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Matricide and the absence of recognition

Object relations theory has shown that healthy maturational development depends upon an ever growing awareness of others (mother being the first), outside the area of one’s own subjective phenomena (omnipotence). The conflicts between separation and merger, to be an autonomous, separate person and at the same time retain one’s connection to significant others - two of life’s most powerful needs - not only dominate the life of the infant, but extend far beyond infancy and childhood. This process of individuation reverberates throughout the course of life and is always active. According to Mahler, the achievement of a separate identity as a separate being lies at the very core of the self. The paradox is that in order for this to be accomplished, the mother must give the child persistent, uninterrupted feelings of continuity.

When male consciousness identifies with power, it is split off from the emotional life of feeling and intuition. Ego development and linear thinking become overemphasized. A boy acculturated into patriarchal thinking does not separate from the mother to form two subjects; he repudiates her and all her feminine attributes, which are redefined as a threat to his autonomy. The need for her continued repression manifests in the diabolization of her eyes and blindness in masculine shame to maintain the original illusion of omnipotence that denies dependence on external sources of gratification. The male is to come into being in a narcissistic structure, a state of inflation full of entitlement derived from a complete identification with the omnipotent mirroring mother who gazes upon him endlessly.

The dissociation of shame, therefore, inevitably leads to narcissism. The individual gratifies his fantasies of completeness and omnipotence through fantasies of admiration that the mother shined on the infant during the earliest days of life. Blinding mothers’ eyes creates deep narcissistic vulnerability, a condition of low self-esteem, self-doubt, and fragility of self-cohesion that twists as development proceeds into the will to dominate, to conquer the other as a means of relating.

The fantasy of omnipotence is the result of early splitting which is replicated at many levels of cultural and social experience where it takes the form of power, a monument to the ego which has been built on a foundation of maternal resources.

When matricide is an expectation, omnipotence becomes a central problem of the self. His sense of omnipotence is maintained by projecting any unpleasurable stimuli or perception, whatever its origin, beyond the boundary of his symbiotic unity with mother. This feature of omnipotence is the lack of reality sense and perception of the mother as a godlike creature, the miraculous source of all of life. In the face of the helplessness resulting from the real loss of mother’s protection, separation becomes an attempt to recapture omnipotence which leads right back to fusion with the mother who then requires more repression. The child stays petrified, making the two subjectivities necessary for the generation of mutual recognition impossible. When the development of masculine traits is emphasized, omnipotence becomes the only way out.

The attainment of object usage is complicated for the male trying to establish his self as an independent entity with his mother of a different gender. The inability to move from object relations to object usage lies in the defensive use of discharging shame into an object. This driven activity is masculine mastery that demands a feminine object to take up the feelings of shame. Mother is used as a container for his discharges of the evacuated shame. This urgently driven relation to the object lacks recognition and so allows neither separation nor boundaries, hence the creation of authorship or ownership, the qualities of a genuine subjectivity that allows space for another. The maternal feminine remains an object without subjectivity - a mass of projections and what make men blind in Cezanne’s The Eternal Feminine.

The feminine need for recognition is distorted into her emasculating, infan- tilizing desire to possess power and control. The absent, unattainable mother, against whom frustrated aggressive fantasies are directed; the hampering, forbidding, punishing mother; the mother who would hold to herself the growing child trying to push away; and finally the desired but forbidden mother whose presence is a lure to dangerous desire: these are the elements which overtake the images of mother in her repression. Here lays the destructive power of the succubus archetype today.

The male self transfers his infantile omnipotence to the sphere of sexual feelings during the Oedipal. This reconstitutes the Oedipal situation in a manner that prevents the paternal figure from impeding the omnipotent merger with mother. Exclusive identification with the father accomplished at the expense of repudiating all maternity works against the differentiation that is supposed to be the main Oedipal achievement. Later, the male magically makes the world conform to his infantile wishes, and in this Oedipal universe the seductive succubus reigns supreme. Throughout life, his Oedipal rivalries will awaken his narcissism and the taste for omnipotence, those same maternal mergers fused by a wish for power which has been disguised by paternal identification. This is what leads a man to batter and abuse a woman.

Heroism is the frightening cost of matricide. In his state of solipsistic omnipotence, the male ends up symbolically castrating himself. The hero, it turns out, is the one who relinquishes the effort to know or recognize, and becomes an objectively knowing subject with a mother who remains a bundle of projections.

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