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Greenberg, J. Aisenstein, M. (2012). Paternal Identification in Women: A Dialogue between Jay Greenberg and Marilia Aisenstein. Psychoanal Q., 81(1):39-51.

(2012). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 81(1):39-51

Paternal Identification in Women: A Dialogue between Jay Greenberg and Marilia Aisenstein

Jay Greenberg and Marilia Aisenstein

The Psychoanalytic Quarterly's Editor, Jay Greenberg, poses some questions for Marilia Aisenstein about her paper, “A Particular Form of Paternal Identification in Women”

Question 1: Dr. Aisenstein, in your opening remarks, you refer to Freud's concept of a primary identification that precedes object cathexis. This idea is less familiar, and so less salient clinically, to Anglophone readers than it is to French analysts. North Americans are more attuned to identifications that follow object loss or at least the awareness of difference. As a result, your statement that “the process of identification opens the way to otherness” is perplexing; we are more likely to emphasize ways in which identification solves the problem of otherness. Could you elaborate your understanding of the dynamics of these two types of identification and say something about how you work with them clinically?

First I wish to thank you, Dr. Greenberg, for these eight very profound and nuanced questions. I shall try to reply to them.

Primary identification is a modality of constitution for the subject along the lines of the model of the other, but it is not secondary to a relation in which the object is recognized as independent. Primary identification is the most originary form of a link to an object. It is thus chronologically first, and all secondary identifications are superimposed on it. “At the very beginning, in the individual's primitive oral phase, object-cathexis and identification are no doubt indistinguishable from each other,” writes Freud (1923, p. 29).

It is interesting to note that, when he speaks about primary homosexuality, Freud refers especially to an immediate identification of the baby boy with the father, which he situates as occurring prior to the recognition of the object as other. In this way, the identification does not precede the cathexis but is correlative to the cathexis.

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