female in biology. Analysis cannot constitute this cure until it, too, is no longer masculine in psychology. The end of analysis coincides with the acceptance of femininity" (p. 292).

    Freud's (1937) essay clearly expresses his patriarchal bias in a  manner seldom noticed. He writes:

At no other point in one's analytic work does one suffer more from an oppressive feeling that all one's repeated efforts have been in vain, and from a suspicion that one has been "preaching to the winds," than when one is trying to persuade a woman to abandon her wish for a penis on the ground of its being unrealizable or when one is seeking to convince a man that a passive attitude to men does not always signify castration and that it is indispensable in many relationships in life (p. 252).

But it is essential to realize that persuading a man to accept the passive ("feminine") role is not equivalent to persuading a woman to relinquish the active ("masculine") role--her desire for which is metaphorically mystified (both by her and by the phallocentric analyst) as her desire for a penis. Although a woman must come to realize that she does not require a penis in order to fulfill her active ("masculine") wishes, we must come to recognize that to persuade a man to accept the passive ("feminine") role is asking him to be the whole, "bisexual" human being which he is; whereas to persuade a woman to relinquish the active ("masculine") role is asking her to sacrifice a good part of what she is, a part of her "bisexual" nature, and to be a partial, "unisexual" being, which she is not.

    According to Hillman (1972), "The nineteenth century translated the speech of the unconscious into the language of reason. Our opportunity is to translate the language of reason into the archetypal background of the unconscious and its speech, to change concept back into metaphor" (p. 162). This enterprise is that of the psychoanalysis of psychoanalysis. In Hillman's words: "By applying psychology to psychology . . . we may learn something psychological, finding another use for all the research that has been done . . . .   We examine this research, not for its positivistic, objective, scientific 'facts,' but for the fantasies expressed in it . . . .   By applying psychology to psychology, by analyzing our views, we may become aware of our perspectives and their inevitable bias" (pp. 40-41).

    Applied to the study of our concepts of the clinical psychoanalytic enterprise, this reflexive or "deconstructionist" strategy uncovers such metaphors as analysis as catharsis or abreaction, an analogy that, as Warme (1980) has pointed out, appears to be based on an unconscious anal expulsion fantasy; analysis as an interpersonal relationship (Sullivan, 1953); as an "intersubjective field of communication" (Thomson, 1984; Atwood and Stolorow, 1984); as semiotic analysis of the "discourse of the Other" in which "condensation" is metaphor and "displacement" metonymy (Lacan, 1977); as hermeneutics (Leavy, 1980); as medical treatment, a metaphor deliteralized by Szasz (1961); as pure interpretation without parameters (Eissler, 1953); as a "corrective emotional experience" (Alexander and French, 1946); as the provision of missing psychic structure via "transmuting internalization" (Kohut, 1971, 1977); or even as, in my own metaphor, the analytic deliteralization or "deconstruction" of literalized metaphor and contrast. As Hillman (1972) has put it: "According to individual art and style--which in turn derive from the individual myth lived into by each analyst--a variety of models of practice are offered . . . .   So much depends, as Jung said again and again, on the 'personal equation,' and the personal equation is the individual myth of the therapist himself" (p. 14).

    The various metaphorical conceptualizations of the analytic process are worth exploring in some detail precisely because particular therapists are more or less in their grip. To the extent that our "possession" by one or the other of this range of metaphors blinds us to other possible models, our work is to that degree rigid and we are to this same degree blind. Not only does the analyst's individual myth or "personal equation" influence his conception of the therapeutic process and his role as therapist, it also expresses itself in his most seemingly objective and scientific contributions. This is a central implication of the work of Lacan (1977), as Evans (1979) explains in her "Introduction to Jacques Lacan's Lecture: The Neurotic's Individual Myth":

Given that the manifestations of the unconscious are without surcease, neither the disclosures of a patient nor the disciplined exposition of case histories by Freud himself can ever escape the distortions [and I would add the illuminations--D.C.] brought about by the interaction of these two constant human languages--those of the conscious and the unconscious. No utterance, no matter how dry, affectless, or clear, can speak strictly of the object and not of the subject also . . . .   In effect, Lacan installs an uncertainty principle at every level of the analytic process and proceeds to find in all language, however scientific in mode, traces of the repressed language of the unconscious (p. 390).

    As Freud (1905b [1901]) stated the point long ago: "He that has eyes to see and ears to hear may convince himself that no mortal can keep a secret. If his lips are silent he chatters with his finger- tips; betrayal oozes out of him at every pore" (pp. 77-78). If this is true in general, as I believe it to be, then it is equally true of Freud's own work, even of this very statement by him, which begs for metaphor-analysis, and also of the work of Lacan and the reflections contained in this chapter as well.


