Mother as psychoanalytic subject

From Critical Practice Chelsea
Jump to: navigation, search
In the essays referred to in Risking Who One Is, I was less concerned with theorizing the avant-garde, and more focused on personal issues of my own when my children were growing up. Is it “selfish” to take some time out for my own work instead of devoting myself 100% to my sons? During that time, I did a lot of reading in psychoanalysis that made me realize the validity of questions like this not only for my life, but for my critical thinking as well. The psychoanalytic subject is constructed from the point of view of the child, mainly the male child. As we know, Freud had relatively little to say about girls, but he and the entire psychoanalytic “school” that came after him was obsessed by defining the mother’s role. Most often, the role of the mother was to “be there” for her child, with no consideration of her own needs. Karen Horney is an exception to this, though she writes more about women in general than about motherhood; and Winnicott’s concept of the “good enough” mother can also relieve the pressure of aspiring to be the “perfect mother.” Generally, even female psychoanalysts have tended to emphasize the child’s subjectivity rather than the mother’s. Helene Deutsch, of course, was strictly Freudian. But Melanie Klein too had the child’s perspective in mind when she spoke about the “good” or “bad” breast and the child’s relation to it. One finds almost no conceptualization of the mother as the subject in psychoanalysis; the only psychoanalyst I can think of who has tried to do that is Jessica Benjamin, with her notion of intersubjectivity – mother and child, with the emphasis on their communication. It is important to conceive the mother-child relation as a genuinely intersubjective one, not as a relation of subject (child) to object (mother). (SRS 45)

Return to Subject and Object * Practice Literature