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Thys, M. (2017). On Fascination and Fear of Annihilation. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 98(3):633-655.

(2017). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 98(3):633-655

On Fascination and Fear of Annihilation

Michel Thys

(Accepted for publication 9 September 2016)

In this paper fascination phenomenologically is described as a state of radically being captured by an imposing object. What is left of the impoverished and paralysed subject clings to the exclusive fascinating object. Fascination is the eye of the storm of extreme ambivalence towards an exclusive object: being the only remaining object it is necessary for living in an object world, but at the same time it is threatening to life by absorbing the subject totally. So the subject is sucked in by a yet frightening object. From a metapsychological point of view fascination is understood as the congealed result of excessive projective identification and a strong confusional state connected with it: the subject empties itself so much in the object that it comes to stand for the subject. The fascinating object embodies in a condensed way - as a special form of a bizarre object - split off unconscious threatening material. So fascination is linked to the Kleinian theory of anxiety. Two clinical vignettes illustrate how states of fascination can be understood as an ultimate defence against unconscious menacing material welling up. The hypothesis is developed that fascination points to a revelation of fundamental psychic truth that promptly cramps the subject because the reintegration of it is felt as annihilating. In the vignettes this takes the form of a ‘transformation in hallucinosis’. Fascination is at the same time ‘the moment of truth’ and possibly a serious obstruction of the analytic process. This unconscious truth seems to concern primitive ‘superego violence’. The challenge consists in thawing the frozen fascinating object by linking it to other material.

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