Monday, June 21, 2010

Letter to Psychotherapist -- 1998 -- Externalization

TO: Dr. Singh
FROM: Gary Freedman
DATE: January 20, 1998
RE: Attached Article: "The School Consultant as an Object for Externalization."

The attached article (The School Consultant as an Object for Externalization: The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, vol. 33 (1978)) provides insight into my interpersonal difficulties, with respect to the specific issue of an individual serving as an object for externalization for a group of persons.

It may well be that in groups characterized by superego regression to a "preautonomous superego schema" I serve as an object for the externalization of ego or superego functions (see Kris at 647-648). Also, there is an obvious parallel between the role and psychological function of a psychiatric consultant to her consultees and the role and psychological function of the shaman (faith healer) in "primitive" cultures. Both the consultant and the shaman supports her culture-mates in the face of their anxiety.

The article supports the following premises on which many of my self-attributions rest:

1. A single individual can become the object of externalization by a group of persons.

2. Externalizations by a group of persons will attain a deceptive quality of credibility by virtue of majoritarianism, as encapsulated in the question: "How can all these people be wrong?"

3. Further, to assert that a group of persons is externalizing onto a single individual does not assume as a given that each member of the group suffers from a mental defect, an issue encapsulated in the question: "How can it be that all these people suffer from mental problems and that he is the only normal person?" Otherwise normal persons may succumb to a type of interaction with a single individual that is dominated by externalization onto the individual.

4. Externalizations by a group of persons onto an individual will contribute to group cohesion or will serve as a marker of group cohesion. Peer pressure will tend to warp the reality testing of group members: a group member who wavers in his opinions will experience pressure to conform to group perceptions.

5. Group externalization onto a single individual may signify a disparity in ego functioning as between group members and the object of the externalization; or that the object of the externalization is viewed as a superego, or father, figure; or that the individual has come under the protective arm of a superego, or father, figure 1/.

6. An individual's representation that he is a victim of group externalization is not a specific indication that the individual is paranoid.

1/ There is an interesting parallel to the observation by the author of the attached article that she was, on occasion, greeted by her consultees with statements such as "Here comes the sex maniac," or "Here comes the mind reader" (page 644) (characterized by the author, respectively, as an externalization of libidinal wishes and an externalization of the superego function of "critic"). In the Bible (Genesis 37:19), Joseph, the favorite son of the feared Jacob, is greeted by his envious, older brothers with the impersonal and sarcastic comment: "Here comes the dream-master." (Bible scholar and Hebrew-language specialist Robert Alter emphasizes the sarcastic tone of the greeting; he favors the translation "dream-master" over "dreamer.") Applying the observations of Kris, the greeting can be seen to have an ironic tone: the manifest ridicule and disrespect masks the underlying perception of Joseph by his older brothers as a superego figure or surrogate of the feared father, Jacob.

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