    When the metaphor of analysis as metaphor-analysis--as the transformation of "dead" metaphors into "live" ones--is itself subjected to metaphor-analysis, some significant issues are brought into focus. For example, the question arises as to why analysis should be identified exclusively with the deliteralization of "dead" metaphors and not of "dead" contrasts or antitheses as well? The view of analysis as relativizing absolute similarity by drawing attention to repressed difference neglects the complementary analytic task of relativizing absolute difference (splitting) by drawing attention to repressed similarity. A one-sided view of the analytic process as deconstructing absolute similarity is likely motivated by a "masculine" or thanatotic bias in favor of difference, which may in turn be motivated by unconscious fears of symbiotic merger, impingement, annihilation, undifferentiation of self and object, loss of self-cohesion, castration, or the fear of "femininity."  This conception of pathology as symbiosis and the corollary model of therapy as boundary-making would appear to underlie the rigid insistence upon the achievement and preservation of a clear analytic "frame" that is characteristic of the work of Langs (1978) and his co-workers. On the other hand, an equally one-sided view of the analytic process as deconstructing absolute difference (splitting) may be motivated by the "feminine" or erotic bias in favor of symbiosis and similarity that we see at work in therapies that privilege connection, transmuting internalization and the therapeutic or self-selfobject relationship over separation-individuation, insight and mourning in the analytic cure. This bias is likely motivated by unconscious fears of object loss, loss of love, castration, and superego condemnation, each of which in turn may threaten loss of self-cohesion.

    Some people (the "linkers") have a "feminine" bias toward similarity: they want everything to touch, merge, and be the same, and have little tolerance for differences. If they succeed in sublimating this bias toward Eros, they become the creative unifiers or integrators. Others (the "separators") have a "masculine" bias toward difference: they want to differentiate and keep things apart and have little tolerance for similarity and merger. If they succeed in sublimating this bias toward Thanatos, they become the creative discriminators or distinguishers. But, ultimately, neither bias, to the extent that it entails a defensive repression of one or the other component of what Freud (1905a) regarded as our inherent bisexuality, can alone result in the achievement of optimal psychic functioning because this requires attention to reality in its entirety, both similarities and differences. Hence, a more adequate conception of analysis is as both metaphor-analysis and contrast-analysis: it promotes both the transformation of absolute similarity into relative similarity (by pointing to implicit difference), and the transformation of absolute difference (splitting) into relative difference (by pointing to implicit similarity). For just as different things can never be absolutely the same and yet remain different, so different things can never be absolutely different, without being similar in at least some respects. Hillman's (1972) conclusion that "Analysis cannot constitute this cure until it, too, is no longer masculine in psychology" (p. 292), needs to be supplemented by the recognition that an opposing perspective that is exclusively "feminine" is no better. We are cured when we are no longer only either "masculine" or "feminine" in psyche--i.e., when we manage to stop "essentializing" or privileging one element of our "bisexual" nature at the expense of the other.

    Needless to say, the reason the terms "masculine" and "feminine" are placed in quotation marks throughout this chapter is to indicate that the equations in which they figure belong to the Imaginary and Symbolic orders rather than to that of the Real (Lacan, 1982). In other words, they refer to image and symbol rather than to anything biological, to what is imagined to be masculine or feminine in the order of human culture and not to what an "essentializing" perspective might regard as being literally, as opposed to metaphorically, the case. In a "contextualizing" or semiotic perspective that restricts itself to the realm of psychic reality as the proper domain of psychoanalytic concern, the human subject is seen to be inevitably only figuratively masculine or feminine and never literally so. In bringing to light the repressed "bisexuality" upon which the fictions or tropes that constitute our sexual identities are founded, psychoanalysis reveals the constructed, dramatic and imaginal quality of human identity (the "ego" or "self") as such. However inclined we may be to take ourselves seriously in our roles as masculine and feminine actors and actresses--and no one is recommending we switch parts or leave the stage--we are wise to remember that, as in all of our performances, in our sexual dramas we are never a man or a woman "in the way a table is a table" (Sartre, 1943). We forget or repress this awareness only at the cost of falling into what Sartre described as "bad faith" or the "spirit of solemnity," a phenomenon that I have discussed as a defensive regression involving the literalization of metaphor and contrast, and which Lacan explained as the narcissistic alienation of the "ego" maintained by the primal and ongoing repression of the Otherness within me (the unconscious) which would give the lie to my cherished identity and which, fortunately, periodically leads me to forget or mistake my lines.

    The tendency for one or another image of absolute similarity or difference to hold us captive arises either from genuine ignorance of other possibilities or from a defense against the affects of anxiety and depression associated with the full range of infantile danger situations. We can only speculate about the factors contributing to a person's bias toward similarity, Eros, and "femininity," or toward difference, Thanatos, and "masculinity," and the resulting personality orientations toward saying "Yes" (agreeing, linking, and merging) on the one hand, and saying "No" (disagreeing, breaking links, separating and individuating) on the other. Factors such as, for example, the role of a depressed and withdrawn mother in the early development of the "linkers" and the corresponding role of an impinging, intrusive, and dominating mother, or a more general need to "dis-identify from mother" (Greenson, 1968), in the early formation of the "separators" might be important. However, such pure types are nonexistent because Eros and Thanatos, integrating and disintegrating tendencies, "femininity" and "masculinity," inevitably coexist in a greater or lesser degree of fusion; because both types of danger situation may motivate both personality orientations; and because both orientations may coexist on different levels of the personality structure and even serve to defend against each other.

