Lang discusses the case of a female obsessive-compulsive patient who seemed to fit all the typical patterns, an almost textbook case. However, there were some unexplained aspects of the case, in particular, the focus of the patient on her father, rather than on her mother as required by classical theory. The author feels these aspects are better handled from a structural (in the sense of Lévi-Strauss and Lacan) perspective, rather than from the customary psychoanalytic view of regression from the oedipal conflict to the anal level.
Compared to animals, humans are rather poor in instinct; given their weakness and shortcomings, they are oriented toward communication. The mediators in this process of individual socialization are the primary objects, who are representatives of culture and linguistic communication, the ordre symbolique of Lacan and Lévi-Strauss. Because of this organization, we do not encounter instinct per se. The so-called
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partial instincts of the oral and anal phases are therefore abstractions, and appear interwoven with the communicative processes, and articulated in symbolic references. From the beginning, sucking is a mode of communication—between mother and child, child and family, child and environment. This understanding of the communicative nature of early interactions was evident to Freud also, for instance, in his recognition of the bowel movement as a "gift." Feces become a symbol, a speech element in the conversation between infant and caretaker. Freud's concept of the oedipus complex is a subjective realization of what sociologists have found structured in other cultures as the avunculate, the special relation of a man over his sister's children.
From this standpoint, the obsessive-compulsive individual may be seen as attempting to gainautonomy through the destruction of this human, social order of communication. The death wishes of the obsessive-compulsive against the parents, and the resulting anxiety, guilt, and fear of talionic punishment can be understood in this fashion. The struggle of the obsessive-compulsive patient can be seen as a battle of autonomy versus obedience, first fought out in the struggle over feces as gift, or compliance. The attempts to cleanse and undo represent guilt over the defiance that had achievement of autonomy as its basic goal. In this sense, the obsessive-compulsive may be seen as a rebel, and in treatment the same rebellion comes into play. Progress in treatment involves the institution of the struggle for autonomy and compliance around the treatment framework.
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Wilson, E., Jr. (1994). Psyche. Zeitschrift Für Psychoanalyse Und Ihre Anwendungen. XL, 1986. Psychoanal. Q., 63:400-401