Posted tagged ‘kalsched’

Donald Kalsched: on …”When the relational environment … fails … to provide “good enough” attunement and empathic responsiveness for the growing baby”

November 9, 2021

It has been a while since I’ve posted any of my musings! Here is one more source quote with a few very important ideas and conceptualizations. Enjoy.

“Object-relations theory and interpersonal theory provide the best understanding of how trauma develops but, missing a grasp of the self-curative capacities of the psyche’s inner world, they do not adequately envision the healing of trauma that comes about through other than personal resources. The self-care system comes about as a result of acute or chronic failure by the relational environment to provide “good enough” attunement and empathic responsiveness for the growing baby. Trauma occurs when this “failure” falls outside what Winnicott calls the “area of omnipotence,” by which he means experience the baby can make sense of or “metabolize” within its own tolerance-limits or its own nascent symbolic capacity. Events that fall outside this area are “unbearable” or “unspeakable” and constitute nothing short of “madness,” by which Winnicott means literally a “breakdown” of infancy that cannot be remembered and around which the growing child (with the aid of primitive defenses) must erect a false self, like a tree growing around an absent center hollowed out by a lightning strike.

This sobering and compelling story about the effects of early trauma represents a partial truth, but it is not the whole story. There is something essential that Winnicott leaves out of his completely interpersonal metapsychology, namely, the “nonhuman environment” outwardly (Searles, 1960), and the “prehuman environment” inwardly, in other words, the archetypal layer of the psyche (Jung). The child is not just in relationship to the mother, but to the “world” beyond and the “world” within—poised, as it were, between two great, beautiful and terrible mysteries. It is the mother’s job to help mediate these Titanic realities. Without the mother’s “good enough” mediation, the child will be exposed to these inner and outer beauties/terrors and this will inevitably lead to traumatic symptoms in relationship, for example, unresolved omnipotence and grandiosity, insecure/disorganized attachment, and so forth.

But the child will not necessarily be “mad.” The Self Care System (SCS) will come to its rescue, and this system will recruit the archetypal powers of inner and outer Nature in its “effort” to save the child’s spirit – its core of health. The many myths that retell the story of children being abandoned and exposed but rescued by transpersonal powers or wild animals record the “saving” miracle by the SCS (Otto Rank). True, without an adequate human relationship to mediate “psyche and the world” the traumatized child will have life-long difficulties in intimacy with others. Born of broken attachment bonds, its SCS will not allow it to trust a process of reattachment with others for fear of retraumatization. But the self that grows around these limitations will not necessarily be a “false” self and may in fact be more creative than mad, perhaps with a rich inner world, a privileged access to “non-ordinary reality,” a deep cultural life, and a huge passion for a capacity for life. In the language of Jerome Bernstein, these individuals will occupy a “Borderland” between the worlds rather than be “Borderline” personality disorders (Bernstein, 2005).”

“Working with Trauma in Analysis,” by Donald E. Kalsched, PP. 281-295, from Jungian Psychoanalysis: Working In The Spirit of C.G. Jung, Edited by Murray Stein

From Margret Atwood’s Surfacing: an image of the (radical) tear

June 25, 2020

After recently streaming a very compelling documentary on the life and work of Margaret Atwood – see Margaret Atwood: A Word after a Word after a Word is Power – I was moved to order a couple of her earliest books: Surfacing and The Edible Woman. Both have been very powerful reads. I was struck by her vivid description of having been cut in two:

“No hints of facts, I didn’t know when it had happened. I must have been alright then; but after that I’d allowed myself to be cut in two. Woman sawn apart in a wooden crate, wearing a bathing suit, smiling, a trick done with mirrors, I read it in a comic book; only with me there had been an accident and I came apart. The other half, the one locked away, was the only one that could live; I was the wrong half, detached, terminal. I was nothing but a head, or, no, something minor like a severed thumb; numb. At school they used to play a joke, they would bring little boxes with cotton wool in them and a hole cut in the bottom; they would poke their finger through the hole and pretend it was a dead finger.” (pp 108-109)

By the dates, Margaret published this when she was 42 or so. That seems about right in terms of psyche helping us realize we have experienced a significant disconnect which has required a partial cure work around. Seems like a lot of Donald Kalsched’s formulation on trauma, dismemberment, and re-memberment is present in this painful realization/reflection. I recently worked this from the perspective of recognizing the “tear that always shows.”

On that note, I have been pondering the relationship between tear (tare) and tear. ie: tear “…to rend (a solid material) by holding or restraining in two places and pulling apart, whether intentionally or not; to destroy or separate.” In contrast to: tear “…A drop of clear, salty liquid produced from the eyes by crying or irritation.”