    As was suggested, it seems that such biases are reflected in psychoanalytic theory itself. A predisposition toward union may lead to a preference for a metaphorical concept of analysis as mothering; an inclination toward separation may underlie acceptance of a model of analysis as fathering. But despite its patriarchalism in other respects, it seems apparent that the bias of the "linkers," those predisposed to privilege similarity over difference, finds expression in the classical theory of the infantile danger situations, a theory which in focusing upon loss (of the object, its love, the phallus, superego approval) implicitly downplays those dangers having more to do with the object's overwhelming or malevolent presence than with its absence. The Freudian myth of man's eternal longing to "refind" (Freud, 1905a, p. 222) the lost object of primary identification and reestablish the oceanic bliss or Nirvana of primary narcissism (Freud, 1920, 1930; Grunberger, 1979) is only half the story: it needs to be complemented by insight into the equally primordial and eternal wish to "relose" or "redestroy" the primary object, the primary identification (Greenson, 1968) and Eden itself, regarded as a dubious paradise, more as a prison or a coffin than a haven. And despite their matriarchalism in other respects, in the work of theorists such as Klein, Winnicott and Mahler, the Freudian erotic bias (a reflection of Freud's idealized image of the mother-infant relation) is balanced to some extent by insight into thanatotic wishes to destroy links, resist impingement, separate, individuate and guard autonomy--Thanatos here being understood as the psychic desire to separate in the service of independence or self-cohesion, whether this aim leads in the direction of literal life or death. It is perhaps at least partly in this bias of the Freudian tradition toward Eros (only partially corrected in 1920 with the introduction of the dual instinct theory) that the explanation lies for its relative failure to recognize the importance of (i.e., its relative repression of) the role of the destructive mother-image in the genesis of various types of psychopathology and, consequently, its tendency to privilege anxieties concerning loss over those having to do with impingement, annihilation, or merger.

    The association of integrating tendencies, metaphor, libido, Eros, and "femininity" on the one hand, and disintegrating tendencies, contrast, aggression, Thanatos, and "masculinity" on the other, need imply no commitment to an "instinct" or "drive" theory of these phenomena--a view which in identifying the human motive with a biological urge itself literalizes a metaphor. To make use of Freud's psychological observations of our dual desires to merge and to separate, to create and to destroy links, we need not overstep the proper boundaries of psychoanalytic concern with psychic reality (the realm of meaning, myth and motive) and embrace the implausible biological speculations in which the metaphorical "forces" of Eros and Thanatos are both literalized and allegedly explained. Just as certain suicidal individuals literalize their longings for metaphoric death and rebirth and for radical separation from a self metaphorically conceived as hopelessly spoiled, and confuse such mythical quests (which, far from being "natural" are themselves founded upon metaphor) with a wish to literally die, so on the level of theory Freud reifies both the human wish for connection or integration and the longing for separation or disintegration and reduces Eros to sexual instinct and Thanatos to a literal biological drive toward death. Understood on the purely psychological (i.e., semiotic) level, however, Freud's (1940) reflections concerning the twin desires to unite (metaphor) and to separate (contrast) possess enduring value: "The aim of the first of these basic instincts [Eros] is to establish ever greater unities and to preserve them thus--in short, to bind together; the aim of the second [Thanatos] is, on the contrary, to undo connections" (p. 148).

    The connection between metaphor and the longing to "refind" (Freud, 1905a, p. 222) the lost object is discussed in a literary context by Frye (1963) whose distinction between two phases of human consciousness echoes Freud's discussion of primary identification and its loss. "The first . . . was a state of identity, a feeling that everything around us was part of us, and the second is the ordinary state of consciousness, or separation, where art and science begin" (Frye, 1963, p. 9). Following Wallace Stevens, Frye locates "the motive for metaphor" in our longing to recapture "that original lost sense of identity with our surroundings" (p. 9) and in "a desire to associate and finally to identify, the human mind with what goes on outside it" (p. 11). But when Frye goes on to assert that "the only genuine joy you can have is in those rare moments when you feel that although we know in part, as Paul says, we are also a part of what we know" (p. 11), his own bias toward similarity is revealed. For to play on a title of Balint's (1959), in addition to the thrills of regression and fusional experience (aside from its terrors), there are the joys of separation in which, as a part of what we know, we feel, sometimes with elation and at others with anxiety or despair, that we are inevitably also apart from what we know.

    In this connection it is interesting to note that whereas Frye emphasizes the fusional aim of metaphor, Searles (1962) suggests that "perhaps the reason why so many metaphors have a peculiarly poignant beauty is because each of them kindles in us, momentarily, a dim memory of the time when we lost the outer world--when we first realized that the outer world is outside, and we are unbridgeably apart from it, and alone" (p. 583). The resolution of these apparently contradictory views of metaphor as on the one hand unifying and on the other separating lies in recognition that Frye is referring to the fusional quality of "dead" or literalized metaphor which conveys a sense of absolute similarity purged of all difference, whereas Searles refers to the sense of difference maintained by "live" metaphor in which similarity is recognized as only relative. A "live" metaphor symbolizes both our lost identity with the Other and our sense that it is lost.

