Structuring Identification: brief premise

The clinical experience led to important conclusions about certain aspects of child development thanks to the work on dreams and their interpretation.

The child from birth invests a specie-specific Human Potential that puts him immediately in connection with the significant adult therefore he is an active part of the relationship since this time. It is a mutual emotional investment whose traces are found only in dreams due to the earliness of the time to which it refers.

If the relationship was valid and responded to the spontaneous and sane emotional investment of the child, in dreams cannot be found images that show specific dynamics as introjection or identification.

These images appear only as dysfunctional elements of the relationship and as a prerequisite for the establishment of psychopathology during the progressive development of the human being.

It will be conceptualized the structuring identification as a specific form of identification with a parent that to address the destructive and annihilating elements of the other, usually the mother.

Therefore elements that are part of the intersubjective theories are integrated with the intrapsychic dynamics together with appropriate clarifications defined mainly by the content of the dreams of patients.

The dream that refers to the relationships and the dynamics of the first months and years of life, has specific images related to the experience of the child that, at that time, were conveyed only by sensory perceptions.

Fundamental activity of psychotherapy is the assessment of the elements that were kept intact and valid and that refer to the physiological development, the full activation of the Human Potential as we called it and the elements that have been attacked in the relationship with the adult.

If the significant adult is not able to respond to the affective requests of the baby, different mechanisms will be triggered in place of the spontaneous investment and the activation of the Human Potential. In these cases it will be possible to establish non-physiological dynamics as introjection and identification.

One of the forms of non-physiological adaptation that the child puts in place against a mother who does not respond emotionally to him is the introjection.

This is a way to possess the mother, to put inside her image as a solution to the non-functional exchange.

The process involves the following steps: the origin of the introjection is relational and interpersonal due to a malfunction of the affective response of the mother for the child, then follows an unconscious trace that corresponds to the experience of the child, and only at the end takes an internalization of the image of the mother to keep the relationship without which the child could not live and to avoid the consequent anguish of the loss of the relationship.

The image of the introjected mother remains static instead of dynamic. The child cannot deny the relationship with the mother, because it would mean to die, therefore, to save the affection for the parent, has to implement some changes in his way of relating as a consequence of the experience of disappointment that can come from the same parent.

Taking inside the mother for example, almost like a real object, the child is able to overcome the anguish of separation from the same mother using also the identification.

With the identification the child does not build his identity but on the contrary renounces partially to it.

When he took off from the relationship and moved away from his emotional power, he incorporated parts of the other to avoid the experience of anguish, emptiness, dispersion and fragmentation of the self and he acted unconsciously and consciously in a certain way, as those parts were he.

In the identification the human being will remain spoiled in a sense of the relationship as “need of” instead of “looking for”, as emerges in many dreams of patients.

At this point I can introduce the description of a form of identification that is called “structuring” that even if is a pathological dynamic, represents an alternative way for the child to the negations experienced in the relationship with the significant adult.

When the mother is very inadequate, as explained by the analysis of the therapeutic relationship and of dreams, severe elements emerge for the physiological development of the child and can happen that a dynamic shift is made on the other parent, usually the father.

Thanks to the identification with this figure, the child has been able to survive in spite of the relevant lacks of the mother in psychic and concrete terms.

The child, with the finding of a small trace of warmth in the other parent, has amplified his experience in that relationship as if it was the most beautiful of all even if the reality was completely different.

The structuring identification provides a basic identity’s form compared to the anguish of annihilation and fragmentation for the complete affective lack of the mother.

The image of the parent in this identification is full of idealized elements because it is a forced creation of the baby for the valid aim of psychic survival. It will be shown with clinical examples, the dramatic therapeutic transitional phase when the patient starts to elaborate a separation from these images.

All these clinical examples focused on the interpretation of dreams describe the inseparable relation between the intersubjective theories, associated with the neuroscientific findings and with the observed baby, and the intrapsychic dynamics of identification and itrojections as described by classical psychoanalysis.

The bridge between these two apparently different positions, that in my opinion is overlooked, is the relevance of dream and its interpretation as described in this paper.

Michele Battuello

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