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Greenstadt, W.M. (1982). Heracles: A Heroic Figure of the Rapprochement Crisis—A Study of the Analogy Between Symbiotic and Separation-Individuation Subphases and the Greek Myth-Cycle of Heracles. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 9:1-23.

(1982). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 9:1-23

Heracles: A Heroic Figure of the Rapprochement Crisis—A Study of the Analogy Between Symbiotic and Separation-Individuation Subphases and the Greek Myth-Cycle of Heracles

William M. Greenstadt

SUMMARY

Developmental, psychoanalytic ego psychology, exemplified in this paper by the theoretical scheme of Mahler, has not yet been extensively employed in the analysis of myths because of the relative ease with which the dynamic and genetic metapsychological viewpoints may be applied to them. Elements of the Greek myth-cycle of Heracles, and especially the episode of his defeat of king Antaeus of Libya, are analysed using the Mahlerian approach. It is suggested that some of Heracles' exploits, in particular his wrestling match with Antaeus, can be understood as expressions of the ambivalence conflicts of the rapprochement subphase. The exhortatory use of myths to aid in binding individuals to the prevailing culture suggests further that failure to resolve the rapprochement crisis with its yielding up of infantile omnipotence gained through fusion with the all-powerful (and dangerous) mother of symbiosis, will lead to a failure of superego formation, destruction of the capacity for sublimation and work, and ultimately a condemnation to the loss of the hope of success in mastering the world and in stabilizing one's self-esteem. The Greek standards of democracy, conquest, and creativity are viewed as upheld by the scapegoating of Heracles through his enslavement to others. The ultimate resolution of Heracles' rapprochement conflicts leads to his achievement of immortality: he is able to become an adult man at last, joined harmoniously to an exalted version of his own culture on Mount Olympus.

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