    But I have expressly avoided saying that "live" metaphor symbolizes the fact that the outer world is lost, for such metaphysical statements descend from phenomenology or psychology as the description and analysis of experience, to ontology as assertion about which aspects of our experience are ultimately real and which are mere appearances or illusions. Whereas Frye narrowly escapes this descent into metaphysics by speaking of the feeling of unity or sense of identity with our surroundings--even though his bias toward similarity is clear from his statement that "the only genuine joy you can have is in those rare moments" of mystic union--Searles succumbs to a tragic, existential ontology which epistemologically privileges separation and difference over union and similarity when he refers to the time "when we first realized that the outer world is outside, and we are unbridgeably apart from it, and alone." To descend (or ascend, depending upon your point of view) in this way from phenomenology to ontology or metaphysics is to exceed the proper boundaries of psychology as the study of psychic reality for philosophic speculation about the ultimate nature of reality per se; it is to pass beyond the study of human experience in the Imaginary and Symbolic orders (Lacan, 1977), for philosophic assertion about the nature of the Real. To privilege epistemologically either term of the binary opposition SIMILARITY/DIFFERENCE or SYMBIOSIS/SEPARATION and regard it as capturing the ultimate reality is itself to literalize a metaphor and to fall prey to what Burke (1939) called the "essentializing" (as opposed to a "contextualizing") hermeneutic, a fall into metaphysics that Derrida (1978, 1981; Culler, 1979) regards as characteristic of our "logocentric" Western tradition.

    The metaphorical concept of analysis (as metaphor-analysis on the one hand and contrast-analysis on the other) being developed in the present chapter bears a strong resemblance to Derrida's poststructuralist methodology for textual analysis known as "deconstruction." The strategy of pointing to the difference underlying similarity (thus turning absolute similarity into relative similarity and "dead" metaphor into "live" metaphor) resembles Derrida's discussion of what he calls différance, whereas the strategy of pointing to the similarity underlying difference (thus turning absolute difference or splitting into relative  difference and "dead" contrast into "live" contrast) resembles Derrida's "logic of the supplement" (Culler, 1979). The effect of these combined interpretive ("deconstructive") methods, which have always formed an implicit part of psychoanalytic technique at its best without being self-consciously named or recognized as such, is to encourage a process of psychic development or evolution in which primary process fusion and splitting increasingly give way to secondary process differentiation and integration. These processes are represented in psychoanalysis in the concepts of differentiation and separation-individuation on the one hand, and ambivalence and object constancy on the other.


    When the metaphor of analysis as metaphor- and contrast-analysis is itself subjected to analysis, the question arises as to whether the very emphasis upon psychic development from primary to secondary process mentation itself reflects what Hillman (1972, p. 289) regards as an Apollonic commitment to "more light." It might even be regarded as a characteristic expression of our excessive Western and "masculine" obsession with knowledge and cognitive mastery of the world and of the flight from uncertainty and mystery and, hence, from castration, symbiotic merger and death, ideas with which the "feminine" is associated in patriarchy. It is evident, however, that this association of "masculinity" with an emphasis upon psychic development from primary to secondary process mentation itself involves a "masculine" and patriarchal association of the "feminine" with the primary process, the primitive, and the irrational. A nonpatriarchal psychoanalytic view of ego development as "a process of increasingly higher integration and differentiation of the psychic apparatus" (Loewald, 1960, p. 17) recognizes that both "feminine" (integrating) and "masculine" (differentiating) tendencies are expressed in the "live" metaphors and contrasts of secondary process thinking, as well as in the "dead" metaphors and contrasts of primary process regressive undifferentiation and splitting. Psychic development is not from "feminine" to "masculine" or vice versa, but from lower to higher levels of psychic differentiation ("masculinity") and integration ("femininity"). In this connection, it is interesting to note that in an article entitled "Worshippers of Waxen Images," in which he reviews a recent literary study, Fetishism and Imagination (Simpson, 1982), Trotter (1983) writes:

Simpson is careful not to read his material through Freud, but he does stress that the motive for fetish-worship in "primitive" societies was often thought to be phallic, and that in its Western versions it is primarily a disease of the male imagination. The male protagonists of novels by Dickens and Melville and Conrad cannot afford to recognize incompletion or otherness, and spend their lives in furious pursuit of an image of fixity and determinacy. But the image is an idol they themselves have created, a part isolated from the whole. Instead of completing, it duplicates, and thus distracts them further (p. 707).

    But rather than being expressed in the deliteralizing and relativizing movement from primary to secondary process that is integral to the psychoanalytic process, such fetishism of the imagination, such flight from incompletion and otherness, will more likely find expression in the literalization or absolutization of metaphor (similarity) and contrast (difference). For the deconstruction of "dead" metaphors and contrasts, far from defending against incompletion and otherness by means of images of fixity and determinacy, in fact confronts the subject with uncertainty and mystery both by revealing the otherness or difference within similarity and exposing the hidden similarity beneath the differences that are polarized and exaggerated in the binary oppositions characteristic of splitting. Because such fixed and determinate images of absolute similarity or difference function like a fetish defending against the range of infantile dangers, their deliteralization and relativization arouse anxiety and depression and, hence, resistance. On the phallic level, for example, feeling that our ("dead") metaphor or contrast is omnipotent, we feel ourselves in possession of the phallus. Hence, we defend our metaphor-phallus (or contrast-phallus) furiously against the claims of all competing metaphors (or contrasts) which, by implying the insufficiency or inadequacy of our fetish, risk reopening the question (the "wound") and, hence, pose a castration threat.

