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Recognition and the other

The only way through the transition to object usage is to recognize the subjectivity of the other so that the subject can use the object that has survived. This means the loss of omnipotence and recognition of dependence (and this point is just where shame is catalyzed); the inseparable dualism of subjectivity is that the subjectivity of otherness is essential for the manifestation of the subjectivity of self. Opposites are to some extent unavoidable because of an inherent psychic tendency to split. The critical issue at hand, however, is to maintain tension in order to overcome splitting. The result of this simultaneous equality and division is the setting of boundaries, the exertion of control, and the struggle for power. Separation and connection must remain in balance, transforming complementarities into tolerable paradox (a lack of balance and merger with omnipotence results in antimonies that compel evil choices, but more on that in the next chapter). True independence means sustaining the essential tension of these contradictory impulses; that is, both asserting the self and recognizing the other. When there is difference there is otherness.

Through recognition of the other the object finds externality, which means that “projective mechanisms assist in the act of noticing what is there, but they are not the reason why the object is there” (Winnicott, 1971: 90). Benjamin (1988) articulates Winnicott’s line of thinking this way: if the child misses the encounter with mother’s independent subjectivity (she has gone away), he also misses the opportunity to work through pain that has the potential of becoming an emotional reality (I am sad, I am abandoned, I have destroyed her) which facilitates a differentiation from external reality (she has returned, she loves me, she knows my grief, she has survived my destruction of her). Winnicott concludes that “the destruction of the object becomes the backcloth for love of a real object; that is, an object outside the area of the subject’s omnipotent control . . . In this way a world of shared reality is created which the subject can use and which can feed back other-than- me substance into the subject” (p. 94).

A subject-to-subject relationship must be formed for object usage to occur. This means a struggle for recognition that includes the male and female elements, both son and mother existing at the same time. The real backdrop of male individuation is that his acts will have to be meaningful to his mother, not that he will repudiate her. Her subjectivities, the organizing principle of psychological life that has traditionally been most rigorously censored, create his sense of a felt existence. He must be able to find himself, as though looking in a mirror, in his mother, and yet - and this point is unique to male issues of separation - she is the opposite of him.

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