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Meadow, P.W. (1992). Negative Union. Mod. Psychoanal., 17(1):23-33.

(1992). Modern Psychoanalysis, 17(1):23-33

Negative Union

Phyllis W. Meadow, Ph.D.

Madonna has produced a videotape called “Truth or Dare,” which epitomizes negative union. It tells the sad story of a bright and talented woman who cannot form relations, whose life on stage is her only life. It shows the way she clings to, and even takes over, the lives of the people who work for her. It illustrates how she fights off isolation with sexual and body contact, desperately seeking a connection as she play-acts roles. It ends with her theme song, “Keep people together forever and ever, people together ever and ever.” Madonna created a world for herself and lives in it fully, playing at union.

What would happen to Madonna if she brought her conflicts to a modern analyst? She has found a way to live her longings in a fantasy of connnectedness. While her unhappiness finds some abatement in action, she cannot achieve permanent relief. If Madonna were in treatment the analyst would not have the task of working through the defenses against the arousal of early longings, but might have difficulty helping her to verbalize longings in the transference because action provides a partial outlet for longings.

In this paper, I would like to describe what happens to primitive emotions freed from the self-destructive solutions of the narcissistic defense over long-term treatment, in the course of which the narcissistic defenses have been worked through and distancing mechanisms have been replaced by emotional expression.

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