Summer 2013, term 1
Smith: School for Social Work
Hulrid Through the Eyes of Klein and Kohut
Hulrid is a fictional client.
Klein In the beginning there was a chaotic maelstrom of existential terror, fear of destruction and abandonment, primitive fantasy involving sex and aggression, deriving from innate aggression – the death instinct -- which, due to feelings of omnipotence, appear superbly dangerous to the infant. The infant fears her own capacities for destruction, which fuels existential anxiety around annihilation. According to this view, we are born cesspools of hatred. According to Klein, what helps sooth the infants' fears and temper her aggression is the responsiveness of the mother to the infant's needs. When the infant is hungry and the mother discerns this and offers her the breast, the infant is satiated and deems the breast to be “good.” The mother's responsiveness is also what gives the infant the idea that he is omnipotent, and the logic of it goes like this – hunger arises, breast magically appears. When the breast does not come to satisfy the infants hunger, however, the breast is deemed “bad,” and the resultant wrath is great. Initially the infant does not comprehend that the breast that gives and the breast that takes away are one and the same. Part of the need for this splitting is this: the “good” breast is the infants refuge and solace in a destructive world, and to recognize that the good and bad breast are one and the same is to tarnish the “good” breast. The infant is not capable of holding both love and hate, but feels the need to protect the love-object, the “good breast,” from its own wrath and destructive impulses, thus the need to conjecture up a “bad” breast separate from the “good” breast. The act of splitting establishes a world that is clear and unambiguous, where the good is entirely good (and thus a source of great solace and comfort) and the bad is entirely bad, and thus tremendously frightening. This is how the infant manages to continue to love in spite of being frustrated and let down by the love-object. The infant does not have the ability to hold a mixture of feelings towards the same object at the same time, resulting in the projection of aggression (and “badness”) and the ensuing splitting, leading the individual to feel persecuted by frightening objects (really projections). The state of mind where one's aggression is projected outward onto all-bad objects so as to not contaminate the love-objects or reduce their stature as “all-good,” Klein calls the paranoid-schizoid position. Throughout life, individuals vacillate between this state of mind and the more mature ability to hold opposites and see fallibility instead of evil – the depressive position. Of note is that when holding the depressive position, the individual experiences great remorse for the aggressive urges and fantasies and wants to make 'repairs.' The depressive position can only be attained on a somewhat permanent basis if the individual has faith that her love is stronger than her hate, her ability to repair and amend is stronger than her urge to destroy.
Given how many frustrations Hulrid suffers from such an early age, given how frequently the objects populating her world let her down, she grows desperate to have some kind of all-good object which to hang onto and derive comfort and solace. Hulrid's need for an all-good object is compounded by the fact that her environment truly contains a great deal of deprivations and harshness, and so she is dealing not only with a “bad breast” that is sometimes unavailable and frustrating, she is also dealing with a “bad breast” that ads insult to injury through real abandonments, deprivations, and cruelty. Her innate death instinct, then, gets tweaked to the max. This fact compounds her aggression and leads her to experience Kleinian envy. Evidence of Hulrid's splitting is found when we look at how she idealizes her