    The history of psychoanalytic theory itself serves to illustrate such fetishism of the imagination, for psychoanalysis has itself not infrequently been literalized or "essentialized" and turned into an idol that offers an image of fixity and determinacy with which to defend against castration and other anxieties. As Meisel (1981b) has shown, there have been from the very beginning of psychoanalysis, and even in Freud's own understanding of his creation, two very different interpretations of its nature, corresponding roughly to Burke's (1939) distinction between the "essentializing" and the "contextualizing" methods. Embracing the latter are those for whom psychoanalysis is an essentially semiotic and hermeneutic discipline that interprets clusters or complexes of unconscious meanings and motives in terms of their similarities, differences, and interrelationships (Freud's method of "free association"), and not in terms of the reduction of those regarded as merely "manifest" or "apparent" to those regarded as "latent" and "true" (Freud's "symbolic" method). This refusal to epistemologically privilege one meaning or motive over another in favor of the study of their mutual relations as interacting parts of a semiotic system reflects a view of the psyche as a "poetry-making organ" (Trilling, 1940), rather than as a repository of the biological essence of human nature. In turn, this view of psychic reality as a semiotic system of similarities and differences constituting the subjective object of psychoanalytic inquiry implies a methodology that has far more in common with that of the humanities than with that of positivist science. But the inherently relativizing approach of the "contextualizing" method offers no image of fixity and determinacy that could be of use to someone in the grip of castration or other anxieties and in search of an intellectual absolute or fetish with which to defend against them.

    Of far greater appeal to those embarked upon such a defensive quest is the alternative model of psychoanalysis as a positive, natural science employing an "essentializing" or "logocentric" method for arriving at the psychological truth, usually conceptualized as residing ultimately in the "instinctual drives" of the Freudian "id" regarded as a "seething cauldron" of pure biological dynamic representing a "hard core" of human nature "beyond culture."  According to the later Trilling (1955), who by this time had exchanged his earlier (1940) "contextualizing" perspective for an "essentializing" one, psychoanalysis suggests that "there is a residue of human quality beyond the reach of cultural control, and that this residue of human quality, elemental as it may be, serves to bring culture itself under criticism and keeps it from being absolute" (p. 99). For if "there is a hard, irreducible, stubborn core of biological necessity, and biological reason, that culture cannot reach and that reserves the right, which sooner or later it will exercise, to judge the culture and resist and revise it," then "there is a sanction beyond the culture" (Trilling, 1955, p. 101; Meisel, 1981b, pp. 18-19).

    Trilling (unwittingly?) "deconstructs" his own "essentialist" theory in his statement that "This intense conviction of the existence of a self apart from culture is, as culture well knows, its noblest and most generous achievement" (p. 102; Meisel, 1981b, p. 19). The statement deliteralizes the idea of a self "beyond culture" and admits its metaphorical status. Nevertheless, a metaphor-analysis of the terms Trilling uses to describe this self is well worth undertaking. For in the idea of a "hard, irreducible stubborn core of biological necessity" that is "elemental," that "culture cannot reach" or "control," and that will "resist" it, is communicated in a way that is loud and clear to anyone "listening with the third ear" (Reik, 1948) the idea of an erect phallus (the image of which is, after all, what qualifies pornography as "hard core"), as well as the fantasy that culture represents a threat to this self as phallus. This is the very fantasy (metaphor) of civilization as a castrator that underlies the logic of Freud's (1930) Civilization and Its Discontents.

    The idea of an elemental, biologically grounded self "beyond culture" as revealed by an "essentializing" psychoanalysis holds an enormous appeal for those who, in a world in which "God is dead," suffer from an intense "nostalgia for the absolute" (Steiner, 1974). Whereas a "contextualizing" psychoanalysis studies the associations between such nostalgia and a range of infantile dangers, an "essentializing" psychoanalysis functions to alleviate it in the manner more traditional religions have always employed: by offering an illusory, wish-fulfilling revelation (Freud, 1927) as an alternative to the demands of the reality principle and the need to confront and overcome the infantile anxieties that stand in the way of more effective reality testing. But in this case the illusory revelation is not of God's plan for man, but that of Nature as manifested in the "instinctual drives" regarded as the "essential" or "bedrock" truth of human nature by an "essentializing" and "logocentric" psychoanalysis which, in becoming a Weltanschauung, has exchanged the limited goals of mere psychology for the grandiose aspirations of metaphysics.

    Phallic symbolization of the absolute and the resulting ideology as phallus is by no means exclusive: the literalized metaphor or contrast might also represent an incestuous consummation or a defense against the dangers this would entail, in which case deliteralization would seem to threaten oedipal defeat or castration. It might represent valued possessions in which case its relativization would be felt as a theft or an impoverishment. It might represent possession of the primary object or its love, in which case its deconstruction would seem to threaten object loss or loss of love. It might represent a potent boundary between self and object, in which case deliteralization would seem to threaten symbiotic merger, impingement, or annihilation. Finally, the absolutized metaphor or contrast might represent the cohesiveness of the self-representation, in which case relativization would be experienced as a threat of fragmentation, depletion, or disintegration of the self. Our very refusal to assume any necessary connection between the literalization of a metaphor or a contrast and any specific infantile danger that may be thought to motivate it is a reflection of our rejection of the "essentializing" mode of interpretation which is the characteristic corruption of psychoanalysis and which, in assuming that A intrinsically means B, itself literalizes a metaphor.


