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Watermeyer, B. Hunt, X. Swartz, L. Rohleder, P. (2019). Navigating the Relational Psychic Economy of Disability: The Case of M. Psychoanal. Dial., 29(5):515-531.

(2019). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 29(5):515-531

Navigating the Relational Psychic Economy of Disability: The Case of M

Brian Watermeyer, D.Phil., Xanthe Hunt, Ph.D., Leslie Swartz, Ph.D. and Poul Rohleder, D.Phil.

This paper presents a theoretically-informed psychosocial analysis of the case of M, a physically disabled man from South Africa. We use M’s account as a platform from which to consider projection, melancholic suspension and grief, as these are played out in the negotiation of dependency in relationships for disabled people. Making use of a case study methodology, we examine the various strategies through which M manages those disability stereotypes which are ascribed to him, creating a picture of how identity is negotiated in the face of interpersonal dependency as well as disablist prejudice. A central proposition is that, for M, upholding relationships which bring much-needed assistance means caring for the emotional lives of his carers, in a manner which leaves him more vulnerable to internalizing identity insults, and less able to resist his own oppression. Employing a psychoanalytic frame, we suggest that the “melancholic suspension” which some disabled people may be subject to, may lead to the necessity to “take on” certain projections, in the process of accessing much-needed care. As shall be seen, M maneuvers creatively through this relational realm by engaging in trade-offs between positive identity and physical need, employing strategies which include self-deprecation, the performance of mastery, playing with gender, and humor. With these and other techniques, he navigates the relational and psychic economy of his dependency.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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