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Diamond, M.J. (2004). Accessing the multitude within: A psychoanalytic perspective on the transformation of masculinity at mid-life. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 85(1):45-64.

(2004). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 85(1):45-64

Accessing the multitude within: A psychoanalytic perspective on the transformation of masculinity at mid-life Language Translation

Michael J. Diamond

This paper reflects upon the essential components of male identity that commonly are reworked in middle age. The author argues that healthy masculine gender identity involves an ongoing, plastic process of destabilization and reconstruction at various pivotal developmental stages, particularly during middle adulthood In essence, a man's mature transformation of his sense of masculinity results when finite concepts of gender identity are superseded by an awareness of the complexity of one's multiple, early and diverse gender identifications. A clinical case provides insight into how psychoanalytic treatment can contribute to a new experience of masculinity. The case illustrates how a maturing man, meeting an altered sense of identity in mid-life, relies less on gender splitting and more on reuniting previously antithetical intrapsychic elements. Why this more pluralistic, polythreaded masculinity frequently must wait until mid-life is further clarified. Specific importance is attached to the early development of male gender identity as it is founded on the boy's unique struggles in separating from his mother. The foundation for male gender identity formation is reconsidered as the author questions the ‘dis-identification’ model while explicating how the boy's striving for narcissistic completion shapes the gendered masculine ego ideal. Classically termed ‘phallicism’ is understood both to facilitate and obstruct a man's adult development, while the concept of ‘genitality’ is augmented by the postclassical notion of ‘interiority’. At mid-life, ‘phallic’ ego ideals (resting on omnipotence, desires for narcissistic completion and gender splitting) are transformed into more realistic, ‘genital’ ego ideals (synthesizing autonomy and connection). The achievement of a mature, less sharply gendered ‘masculine’ ego ideal (revitalizing the foreclosed dimensions of both the early maternal and paternal imagos) occurs as the balance of forces shifts in the direction of true genitality rather than defensive phallicism.

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