Customer Service | Help | FAQ | Report a Data Error | About
Tip: To search for text within the article you are viewing…

PEP-Web Tip of the Day

You can use the search tool of your web browser to perform an additional search within the current article (the one you are viewing). Simply press Ctrl + F on a Windows computer, or Command + F if you are using an Apple computer.

For the complete list of tips, see PEP-Web Tips on the PEP-Web support page.

Britton, R. (1994). The Blindness of the Seeing Eye: Inverse Symmetry as a Defense Against Reality. Psychoanal. Inq., 14(3):365-378.

(1994). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 14(3):365-378

The Blindness of the Seeing Eye: Inverse Symmetry as a Defense Against Reality

Ronald Britton, M.B.B.S., F.R.C. Psych.

As early as 1893, Freud drew attention to a state of mind that he described as “blindness of the seeing eye,” in which “one knows and does not know a thing at the same time” (p. 117). Later he was to use the noun Verleugnung to describe this nonpsychotic form of denial, which Strachey translated as disavowal (Freud, 1924, 1927, 1940; Basch, 1983).

In 1938, Freud wrote of it as a “half measure” in which “the disavowal is always supplemented by an acknowledgement; two contrary and independent attitudes arise and result in … a splitting of the ego” (p. 204). Basch (1983) has suggested that unlike psychotic denial, it obliterates only the significance of things, not their perception.

Steiner (1985) has coined the term “turning a blind eye” for a defense that he thinks is characteristic of what he calls the “borderline position,” a psychic posture sustained by what he terms a “pathological organisation” (Steiner, 1979, 1987). The border he has in mind is between Klein's paranoid-schizoid position and depressive position. Like Riviere (1936) and O'Shaughnessy (1981), he sees some patients adopting not simply defenses but what O'Shaughnessy (1981) calls a “defensive organisation” in which they seek “refuge in a stable but pathological organisation which is meant to provide an equilibrium between paranoid-schizoid and depressive positions” (p. 359).

[This is a summary or excerpt from the full text of the book or article. The full text of the document is available to subscribers.]

Copyright © 2018, Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing, ISSN 2472-6982 Customer Service | Help | FAQ | Download PEP Bibliography | Report a Data Error | About

WARNING! This text is printed for personal use. It is copyright to the journal in which it originally appeared. It is illegal to redistribute it in any form.