    Contrary to McLaughlin's (1978) suggestion that we abandon the association of primary process with regressive and secondary process with more advanced levels of mentation, it is advantageous, if only for the sake of the clarity and continuity of psychoanalytic discourse, to retain Freud's (1900) original usage. But it is essential to avoid the equation of primary process with similarity (libido, Eros, "femininity") and secondary process with difference (aggression, Thanatos, "masculinity"). For both primary and secondary process are concerned with both similarity and difference; both Eros and Thanatos, integrating and disintegrating tendencies, and "femininity" and "masculinity" are present in both. They differ in that in primary process mentation there is a defusion of libido and aggression such that on the one hand the sense of similarity overcomes all recognition of difference with the result that "live" metaphor (analogy or comparison) is regressively transformed into "dead" metaphor (identity or undifferentiation) and, on the other hand, the sense of difference overcomes all recognition of similarity with the result that "live" contrast (relative distinction) is regressively transformed into "dead" contrast (absolute antithesis or splitting). In secondary process mentation, libido and aggression, "feminine" and "masculine," have achieved some degree of fusion ("bisexuality") such that, on the one hand, the sense of similarity is limited by an implicit recognition of difference ("live" metaphor) and, on the other hand, the sense of difference is limited by an implicit recognition of similarity ("live" contrast).

    A theory of the primitive nature of the primary process need not imply that the latter is literally "primary" in the sense of being the original or "natural" form of the psyche. As Derrida (1978) has demonstrated, the primary process is already "secondary" in the sense that, like all semiotic systems, it possesses the structure Freud discovered and, hence, it necessarily succeeds the psychic "breaching" (Meisel, 1981b) or "point of fulcrum" (Blanck & Blanck, 1979) in which the "undifferentiated matrix" (Hartmann, 1939) is superseded by the system of similarities (metaphors) and differences (contrasts) that constitute its structure. Furthermore, an emphasis upon the regressive quality of primary process mentation need no more imply a denial of its enduring value as the source of those creative comparisons and contrasts that are the foundation of human language, art and culture than a psychoanalytic view of ego development as a process of differentiation and integration need deny the virtues of "regression in the service of the ego." To be sure, all of us are to some extent "lived by" a range of "dead" or literalized metaphors and contrasts. Nevertheless, a significant measure of psychopathology concerns the degree to which two processes have taken place. In the one psychopathology, secondary process (relative) comparisons or analogies have been regressively fused into identities. (An example would be the relatively "live" metaphor of the neurotic tranference giving way to the relatively "dead" metaphor of the transference psychosis.) In the other psychopathology, secondary process (relative) contrasts or distinctions have been regressively split into black and white antitheses. (An example would be the relatively "live" contrast between the positive [libidinally invested] and negative [aggressively invested] features of the self or object giving way to the relatively "dead" contrast entailed in splitting the self or object representation into all-good or idealized self or object images on the one hand and all-bad or devalued self or object images on the other [Kernberg, 1976]).

    In the face of the regressive pull of the primary process and its perennial tendency toward absolutization of the various metaphors and contrasts we live by, the task of analysis may be viewed (metaphorically) as that of counteracting such literalizing and "essentializing" by means of analytic relativization, differentiation, and integration in the service of the secondary process. But when applied to this very metaphor of analysis as the deliteralization of absolutized similarity and difference, the analytic antidote to the absolutizing attitude sensitizes us to the possible presence of the latter in our own celebration of deliteralization. The contrasts between psychic regression and progression, primary and secondary process, the absolute and the relative, can themselves be literalized or absolutized in such a way that they come to be thought of as antitheses, in which case our own thinking has succumbed to splitting. In this situation we are no longer aware of the progressive potential of regression (the process known as "regression in the service of the ego") or of the regressive potential of progression (a process that might be referred to as "progression in the service of the id"). For, in actuality, the primary and secondary processes continue to coexist on different levels of consciousness and even serve as a kind of mutual corrective for one another. If our thinking is often insufficiently differentiated or integrated, it is also sometimes excessively elaborated and overly symbolized, to the point at which our "experience distant" and devitalized abstractions become affectively unreal and require an infusion of life through renewed contact with the deeper strata of the psyche (Loewald, 1981).   To state this in Kleinian terms, we must overcome the splitting entailed in considering the paranoid-schizoid position (PS) all-bad and the depressive position (D) all-good, in favour of a higher-level (D+) awareness of the good and bad aspects of each.

    Psychoanalysis implicitly recognizes the complementarity of differentiation and integration on the one hand, and undifferentiation and disintegration on the other, by seeking to effect a psychic progression, differentiation and integration by means of a temporary therapeutic regression, dedifferentiation and disintegration as the basis for a new beginning (Loewald, 1981). As Nietzsche (1886, #280, p. 224) explains, the paradox is really only an apparent one:

      "Too bad!  What?  Isn't he going--back?"
      Yes, but you understand him badly when you complain. He is going back like anybody who wants to attempt a big jump.

In this sense at least, the Freudian tradition has always appreciated the adaptive value of regressive experience, particularly in the therapy of an excessive or "mad rationality" that is estranged from its vital roots in the unconscious.

    Nevertheless, the concept of "regression"--like such terms as "primitive," "infantile," "irrational," or "neurotic"--has generally implied a predominantly negative value judgment in psychoanalysis, despite attempts to claim for it a purely value neutral and objective status. Notwithstanding his reemphasis upon the adaptive functions of regression and the limitations of rationality, Loewald (1981) is explicit on this point: "The psychoanalytic concept of regression implies deviation in a retrograde direction from a norm or standard of behavior and mentation. Roughly speaking, this norm is rational thought and action guided by the secondary process, the reality principle, reality testing" (p. 39). Loewald (1971) has been among the few to openly avow the moral commitment or "psychic evolutionary ethic" that is implicitly embraced by most psychoanalysts, for whom it represents a central value (however reactively disavowed by the apostles of analysis for the sake of pure analysis); unless it is abandoned altogether in favor of quite different and nonanalytic models of the cure. Loewald (1971) writes as follows of the moral appeal implicit in psychoanalysis as a developmental psychology, an appeal that cannot be dismissed by reducing it to the "therapeutic ambition" (Freud, 1912b, p. 115) or furor sanandi (Freud, 1915 [1914], p. 171) that is its characteristic distortion and caricature.

Such appeal is contained in Freud's phrase: where id was there ego shall become. It is a moral appeal. Freud shrank from making this explicit, averse as he was to the idea of imposing moral standards on the patient--nor can or should they be imposed. But there can be no question that he lived this "standard" (as a patient of mine once put it in a different context: to practice what you do not preach) and the success of psychoanalytic treatment depends on the patient's aroused propensity to heed this appeal (p. 95).

    Although metaphorically related to certain neurophysiological processes, the psychoanalytic concept of regression cannot be dismissed as a mere literalized metaphor. The concept would seem to be essential in any developmental psychology for, despite its evaluative connotations, it possesses objective psychological content in that, genetically speaking, psychic undifferentiation and unintegration precede differentiation and integration and, therefore, the retreat from the latter (however motivated or defensive) in one in whom they have once been established may legitimately be described as a regressive move. Nevertheless, owing to the differentiated and integrated quality of our psychoanalytic theory, we are not only able to appreciate the apparent paradox that an incapacity for "regression in the service of the ego" is itself regressive in that it reflects a defensive rigidity motivated by literalized (unconscious) fantasies and fears, but also to signify by "regression" both a pathology to be overcome and a potentially therapeutic process for accomplishlng this.

    Even in light of our awareness that the model of analysis as enlightening awareness runs the risk of splitting the light from the dark and epistemologically privileging the former over the latter, thus inviting various critics to reverse these priorities and privilege the latter over the former, as in various romantic and irrationalist reactions to rationalism, the model of the psychoanalyst as (in the long run at least) an awakener must be regarded as an essential item in our  repertoire of metaphors for analysis. However, it is equally essential that we do not literalize it and emphasize it to the exclusion of other models; that we recognize that in order to eventually awaken, the analyst must initially encourage sleep (i.e., induce regression); and that we include in our definition of such an awakening an awareness of the limitations of awareness as well as of the inevitability of darkness (i.e., the unconscious) as the very condition, backgound, frame, or border of the light. Ultimately, it is its commitment to the principle of Reality (which, like God, transcends all names) that renders psychoanalysis, properly understood, intrinsically antithetical to the literalization of metaphor and contrast--an idolatry that it combats, intentionally or not, by means of analytic deliteralization, including, ideally, the relativization of the analytic attitude itself, particularly when it threatens to become an idol (as in the present chapter). Perhaps a commitment to deliteralization may even lead to recognition of the inevitability of literalization, an insight that, despite his lifelong efforts to render the unconscious conscious, Freud (1937) appears to have achieved in recognizing the potential interminability of the analytic process.

    Provided that we understand the term "monster" as referring to an "imaginary animal compounded of incongruous elements" (Sykes, 1982, p. 655) and not in any moralistic sense, we may feel that the following aphorism by Pascal (1966, Section One, VII, 130, p. 62), composed over two centuries before the creation of psychoanalysis, describes in a limited way the analyst's "deconstructive" function--despite the fact that, like all metaphors for the analytic process, it is ultimately inadequate and misleading and, hence, in need of deconstruction itself:

If he exalts himself, I humble him.
If he humbles himself, I exalt him.
And I go on contradicting him
Until he understands
That he is a monster that passes all understanding.

    Simile, in which one thing is said to be like another, is distinct from metaphor, in which one thing is said to be another. As long as the metaphor is "alive," the equation is understood as an analogy, whereas in a "dead" metaphor the identity of the two terms (now no longer recognized as two) is accepted. There appears to be a tendency for "live" metaphor (secondary process) to regress to "dead" metaphor (primary process). Such "dead" metaphors are prevalent in our experience and shape our thought and action. Several illustrations from everyday experience and from clinical work are discussed.

    Unconscious metaphors not only shape the experience of analysands but also that of their analysts. Not only do many of our general theoretical concepts sometimes appear to be little more than reifications and intellectualizations of (our own and our analysands') unconscious fantasies and metaphors, but our varying concepts of the psychoanalytic process may frequently be based upon unconscious fantasies and identifications which, as "dead" metaphors, "possess" us and, often enough, prevent us from even entertaining other metaphorical possibilities.

    Such metaphorical monopolies reflect a kind of idolatry or fetishism of the imagination that breeds ideological fanaticism and intolerance. One clings to one's "dead" metaphor and defends it furiously against all competitors because, if A IS B, then the gap, difference, or separation between them disappears. To change identity back into analogy, as genuine consideration of alternative metaphorical possibilities threatens to do, exposes one to the inevitable gap between the signified (the concept of the thing) and the Real (the thing) that is its referent. The discovery that no single metaphor (or theory) is omnipotent confronts us with uncertainty and incompletion ("femininity"), a revelation which will be experienced as a castration by one whose literalized metaphor functioned as a phallus with which to close the gap. If the  metaphor signified the object's love, or functioned as a part of a merger or symbiotic fantasy, the prospect of its deliteralization will seem to threaten a rejection or to expose one to the danger of separation.

    On the other hand, "live" contrast, in which one thing is said to be (relatively) distinct from another, tends to regress to "dead" contrast or splitting in which two things are said to be (absolutely) antithetical. One clings to one's "dead" contrast and defends it furiously against all suggestions of implicit similarity because if A and B are opposites having absolutely nothing in common, then the danger of contact, infection, confusion, or fusion of the two terms is reduced. To change absolute antithesis back into relative difference, as genuine consideration of the repressed similarity underlying difference threatens to do, exposes one to the anxieties of merger, undifferentiation of self and object, loss of self-cohesion, impingement, and castration.2

    A conception of psychoanalysis as the enlightening transformation of "dead" metaphors and contrasts (primary process) into "live" ones (secondary process) may itself seem to reflect a typically Western, rationalistic tendency to privilege difference over similarity, Thanatos over Eros, and the "masculine" over the "feminine."  Properly understood, however, the psychic evolution from primary to secondary process is recognized as a development from a primitive state of splitting or defusion of Eros and Thanatos, "feminine" and "masculine," to the more advanced level at which they are integrated in a creative "bisexuality" capable of shifting flexibly between complementary active and passive, separating and linking, paternal and maternal, intrusive and receptive orientations. Although this preference for secondary process differentiation and integration (Klein's depressive position) may itself seem to reflect an Apollonian bias ("more light"), when the analytic light is at its brightest it will not only expose itself as a bias toward illumination but at the same time will illuminate the inevitability of darkness (paranoid-schizoid position) as the very condition, background, frame, or border of the light. This is insight into the necessity of blindness. It is to become conscious of the indispensability of the unconscious and of the relativity of similarity and difference, "feminine" and "masculine," Eros and Thanatos.3


1  I believe the hermeneutic and deconstructive aspects of psychoanalysis are complemented by both its scientific and therapeutic dimensions. To argue that one of the aims of psychoanalysis is to assist the subject to advance from primary process (PS) to secondary process (D) mental functioning by deconstructing and thus enlivening or "resurrecting" his or her "dead" metaphors (fusions) and contrasts (splits) is at the same time to assert that enhanced reality-testing is a goal of the analytic process, just as it is the central goal of science itself. In this perspective, hermeneutics and deconstruction are not opposed to science but its handmaidens. In psychoanalysis, the interpretation and deconstruction of "dead" metaphor and contrast enhances reality-testing. Return to main text

2  This is a slightly revised version of a paper published under the same title in Psychoanalysis & Contemporary Thought 7, 4 (1984): 491-560. From my current perspective (April, 2000), the above paper fell victim to the binary opposition ABSOLUTE/RELATIVE and, in places, to a kind of ALL or NOTHING thinking, thus failing to recognize that beyond both the All and the None is the field of SOME. The alternative to essentialism (absolutism, fetishism, idolatry) is not relativism (nihilism), but that truly scientific attitude which, foregoing omniscience, seeks to achieve some degree of knowledge (understood as at best an approximation to the ultimately incompletely knowable truth) in regard to some questions, while recognizing that there are many others which, for the moment at least, are unanswerable and still others which, by definition, will always remain unanswerable by science. Return to main text

3  Dissatisfied with the splitting involved in the valorization of secondary over primary processes, and of the Kleinian depressive (D) over the paranoid-schizoid (PS) position, I have come to recognize the progressive aspects of the latter and the regressive aspects of the former. With Ogden (1993), I have come to regard pathology as the breakdown of the dialectical relation between PS and D in the direction of either pole--without denying the superordinate significance of D in the overall progression toward higher levels of differentiation and integration in mental life. Return to main text


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To cite this article, use this bibliographical entry: Donald L. Carveth "Metaphor and Psychoanalysis: The Analyst's Metaphors: A Deconstructionist Perspective". PSYART: A Hyperlink Journal for the Psychological Study of the Arts. Available July 14, 2024 [or whatever date you accessed the article].
Received: August 25, 2001, Published: September 19, 2001. Copyright © 2001 Donald L. Carveth